Green vegetables are the superstars of the vegetable kingdom these days. (People are even naming their babies Kale.) Loaded with vitamins, minerals and potent antioxidants, greens are a healthy part of any diet, bringing healthy fibers, vegetable protein and even some good omega-fats. Now, new research says that eating a wide array of green vegetables may also help to reduce the risks of developing heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Three separate studies recently looked at a chemical called nitrate, which is found in green vegetables such as spinach, celery and lettuce. The studies, conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Southampton in the UK, found that vegetables rich in nitrate may slow the production of a hormone called erythropoietin, which is produced in the liver and kidneys and is responsible for the red blood cells in the body.
Too many red blood cells can thicken the blood, which can create health issues like heart disease. And according to the study, the nitrates in the green vegetables help to reduce the red blood cells and the associated health risks. Nitrate does this without decreasing the amount of oxygen delivered through the blood, thus reducing the risk of clotting, which is a known cause of strokes and heart attacks.
The researchers also noted that nitrate is also helpful in turning “bad” fat into healthier fats, also called “brown” fat. “Increased levels of brown fat have been associated with reduced risk of obesity and diabetes,” reports Medical News Today, “therefore [the researcher team] hypothesizes that incorporating nitrate into the diet could protect against these conditions.”
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