Eating leafy greens prevents DNA damage caused by a workout

May 8, 2012 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Sports Nutrition and Exercise

Eating leafy greens prevents DNA damage caused by a workout

Researchers have found that antioxidant-rich watercress can alleviate the natural stress put on the body by a workout. They also found that participants with no watercress in their system who ate the leafy vegetable just two hours before high level exercise still experienced the same level of protection.

Though regular moderate exercise is known to be good for us, the increased demand on our bodies can create a build-up of free radicals, compounds that damage the DNA in our cells.

According to a new study from scientists in the U.K., eating watercress can prevent some of the damage caused by high intensity exercise and help maximize the benefits of a tough workout. The study findings have now been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

The researchers found that consuming a relatively small amount of watercress each day can help raise the levels of important antioxidant vitamins which may help protect our bodies.

In the small eight-week study ten healthy men, aged on average of 23 years, were given 85 grams of watercress -- a small bag -- and asked to participate in high-level exercise on the treadmill. An eight-week study with no watercress consumption was carried out to act as a control.

The scientists also tested whether the protection properties of watercress were affected by the regularity of consumption.

Participants were put through short bursts of intense exercise. Those who had not eaten watercress were found to have more DNA damage than those that did not. The effect of eating watercress did not rely on an accumulative build-up in our bodies. Those that ate the vegetable just two hours before exercise experienced the same benefits as those who had consumed the vegetable for eight weeks.

Other leafy green rich in antioxidants include spinach, kale, Swiss chard and rapini. 

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