Health Benefits Of Spinach Explained: Just Ask Popeye!
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I’m sure that most of you were introduced to spinach as a weird paradox between the gloopy non-appetizing stuff that your mom forced you to eat, and Popeye the sailor man’s secret magic potion that seemed so tasty and instantly made him super strong.
Even as an 8-year-old kid, I knew something didn’t add up. Still, I reluctantly ate it and much to my surprise didn’t start looking like a bodybuilding steroid taking hoodlum. It was only much later when a girlfriend of mine turned me onto raw spinach leaf salad with cranberries, almonds, and avocado (which is delicious by the way) did I start wondering, just what it was about this food that made it so super!
What Is Spinach? Where Does It Come From?
For those of you who didn’t watch the Popeye cartoon or weren’t reluctantly force fed this nutrient-packed vegetable, here is a basic overview of it. Spinach is a green leafy plant that is generally sold all year round and can mistaken for a lot of different smaller leafy plants. Unlike so many of foods that rise and fall on doctors and nutritionists recommendation lists, or the “trendy healthy food lists”, it’s always been considered a very healthy vegetable with medicinal properties.
Just one example of its medicinal use in history is that of during World War 1 where Wine fortified with spinach juice was given to wounded French soldiers as a healing remedy. Spinach has been known to help with everything from eyesight to blood pressure to healthy fetal development and preventing cancer or killing cancerous cells. If you are looking for a vegetable to add to your daily diet in order to acquire more vitamins and nutrients, this would be the one!
Some of the nutrients include potassium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium and much more. It even largely helps brain functionality and there are multiple resources to back this claim. After doing some research of your own you will see this is so and if you’re not really up to it, I’ll explain some of them later on.
Spinach is believed to have originated somewhere around Persia which is modern day Iran. For some reason, someone decided to bring it over on a boat to India, and they were so excited about it that they decided to spread it to China where it was known as the “Persian Vegetable.” The first recorded mention of it in China about it was in 647 AD. From there it traveled to Europe and took off there as well. Definitely one of the reasons why it was so popular is that it is a durable vegetable and can survive through the winter. It’s basically the vegetable equivalent of Chuck Norris – if I say so myself!
Nutrients Found In Spinach Explained
I often hear about these nutrients and healthy components in food talked about with almost feverish excitement. You can often hear examples of this in drug commercials or cereal commercials “Now with more Zinc!” “Absolutely packed with Riboflavin”. Now I’m sure you’ve heard of some of these components. You might have even known some random
benefits of them such as potassium helping memory, which is why I always ate bananas for breakfast the day of tests in school. Well for your benefit, I will actually break down the main nutrients found in spinach, but not how your body breaks them down. I will break them down by explaining them.
Let us actually start with Potassium. Spinach is loaded with Potassium. It’s funny how bananas steal all the thunder when it comes to potassium, but a cup of sliced banana has approximately 539 mg of potassium. If cooked spinach was like one of those friends who were always one-upping everyone, it would say “oh ya, well I have 839 mg of potassium”. Unlike those friends, it would actually not be lying. But I think its good thing that vegetables, as far as we know, don’t talk.
Potassium is an electrolyte, those things that Gatorade is always bragging about having! Potassium is responsible for lowering blood pressure. High Blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease, which you might think is irrelevant for you, but you would be wrong. Heart disease is the number-one cause of death in the world!
Potassium at high levels allows more oxygen to reach the brain, thereby stimulating neural activity and increasing cognitive function. It also plays a big role in maintaining the electrical conductivity in the brain and keeps your brain functioning at a high level including memorizing stuff and learning. I find that more than being beneficial, it generally maintains functionality in the body and prevents a whole slew of really bad health problems from occurring; muscle cramps, low blood sugar (which can lead to another slew of problems), fatigue, anxiety, stress, and fluid balance in your body.
Moving on, let’s talk about those vitamins. I feel like vitamins are like kids in a very large family. They often don’t get the credit that they deserve, because there’s so many of them and when they get listed, it’s usually all in a bundle. Let’s start with vitamin K. Vitamin K in spinach is interesting because one cooked leaf already has all the vitamin K that you
need for one day. So when you eat a whole bunch of spinach, you’re probably overdosing on vitamin K. Great news, there’s nothing wrong with it. Your body only stores the amount it needs and flushes out the rest. I think it’s pretty cool that we struggle so hard to only keep things that we need, but our bodies can do that really well… that is if we aren’t overloading it with junk. The benefits of vitamin K are that it supports heart health (see above if you can’t figure out why that’s important.). It helps with blood clotting, like if you
get a cut or a wound it will ensure that your blood is not too thin and just bleeding out of you, a feature which all can most definitely derive some benefit from. It also teams up well with the calcium in spinach to help it get to your bones and keep them strong.
Vitamin A In Spinach Explained
Next we move on to vitamin A. Vitamin A is fat soluble, which is great because it can penetrate your cell walls which are made up of fat and really get in there and do its magic. When somebody calls you fat, this is probably what they mean! Vitamin A gives support to your skin. People with acne problems often can be vitamin A deficient.
It is also good for your vision and lubricates the eye. So I guess if you’re vitamin A deficient you might have acne, but you’ll also have a hard time seeing it, so maybe it’s not so bad! Not having enough vitamin A can make you susceptible to all sorts of infections.
There are 2 types of vitamin A. One is found in vegetables and called carotene, and the other is found more in animal products and called Retinol. Your body really wants more of that Retinol stuff, so make sure you don’t only get your vitamin A from veggies, but you can convert carotene A to Retinol A simply by adding a healthy fat such as butter or quality olive oil to your vegetables, in this case, spinach.
An additional component in spinach that is highly necessary is manganese. I know that this sounds like some sort of exotic Asian fruit, but it’s actually a mineral that is very essential for your body. Just like some of the other nutritional components in spinach, Manganese really helps keep your bones strong, it helps you have healthy skin, and it’s very efficient in controlling the level of sugar in your blood which is especially vital for diabetics. It furthermore helps regulate your metabolism and really get things moving in your body.
One interesting quality of Manganese is that it helps with those horrid monthly PMS syndromes that women suffer from and men hear a lot about. Studies have actually shown a connection between low levels of manganese and particularly severe PMS symptoms. This might all sound very enthralling, but before you start overloading on manganese capsules, you should know that too much manganese is your body is very unhealthy and bad for you.
Iron. I’m sure you know at least one person taking iron supplements. The symptoms of iron deficiency are very noticeable and can affect our day to day lives. Yes, I know how hard it is to get out of bed, but if it seems extra hard to get out of bed, or up the stairs, or generally making it through your day without feeling wiped out, you might have an iron deficiency.
Iron is a very necessary component of something called haemoglobin which basically helps carry oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. If you’re not getting enough oxygen through your body, chances are that you either have a paper bag over your head, or you’re iron deficient.
— Dragonfire Nutrition (@dragonfirenutri) October 24, 2017
Spinach For Weight Loss Explained
Before we talk about weight loss, we should mention the dreaded weight gain. There is a plethora of reasons why people gain weight which include their diet, exercise and sleep habits. A very prominent reason of why it’s hard to keep off those pounds is all these processed foods. There’s not much you can do to keep away from them. You merely have to walk from the door to the counter of any gas station, or down the aisles of your local corner store and something will catch your eye.
Cheesy, salty, crunchy, sweet, it doesn’t matter what mood you’re in, the “snack food drug quick fix” is right there. I find that people generally don’t think about the millions of dollars that food companies pay scientists to figure out what will get you. The perfect salty oily or sugary combo that will keep you munching. A very common denominator in most of these foods is that they all contain components that will signal to your body that you are still hungry, even though you’ve in my case shoved half a bag of potato chips down your throat. This is much more of a craving hunger than a healthy natural hunger.
Well, you can say, I fundamentally have no choice in this and I’ll just never lose weight. I’m here to tell you how spinach can give you a fighting chance. You see, spinach is rich with components in it called Thylakoids.
Thylakoids are actually more known for their role in photosynthesis of the plant. They are lesser known for the really cool function helping of sending signals to your brain that you are getting full and you don’t have a cosmic vacuum in your stomach that needs to be filled asap. There was even a study about this done in Sweden.
The story of the study, is that 38 women who were considered overweight, most definitely by people other than their spouses, were split up into 2 groups. Both groups were given green juices to drink every morning before breakfast for 3 months. One group’s drink contained a bunch of those thylakoids, and one group’s drinks just contained a placebo.
The women were just instructed to try and eat healthily and eat 3 meals a day. That was it. So, if you’re really itching to know what happened, the thylakoid women lost on average 5 kg versus 3.5 of the placebo women and reported that it had been much easier to stick to their 3 meals a day without that snack feeling. Further studies by the same researchers discovered that thylakoids reduced the unhealthy craving hunger by a whopping 95%.
An additional way that spinach can help with weight loss, is that as I mentioned in snippets above, spinach has fibres that will aid your digestion. It also has nutrients that will speed up your metabolism, all while having an extremely low-calorie count and being packed with good nutrients. If you want to get all those nutrients from another food, it will probably contain more calories. I definitely think it’s a must when thinking about foods for a weight loss plan.
Spinach and Diabetes
If you decide to do some research on natural cures for diabetes, you will find lots of holistic health blogs and articles that might even promise to cure diabetes in just 2 weeks! So, as you can assume, spinach is mentioned in quite a few of them. The funny thing is that very few of them actually go into detail to talk about how that magic transformation happens. I hope this won’t come as a huge surprise for you, but there is no magic transformation. There are, however very beneficial steps you can take to help yourself if you have diabetes. Spinach is a good food to start with off the bat.
So if you’re not familiar, a quick rundown of diabetes is that your body is pumping sugar into your bloodstream from the foods that you eat. Your body without diabetes is mixing this sugar with a hormone called insulin and the insulin allows the sugar to enter into your muscle and fat cells and give you that energy that you need. So with diabetes, your body is not producing nearly enough of this insulin, or for some reason, your muscle and fat cells are just not really giving a darn about the insulin being there and won’t let the sugar or the insulin in, keeping all of this sugar in the bloodstream. This causes your blood sugar level to rise drastically… which makes me wonder if mosquitos would be more attracted to your blood! Well even if they are, you’ll have worse problems eventually if you don’t do anything about that.
A big issue for diabetics is carbohydrates which get converted into a large amount of sugar in the stomach. This, as we spoke about, will cause your blood sugar to rise. The benefit of spinach in this regard is that it has a tiny amount of carbs, which is always good because excess carbs when processed by your stomach churn out lots of sugar. The low amount of calories in spinach can also be effective as weight control, which is also necessary for people with diabetes, although that is more disputed.
As I stated above, spinach contains vitamins and minerals that keep your blood sugar level relatively lower and release into your bloodstream slower which would definitely help diabetics. Spinach also has Zinc in it which aids the production of that wonderful insulin in your pancreas. Aside from that, Zinc is great for your immune system.
I think that no food is going to incontestably be the diabetes miracle food but it’s without a doubt a good route for diabetics to take. In general, diabetics have to be a little neurotic about what they eat. Spinach is one of the only foods that they can really gorge out on with none of that added stress, so even that is worth a lot. I’m sure many more studies are being conducted as you read this regarding spinach and diabetes and I’m super excited to see what comes out of that.
Spinach For Cancer Prevention
We live in the day and age where we don’t just take whatever some group of doctors say for granted. I guess we got tired of the food pyramid changing. There’s also the fact that there is literally endless information that we can search up online ourselves. There we can find doctors who are of different opinions of how to deal with an issue and make our own newly educated decision. This can be a great thing, but it certainly can have its downsides. It definitely can get real obscure. If I were to google cancer prevention, I would come
across articles that would mention eating fruits and veggies as part of living a cancer-preventing lifestyle. It usually would be squashed in between practicing safe sex and not smoking. These articles do not give the fruits and veggies part nearly enough acclaim. Particularly, spinach.
See, spinach is rich with these components called flavonoids, which is the cool science-y name of vitamin P. For fun’s sake, let’s use the term flavonoids. Flavonoids also help the process of photosynthesis of plants as well. A Harvard study found the link between these flavonoids and the minimized risk of ovarian cancer. Subjects that had a consistent flavonoid intake were 40% less likely to develop ovarian cancer!
One particular flavonoid which is called apigenin was credited with possessing a huge chunk of the cancer-fighting powers. Apigenin, as you might be guessing, is highly concentrated within spinach. It fascinatingly also functions as a stress and anxiety reliever and is the component of chamomile tea and alcohol that possesses those properties. Whoever thought that getting drunk can help prevent ovarian cancer? Well for those of you that don’t want cancer and do want a functioning liver, I would suggest a more natural alternative.
Ovarian cancer is not the only one that has been proven to be prevented by spinach consumption, a study found a compound in spinach called neoxanthin, prevents prostate cancer cells from reproducing. Research has even produced strong evidence that eating spinach and carrots consistently took down breast cancer odds by a large margin.
Hopefully, more studies are being conducted right now and will prove more cancer-preventing evidence from spinach and other veggie consumption. One thing is for certain, all of the antioxidants contained within spinach are definitely beneficial for fighting a number of diseases including cancer.
As far as high blood pressure goes, spinach gives it that perfect one-two and even three punch. As stated way above, spinach has an abundance of potassium in it. Potassium is known to lower blood pressure in the form of lowering the sodium levels, by flushing all that salt out of your body. Additionally, it also is partially responsible for easing tension in your blood vessel walls, which will lower your blood pressure. Spinach also houses a nice amount of magnesium.
People who are magnesium deficient can use magnesium to lower the risk of hypertension or high blood pressure. The third punch is contributed to folates. Copious research has been done linking folic acid (folates) to blood pressure level reduction, particularly in women. The research states that folates are more instrumental in lowering high blood pressure levels than maintaining a normal level. With all of these elements combined, I’m certain that most nutritionists would prescribe spinach to regulate blood pressure.
Spinach For Skin And Hair
Spinach has so many beneficial aspects to hair and skin, it was almost as if it was made to help you look super glam. Those of you that the rest of us hate for being born with perfect skin still can even struggle in the wintertime with their skin. Regardless of who needs it, spinach can help with a plethora of skin issues. From offering sun protection to acne help, to averting aging, to just making your skin look much healthier in general. Aside from the nutrients absorbed in your body, you can even make face masks and hair masks out of spinach to apply topically.
The nutrients that I’ve listed and even some that I didn’t get to are all responsible for good skin care. Vitamin A’s antioxidant activity keeps your skin looking healthy and repairs blemishes and helps with the slowing of the aging process. Vitamin C is another piece to the puzzle of skin care which helps repair skin cells. Without enough vitamin C, your skin can get all gross and dry. If you’ve ever seen someone with iron deficiency, it would be clear how eating this iron-enriched food can help. I’m sure there is a Scooby Doo episode where they
mistook the bad guy for a ghost because of how pale looking he was. Iron will help you have a fresh rosy glow, as opposed to looking all white and pasty. That vitamin K that I rant and rave about will help keep the bags out from under your eyes by reducing skin inflammation and augmenting blood circulation. A huge amount of spinach is made up of water, and that water can keep your skin looking hydrated and fresh.
When it comes to hair, basically the same nutrients that are beneficial for skin, also really help hair strength and growth. For example, iron, as I mentioned above. People who have iron deficiencies not only have that pasty looking skin, but very often their hair is falling out as well. This is a big deal if you
ever want a date. Iron enables a flow of oxygen to be getting to those hair follicles which strengthens them. Aside from that, nutrients that are essential for hair strengthening are B, C, and E, potassium, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids and calcium. I hope by now you know which food is stuffed with all of those nutrients. I actually have been trying spinach for my hair in terms of masks and my hair never felt softer. It also has been falling out at a much lower rate.
How To Get Your Kids To Eat Spinach
It’s a shame that kids have a harder time than us making logical choices over what they enjoy. Nobody wants to yell at little Timmy to eat his spinach or he won’t get dessert! The fact is though, that spinach is even more essential for children than it is for adults. So how to get your kids to eat spinach? I mentioned at the beginning of this post about how I always found spinach to be “gloopy” and gross as a kid. I honestly think that’s most of the problem, it’s the texture.
Fortunately, spinach isn’t like cereal and milk. There’s more than one way to eat it and make it yummy. Even if you’re gonna make that classy mushy spinach, you can spice things up by adding some garlic and honey, or cheese. If your child is still not into it, you can try just dropping it in lasagna, or mixing it into your marinara sauce for pasta, or my personal favorite, the spinach and cheese omelette.
You can even use it as a substitute for lettuce in a sandwich and have it raw. There are many things to do with spinach once you start being more creative other than just sauteing it in a pan.
“What about Juicing it?” You might wonder once you start thinking along more creative lines. Yes! Juicing spinach is a great way to get your child to consume it. It will be easier for your kids to eat it and when raw, spinach isn’t nearly as bitter and has better health benefits for your kids when consumed raw. I wouldn’t, however, recommend just putting spinach in the juicer.
Try putting in all sorts of frozen fruit and make a yummy fruit shake, but just adding spinach. That way, your wee young one will gulp down spinach without any threats of losing the dessert. This can even be their dessert!
Spinach, as I stated, is more essential for a child than an adult. This is because things like bone development which the calcium and magnesium help with, are much more important for growing bones. Think about brain development for a second. One’s brain usually is constantly developing from when they’re born, until their early twenties. Infant’s brains have been proven to function on a much higher scale, using much more of their brains than we do ours.
The iron and potassium are both extremely vital for a brain developing at that rate. Spinach is even amazing for your child’s immune system. Those who have children know how much a child’s immune system needs boosting.
I highly recommend juicing spinach to get your child to eat it. Once they have a positive view on spinach, it will stop having that stigma of the “horror food” that it had when I was growing up.
If you’ve read everything that I’ve written here and are not convinced to add more spinach to your diet, then I think you need to just merely for the higher brain functionality. Just seeing how spinach has always been at the forefront of healthy vegetables and not just a fad food like kale or quinoa can show you just how valuable this leafy vegetable is.
It has most of the essential vitamins and minerals that you need daily and overall makes your whole body function a lot better. I’ve definitely gotten better at finding dishes to throw spinach into just because I always make sure to have it around and I hope that you do as well!