If you could eat something that could boost your eye health, strengthen your bones, increase your body’s healing processes and aid your digestion, would you eat it? What about if that same food was easy to grow or inexpensive to purchase — and easy to add to soups, salads and main dishes?
That food is spinach, a known superfood long before the term “superfood” was ever coined. In fact, the leafy green vegetable has been used for centuries to promote health and well-being.
Persians cultivated spinach thousands of years ago. Historians believe the plant made its way east to China about 1,500 years ago and then to Europe a few centuries years later where it quickly became a staple as a side dish vegetable and as an ingredient in numerous dishes.
The comic book character Popeye’s secret weapon, spinach is an excellent source of many minerals and vitamins. Let’s look at some of the many “kitchen cures” it offers.
You know about how eating carrots can benefit your eyes, but you may not know that consuming spinach is just as helpful, if not more so.
The carotenoids and antioxidants found in spinach can protect your eyes from age-related macular degeneration, as well as from cataracts and glaucoma.
Atherosclerosis is a life-threatening condition caused by hardening of the arteries. Lutein, which is a pigment in spinach, reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and, as a result, can help decrease the chance of heart attack and stroke. Lutein works to reduce fat deposits in the body’s blood vessels.
The mineral folate, which is plentiful in spinach, also helps to reduce high blood pressure and the inflammation of blood vessels.
One cup of boiled spinach produces 41 calories and offers twice the recommended daily serving of Vitamin K.
This high concentration of vitamin K can help you maintain bone density and prevent bone fractures. Other minerals found in spinach, including manganese, magnesium, copper, zinc and phosphorus, also help build strong bones, teeth and nails.
One serving of spinach contains 56 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps boost the body’s natural healing process, including cellular and collagen development.
Eating spinach helps protect the mucus lining of the stomach, which helps prevent ulcers, and this protection helps flush toxins from the colon.
Spinach is a great food for expectant mothers to eat. The folate found in spinach helps the fetus develop properly. Studies show that birth defects, such as cleft palate or spina bifida, may be due to a folate deficiency. The high amount of Vitamin A contained in spinach also helps aid the unborn baby’s lung development.
7. The Brain
The potassium, folate and other antioxidants found in spinach also may provide neurological benefits. For example, the journal Neurology reports that folate consumption may be linked with Alzheimer’s disease prevention. Potassium helps increase blood flow to the brain, which may improve cognition and concentration.
According to the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, an antioxidant found in spinach, called C0-Q10, helps strengthen muscles, especially heart muscles. C0-Q10 may help treat cardiovascular diseases and coronary heart disease.
One potential drawback of consuming a lot of spinach is its oxalic acid content. Oxalic acid blocks the body’s absorption of calcium and iron, and some people who eat large quantities of raw spinach may experience symptoms of gout, arthritis and rheumatism. High levels of oxalic acid also can lead to kidney stones and gallstones in some individuals.
One way around the potential problem with oxalic acid is to pair spinach with a food that is high in Vitamin C, such as oranges.
In addition, boiling spinach greatly reduces its amount of oxalic acid, and unlike other vegetables, spinach retains its nutritional after it is cooked.
If you are looking to add spinach to your shopping list, here is one other important thing to keep in mind. Go organic, since pesticides on the leaves are difficult to wash off. Or, grow your own spinach.
Finally, here are some ways to add this powerful superfood into your family’s meals:
- Add spinach to your favorite soup or stew.
- Toss a handful of spinach into a fruit smoothie before blending.
- Chop and stir spinach into your pasta sauce.
- Top lasagna or your macaroni and cheese with finely chopped spinach.
- Place a leaf or two of spinach on your sandwich instead of lettuce.
- Make a quesadilla with spinach and cheese.
- Use spinach as a pizza topping.
- Add it to your omelet or scrambled eggs.
Do you have any spinach-growing tips? What is your favorite superfood? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Cicero, Karen. Giant book of kitchen counter cures. Jerry Baker publisher, 2001. Print.