Spinach: Strong To The Finish!
Spinach is, quite simply, one of the very healthiest foods you can put into your body. This amazing plant is perhaps the most nutritionally dense food in common use in the UK, and can provide a massive boost to the health and wellbeing of you and your family.
Many people grew up watching Popeye cartoons on TV, and remember him gaining colossal strength after eating tinned spinach, and although the effects of this leafy green aren’t usually so immediate, there is truth in the idea that spinach goes a long way towards making your body fit, lean and ready for action.
So let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of Spinach, and why you should be eating more of this wondrous plant….
There’s a wealth of wonderful vitamins in spinach. Just 25 grams of it will provide your entire recommended daily intake of Vitamin K, essential for your body’s ability to heal itself. There’s also impressive amounts of B-vitamins, and a good load of Vitamins A, C and E. Spinach is also an excellent source of beneficial minerals such as Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorous, Zinc, Manganese and Magnesium. Spinach also contains plenty of iron, which helps our blood carry oxygen around our body.
Spinach is full of Quercetin, a plant flavonoid which gives it colour. It’s brilliant for your heart and your blood, and can reduce the risk of several cancers. There’s a great deal of chlorphyll in this leafy green too, which can stimulate the immune system and protect against cancer. Spinach also has good amounts of Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are awesome for your vision and cognitive function. There are also plenty of dietary nitrates in spinach, which lower your blood pressure and boost physical performance. Kaempferol, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant, is also present – this is a potent weapon against many types of chronic disease, especially skin, liver, and colon cancer.
The nitrates in Spinach help to improve the flow of blood around your body by relaxing your blood vessels. This reduces arterial stiffness, thereby reducing your risk of stroke and heart disease. Also, spinach’s Vitamin B9 content helps to form red blood cells, while its iron enables those cells to transport oxygen to your body’s organs more efficiently. There’s a great effect on your blood cholesterol from eating spinach as well – a research paper from 2016 concluded that it lowers levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and raises levels of the ‘good’ type.
The Lutein found in Spinach is absolutely fantastic for the health of our eyes. It’s a carotenoid, which the body converts to Vitamin A, and is found in high concentration in the macula of the human retina, where it can prevent age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and even short-sightedness. It filters out harmful light waves, protecting the tissues of our eyes from being damaged by sunlight.
The really wise choice for smokers, obviously, is to stop smoking – but as nicotine is extremely addictive, stopping is very difficult for the vast majority of smokers. Even Popeye smokes a pipe! He may well be interested in this research paper from 2010, which showed a strong protective effect of green leafy vegetables such as Spinach against lung cancer. And as oxidisation is accelerated by smoking, it’s prudent to ensure you’re eating plenty of antioxidant-rich foods, a category in which spinach is a major player, especially when eaten raw.
Thylakoids are tiny structures enclosed in a protective plant membrane and are where photosynthesis occurs. They’re fantastically good for you, and Spinach is chock-full of them. In a randomised controlled trial in 2015, it was found that they increase feelings of fullness over the 2-hour period following consumption. Another study of overweight women found that consuming thylakoids induces weight loss, improves obesity-related risk-factors, and reduces the urge for unhealthy food.
As well as being massively good for you, spinach is loads of fun to use in the kitchen, and lends itself to many tasty, nutritious dishes. Why not try knocking up some lip-smacking Spinach Pesto, or giving these amazing Spinach & Feta Pancakes a try? You can even use Spinach Powder as a natural food colouring in bread and pasta dough (like these amazing Giant Spinach Ravioli) – and, of course, it has the added effect of ramping up the nutritional profile brilliantly. You can even hide a tablespoon of powdered spinach in pasta sauce if you have a fussy eater who won’t touch anything green – covert nutrition at its finest!