One of my earliest memories about spinach is my mum feeding it to me with stories about how I’m going to be strong “Just like Popeye”! Well, Popeye was right to love spinach so much, since spinach really is a super food, and has amazing and wide ranging health benefits.
A native of the Asian region especially the central and western region of Asia, Spinach is an annual plant which is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. And since it’s a rich source of so many nutrients, it helps maintain a number of vital processes. At just about 40 calories in a cup of spinach, it’s one of the low calorie super foods which can provide up to 40% of your daily requirements of magnesium and up to 36% of daily requirement of iron. It’s rich in Vitamins K, A, folate, B2, B6, E minerals like manganese, copper and several others as well as the all-important fiber. And it is these nutrients that provide it the ability to help prevent and treat several illnesses.
1. Diabetes: Spinach has been confirmed as a diabetic super food by the American Diabetic Association and recommended to be included regularly in your diet. The most important aspect is that this is a low glycemic index food and therefore can be used for diabetics without worrying about the spike in blood sugar. Spinach has certain thylakoid based extracts which imitate the medicines that are prescribed to help control blood sugar levels. Also, the high levels of magnesium present in spinach help in sugar regulation and metabolism and most diabetics are often found to be low on magnesium levels.
2. Heart diseases: Spinach has potent anti-inflammatory nutrients and research shows that spinach consumption helps to improve the circulation of blood in the body, maintain vessel health and regulate blood pressure, the fiber present in it helps reduce cholesterol. Spinach also contains omega 3 fatty acids which help to improve the levels of good cholesterol. Spinach is a rich source of two particular kinds of anti-oxidants – neoxanthin and violaxanthin, which research shows is very potent in lowering inflammation throughout the body.
3. Cancer:Green leafy vegetables like spinach have fat soluble pigments called as carotenoids which have the ability to fight against the free radicals in the body thereby preventing certain kinds of cancers like those of the colon, breast, prostate etc. Spinach also contains chlorophyll which protects the body against free radical damage, helps in detoxification and prevents the negative effects of carcinogenic substances by eliminating them from the system.
4. Skin, Hair & Eye Health: Spinach contains good amounts of Vitamins A and C which help in maintaining the structural integrity of the skin, hair and eyes. Carotenoids present in this leafy vegetable helps in maintaining the health of the retina, cornea etc. it decreases the chances of developing as well as delays age related macular degeneration. Vitamins C and A helps in the production of collagen which is responsible for maintaining the elasticity and suppleness of the skin and also helps to fight against UV sun rays. Vitamin A keeps the hair moisturized by helping the skin glands produce sebum. Spinach is also rich in iron, the deficiency of which can contribute to hair loss.
Apart from the above, the wide range of nutrients present in spinach give many more health benefits like promoting bone health due to presence of Vitamin K, protecting the lining of the digestive system by lowering the levels of inflammation in the body, boosting liver health, regulating the bowel movements, detoxification of the body etc.
The best cooking method by which one can retain most of the nutrient profile of this wonder green is either quick sautéing or light steam for not more than 5 minutes.
A word of caution for those suffering from kidney diseases, the high potassium content in spinach can cause adverse effects also those on blood thinners need to be cautious in the amounts used due to the high levels of Vitamin K.
So, use it in a soup, smoothie, salad, sandwich or a vegetable of its own. Add it in khichdis or in raitas to incorporate this wonder leaf at least twice a week.
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(The writer is a gold medalist in Food & Nutrition with more than 12 years experience. She manages various ailments through lifestyle and dietary modifications and specializes in weight loss & management. She practices at 102, Crystal Center, Raheja Vihar, Powai or Smile Craft, 23, Annapurna Industrial estate, Opp. CCD, Ghatkopar East. For appointments: 022 2857 6537 Email: email@example.com)