By Dr. Kristie
If you’re like most people, you’re probably not getting enough green, leafy vegetables in your diet - or enough vegetables period. Despite the fact that experts now recommend that people get nine servings of fruits and vegetables, most Americans are lucky to get two. That’s not a good thing when it comes to Health - or your waistline. Vegetables are a nutrient-dense food that’s low in calories, especially green, leafy ones. They’re also an excellent source of phytochemicals that have Health Benefits that go beyond simple nutrition. If you’re looking for a way to add more “green” to your diet, why not add Spinach to the dinner table?
Health Benefits of Spinach
What’s so special about spinach? For one, it’s the veggie that gave Popeye seemingly superhuman strength. It may not have that effect on you, unless you spend a lot of time in the weight room, but spinach is a powerhouse of nutritional benefits. Spinach is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are important for visual health. Studies suggest that these two carotenoids accumulate in the retina of the eye and absorb ultraviolet light that could damage the retina and lead to visual problems. This may lower your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration of the eye, two common causes of visual problems in older adults.
Spinach is not only a good source of carotenoids, it also contains flavonoids, antioxidants that keep inflammation that can lead to heart disease and cancer in check. In addition, it’s a good source of vitamins K, A and B-vitamins that are important for good health. What about minerals? Spinach is one of the best non-meat sources of iron, a mineral that some young women don’t get enough of. Low iron levels can lead to fatigue and iron deficiency anemia. It’s also an excellent source of calcium and magnesium that are important for heart and bone health.
How to Add More Spinach to Your Diet
Now that you’re convinced you need more of it, here’s how to enjoy its health benefits. Fresh spinach is best between the months of December and May, but you can get the benefits any time by stocking up on frozen spinach. Enjoy its health benefits first thing in the morning by whipping up a green smoothie. Simply puree frozen or fresh spinach with plain yogurt and your favorite fruit – apple is a good choice. Add a little Stevia for added sweetness that won’t add inches to your waistline. The apple overpowers the taste of the spinach, so you won’t taste the spinach.
One word of warning. Don’t eat all of your spinach raw. Raw spinach contains oxalates that bind to minerals like calcium and magnesium and reduce their absorption. Cooking spinach inactivates some of the oxalates. Here’s a tip to keep in mind when buying fresh spinach to cook at home. A pound of raw spinach equals about a cup of cooked spinach, so plan accordingly. You can store fresh spinach in a vegetable crisper for up to 3 days.
The Bottom Line?
Take it from Popeye, spinach has substantial health benefits, but don’t count on it giving you bulging biceps unless you work hard at the gym – but it will make you healthier.
World’s Healthiest Foods website “Spinach”
Lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet and serum and their relation to age-related maculopathy, American Journal of Epidemiology. March 2001.