If you’ve ever watched Popeye on television, you likely have seen this famous sailor cartoon down a can of his favorite food in order to build strength—spinach. When he felt too weak to carry on whatever hard task he was about to face, he would just polish off a can of spinach, and his muscles would magically grow. While our muscles may not bulge the same way Popeye’s do right after eating spinach, there actually seems to be science behind Popeye’s famous muscle food.
Recent research from Edith Cowan University published in the Journal of Nutrition shows how consuming a nitrate-rich diet can significantly improve muscle function—especially when it comes to your lower limbs. A nitrate-rich diet would consist of lots of vegetables (particularly leafy greens), which includes Popeye’s favorite muscle food itself—spinach. (Related: Here are The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now)
Another 2012 study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm also backs up this claim, which shows how nitrates can help with calcium regulation in human beings. When nitrates increase in the body, more calcium is released, which helps with muscle strength. This is specifically important for senior citizens who are looking for stronger muscles as they continue to age.
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SOURCE: Eat This, Not That!, Kiersten Hickman