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Greens reduce risk of heart disease

Eating more greens could be the key to staving off heart disease, according to new research from Edith Cowan University.

Researchers from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences studied the diets of more than 1000 women, focusing on their intake of nitrate from vegetables.

Conducted over a 15-year period, the study found that those with higher intakes of nitrate from vegetables reduced their risk of dying from heart disease or stroke by up to 40 per cent.

PhD student Lauren Blekkenhorst said the research was based on her previous study that collated data on the concentration of nitrate in vegetables around the world.

Nitrate is a compound that is naturally present in the environment and is essential for plant growth.

“We found that leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce and kale had the highest amounts of nitrate, followed by radish, beetroot and celery,” Blekkenhorst said.

“People get roughly 80 per cent of their average nitrate intake from vegetables, so they are the primary source.”

Blekkenhorst said about 75g – roughly one serve – of green leafy vegetables a day would provide enough nitrate to achieve the health benefits confirmed in the study.

Lead researcher Dr Catherine Bondonno said that bacteria living in our mouths were also critical for the cardiovascular health benefits observed.

“The bacteria living on our tongue break down the nitrate that we eat into another compound called nitrite. Nitrite and other breakdown products play a key role in regulating our blood pressure,” she said.

“This is the underlying mechanism that is resulting in the long-term improvements in heart health.”

The study ‘Association of dietary nitrate with atherosclerotic vascular disease mortality: a prospective cohort study of older adult women’ was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Association of vegetable nitrate intake with carotid atherosclerosis and ischemic cerebrovascular disease in older women’ was recently published in the journal Stroke.

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