Packing our diet with leafy greens isn’t anything new to us. Kale alone provides benefits like promoting healthy digestion, providing nutrients like iron and vitamin K, and supporting liver health, while spinach is actually an even better source of iron, magnesium, and folate than its trendy sibling.
But in the case of this study, it’s a different compound that may be linked to supporting lower body muscle function: nitrates. “Our study has shown that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster your muscle strength independently of any physical activity,” explains lead researcher Marc Sim, Ph.D., from Edith Cowan University’s Institute for Nutrition Research. Other than those classic greens, the researchers noted that beets can be a key source of healthy dietary nitrates.
Specifically, in their survey data from 3,759 Australians who participated in the a 12-year study, those who had the highest intakes of dietary nitrates overall had 11% stronger lower limbs than those with the lowest nitrate intake—but it’s important to note those findings are likely not based solely on diet.
Sim further explains: “To optimize muscle function we propose that a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables in combination with regular exercise, including weight training, is ideal.”