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Everything You Need To Know About Spinach

Everything You Need To Know About Spinach
Reading Time: 6 minutesWho would have thought that Popeye, the famous sailor, would have caused such a spike in spinach sales in his prime? Everyone is familiar with the famous sailor who would pop open a can of spinach before he got into a fight and would always come away victorious. So why the interest in spinach from this cartoon, and why is it so healthy for you? During the Great Depression in the 1930’s, the government wanted to endorse this green vegetable to people as a healthy source of nutrition where it was needed most. It was used back then as a meat substitute, and endorsing it through Popeye worked like they wanted. Canned spinach sales spiked, and folks were getting more iron into their diets. Full of vitamins and minerals, spinach is loaded with nutrients and it makes a mean appetizer too! [1]

Spinach Fun Facts

  • “Just half a cup of raw spinach counts as 1 of the 5 servings of fruits and vegetables you should eat a day.
  • Spinach is a member of the goose-foot family, which makes it a relative to beets and chard.
  • The spinach growing town of Crystal City, Texas erected a statue of Popeye in 1937.
  • In the 1930’s, U.S. spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption.
  • Oxalate, found in spinach, may cause kidney stones in some predisposed individuals.” [2]
  • “Spinach contains 15 different vitamins and minerals.
  • Juicing or blending spinach may provide more health benefits.
  • Boiling your spinach reduces oxalic acid content.” [3]
  • “Freezing spinach diminishes its health benefits. The way to get the best nutrients from the leaf is to buy it fresh and eat it the same day.
  • Do place spinach on your ‘organic shopping’ list, because the leaf tends to be sprayed heavily with pesticides that don’t come off with normal washing.
  • Everyone talks about the benefits of spinach in nourishing the eyes and building bones. What few know is that it also very good for digestion. Spinach eases constipation and protects the mucus lining of the stomach, so that you stay free of ulcers.  It also flushes out toxins from the colon.” [4]
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Spinach History/Mythology

Spinach belongs to the Amaranth family where there are around 2,400 species that originate alongside of it. All of the plants that belong to this family have dark green leaves and they are best grown in a colder climate. [5]

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Spinach has been said to originate from central and southwestern Asia, but quickly moved into the Mediterranean countries by Arab influence. By nature, spinach does not grow well in hot and humid climates, so when it became popular in the Mediterranean the farmers had to come up with special irrigation techniques to make sure the spinach did not melt from the sun’s intense rays. The first talk about spinach came around 226-640 AD, and it quickly became known as the Persian Green vegetable. [6] Around the 13th century, spinach was said to be very popular in Anatolia where it was typically served with meat and yogurt sauce.

Around the 18th century, the Spaniards starting cultivating spinach by enforcing their irrigation techniques to keep the crops alive in the hot climate of Spain. The Spaniards were the people who eventually brought spinach to the United States. Even though it was being cultivated in Spain, there was still heavy Arab influence in many spinach dishes. This is also true for parts of Italy and France, even to this day.

According to New World Encyclopedia,

“The Arab influence in Spain is evident even today. Sometime ago, a stylish dish in Cordoba was sajina, also called ásida, a kind of watery soup made with wheat flour cooked with spinach or other leafy vegetables. This soup seemed to be obligatory at family gatherings and holiday feasts, where you would also find stew/soups of lima beans or chickpeas. Sajina is a direct descendent of a popular stew from Islamic Spain.”

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Spinach Nutrition Facts

This green vegetable is loaded with nutrients and is high in iron, vitamins A, E, C, and K. The myth that spinach has the highest count of iron over any other vegetable was proved false, when the German chemist Dr. E von Wolf messed up on his calculations originally giving spinach about 10 times more iron than it actually has. It was a mistake by one decimal point, and he later corrected the error. Even with the error, spinach does have a high iron content, just not as much as they originally thought it to be.

According to Medical News Today, one cup of raw spinach contains “27 calories, 0.86 grams of protein, 30 milligrams of calcium, 0.81 grams of iron, 24 milligrams of magnesium, 167 milligrams of potassium, 2,813 micrograms of vitamin A, and 58 micrograms of folate.” [7]

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So What Do These Nutrients Do For Me?

It also contains vitamin A and other important antioxidants. Spinach is also a great source of magnesium, which is vital in boosting your metabolism and maintaining muscle and nerve function.

Spinach is low in calories, and the carbohydrate content in the leaves comes straight from its fiber content. Because it is a high source of fiber, it aids in easingalong digestion in the body. There are also several important plant compounds that spinach offers such as lutein, kaempferol, nitrates, quercetin, and zeaxanthin. All of these compounds aim to increase and better eye health, heart health, and reduce inflammation in the body. [8]

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Spinach Health Benefits

This green health food high in calcium, vitamins, minerals, and iron will do nothing but benefit your health when consumed. Spinach can easily be incorporated into food dishes, creating wonderful appetizers like spinach dips and spinach quiche. The actual health benefits go far beyond creating wonderful dishes, as this super green has the potential of warding off some very nasty intruders into the body. Did you know that spinach can slow down the aging process? It works by reducing oxidative stress in the body with the help of the antioxidants found in spinach. [8]

Spinach Benefits the Eyes

Other health benefits that come from consuming spinach are the support of healthy eyes. Because of the lutein and zeaxanthin, which gives spinach its dark green color, it also can protect your eyes from the damage of the sun. These compounds also help slow down the growth of cancer in the body.

According to a study done by Science Direct,

“Spinach plays an important role in nutrient supply. Spinach is a superior supplier of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, magnesium, folic acid, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2, and potassium, and it includes a lot of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the maintenance, improvement, and regulation of human tissues. In addition, spinach includes major antioxidants of carotenoids and polyphenols.” [9]

On top of cancer reduction, eye health, and anti-aging, spinach also contributes to having a healthy heart, as well as helping to naturally lower blood pressure in the body. On the flip side, however, in some individuals consuming too much spinach really might not be the best idea. Consuming too much oxalate (found in spinach) can onset the production of kidney stones in some individuals. If you are more prone to kidney stones, be aware of this. It also is good to note that spinach is high in vitamin K1, which helps the blood clot. If you already have a problem with blood clots and are on blood thinners, it might be best to consume spinach in moderation.

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Spinach Varieties

There are a few popular varieties of spinach you can find at your local store or in seed packets at your local nursery. Savoy spinach, smooth leaf spinach, New Zealand spinach and Malabar spinach are just a few of the varieties. Most of the time, it is best to start growing spinach in the fall or in the spring, but there are also varieties that can handle the summer heat as well.

Savoy

“[Savoy] Is very productive and handles cold better than most types of spinach. It has deeply crinkled leaves and a low growth habit that makes cleaning leaves a chore, especially in silty soils where grit splashes onto the leaves.” [10]

Smooth Leaf Spinach

“[Smooth Leaf Spinach] Has smooth, flat leaves that are easier to clean, which makes it the primary choice for processed spinach.”

New Zealand and Malabar Spinach

These specific varieties are not actual spinach plants. They are best grown in hot weather, when spinach is not in season, and it gives the same type of flavor and consistency that regular spinach would give off. They both have a melt in your mouth taste, similar to sautéed spinach!

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Spinach Uses

There are too many good uses for spinach, whether it is making a delicious tried and true spinach artichoke dip or just trying a new spinach recipe on for size. Spinach is used in smoothies, soups, salads, and many different appetizers making your meal more nutritious. Below you will see a great recipe for spinach artichoke dip, so try it out and reap the benefits of incorporating spinach into your daily diet!

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Spinach Artichoke Dip Recipe

By: Alton Brown and The Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups thawed, chopped frozen artichoke hearts
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

“Boil spinach and artichokes in 1 cup of water until tender, and drain. Discard liquid. Heat cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute or until hot and soft. Stir in rest of ingredients and serve hot.” [11].

       ConsumersCompare.org