Spinach: Popeye's Magical Food

Filed under: Nutrition: Health

definitely worked for Popeye, its most famous advocate. While the rest of us aren't looking for bulging arms to chase down criminals, we can reap the rewards of this iron rich vegetable.

Spinach won't directly make you stronger, but the iron boost it gives your body helps red blood cells in their delivery of oxygen, giving you more energy.

On average, one cup of raw spinach contains 1 milligram of the metal, while one cup of cook contains 6.8 milligrams. Keep in mind though exactly what type of iron you are getting.

Plants contain non-heme iron, which is not absorbed as easily by the body as the heme iron found in animal sources. But don't worry, you can easily boost the amount of iron absorbed into your bloodstream by pairing your iron rich foods (like spinach and cereals) with foods high in vitamin C. Great compliments include: berries, orange slivers or freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Spinach is also loaded with:

One cup of cooked spinach contains 259 milligrams of calcium, 32 per cent of the recommended daily intake for elementary aged children and 20 per cent of the recommended intake for teens. With 85 per cent of teenage girls and 60 per cent of teenage boys falling short of their daily calcium requirements, spinach can be a great way a quelling your calcium concerns.

Women of child-bearing age need to be concerned about the amount of folate their bodies are getting. Folic acid is essential in the development of a fetus' central nervous system, and what better way to get folic acid than through whole foods. Admittedly, you'd have to eat about 3.5 cups of cooked spinach everyday to get the recommended amount, but spinach is also packed with other nutrients that help the body absorb the acid naturally.

An interesting study that came out in 2010 proved something many would not have suspected - buying spinach that has been sitting around the supermarket could be good for you. According to the 'Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,' fluorescent light boosts the nutritional content of spinach. In just three days spinach stored under fluorescent light had significantly higher levels of Vitamins C, K, E and folate. In nine days, the folate levels increased between 84 - 100 per cent, after continuous light exposure.

How to add spinach to your day:

  • Tear up leaves and add to soups
  • Mix into scrambled eggs or omelette's
  • A side dish of cooked spinach and pine nuts tastes great
  • Add layers of spinach to lasagna or pasta recipes
  • Make spinach salads with berries
Karla Heintz (BSc) is a nutrition educator, speaker, consultant and national author of 'Picky? Not Me, Mom! A parents' guide to children's nutrition.'


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