Eat Your Spinach!
When you were a kid, how many times were you firmly reminded, “Eat your spinach!”?
Just as it was back then, it’s definitely important to make spinach a major staple in your diet…whether you think you like it or not.
For me, like many kids, spinach was pretty high on my “Gross, do I really have to eat this?” vegetable list (right up there with Brussels sprouts!).
I don’t know if it was just an aversion to the mushy-looking texture, or that it reminded me of grass that compelled me turn my nose up every time it was put on my plate. But it didn’t matter, because despite my defiance, my mom always said, “Eat it, it’s good for you”.
And I’m sure you already know how that story ended. Every single time. I’d eat my spinach (and my Brussels sprouts), and after all of the dinner-time drama, I still survived.
Like always, my mom was right. There is real scientific proof that there are a multitude of reasons why spinach is great for your health.
Spinach is actually regarded as one of the “healthiest foods in the world”! Who knew???
The general appearance of the soft leafy green vegetable may seem quite ordinary, but beneath it’s diminutive exterior, spinach hosts an unbelievable amount of powerful nutrients.
Spinach is packed full of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and Vitamins C, E, and K, calcium, folate (the natural form of folic acid), copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, potassium, selenium, and zinc. And if that’s not enough, it’s also a good source of fiber and protein…and Omega-3 fatty acids. Whew!
So with all of that, what is spinach going to do for your body? A lot, actually.
You might be surprised to know that Vitamin K is a big player when it comes to keeping your bones healthy. In fact, if you eat just one cup of fresh spinach leaves, you’ll be getting close to 200% of your daily value of Vitamin K.
But if you really want to kick things up a notch, boil the cup of spinach. Because cooking the spinach makes it 6 times more powerful, it’ll get you more than 1000% of the daily value!
However, spinach does have one little weakness. It contains oxalic acid, which unfortunately causes a problem when your body is trying to absorb calcium and iron.
But no worries, there’s an easy way to get around this inconvenience. Just include a food with some Vitamin C to accompany your fresh spinach, and all will be fine. Oranges, the obvious Vitamin C source, would be a good example.
But did you know that guava, kiwi fruit, papaya and strawberries each contain more Vitamin C than oranges? Other good Vitamin C sources are cantaloupe, red bell peppers, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. So there are plenty of options to accompany your spinach in order to achieve the maximum benefits for your bones.
Spinach also provides awesome anti-inflammatory protection, especially for your digestive health. Scientific studies have shown that spinach contains molecules, known as glycoglycerolipids, that fend off inflammation that tries to attack the lining of your digestive tract
Aside from damaging your tummy, inflammation can cause many major health problems, and increase your cancer risk. But eating spinach can help protect you.
Compared to other phytonutrient containing veggies, spinach wins the prize, hands down! Researchers have discovered over 12 different flavonoids alone, and along with the carotenoids, these phytonutrients can reduce inflammation, as well as your risk for getting something more serious.
Oxidative stress can wreak havoc on your body, resulting in numerous health problems, such as hypertension and artherosclerosis.
Research studies have found several peptides (small protein fragments) in spinach that can help lower blood pressure. These peptides, with the assistance of the antioxidants, aid in keeping your blood vessels healthy. And maintaining healthy blood vessels helps keep your heart healthy, by decreasing your risk of having high blood pressure and clogged arteries.
Spinach is abundant in lutein and zeaxanthin, the most important antioxidants when it comes to your eyes, particularly the retina and macula.
Researchers have seen an increase in lutein in those who consumed normal amounts of spinach in a day, suggesting that this leafy green may help in preventing age-related macular degeneration.
Your skin is the largest organ, covering the entirety of your outer body, but is often overlooked when it comes to considering our sense of general health.
Your skin can actually be showing you signs of a health problem that needs attention. So while you may not realize it, taking care of your skin is just as important as anything else when it comes to being healthy.
Spinach (of course) plays a role in protecting your precious outer layer. All of those vitamins and minerals can help ease dry, itchy skin, and improve your appearance giving you a healthy, radiant complexion.
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties spinach provides also helps with those pesky wrinkles (an none of us want those, right?).
- Go organic. Spinach is one of those foods that are worth spending a little extra for. You really want to avoid consuming non-organic spinach, because a normal washing won’t necessarily remove the heavy coating of toxic pesticides.
- Take your pick. There are actually 3 varieties of spinach that are usually available in most markets. There’s savoy spinach, (with crisp, creased curly leaves), smooth-leaf spinach, (with a flat, smooth and spade-shaped leaf), and semi-savoy (resembles savoy, but less wrinkly). Then there is baby spinach, likely considered the most popular of the spinach family. It has a mild and subtle flavor, and is perfect for salads.
- Give it a good look-over. You’ll want to choose fresh, vibrant green spinach leaves, with no yellowing, wilting or bruising.
- Skip the canned goods and freezer aisle. Fresh is always the way to go if you want the best flavor, texture, and health benefits.
- Go toward the light. If you prefer the convenience of those bags and clear plastic containers, that’s perfectly okay. In fact, a study recently confirmed that baby spinach stored in a clear container, which allowed the leaves some light exposure, did not affect the integrity of the antioxidants. The 9 day study concluded that this type of storage, refrigerated at a consistent temperature of 39*F/4*C (comparable to your home fridge temp.), actually retained more of its nutrients than spinach that was stored in total darkness at the same temperature.
- Eat it today. Consuming your spinach as fresh as possible (the day of purchase) is always best. But if you have leftovers, avoid washing it before storing it away. Moisture will spoil your spinach. To keep it fresh, place it in a resealable plastic bag or airtight plastic container, ensuring that you’ve removed all of the air from the bag/container.
Cook It Up
There are a couple of benefits for cooking your spinach, that you just can’t get from its raw form. Remember that oxalic acid? Cooking for just a minute (as in 60 seconds only) reduces that problem, without sacrificing the nutrients and flavor.
The other major benefit for cooking your spinach are some serious nutritional bonus points compared to when consuming it in the raw.
Drink It Up
Enjoying a sip of spinach is shown to be the healthiest way to consume this veggie. Just blend it in with a few other veggies, toss in a fruit or two, and drink to your health. You can add that kiwi (or other fruit) for your vitamin C bonus, ice to chill, and even an avocado if you like a creamier texture.