Food FYI - Spinach

I love spinach.  Spinach in my salad, spinach in my pasta, spinach in my smoothies.  I wasn't always this way though.  Of course as a kid, you hear the Popeye song and immediately think, "Ew, it sounds so gross!"  Especially when you SEE Popeye squeeze that can of spinach open and spray it in his mouth.  Sorry, but grodie.  When I was all growed up, I found out why spinach is amazing.  It's a superfood folks!  Here's what that means.

Did you ever hear the saying that the brighter the fruit or vegi, the healthier it is?  Well, leafy greens don't get much brighter than spinach. That is because of the high content of Vitamin C and phytonutrients found in spinach.  Even though virtually all vegetables contain a wide variety of phytonutrients, including flavonoids and carotenoids, spinach can claim a special place among vegetables in terms of its phytonutrient content. Researchers have identified more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. The anticancer properties of these spinach flavonoids have been sufficiently impressive to prompt researchers to create specialized spinach extracts that could be used in controlled laboratory studies. These spinach extracts have been shown to slow down cell division in human stomach cancer cells (gastric adenocarcinomas), and in studies on laboratory animals, to reduce skin cancers (skin papillomas). In a recent study on the relationship between risk of prostate cancer and vegetable intake, only spinach showed evidence of significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

Most of the flavonoid and carotenoid nutrients found in spinach that provide anti-inflammatory benefits provide antioxidant benefits as well. Given the fact that spinach is an excellent source of other antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese, zinc and selenium , it's no wonder that spinach helps lower risk of numerous health problems related to oxidative stress. Our blood vessels, for example, are especially susceptible to damage from oxidative stress, and intake of spinach has been associated with decreased risk of several blood vessel-related problems, including atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. 

The vitamin K provided by spinach, almost 200% of the Daily Value in one cup of fresh spinach leaves, is important for maintaining bone health. Vitamin K1 helps prevent excessive activation of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. Additionally, friendly bacteria in our intestines convert vitamin K1 into vitamin K2, which activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone. All of these vitamin K-related mechanisms point to the importance of vitamin K-rich foods for bone health, and it is difficult to find vegetables that are richer in vitamin K than spinach.  Spinach is also an excellent source of other bone-supportive nutrients including calcium and magnesium.

(Photo: Cafe Zupas, Pomegranate Spinach Salad, go try it!  It's amazing!)

So there you have it! I think Popeye nailed it by eating spinach all day, every day.  Go grab yourself a bag or bunch of the leafy greens and have a salad, a smoothie, or dress up another entree with it.  Although I still wouldn't eat it out of a can.  Toot toot!

Recipes with Spinach:

Lasagna Roll-ups
Southwest Egg Rolls
Stuffed Flank Steak
Grilled Pizza

Source: World's Healthiest Food.org