Did you wear green on St. Patrick’s Day? Or drink green beer? March is loaded with other days where green is good and National Spinach Day tops the list on March 26th. Spinach is “in season” from March through May.
When I think of spinach I envision Popeye squeezing open a can with his bare fist, downing it in one gulp, and his muscles bulging immediately. While we can’t expect to see such quick results, eating it over time can help make our bodies strong in ways that may not be as outwardly apparent as Popeye’s biceps. Here are a few reasons why you should serve up some spinach, and some tips on how to get the most from eating those leafy greens.
Aside from its yummy, earthy taste, spinach has lots of health-boosting properties that make eating it worth your while. It’s rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, as well as manganese, zinc and selenium. And full of anti-cancer carotenoids, too. Studies link spinach consumption to helping prevent both breast cancer and aggressive prostate cancer. Inflammation has been linked to all kinds of health risks, including cancer, so foods that reduce the inflammation in the body, like spinach, can help prevent the risk of cancer and other diseases, too.
It can also promote digestive tract health. Not only does it help to relieve constipation, research suggests that the glycoglycerolipids found in spinach can help protect our digestive tract linings from inflammation-caused damage.
These leafy greens help keep your bones healthy, too, since they are rich in Vitamin K.
What Kind of Spinach is Best?
Even though the frozen form of vegetables can often contain the most nutrients, this is one veggie that usually fares better when eaten fresh. That’s because it loses much of its vitamin C content when frozen.
When selecting fresh spinach, pick bunches that have deep green leaves and avoid the ones that have yellowed, cracked, or become slimy. They’ve already hit their nutritional peak and are declining.
The smaller, “baby” spinach leaves are usually more tender and less stringy, so look for them whenever possible, too.
Eating spinach raw is fine. But you may get a greater health benefit from boiling it for 1-2 minutes because it contains a compound called oxalic acid that can keep your body from absorbing the veggie’s vitamin C. If you’d rather eat it raw, though, try pairing it with strawberries and chopped pistachios or hazelnuts, or chilled roasted beets which all contain good levels of vitamin C.
In fact, both beets and spinach belong to the chenopad family, along with quinoa. Foods on that family tree have unique epoxyxanthophyll carotenoids that can boost nervous system health. Combining cooled cooked quinoa, cooled roasted beets, and fresh spinach in a salad could make for a tasty way to benefit your health.
Are there any down sides to eating spinach?
Spinach grown in the traditional way carries high levels of pesticides. Avoid this problem by purchasing organically grown spinach. And be sure to wash it well because fresh spinach is usually gritty with sand and dirt.
Substances called purines that lead to gout and kidney stones are found in spinach, so eating lots of this veggie is probably not a good idea for people prone to those kinds of problems. It’s always best to check with your doctor first before adding new foods to your diet if you have any health issues that you’re aware of.
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