Locking down a solid workout routine that you can stick with over a long period of time is the key to building muscle mass, in addition to proper nutrition. This doesn’t just mean loading up on protein powder after your workout—in fact, it requires you to be more mindful of several other key nutrients in the foods you’re eating every day. For example, new research indicates that nitrate-rich vegetables can help improve muscle strength and mobility.
“Basically, we are observing up to 11% stronger leg strength when you consume about 1 serving of nitrate-rich vegetables each day compared to individuals with low nitrate intake,” lead researcher Marc Sim, PhD told Eat This, Not That! in an interview. “This is quite significant, especially in the context of older people who are most at risk of falls and resulting injuries such as fractures.”
The study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that, in addition to performing 11% better on the leg strength test, participants with the most nitrate in their diet also performed 4% better on a mobility test than those who consumed the least nitrate. So basically, nitrate-rich foods might not just help make your muscles stronger, but they also may help them work faster. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now).
So if you want to do everything you can to make your muscles as strong and mobile as possible, which foods should you be eating more of? The study pointed out that the vast majority (81%) of participants’ dietary nitrate came from vegetables. Sim noted that “kale, spinach, beetroot, cabbage, Chinese greens are all good examples” of nitrate-rich vegetables you can add to your diet today.
Plus, as Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, and Science Advisor at HumanN recently told Eat This, Not That! that if you’re looking for nitrate-rich foods, you might also want to add all of the leafy greens to the mix. You can also throw in celery, carrots, citrus fruits, pomegranates, and watermelon to get as much nitrate as possible.