Popeye might have been onto something with his spinach consumption as a new study shows leafy green vegetables can significantly benefit muscle function.

According to a team from the Edith Cowan University (ECU), consuming just one cup of green veg a day, could be enough to boost the way muscles work.

Lead researcher Dr Marc Sim, from ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research, said: “Our study has shown that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster your muscle strength independently of any physical activity.

“Nevertheless, to optimise muscle function we propose that a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables in combination with regular exercise, including weight training, is ideal.”

The trial involved looking at health data from 3,759 Australians who had participated in the Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute AusDiab study which took place across 12 years.

Their findings found a link between those people who regularly consumed nitrate, found in green leafy vegetables, and they had 11 per cent stronger lower limbs when compared to those who hardly ate any.

There were also benefits found in walking speeds with the nitrate-rich consumption group recording four per cent faster speeds.

Poor muscle function is associated with a higher risk of falling over and fracturing bones.

Dr Sim said: “With around one in three Australians aged over 65 suffering a fall each year, it’s important to find ways of preventing these events and their potentially serious consequences.”

The team’s work found the vegetables that contained the most nitrate were lettuce, spinach, kale and beetroot.

Dr Sim added: “Less than one in ten Australians eat the recommended five to six serves of vegetables per day. We should be eating a variety of vegetables every day, with at least one of those serves being leafy greens to gain a range of positive health benefits for the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system.

“It’s also better to eat nitrate-rich vegetables as part of a healthy diet rather than taking supplements. Green leafy vegetables provide a whole range of essential vitamins and minerals critical for health.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Nutrition.

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