by Sharon Quercioli
Many of us recall images of Popeye as children, but it truly is difficult to overestimate the nutritional powerhouse that is spinach. Here are ten great reasons why spinach should find its way into your grocery bag.
Spinach Is One of the Most Nutritious Foods Available
Low in calories and high in vitamins, spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence. One cup of the leafy green vegetable contains far more than your daily requirements of vitamin K and vitamin A, almost all the manganese and folate your body needs and nearly 40% of your magnesium requirement. It is an excellent source of more than 20 different measurable nutrients, including dietary fiber, calcium and protein. And yet, 1 cup has only 40 calories!
Spinach Improves Brain Function, Protects Against Aging
This dark green leaf will protect your brain function from premature aging and slow old age’s typical negative effects upon your metal capabilities. Spinach accomplishes this by preventing the harmful effects of oxidation on your brain. Those who eat vegetables in quantity, especially those of the leafy green variety, experience a decrease in brain function loss. The abundance of vitamin K in spinach contributes greatly to a healthy nervous system and brain function by providing an essential part for the synthesis of sphingolipids, the crucial fat that makes up the Myelin sheath around our nerves.
Cancer-Fighting Antioxidants Abound in Fresh Spinach
Spinach contains more than a dozen individual flavonoid compounds, which work together as cancer-fighting antioxidants. These elements neutralize free radicals in the body, thus helping to prevent cancer. In fact, one study of New England women showed less breast cancer cases among those who ate spinach on a regular basis. Spinach extracts have reduced skin cancer in lab animals and show promise at slowing stomach cancer as well. The Journal of Nutrition recently reported that our leafy friend contains a carotenoid that makes prostate cancers destroy themselves. This same carotenoid, after being changed by the intestines, prevents prostate cancer from reproducing itself.
Spinach also contains kaempferol, a strong antioxidant that prevents the formation of cancerous cells. Women who have a high intake of this flavonoid show a reduced risk of ovarian cancer, likely because of kaempferol’s ability to reduce cancer cells proliferation. The vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium present in spinach all serve as powerful antioxidants that also combat the onset of osteoporosis and atherosclerosis.
Fresh Green Spinach Improves Cardiovascular Health
According to research compiled by Whole Foods, spinach is an excellent promoter of cardiovascular health. The antioxidant properties of spinach (water-soluble in the form of vitamin C and fat-soluble beta-carotene) work together to promote good cardiovascular health by preventing the harmful oxidation of cholesterol.
Magnesium in spinach works toward healthy blood pressure levels. In fact, just a salad-size portion of spinach will work to lower high blood pressure within hours. A serving of spinach contains 65% of your daily requirement of folate, and folate converts harmful, stroke-inducing chemicals into harmless compounds.
Spinach Improves Digestion & Maintains Low Blood Sugar
One cup of spinach has nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation and curbs overeating. Eating spinach regularly is also known to regulate blood sugar levels, so diabetics should probably eat some spinach. It’s all the magnesium in spinach that helps this vegetable to regulate blood sugar levels.
Spinach Lowers Blood Pressure
By inhibiting the angiotensin I–converting enzyme, peptides within spinach have been shown to effectively lower blood pressure.
Spinach Is an Effective Anti-Inflammatory
Neoxanthin and violaxanthin are two anti-inflammatory epoxyxanthophylls that play an important role in regulation of inflammation and are present in significant amounts in spinach.
Spinach Protects the Eyes
Both antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are especially plentiful in spinach and protect the eye from cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Lutein also helps to prevent weakness in the eye muscles caused by aging.
Spinach Helps Fight Infection
One cup of spinach contains over 337% of the RDA of vitamin A that not only protects and strengthens “entry points” into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, but is also a key component of lymphocytes (or white blood cells) that fight infection.
Spinach Promotes Strong Bones
One cup of boiled spinach provides over 1000% of the RDA of vitamin K that can prevent excess activation of osteoclasts (the cells that break down bones), as well as promote the synthesis of osteocalcin, the protein that is essential for maintaining the strength and density of our bones.
So while spinach probably won’t make you super strong the minute you eat it, as it did for Popeye, it will promote your health and vitality in many other ways. It seems like Popeye was pretty smart after all.
I love these Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Portobello’s. They are easy to make and taste wonderful. It is like taking the ingredients of a vegetarian lasagna filling—ricotta, spinach and Parmesan cheese—and stuff them into roasted Portobello mushroom caps. The recipe works best with very large Portobello caps. Enjoy!
- 4 large Portobello mushroom caps
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped Kalamata olives
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 3/4 cup prepared marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Place mushroom caps, gill-side up, on the prepared pan. Sprinkle with salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Roast until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mash ricotta, spinach, 1/4 cup Parmesan, olives, Italian seasoning and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Place marinara sauce in a small bowl, cover and microwave on High until hot, 30 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes.
- When the mushrooms are tender, carefully pour out any liquid accumulated in the caps. Return the caps to the pan gill-side up. Spread 1 tablespoon marinara into each cap; cover the remaining sauce to keep warm. Mound a generous 1/3 cup ricotta filling into each cap and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Bake until hot, about 10 minutes. Serve with the remaining marinara sauce.