Researchers working for N.C. State University in Kannapolis have shown mustard greens and cabbage could be back-up plants for Popeye’s spinach when it comes to building muscles and increasing physical performance.

Recent studies at the NCSU Plants for Human Health Institute at the N.C. Research Campus show that compounds called brassinosteroids, which are present in mustard greens and other Brassica plants such as cabbage and broccoli, trigger a physiological response in rats similar to anabolic steroids.

Researchers say they hope these plant substances can be used to provide effective, natural and safe alternatives for age- and disease-associated muscle loss or be used to improve endurance and physical performance.

“It’s exciting to see that plants we eat contain these compounds,” Dr. Debora Esposito said in a press release. “In the future, we may be able to breed plants for higher brassinosteroid content and produce functional foods that can treat or prevent diseases and increase physical performance.”

The Salisbury Post has more details.