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A look at the nutritional content of spinach reveals a vegetable that is jam packed with value. Spinach is considered one of the world’s most healthy vegetables and ranks at the top of the list for nutrient density. It is impressive in its concentration of vitamins and minerals, with 18 of the 23 nutrients providing over 10% of the recommended daily value. As a comparison, broccoli, as great as it is, contains only 4 nutrients, out of 22, that provide over 10% of the daily value.
When using figures provided from various sources regarding the nutrient content of spinach, make sure you note whether the source is considering fresh spinach or cooked spinach. One cup of cooked spinach can contain up to six times more spinach than fresh. That is simply because spinach is one of those vegetables that really compacts when cooked. Because there is more of the vegetable in one cup when it has been cooked, that one cup naturally contains more nutrients.
Spinach is a leafy green giant when it comes to our bones. In addition to providing nutrients that are especially supportive of bone health such as magnesium and calcium, it is rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K, in its different forms present in spinach, serves to help processes in the body that promote bone strengthening. Vitamin K also discourages the activation of other processes and cells that break down healthy bone. Kale is the only vegetable that provides greater amounts of vitamin K per serving than spinach.
Like broccoli, spinach is notable in the positive effects it has on inflammatory reactions in the body and in its cancer-fighting benefits. Spinach has been especially beneficial in the area of prostate cancer. Because of the high levels of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, spinach has a more positive impact on some of the body’s health mechanisms that do other vegetables.
There is ongoing debate in the foods arena about whether vegetables and fruits should be eaten raw or cooked. In most cases, raw wins. However, there are some instances in which the cooked form of the food is actually better. Such is the case with spinach. Spinach contains more oxalic acid than most other vegetables. Oxalic acid can interfere with the body’s absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Boiling will reduce the concentration of this acid in the spinach. One organization dedicated to providing accurate information to consumers recommends boiling the spinach for only one minute to keep the loss of flavor and nutrients to a minimum.
Don’t be afraid to eat spinach raw, however. Just know that your body will only make use of about 10% of the calcium and magnesium provided in the raw spinach. (People with a history of or concern about kidney stones will want to check with their doctors. Some sources state that oxalic acid can contribute to kidney stones).
Both canned spinach and frozen spinach appear to retain their nutritional benefits well. The main difference in these forms is that the color and texture present in fresh spinach is lost. The preferred method of preparation is to select fresh spinach that is not slimy, bruised or wilted. Store the spinach in the refrigerator in a zipper-type bag from which you have removed as much of the air as possible. Wait to wash the spinach until you are ready to use it, as moisture will hasten the spoiling of the somewhat delicate vegetable.
Washing is best done by filling a large bowl with lukewarm water and agitating the spinach gently with the hands to loosen any dirt. If the spinach is especially dirty, the process can be repeated. The spinach is ready to use in a recipe or salad.
All in all, spinach is an extremely good choice for inclusion in a healthy diet. People who for some reason, have an aversion to spinach would be wise to find some form or preparation of the vegetable they can enjoy. The benefits provided by this impressive vegetable are just too good to ignore.