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.
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.”