Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know About Spinach
Drawing a can of spinach from the inside of his shirt in the midst of what always seemed like an inevitably hopeless situation, Popeye would guzzle the entire thing, sometimes straight from the can and sometimes through his trusty corncob pipe. Instantly he was overcome with almost superhero powers, saving the day with his bulging muscles and incomparable physical abilities.
How he stored a can of spinach inside his shirt, not to mention how spinach can be consumed through a corncob pipe, was never of concern. Despite his fanciful depiction of it, Popeye put spinach on the mainstream map. While the Popeye cartoons may be an anachronism, we have not forgotten the lesson he taught: eat spinach right before a perilous situation and you’ll make it out on top…
What Popeye didn’t teach you though, are the many underlying qualities of spinach that all spinach-eaters should know, but don’t, about spinach! So we’ve put together a list of everything you never knew you needed to know but might have forgot (if you had only eaten more spinach!) about spinach:
- Eat it raw – Despite what the cartoons suggested, canned spinach is actually the least nutritious way to eat spinach. Canning and over-cooking spinach draws out most of its beneficial nutrients, along with its vibrant green color, which is home to many of the beneficial phytonutrients (powerful antioxidant compounds). Eat it raw or quickly blanched in boiling water for less than a minute.
- Speaking of phytonutrients – Spinach has a whopping list of them, including carotenoids that provide antioxidant protection for your cells, and 13 different flavonoid phytonutrients that perform key antioxidant functions throughout your body.
- Pumping iron – The reason spinach has energy-boosting qualities is because it is one of the richest vegetal sources of iron. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that facilitates the transport of oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in you body. Hemoglobin is also an integral factor in several enzyme functions within your metabolism and energy production systems.
- Never throw away the stems! – While they may seem like a less-pleasant part of spinach to your palate, the stems of spinach are actually higher in fiber that then leaves and contain all the same healthy nutrients. Lightly sauté the stems to soften if desired, or blend in with spinach pesto!
- Spinach feeds a healthy heart – As an excellent source of vitamins C and A, which are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to reduce oxidation of cholesterol, spinach can help prevent against coronary disease and keep your heart and arteries healthy. Spinach also contains unique proteins that have been shown to inhibit angiotensis I-converting enzyme, which is the same enzyme that ACE inhibitors target. The result is a natural blood pressure lowering effect.
- Boost your brainpower – Eat spinach on a regular basis. Studies show that antioxidants in spinach may reduce the risk of a decline in brain function as we age and can help improve memory, learning and motor skills.
- Maintains good vision – Cartenoids, which provide a source for vitamin A (a principal nutrient for eye health), and lutein, an antioxidant that targets eye health, are abundant in spinach and can help maintain eye health and good vision over time.
- Cleansing – In Eastern medicine traditions spinach is revered for its ability to cleanse the blood of toxins that can cause skin irritations and inflammation, and for its hydrating and moistening effects on the entire body.
How are you making use of this power packed plant? Looking to include more spinach in your diet? Try our Indian-Style Greens recipe.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2002. Print.
Mateljan, George. The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating. Seattle, WA: George Mateljan Foundation, 2006. Print.