Want to ward off heart disease? A daily cup of green veggies may help

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You’ve heard of the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but what about a cup of leafy green veggies?

New research shows a cup of nitrate-rich vegetables each day can assist in markedly reducing the risk of heart disease.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Annually, around 655,000 Americans die from the condition.

Researchers from Australia’s Edith Cowan University examined whether people who habitually ate higher amounts of nitrate-rich vegetables — including leafy greens and beets — had lower blood pressure. It also assessed if the same people had a decreased likelihood of being diagnosed with heart disease down the road.

The findings were published last month in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

Using data from the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study, researchers analyzed more than 50,000 people in Denmark over a 23-year period. It was discovered that people who ate the most nitrate-rich vegetables had about a 2.5 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure. They also had a lower risk of heart disease, ranging from 12% to 26%.

“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,” Catherine Bondonno, Ph.D., of ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research said in a press release. “The greatest reduction in risk was for peripheral artery disease (26%), a type of heart disease characterized by the narrowing of blood vessels of the legs, however, we also found people had a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.”

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The study found no additional benefits if participants ate more than a cup of nitrate-rich vegetables daily, which was found to be the optimum quantity.

“People don’t need to be taking supplements to boost their nitrate levels because the study showed that one cup of leafy green vegetables each day is enough to reap the benefits for heart disease,” Bondonno said.

If people have a hard time incorporating a cup of leafy greens into their diet, Bondonno said making a spinach-banana or berry smoothie may make it easier.

“Blending leafy greens is fine, but don’t juice them. Juicing vegetables removes the pulp and fiber,” Bondonno said.