Mitochondria, tiny cell structures that power our muscles, can develop leaks that hurt muscle performance. Research shows, however, that substances found in spinach can stop these leaks and make mitochondria mightier. But to get the full effect, you may have to ditch your mouthwash. Strong mouthwashes kill off the oral bacteria that enable the body to put spinach’s muscle-boosting chemicals to work.
Inorganic nitrates, a nutrient found in beets as well as spinach, help the body produce nitric oxide, a compound that lowers blood pressure, helps blood vessels dilate and powers up mitochondria. Until recently, nitrate wasn’t thought to have any nutritional value. But scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have shown that dietary nitrate feeds into a pathway that produces nitric oxide with the help of friendly bacteria found in our mouths.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an edible flowering plant in the family Amaranthaceae native to central and western Asia. It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows up to 30 cm tall. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions. Theleaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular, and very variable in size from about 2–30 cm long and 1–15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3–4 mm in diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5–10 mm across containing several seeds.
Researcher Eddie Weitzberg says that powerful mouthwashes may restrict the benefits of dietary nitrates on muscle function: “We need oral bacteria for the first step in nitrate reduction. You could block the effects of inorganic nitrate if you use a strong mouthwash or spit [instead of swallowing your saliva]. In our view, strong mouthwashes are not good if you want this system to work.”