Leafy Green Vegetables and Muscle Function
Consuming vegetables regularly, particularly dark leafy greens, may increase muscular performance regardless of whether you are physically active or not. Leafy vegetables like Spinach, Arugula, Parsley, Radishes, Fennel contain vitamins A, C, iron, folic acid, and calcium, all of which are necessary for muscle function, strong teeth, and bones.
Additionally, a prior study has established a correlation between cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, kale, and collard greens, and improved blood vessel health. Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Australia evaluated the association between leafy green vegetables and enhanced muscle function as part of the study, with the goal of encouraging individuals to incorporate the nutrients into their daily diets.
Muscle function was assessed in this study using a knee-extension strength test and a mobility exercise that requires rapidly rising from a chair, walking briskly around an obstacle, and sitting back down.
According to Dr. Marc Sim, the study’s lead author, diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may boost muscle strength regardless of physical activity. Additionally, he said that to maximize muscular function, a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables combined with frequent exercise, particularly weight training, is recommended.
Individuals with the highest nitrate intakes tended to have greater knee extension strength and faster response times than those with lower nitrate intakes. These gains happened regardless of physical activity, while the researchers stress the necessity of regular exercise, including weight training. They discovered that vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and beetroot offered the most benefits.
The nitrate concentration of leafy green vegetables is known to cause vasodilation – or the widening of blood vessels – allowing for increased blood flow to your muscles. According to the researchers, a past study indicates that nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it dilates the blood vessels, potentially allowing for increased blood flow to the muscles.
Along with naturally occurring nitrates that improve blood flow, dark leafy greens have been lauded for various other benefits, including high vitamin and mineral content, low calorie content, and a high concentration of phytonutrients—plant-based compounds associated with the prevention of chronic diseases.
While nitrates found in processed meats such as bacon and ham have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, natural nitrates found in vegetables such as potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate have been shown to have beneficial health effects. With these healthy dietary choices, it’s not just one micronutrient that benefits; it’s an orchestration of all these synergistic elements and components that operate optimally together.
Another significant benefit is the high fiber content, which has a variety of health benefits. Not only is fiber critical for gut health, but it also acts as another heart booster by assisting the body in reducing the absorption of “bad” cholesterol. Additional advantages of a plant-based diet include the following:
- Decreased risk of stroke
- Improved brain and cognitive function
- Decreased risk of obesity
- Cancer prevention
- Improved digestive health
- Improved blood sugar regulation
Rather than taking a nitrate supplement or even powdered beetroot, integrating more whole foods such as dark leafy greens into your meals can deliver the benefits of nitrates while also providing a plethora of other nutrients. That is especially true when a variety of veggies are consumed, as they can provide a wider variety of nutrients.
However, not everyone naturally likes vegetables. Therefore, how can individuals incorporate more into their diets? Here are some recommendations from nutritionists:
- Blanch bitter vegetables such as kale and broccoli rabe.
- Green smoothies are a great way to start the day.
- When you want carbs, opt for vegetable noodles and a greens-heavy sauce.
- Instead of potato chips, snack on vegetable chips.
- Wrap a sandwich in vegetables or incorporate them into a soup.
- Eat a variety of raw and cooked vegetables to satisfy your taste buds.