Just one cup of leafy green vegetables and beetroot a day could be enough to reduce the risk of heart disease, researchers have said.

A team from the Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia say the key ingredient in these foods is nitrate which they believe can significantly improve heart health.

The trial involved more than 50,000 people from Denmark who had already signed up to take part in another study which was taking place over a 23-year period.

The researchers found those who are ate the most nitrate-rich vegetables also had lower blood pressure and between a 12 to 26 per cent lower risk of heart disease.

Lead researcher Dr Catherine Bondonno from ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research said: “Our results have shown that by simply eating one cup of raw (or half a cup of cooked) nitrate-rich vegetables each day, people may be able to significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The greatest reduction in risk was for peripheral artery disease (26 per cent), a type of heart disease characterized by the narrowing of blood vessels of the legs, however we also found people had a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.”

The study found that the optimum amount of nitrate-rich vegetables was one cup a day and eating more than that didn’t seem to give any additional benefits.

Dr Bondonno added: “People don’t need to be taking supplements to boost their nitrate levels because the study showed that one cup of leafy green vegetables each day is enough to reap the benefits for heart disease.

“We did not see further benefits in people who ate higher levels of nitrate rich vegetables.

“Blending leafy greens is fine, but don’t juice them. Juicing vegetables removes the pulp and fibre.”

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