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June 13, 2021, 9:13 p.m. EDT

One cup a day of this nutritious food reduces the risk of heart disease, according to a study of 50,000 people

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death around the world, killing nearly 18 million people annually

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch


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Nutritious ‘hacks’ include making a spinach, banana or berry smoothie as an alternative to a side dish, researchers said.

Good dietary habits can have lasting effects.

People who ate one cup a day of nitrate-rich vegetables had lower blood pressure and a 12% to 26% lower risk of heart disease, according to data from more than 50,000 people who took part in the 23-year-long diet and health study. 

The nitrate-rich vegetables recommended by the researchers included leafy greens such as kale, arugula, chard and spinach, as well as beetroot, parsley, Chinese cabbage, celery, radishes and turnips. 

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death around the world, killing nearly 18 million people annually, including 655,000 Americans or one in four people. It is also the biggest killer in the U.S., ahead of cancer and COVID-19.

‘The greatest reduction in risk was for peripheral artery disease, a type of heart disease characterized by the narrowing of blood vessels of the legs.’

Researcher Catherine Bondonno

“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,” said researcher Catherine Bondonno, a lead author on the study.

“The greatest reduction in risk was for peripheral artery disease, 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,” she said.

The study’s subjects were based in Denmark, and the results were published in the European Journal of Epidemiology. The research was a collaboration between Edith Cowan University, the Danish Cancer Society and the University of Western Australia.

Nutritious “hacks” include making a spinach, banana or berry smoothie as an alternative to a side dish. “Blending leafy greens is fine, but don’t juice them. Juicing vegetables removes the pulp and fiber,” Bondonno said.

Related: A new study links this popular diet with lower blood pressure — and reduced cardiac injury and strain

Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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