Dr Catherine Bondonno is a research fellow in the Institute for Nutrition Research at Edith Cowan University. The overall aim of her research is to identify strategies that will form part of a dietary pattern approach to achieve and maintain cardiovascular and cognitive health. To date, her research has focused on the cardiovascular and cognitive benefits of dietary nitrate (from vegetables) and flavonoids (from fruit).
Leafy Greens and Heart Disease
Imagine if you could add years to your life and improve your chances of not dying from heart disease. Imagine if it only took one small change.
But first – why is heart disease important? It is the cause of nearly 18 million lives lost each year.
The sad fact is that a large number of these deaths are preventable. Why? Because the development of the majority of risk factors for heart disease can be avoided.
The good news is that we can reduce our risk for heart disease through our diet.
We have found that eating one cup per day of vegetables like lettuce, beetroot, and spinach can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.
We analyzed data from over 53,000 participants of the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study, over a 23-year period. We evaluated the diet followed by participants, focusing on vegetable nitrate intake, against health outcomes related to the heart.
We found that participants who followed a nitrate-rich vegetable diet had about 2.5 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure and a 12 to 26 percent lower risk of heart disease, compared to participants consuming less nitrate-rich vegetables.
Another key finding was that one cup of leafy green vegetables was enough to reach the optimal levels of nitrate, calculated at 59 mg/day. We did not see further benefits in people who ate higher levels of nitrate rich vegetables.
Eating just one cup of nitrate-rich vegetables can therefore have a valuable impact on the health of your heart.