While protein is the go-to nutrient for building strong muscles, new research suggests that vegetables are important, too. As reported in The Journal of Nutrition, Australian researchers discovered that, among 3,759 adults, those who consumed the most dietary nitrates in vegetables over 12 years performed 11% better on a test for lower-limb strength and 4% better on a test to assess muscle speed and agility than people who typically ate the least nitrates.

Nitrates in vegetables—including beets, arugula, spinach, watercress, celery, cabbage and parsley—are converted in the body to nitric oxide, which dilates (or opens up) blood vessels, boosting blood flow and oxygen delivery to build extra-capable muscles.

Bonus: A separate investigation in the European Journal of Epidemiology suggests that eating just one cup of nitrate-rich veggies daily can slash blood pressure numbers and lower the chances of developing heart disease by up to 26%.

See also: Plant Protein for Muscle Growth