Do you remember pipe-smoking sailor-man Popeye, whose go-to source for energy and strength was a can of spinach? This old-school cartoon character was onto something…
Spinach as always had a solid nutritional reputation for its ability to boost energy and vitality, and improve the quality of blood. It’s one of the mainstays of the vegetable garden – spinach is a hardy plant that just keeps giving (if you’re a new food gardener, spinach is a definite confidence booster).
In addition to iron, which is essential for the functioning of red blood cells, energy production, and DNA synthesis, spinach is also an excellent source of other minerals.
Potassium – an important component of cell and body fluids that help to control heart rate and blood pressure.
Manganese and copper – used by the body as a co-factor for the important antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase which, like other antioxidants, protects the body against the free radical damage to cells.
Magnesium – for many essential metabolic functions; aiding bone growth and helping the nerves and muscles function at their best (magnesium, for example, contributes to preventing cramps and can help you manage stress).
Copper – required by the body to produce red blood cells.
Zinc – a co-factor for many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and cell renewal.
And don’t forget the vitamins:
Vitamin K – for blood-clotting and ensuring bone health; it has also been linked to keeping you mentally sharp.
Vitamin A – for eye health; healthy growth and development; and a stronger immune system.
Vitamin C – for protection against cell damage; fighting infection; synthesizing collagen (best known for its contribution to healthy skin); wound healing and converting nutrients into substances your body can use.
The B-Complex – vitamins such as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin, folates, and niacin. Different types all have their own benefits – from helping to break down food, to keeping the nervous system healthy. Folates help prevents neural tube defects in babies and is a must for pregnant women.
Like all vegetables, spinach contains phytochemicals, especially the one called chlorophyll – the telltale sign is spinach’s dark green color. It also includes carotenoids. These phytochemicals are anti-inflammatory and protect against cancer. Chlorophyll specifically has been found to work against cancer-causing substances generated when grilling foods at high temperature.
Looking for more reasons to follow Popeye’s example? Research has indicated that spinach may play a role in managing diabetes; it contains an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid which can lower glucose levels. Eating spinach may also help to prevent asthma because of its beta-carotene content. Its high-fiber content contributes to preventing constipation and ensure a healthy digestive tract.