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Popeye wasn't wrong: Spinach does make your muscles stronger

Popeye wasn't wrong: Spinach does make your muscles stronger
/ Hispanolistic / E+ / Getty Images

The Popeye Effect is the belief that eating spinach will give you big muscles. But is it true?

Obviously eating spinach alone isn’t going to make anyone as strong as the cartoon character. If it did, bodybuilders and athletes would be popping tins of spinach as often as Popeye did in his cartoons but eating spinach can be extremely beneficial for you. 

A new study shows one serving of leafy greens a day boosts strength and muscle function, especially in the legs. Researchers say the cartoon icon’s favorite food can even protect older people from frailty.

And it’s not just spinach but also broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, and kale.

“Our study has shown that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster your muscle strength independently of any physical activity,” lead author Dr. Marc Sim from Edith Cowan University says in a media release.

Research suggested that dietary nitrates can boost the amount of nitric oxide in the body – a chemical that plays a key role in the regulation of blood flow and muscle contractility. It’s unclear, however, exactly how nitrate positively influences muscle function, but they suggest that nitrates may improve vascular function and blood flow.

Sim’s research, for example, examined 3,759 Australians over a 12-year period. The results reveal leg strength is 11 percent greater in those eating around three ounces of greens a day. That’s the equivalent to a couple of spoons of spinach or three spears of broccoli.

'We know 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. In fact, nitrate supplements are used by athletes to improve endurance and performance,' Dr Sim explained.

'It could be that higher daily nitrate intake consistently increases muscle blood flow, thereby facilitating musculoskeletal health.'

Other health benefits of spinach include:

Protecting against heart disease.

Helping prevent colon and prostate cancer.

Maintaining good eye health.

Reducing chances of brain damage after a stroke.

Helping preserve healthy bones.

Helps you lose weight.

Improves blood circulation.

Improves the appearance of your skin.

Improves your eyesight.




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