Recent Study Suggests That Leafy Greens Aid in Improving Muscle Function

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Outreach Director

According to recent findings, folks who had a higher habitual dietary intake of nitrate-rich vegetables like spinach, lettuce and kale had 11% stronger lower limb strength, as well as up to 4% faster-walking speed, compared with those with lower dietary nitrate intake. With Yuma, Arizona the Winter Lettuce Bowl Capitol of the United States, we can sing the praises of these findings!

The findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, were based on data from 3,759 adults in Australia. This is a real celebration for our Arizona produce farmers throughout the state since we grow so much of these wonderful high-value agriculture commodities.

03 FEBRUARY 2003 – YUMA, ARIZONA, USA: Harvesting lettuce on the Flanagan Farms near Yuma, AZ. PHOTO BY JACK KURTZ

For the first time, a leafy green, Head Lettuce (at over $1 billion), beat out dairy and cattle as the top Arizona agriculture product in cash receipts (2019 USDA statistics; 2020 not available to report until fall 2021).

  • Head Lettuce                     1                        $1.086 Billion
  • Milk                                     2                            $851 Million
  • Cattle/Calves                     3                            $784 Million

Other Neat Facts About Arizona’s Leafy Greens

  • Governor Jan Brewer proclaimed the month of November “Arizona Leafy Greens Month.” The month celebrates the kickoff of Arizona’s leafy greens season, with abundant growth, harvest, and shipments of Arizona-grown lettuce throughout the United States and Canada.
  • The desert southwest is the only place in America that can grow these tender crops in the wintertime, providing a fresh, wholesome, home-grown source of veggies.
  • Yuma County ranks in the top 1/10th of 1% of US counties in vegetable production.
  • Daily between Thanksgiving and Easter, 1,000 to 1,200 semi-truckloads of leafy greens leave Yuma to deliver all over America and Canada so all of us can enjoy our leafy greens even during the wintertime.
  • Nearly 20% of Arizona’s leafy greens are produced organically and 80% conventionally to meet consumer interest in both.
  • Americans eat an estimated 130 million salads a day.
  • Arizona’s 15 leafy greens covered by the Arizona Leafy Greens Agreement(AZ LGMA) which assures stringent food safety practices?
    1. Endive
    2. Escarole
    3. Spring Mix
    4. Cabbage
    5. Romaine Lettuce
    6. Butter Lettuce
    7. Arugula
    8. Iceberg Lettuce
    9. Green Leaf Lettuce
    10. Red Leaf Lettuce
    11. Baby Leaf Lettuce
    12. Spinach
    13. Kale
    14. Chard
    15. Radicchio
  • Yuma County is considered America’s winter salad bowl. But lots of leafy greens are coming from Arizona’s Maricopa County too.

Healthy Motivation of Leafy Greens

  • Eating more leafy greens is healthy for you as the study at the beginning of this article confirms! Additionally, leafy greens, especially the dark green ones, are packed with phytonutrients, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • The darker leafy greens are rich in A, C, E and K, and broccoli, bok choy and mustards are also rich in several B vitamins.
  • Kale contains more Vitamin C than oranges.
  • Bok Choy, though celery-like in appearance, belongs to the cabbage family.
  • Collard greens have been studied for their ability to lower cholesterol.
  • Cabbage dates to the 1600s. Some drink juiced cabbage for stomach and intestinal issues.
  • The Vitamin K contained in dark leafy vegetables is good for protecting bones from osteoporosis and helping prevent inflammatory diseases.
  • The most appealing benefits of dark green leafy vegetables is their low calorie and carbohydrate content and their low glycemic index.
  • Romaine lettuce is one of the five lettuce types and an excellent source of folate and vitamin K.
  • Spinach is a natural hydrator with raw spinach 91% water. It’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, folate, potassium, and fiber.

So, since Arizona farmers are shipping their leafy greens all over the United States in the winter, we can feel proud we’re contributing to the health of all Americans. At least if they eat our leafy greens. Find out more about your green vegetables by doing a search within the Fill Your Plate Blog section.


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