It may be something of a corny reference, but anyone who remembers the cartoons of Popeye the Sailor Man will know that spinach is something of a superfood. Admittedly, a can of spinach won’t transform you into a muscular powerhouse in a matter of seconds, but it can have substantial health benefits if regularly consumed over time. Popeye would almost certainly have approved of the fact that there is now a national day just for this green leafy vegetable. 26th March marks National Spinach Day, which is intended to remind us of “the health benefits packed into this leafy green vegetable”. But what exactly are the health benefits of spinach, and how can we include more in our diet?
What are the health benefits of spinach?
Spinach is undoubtedly a superfood when it comes to its nutritional benefits. It is high in essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. Just a single 1 cup of raw spinach (equivalent to 30 grams) gives us around 16% of our vitamin A needs and 120% of our vitamin K daily requirements. This is only part of the picture because what makes spinach one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables is that it is packed with anti-oxidants. Consuming high levels of anti-oxidants is known to reduce our risk of serious disease, including cancers, due to its ability to reduce cell and DNA damaging oxidative stress. According to research, oxidative stress is associated with “many conditions, including atherosclerosis, inflammatory condition, cancers, and the process of ageing”. Furthermore, it is thought to contribute significantly to inflammatory diseases, ischemic diseases, hypertension, and neurological disorders.
Spinach is also highly beneficial for our vision due to its high levels of chlorophyll, carotenoids (including beta carotene), lutein and zeaxanthin. Indeed, the phytonutrients in spinach can help to stave off macular degeneration and cataracts.
Those that consume regular amounts of spinach also benefit from increased energy levels due to the high levels of iron which plays a key role in the transport of oxygen in our blood. It also has a role in energy production and DNA synthesis.
And finally, spinach is well known to help develop healthy bones due to its high amounts of vitamin K, calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium.
How can I easily increase my spinach intake?
One of the real benefits of spinach is that it is easy to incorporate into our existing diet. By adding a handful of fresh baby spinach to a breakfast smoothie, you can substantially increase your intake in a raw form. And because spinach cooks down so quickly and is mild in taste, it is easy to add quite large amounts to pastas, stews, casseroles, or other dishes. At Wellside Foods, we have some tasty spinach lunch and dinner options to consider, including our Cottage Cheese & Spinach Börek (filo dough savoury börek with cottage cheese and spinach filling), our Spinach & Feta Style Cheese Pocket (corn-dusted, leavened puff pastry filled with spinach and soft white brined cheese), and our highly nutritious vegan organic spinach tagliatelle.
Spinach isn’t the only nutritious green leafy vegetable, but it is one of the most versatile and beneficial for our health. It is also extremely easy to grow at home, even for a novice gardener. It won’t give you muscles like Popeye, but it might just help you live a longer, healthier life. Happy National Spinach Day on 26th March 2022!