Health Benefits of Spinach, Popeye’s Favorite
by Lisa Metzgar, PhD
To continue on our Rainbow Journey this month I will be talking about the color GREEN. There are so many options when choosing to eat the color green. Green vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, squash, herbs the list goes on. There are even wonderful fruits like grapes, kiwi, and avocado to add to the green list.
I am going to just focus on one green power vegetable…one that even Popeye knew the value of Spinach.
Spinach is a member of the Chenopodiaceae family that includes kale, chard, and beets. It comes in a couple of different forms flat leaf which has a mild flavor and curly leaf, also known as savoy, which is more bitter. You can buy it already prepped and washed for convenience or in bunches that you have to wash thoroughly to get rid of mud and sand on the leaves. It can be eaten either cooked or raw, both being very yummy options.
As a child, my memory of spinach was from a can. Popeye tried to teach us that it was a powerful food that made you strong but it was still hard to get us to eat the slimy green blob on our plate. Fresh spinach is much more appealing and has more nutrients than the canned version. Lightly steamed with a little lemon juice squeezed over the top is one of my daughter’s favorite vegetables to eat. Add the fresh leaves to salads or sauté with other vegetables. You can even eat it for breakfast by adding a handful of spinach to your scrambled eggs or omelet.
Spinach is a great food to add to any diet. ½frac12; cup of cooked spinach only has 21 calories and 2 grams of dietary fiber. It is also very high in protein, containing 49% of its caloric value.
This dark green vegetable gets its color from chlorophyll. The more chlorophyll a vegetable has, the darker green the color. In Medieval times, artists extracted this rich green pigment to use in ink and paints. Chlorophyll is a wonderful detoxifier and cleanses the body.
Spinach is jam-packed full of vitamins and minerals. It contains Vit. A in the form of beta-carotene. Vit. A helps with bone growth, healthy eyes, skin, and hair, and protein synthesis.
There are several B vitamins which are necessary for energy production, a healthy nervous system, and are natural mood enhancers. B-1 also known as Thiamine helps convert glucose to muscular and nerve energy. No wonder Popeye got so strong after eating his spinach!
Spinach is a wonderful food for pregnancy as it contains folate which helps prevent neural tube defects and helps with the metabolism of RNA and DNA, the building blocks of all cell development.
Spinach can also help lower blood pressure with its anti-stress B-vitamins, potassium, and folic acid. It is also a very low sodium food. Too much sodium is a problem in our diets today leading to hypertension and other imbalances. Add this power food to also help lower cholesterol with it’s niacin and Vit. C nutrients.
A caution to vegetarians who are looking to spinach for its calcium and iron content. Spinach does contain oxalic acid which actually binds to the calcium and iron and prevents their absorption. Only 5% of the calcium in spinach can be absorbed because of the oxalic acid binding. You can help facilitate iron absorption from spinach by adding Vit. C to your spinach. I mentioned lemon juice squeezed over your steamed spinach. Vit. C works with your body to absorb the iron from foods.
Another caution to individuals who are prone to kidney stones. Because of the oxalic acid-calcium binding, stones can be formed and cause stones to accumulate in the kidneys.
Spinach is very easy to add to your diet. It is readily available, inexpensive, and easy to cook or just add raw to your favorite recipes. Look for dark green leaves that aren’t wilted or have yellow spots these are the freshest. The older the leaves are, the fewer nutrients in them.
I hope you are enjoying our Rainbow Journey and are having fun adding all the vibrant colors to your diet. Next month I will continue on our colorful path with the color BLUE.
Until then eat your Spinach!
More About Nutrition:
LisaMetzgar, PhD,she received her BA in Biology from UCSD, is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner, and received her Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition.
Lisa has taught body mind retreats in San Diego, Seattle, and Australia and currently has a practice in Reno, NV where she does nutrition counseling.Lisa's passion is to educate families about a healthy lifestyle.
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