Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits of Spinach
Eating a can of spinach might make Popeye’s muscles pop out instantaneously ….. Could it help yours too?
A new research being conducted on mice suggests that “Nitrate rich vegetables, such as spinach and beetroot juice, could have a powerful effect on boosting muscle strength by increasing the levels of certain proteins”. Scientists have now found out that it is actually the nitrates that are the power boosting ingredients and not the iron content of spinach that was believed to boost your muscle power, as was thought of earlier. The nitrates act like fuel additives for your muscles and make the mitochondria, the engine room of the cells, more efficient. The lead author of this research, Dr Eddie Weitzberg, is of the opinion that “it is a profound and significant effect. It just shows that Popeye was right!”
History and origin of Spinach:
Though the origin of spinach is unknown, it is believed to have originated in Persia (modern Iran and neighboring countries). It was the Arab traders who carried spinach to India from where this plant got introduced to China via Nepal probably in 647 AD. Later, sometime during 827 AD, spinach found its way into Sicily and Spain. The rest of the world, including Germany, England and France saw the spinach becoming popular during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Popeye Myth Busted:
“I’m Popeye the sailor man, I’m Popeye the sailor man,
I’m strong to the finish because I eats me spinach,
I’m Popeye the sailor man!”
I’m sure this must have been the famous lines most parents used on their children to make them eat their spinach! Unfortunately, though, this idea of muscles popping out after eating a can of spinach might not be true on more than one count. First, spinach may not contain that much of iron as was mentioned. This mega iron myth began first in 1870, when Dr E Van Wolfe erroneously misplaced a decimal point in his publication, which made the iron content of spinach ten times too high! This was eventually investigated and rectified by the Germans, but by then the power of spinach had been firmly established by Popeye, the pipe smoking sailor man. Secondly, Popeye is seen eating canned spinach, which is not a very good way of eating spinach, since most of its nutrients are lost!
Spinach Nutrition Facts:
High in nutrients, rich in antioxidants, low in saturated fats and cholesterol and a rich source of vitamins, spinach is a complete powerhouse of health and goodness. Extremely rich in Antioxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, vitamin E and Vitamin K, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Niacin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, spinach is best consumed fresh, steamed, quickly boiled or even flash frozen. Like most other green leafy vegetables, spinach is also considered a rich source of iron and calcium.
|Spinach Nutrition Facts per 100 gms of serving|
|Dietary Fiber||2.2 g|
|Vitamin A||469 µg|
|Beta Carotene||5626 µg|
|Thiamine (Vit B1)||0.078 mg|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||0.180 mg|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||0.724 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.195 mg|
|Folate (Vitamin B9)||194 µg|
|Vitamin C||28 mg|
|Vitamin E||2 mg|
|Vitamin K||483 µg|
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Spinach- Amazing Health Benefits:
Being a powerhouse of nutrition, the health benefits of spinach are vast and diverse. Given below are some of the reasons why you should make spinach a part of your daily diet.
High in dietary fiber, spinach benefits in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar levels and helps in curbing hunger.
Fights against Cancer:
Flavanoid compounds found in spinach work as cancer fighting antioxidants by neutralizing free radicals found in our body. Studies indicate that spinach has shown significant protection against ovarian and breast cancer, as well as aggressive prostate cancer.
Neoxanthin and Violaxanthin present in spinach play an important role in regulation of inflammation.
Vitamin K, abundantly present in spinach, promotes the synthesis of osteocalcin, the protein that helps maintain the density and strength of our bones.
The high concentration of Beta Carotene and the presence of Vitamin C, two important Antioxidants, help reduce the amounts of free radicals in the body. Vitamin C, a water soluble antioxidant and Beta Carotene, which help to break down fats, work as a perfect team to prevent cholesterol from becoming oxidized and lining the cell walls of arteries, thereby promoting good cardiovascular health. Magnesium found in spinach helps in controlling blood pressure and Folate converts the harmful stroke inducing chemicals into harmless compounds.
Vitamins A, C, E and K, present in spinach are great for your skin. Vitamin A allows for moisture retention in the epidermis resulting in a healthy skin and also helps in fighting skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, acne, wrinkles and even prevents skin cancer.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants, found a- plenty in spinach, which protect against cataract formation in the eye and also prevent age related macular degeneration.
Spinach is good for the Brain and Nervous Function:
Being a rich source of Vitamin K, spinach plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy nervous system and brain function since it helps in the synthesis of sphingolipids, a fat which makes up the myelin sheath around our nerves. Vitamin K also prevents calcium formation in tissue, thus helping prevent cardiovascular diseases, stroke and arthrosclerosis.
Eat Your Spinach:
Is it more beneficial to eat your spinach cooked or raw, fresh or frozen? The answer is that spinach can be eaten in either of these ways, without compromising on its nutrient value.
Cooking spinach releases Beta-Carotenes and Lutein and neutralizes the Oxalic Acid, a compound that inhibits the absorption of calcium and iron.
Tip # To retain the rich color and most of the nutrients of spinach, immerse it in a pan of boiling water for just a minute.
Tip # Do not reuse the water left behind after boiling spinach.
Raw spinach, eaten in salads, contains Vitamin C and Folate which are heat sensitive, and get destroyed if heated for long.
If using fresh spinach, do so as quickly as possible to get the maximum benefits of this super food. According to a study published in the ‘Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture’, in 2007, researchers found that “freshly picked vegetables contained the greatest amount off ascorbic acid”. However, they found that spinach stored at room temperature lost 100% of its ascorbic acid in just four days and by the eighth day, even if refrigerated well, loses most of its nutrients.
Eating frozen spinach is also a good way of enjoying your spinach as it is goes through a flash- freezing process that preserves most of the nutrients within hours after it leaves the soil, and contains more amount of Vitamin C than fresh spinach.
Spinach Cooking tips:
Spinach is a very versatile food and can be used as an ingredient in many main dishes, soups or salads.
1. Chopped: Coarsely chopped spinach is a great addition in sandwiches, eggs, pasta or soups.
2. Steamed: Steam spinach in a steamer basket till just wilted, and then plunge into ice water. Pat dry to remove any excess moisture and chop finely. Make a delicious dip by adding yogurt, chopped garlic and green onions. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Wilted: Top fresh spinach with hot grilled vegetables and a little vinaigrette. Toss to wilt spinach.
4. Creamed: Sauté some onions, add spinach and cover for a few minutes. Stir in a dash of cream, and add a seasoning of salt and pepper.
6. Blended: For an extra helping of fiber and phytonutrients, add a handful of spinach into your morning smoothie. Add one cup of spinach, half a cucumber, two apples, juice of one lemon and an inch of ginger and blend to make a simple and great tasting smoothie.
- In 1953, Queen of France, Catherine de` Medici, was so enamored by spinach, she insisted that it be served at every meal. To this day, all French cuisine using spinach as its main ingredient is called Florentine, named after her birthplace, Florence.
- French soldiers weakened by hemorrhage, were given wine fortified with spinach juice during World War I.
Eaten raw, boiled, sautéed or as an ingredient in any dish, spinach is a healthy and vibrant option and should find pride of place on your table. So, GO GREEN, and have at least one cup of spinach everyday!!