The Health Benefits of Spinach- a true “super green”
Many of us who grew up in post WWII America, the image of Popeye eating spinach right out of a can and getting super strength is indelibly etched on our subconscious. In that sense, many people tend to think that spinach is probably good for you (of course, I would never recommend eating spinach out of a can). Nevertheless, despite the common view that it is healthy, and even though it is one of the more common leafy greens avaiable to American consumers, it is largely neglected because many people don’t like the taste of it.
Consuming raw spinach in a green smoothie is a great way to get all the health beneifts of spinach, even if you don’t care for the taste. So just exactly what kind of health benefits does spinach provide? Read on. You might be surprised.
Spinach has been identified by nutritional scientists as on of the “super foods.” While almost all dark leafy greens fall into that category, spinach has its own unique properties – and coupled with it’s widespread availability, spinach becomes a very important part of a green smoothie rotation.
Studies show that spinach seems to be able to lessen our risk for many of the most common diseases of our modern era. Overwhelming research has demonstrated that spinach consumption significantly reduces the risks of the following common ailments:
- Cardiovascular disease including stroke and coronary artery disease
- Cancer including colon, lung, skin, oral, stomach, ovarian, prostate and breast cancer
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
In addition, preliminary research suggests that spinach may help prevent or delay age-related cognitive decline.
What makes spinach and its related dark leafy-green veggies such powerful health promoters? The list of compounds that have been discovered in spinach is truly impressive. Spinach contains carotenoids, antioxidants, vitamin K, coenzyme Q10, B vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, polyphenols, betaine and, interestingly, plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids. This is a condensed list and it’s hard to convey the powerful impact of these nutrients as they work synergistically to promote health.
Spinach and its related leafy greens are important in the prevention of macular degeneration because of their rich supply of the carotenoids lutein/zeaxanthin. When coupled with dietary marine-based omega 3 fatty acids, these compounds can offer a powerful reduction in the risk of AMD. It’s interesting to note that all of the lutein and a significant percentage of the zeaxanthin found in the macular come from the diet. This reinforces the advice of many to eat plenty of – spinach and kale regularly (the best sources of lutein). Unfortunately, many who try to eat spinach or kale in a salad only get a small fraction of the available lutein. These dark leafy greens need to be “chewed” to a fine, smooth pulp in order to unlock all the health benefits. Since most of us don’t have the time or desire to sit around chewing on leafy greens all day like a cow, a powerful blender like the Vitamix does the hard work for us. It’s the only way to get all the great benefits out of raw spinach.
It’s not surprising that spinach is a powerful ally in the fight against cancer. A number of studies have shown an inverse relationship between spinach consumption and almost every type of cancer. Researchers believe that it’s the rich supply of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytonutrients that do the job. For example, spinach offers a rich supply of glutathione and alpha lipoic acid – two critical antioxidants. These substances are manufactured in the body but as we age our ability to produce them subsides. That’s when spinach can make an important contribution with its ready-made supply of both glutathione and alpha lipoic acid. In addition to these two antioxidants, spinach supplies the carotenoids lutein/zeaxanthin and beta-carotene which play an important role in our body’s anti-cancer defence systems.
As well as its significant contributions to the promotion of eye health and prevention of cancer, spinach (and other leafy green vegetables) also promotes cardiovascular heath. Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other nutrients in spinach, work together to prevent oxidized cholesterol from building up in the blood vessel walls. We can’t forget about the fabulous folate in spinach. Folate is an important contributor to heart health as it works, along with B6 and betaine, to lower serum levels of the dangerous amino acid homocysteine. We are learning more every day about the dangers of homocysteine and its association with heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and age-related cognitive decline.
Finally, we can’t forget the potassium and magnesium in spinach which also make significant contributions to heart health. Both work to lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
All in all, spinach is definitely a super food worthy of regular addition to your daily diet through the drinking of green smoothies.