This Superfood Pumps Up Muscle Strength – In an Unexpected Way

Turns out, Popeye was way ahead of his time…

Study after study in recent years has proven that spinach is a nutritional “superfood.”

It is packed with disease-fighting antioxidants.  This helps prevent cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.

Spinach is also a rich source of iron. And for decades, everyone believed it was the iron that made Popeye so strong.

However, new research reveals a secret natural nutrient in spinach that really gave him the boost he needed… and can do the same for you.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, discovered this secret studying a group of mice. 1

Half the mice drank plain water.  But, for the other group, researchers prepared a water mixture infused with something extra… an important nutrient found in spinach…

Those mice got a natural extract called nitrate.

Seven days later, the “nitrate water” mice had significantly greater improvements in muscle fibers.  They were suddenly stronger.  The “plain water” mice had none of these changes.

But why?

Nitrate increased the production of two proteins critical to muscle strength, explains researcher Andres Hernandez.2 “These proteins are required for muscle contraction,” he says.

And researchers didn’t just notice minimal differences between the two groups.  The results were “striking,” he writes in The Journal of Physiology.

This discovery about nitrate can lead to new treatments for people with weak muscles – the elderly, or people suffering from muscle disease.  It could also mean great things for athletes.

In 2007, at the same Swedish Institute, researchers conducted another study with nine men.  They discovered that adding nitrates to the men’s diet actually made their muscles more efficient.  Plus it seemed to somehow inhibit a natural side effect of exercise – lactic acid.  That’s usually what causes soreness. 3

There’s one simple way to make sure you’re getting enough nitrates.  You’ve probably already guessed what that is.


It’s one of the richest sources of this important mineral, says Hernandez.

You don’t have to eat that much of it to get the effect either, he adds.  All you need is just 200 to 300 grams of spinach – about one or two cups.  And for the best results, eat it every day.

But you gain more than muscle strength when you eat spinach…

Lots of punch from eating spinach

The nitrate in spinach helps keep blood pressure under control.

Nitrate converts into nitric oxide in the body, Hernandez explains.  Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate.  So spinach helps keep those blood vessels open allowing blood to flow freely.

You might have heard about nitric oxide before.

That’s the chemical used in ”erection drugs” like Vigara to increase blood flow in the penis.  “Whether or not enough nitric oxide can be produced to facilitate an erection from eating spinach is unclear,” says Hernandez.  “It is clearly an area for future research.”

Popeye was onto more than he realized!

And it doesn’t stop there…

Spinach contains far more beta-carotein and lutein than most other fruits and vegetables.4

The beta-carotene in spinach converts to vitamin A in the body, and nurtures healthy vision, skin, and hair.  And lutein may help guard against eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration.

Plus, research suggests that lutein reduces hardening of the arteries. 5

But even that’s not all…

This leafy vegetable is rich in vitamin K.  Several major studies have shown that this vitamin is critical to strong, healthy bones.

There’s one word of caution.  Vitamin K is necessary for your blood to clot. So if you have problems with blood clots, be careful how much vitamin K you get.6

And while Popeye got his spinach out of the can, that’s not the best way to eat it.

Raw spinach has the highest dose of nutrients (compared to cooked spinach). So, spinach salads are your best bet.

Popeye would be proud.

2Email interview with Andres Hernandez

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Health Topic: Diet and Nutrition


  1. susan says:

    I read some research that said the iron in spinach is non available unless it has been cooked.

  2. Karyn says:

    Does ‘spinach’ mean the small, roundish-leaved English spinach? People often refer to ‘silverbeet’ as spinach. Also, what other foods also contain nitrates?

  3. david says:

    Don’t forget Popeye also had ‘Olive Oyle’! He couldn’t lose!

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