Food of the Week

Super Spinach

Why do we love it?

Popeye knew what he was doing when he guzzled down cans of spinach to give him strength and stamina.  While the fresh stuff is definitely better for you than tinned, he had the right idea about the virtues of this delicious vegetable.  Currently in season, spinach has been a Mediterranean favourite since Renaissance times, and is an excellent plant-based source of iron

Spinach is rich in carotenoid phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin which provide antioxidant protection against cell damage.  Spinach also contains at least 13 different flavonoid phytonutrients which function as antioxidants and anticancer agents.

How should I prepare it for maximum health benefits?

Most of us are used to seeing spinach in the supermarkets bagged up and labelled as baby spinach which is best used raw for salads and can be a convenient timesaver.  Bunched spinach can be found in grocer’s shops and is sometimes available in vegetable box schemes. 

After rinsing, spinach requires no additional water in which to cook, and can be steamed over a low heat with a lid on the saucepan for one to two minutes.  It will wilt down very quickly and is easy to overcook, causing it to lose its bright green colour and as much as 50% of its nutrients.

Why is it good for me?

A Fighter of Fatigue!

The iron content in spinach is an integral part of haemoglobin which transports oxygen from the lungs to all cells in the body, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism.

Hearty goodness!

For atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, few foods compare to spinach in their number of helpful nutrients.  Rich in vitamin C and vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), which are two antioxidants that work to reduce the amount of free radicals in the body. 

This combination of water soluble (vitamin C) and fat soluble (beta carotene) antioxidants can help prevent cholesterol from becoming oxidised which can lead to the development of atherosclerosis.  Spinach also provides folic acid and vitamin B6 which can help prevent elevated Homocysteine levels.  Homocysteine can directly damage artery walls and is a known factor for cardiovascular disease.  Spinach also contains magnesium and potassium, two heart-healthy minerals!

Brainy Brilliance!

Animal studies have shown that spinach may help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related decline in brain function.  Feeding animals spinach-rich diets significantly improved their learning capacity.

Popeye knew best!

In addition to being a rich source of vitamin A, which is important for eye health, the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to protect the eye from oxidative damage.  People who consume lutein and zeaxanthin-rich diets have been found to be at lower risk for developing cateracts and age-related macular degeneration.  As these carotenoids are fat-soluble, consuming spinach with olive oil or fat-containing foods such as eggs or nuts may help with absorption.

Did you know?

Spinach contains something called oxalic acid which may be of importance to people who are sensitive to this compound, including those with certain kidney or gallbladder problems who may wish to avoid it.  Cooking can reduce the oxalic acid content.  Eating raw spinach should present no problems for people without these health concerns.

What are my credentials?

Vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, tryptophan, fibre

How to select me?

Look for vibrant, bright green leaves with stems that look fresh and crisp.  Choose organically grown varieties whenever possible.  Avoid spinach which is yellowing, or with wilted or bruised leaves.

Enjoy!

Source: WHF, Mateljan, G.