Let us talk Spinach

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During my childhood years, I was not fond of vegetables. Perhaps you were that way as well. This is not unique. Lots of children do not have a taste for vegetables. Science suggests that children have a higher sensitivity to bitter tastes than adults. This is why children tend to gravitate towards the sweeter vegetables and fruits and develop an aversion for the “bitter” vegetables; especially green vegetables. However, I often wondered why the cartoon character “Popeye” enjoyed spinach so much. Does it really increase your strength and pump up your biceps?

Know What You Eat

Spinach is a green, leafy vegetable widely grown throughout the temperate regions of the world. It is most productive in cool seasons and climates. Spinach is marketed as fresh, canned or frozen. It is an annual plant; meaning that its life cycle is completed in a single growing season. A great advantage of spinach is that it can be eaten in its raw form or as a cooked vegetable.


Health Benefits of Spinach

Spinach will not inflate your biceps like a balloon; as shown in the cartoon – Popeye. However, this green, leafy vegetable is packed with nutrients.

Iron: Spinach is rich in iron. It is important to remember that there are two forms of iron: ‘Haem’ iron and ‘non-haem’ Iron. Haem iron is found in animal products and is the more efficiently absorbed form of iron. While non-haem iron is found in plant foods such as spinach; and is a little harder to absorb in comparison. However, vegetarians and pregnant women are encouraged to eat green leafy vegetables such as spinach. Foods rich in vitamin C improve the absorption of iron in our body.

High in fiber: Spinach’s high fiber content helps to prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive system. You may also notice that spinach leaves shrink during preparation. This is due to its high water content which is also great for our digestive tract.

Potassium and Magnesium: Spinach is a good source of potassium and magnesium; two very important elements in maintaining human health. Potassium protects against loss of muscle mass, preserves bone mineral density and aids to reduce the formation of kidney stones. Magnesium and potassium also play a role in maintaining blood pressure. High potassium intakes are associated with a reduced risk of stroke and a lower risk of death from heart disease.


Calcium and other elements: Spinach contains about 250mg of calcium per cup. However, calcium from spinach is less easily absorbed compared to calcium from dairy sources. So do not shy away from eating a big portion of spinach. This superfood is also an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of carotenoids which is good for our vision. It is rich in manganese, copper, vitamin E, zinc and folate.

Vitamin K: National osteoporosis foundation recommends eating spinach for its high vitamin K and magnesium content. Vitamin K intake might reduce bone fractures and it works with vitamin D to increase our bone density.

Anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties: The anti-inflammatory property in spinach is one that is highly talked about. Spinach contains antioxidants such as lutein and neoxanthin which are said to be helpful in cancer prevention. The high levels of chlorophyll may also have an anti-carcinogenic effect. A Japanese study showed that higher consumption of fruit and vegetable especially spinach could be a promising measure in reducing cancer risk; especially gastrointestinal cancers.


In Your Diet

Spinach can be eaten in its raw form and added to smoothies or in salads. It can also be cooked or steamed. The nutrient quantity may be increased or decreased based on the form in which it is consumed. However, it is advisable to eat spinach in both its raw and cooked form. In this way, your body is provided with the richest array of nutrients.

Finally, we should all eat a variety of healthy foods rather than focus on one “Superfood” because of its health benefits. Mix your spinach with other healthy meals and get a balanced, healthy diet. So even though spinach will not increase your biceps size like in the Popeye cartoon, it is packed with nutrients that will do your body a whole lot of good.



Featured image: Organic facts

Dr Cheryl S-John

The author Dr Cheryl S-John

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