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Research Finds One Cup Of This Nitrate-Rich Veggie May Reduce Heart Disease Risk

Sarah Regan
Author:
May 5, 2021
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Image by Martí Sans / Stocksy
May 5, 2021

It's no secret getting enough vegetables is important for your overall health, and particularly heart health. But which vegetables are best, and how much is actually enough? According to new research published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, the answer is leafy greens.

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A closer look at heart-healthy veggies.

A team of researchers from Edith Cowan University, the Danish Cancer Society, and the University of Western Australia wanted to look at how leafy greens affected blood pressure and heart disease risk. Their focus was specifically on nitrate-rich vegetables, so think kale, collards, spinach, along with beets and garlic.

As cardiologist Alejandro Junger, M.D., previously explained to mbg, "Nitrate-containing nutrients are essential precursors of nitric oxide, which helps to relax the arterial walls and regulate the blood-clotting cascade."

So for this study, the researchers looked at data from a 23-year-long study on over 50,000 people living in Denmark who had participated in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study. And, surprisingly enough, it didn't take too many nitrate-rich vegetables to help with heart health.

What they found.

The team discovered that those who ate the most nitrate-rich vegetables, like leafy greens, not only had lower blood pressure but also a 12 to 26% lower risk of heart disease. But as it turns out, just 1 cup a day seemed to do the trick.

As lead researcher Catherine Bondonno, Ph.D., explains in a news release: "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."

She adds that the greatest reduction in risk was found for peripheral artery disease, which narrows the blood vessels in the legs. "However," she says, "we also found people had a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure."

It's also worth noting that previous research by Edith Cowan University has found nitrate-rich vegetables support muscle function and strength, too. A win-win for muscles and the heart!

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The takeaway.

Leafy greens and other nitrate-rich vegetables are important for heart health, as well as muscle function. And according to this recent research, you may only need a cup a day to reap the benefits.

Try adding them to your day with a salad or simple side. As Bondonno notes, sneaky hacks like blending your veggies into a good old green smoothie is a great way to get all the heart-healthy rewards.

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Sarah Regan
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.