As children, all of us have marvelled at Popeye the Sailor’s instant transformation once he downed a tin or two of spinach before a face-off with his opponents. It’s no surprise the nutrition-rich veggie was Popeye’s go-to food for strength. Here’s a low down on why our favourite cartoon character swears by spinach.
Keeps blood pressure in check
Spinach is loaded with potassium, folate and magnesium – the golden trio known to keep blood pressure levels in check. Folate and magnesium help to improve blood flow by keeping blood vessels healthy. “While folate relaxes the blood vessels, magnesium ensures they don’t become too narrow. This reduces the risk of high blood pressure,” explains Dr Swati Bhushan, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital. “Potassium flushes out excess sodium from the body which helps to maintain blood pressure levels as well,” adds Dr Bhushan. Maintaining optimal magnesium levels also helps to treat and prevent hypertension.
Weight loss friendly
Those trying to lose weight will get along well with spinach. A 100-gram serving of this leafy vegetable will cost you around 25 calories, and comes with negligible quantities of the dreaded duo -- carbohydrates and fat, says Dr Bhushan. Its high water content, about 90 percent, makes it suitable for healthy weight loss too. Another reason spinach should be on your radar if you want to shed kilos is that it comes packed with Thylakoids – a compound that acts as an appetite suppressant. So you’ll be feeling full for longer and won’t give in to those dreaded hunger pangs as easily.
However, Dr Bhushan cautions that one cannot solely rely on veggies for weight loss. She explains, “Weight loss depends on overall calorie intake and energy expenditure. Make sure to replace high-calorie snacks with spinach to keep your calorie intake under check.” Apart from spinach, Dr Bhushan suggests including other healthy foods in your daily diet and squeezing in some exercise for effective results.
Keeps energy levels up
Apart from blood pressure, magnesium from well-cooked spinach also helps the body generate enough energy to help you power through your day. Folate helps your body turn the food you consume into usable energy. Spinach is also rich in iron which helps supply oxygen to the brain. If you are anaemic or your iron levels are low, a bowl of spinach works as instant energy – just like it did for Popeye! Keep that afternoon slump at bay by snacking on fresh spinach – add it to your salad or blend it into a smoothie.
Helps manage diabetes
Dr Bhushan says, “Spinach contains Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA), an antioxidant which is known to manage diabetes naturally. ALA helps slow down damage to cells and tissues caused due to highly destructive compounds called free radicals as well as environmental toxins, which in turn can cause diabetes. ALA also helps improve insulin sensitivity and stabilise blood sugar levels. Additionally, it also helps relieve symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy, a complication of diabetes which causes numbness in feet and arms.” She recommends eating spinach on a regular basis to decrease the symptoms of any pain, itchiness, burning and/or tingling sensations. ALA also helps boost glutathione levels which can help fight oxidative stress, preventing further damage to diabetics.
Dr Bhushan lists a few more benefits of this power food:
It is loaded with antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein which provide protection from cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, lung, colon, stomach and ovaries.
A good source of vitamin K, spinach is also beneficial for overall bone health.
The omega-3 fatty acids present in this leafy green improves blood flow to the brain, which plays an important role in improving memory and reducing symptoms of depression.
Spinach also helps to reduce joint pain and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
This leafy green can also help in reducing any inflammation and pain.
Too much of a good thing
Despite all its benefits, even spinach must be consumed with caution. Dr Bhushan says, “While consuming 30 grams of spinach on a regular basis can help provide you with essential minerals and vitamins, make sure you are not on medications such as Oral Anticoagulants (Warfarin and Acitrome) which are blood thinners. If you are, it’s best to pass on that bowl of palak. Its high vitamin K content can lessen the effectiveness due to its blood clotting properties.” She further warns, “If your kidneys are not fully functional, the potassium from this veggie could end up doing more harm than good.” Since spinach is high in oxalates and uric acid, if you are suffering from gout, wherein there is a buildup of uric acid in the body with symptoms of joint pain, you need to cut down on the intake of spinach.
Now that you know why you should be adding spinach to your healthy eating list, here’s how you can:
Sarson da Saag
A classic combination of spices and mustard greens, this lip-smacking dish will leave you craving for more.
Tofu Spinach Scrambled Crisps
Packing a nutritious punch, this dish is ideal for breakfast or as an in-between snack.
This chatpata dish is sure to wow your guests at the next party!
Strawberry and spinach salad
A sweet and healthy breakfast recipe made with spinach and strawberries.
Spinach & Parmesan Rice
Treat your taste buds to the cheesy side of rice with this spinach and parmesan rice with lamb stew. Click here for the complete recipe.
And in case your kids are fussy eaters, click here for some kid-friendly recipes for their daily dose of spinach!
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