Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in nitrates. A study shows that eating what is equivalent to 60 mg of nitrate-rich vegetables per day (about 1 cup of raw greens, or ½ a cup of cooked) can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Nitrates are converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a chemical that is known to support the dilating (or widening) of blood vessels.

“The greatest reduction in risk was for peripheral artery disease – 26% – a type of heart disease characterised 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,” says the study’s lead author.

The researchers estimate that cooking reduces a vegetable’s nitrate content by about 50%, but that is still enough to promote heart health.

Vegetables rich in nitrates include spinach, bok choy, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, parsley, arugula, kale, leeks, celery, Swiss chard and beetroot.