No wonder Popeye loved the stuff – science has just confirmed that eating one cup of leafy greens (e.g. spinach) per day may preserve muscle mass.
Researchers from Adding This To Your Diet Could Slow Brain Ageing By Up To 11 Years and found that those who followed a diet involving lots of nitrate-rich veg had “significantly better muscle strength and physical function” than those who didn’t.
To establish this, they looked at the participants’ grip strength and asked them to do the ‘timed up-and-go’ test, which measures how long it takes to rise from a chair, walk three metres and sit back down.
As ECU’s School of Medical and Health Services and lead researcher Marc Sim explains, these factors can have a significant impact on your health in the long run – from increasing the risk of falls and fractures to decreasing your life span.
“The weaker you are, or the poorer your muscle function, the higher risk for mortality,” he says. “In our study we found that eating one cup of spinach, rocket or lettuce a day may increase grip strength by up to 2kg and improve TUG time by up to 1.6 seconds.”
And while it remains unclear how nitrate positively influences muscle function exactly, Dr Sim puts it down to improved vascular function and blood flow.
“We know that from previous research that nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means that it widens your blood vessels, potentially allowing greater blood flow to your muscles,” he adds. “It could be that higher daily nitrate intake consistently increases muscle blood flow, thereby facilitating musculoskeletal health.”
With that in mind, here are the 10 best foods to boost your nitric oxide levels:
- Meat (inc. fatty fish, beef, chicken and pork.)
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens (spinach, arugula, kale, cabbage)
- Citrus fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Red wine