Spinach: The leafy green superfood
One very good reason why I seem to enjoy the study of herbal medicine and the application thereof is the connection it has with our nutrition and diet. The quote by the father of medicine between 460 BC and 370 BC saying, “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food,” is a very true statement, as I have found out in my work in herbal medicine. There are some herbs referred to as culinary herbs, which have to do with our diet and are indeed nutritious to the human body. The nutrients in such herbs are also preventive and curative of diseases in the human body. In summary, these herbs both nourish the human body and prevent and treat diseases as the case maybe.
Today, I will be looking at a culinary herb known as spinach, a super food. Spinach (Spinacia oleracia) is one of the leafy green vegetables and it belongs to the family Amaranthaceae; it is of the order Caryophyllales. The leaves of spinach can be eaten fresh and raw or steamed for some minutes.
Spinach is loaded with nutrients – water, carbohydrates, protein and negligible fat. Notwithstanding, spinach is low in calories. 100 grams of spinach contains only 23 calories, however, fresh, frozen or steamed spinach has a high nutritional value.
The following are richly found in spinach: vitamins A, C and K. It is also a good source of B – complex vitamins, especially riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate and vitamin E. minerals in spinach are magnesium, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.There are high levels of oxalates in spinach and these reduce the absorption of calcium and iron in the small intestine. However, cooking spinach with 2 to 3 changes of water reduces the oxalates with better absorption of water. Spinach is 91 percent water.
Health benefits of spinach
The health benefits of spinach include; protection of the skin, assistance to the digestive system, enhancing the strength of the muscles, supports bone mineralization, prevents atherosclerosis, regulates the blood pressure, reduces inflammation and reduces symptoms of hemophilia. Other health benefits are improvement of the eyesight, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), improvement of neurological symptoms, prevention of cancer, aids fetal growth and development and it is a good source of protein for growth of infant.
In taking a closer look at these health benefits we find that consuming spinach regularly, places an individual in a good stead for good health. In fact, spinach is one vegetable that I will like to recommend for all and sundry because eating such a vegetable, as this and maintaining one’s good health may be cheaper than treating a disease that may arise if a vegetable-like spinach is not consumed.
1. Protects the skin
There are different phytonutrients and pigments that protect the skin from rays of the sun including UV rays. These rays can be dangerous to the skin. The phytonutrients in spinach can also repair damaged genes and prevent skin cancer.
2. Reduce inflammation
Spinach contains several anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds are classified into the category of methylenedioxy flavonoid glucuronides and with these spinach exerts its anti-inflammatory functions throughout the whole body. By this function spinach protects the heart and reduces the inflammation and pain of arthritis, gout and other such diseases.
3. Prevents atherosclerosis
Cholesterol plaques deposited on the walls of blood vessels cause them to become hardened. Lutein, a pigment found in spinach prevents the formation of atherosclerosis and by extension heart attacks and stroke are also prevented. Also, proteins found in spinach reduce cholesterol deposits on the blood vessels.
4. Spinach helps in bone mineralization
This is done through the function of vitamin K, which is calcium retention. Excessive calcium retained in the circulation adds up to the matrix of the bone and increase the mineralization. Other minerals such as magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus and zinc, help in building up strong bones. The two mechanisms prevent osteoporosis in the individual. These minerals also keep the teeth and nails healthy and strong
5. Spinach helps to strengthen the muscles
CO-EnzymeQ10 (CO-Q10) is an antioxidant in spinach, which functions in strengthening muscles. The heart muscles are particularly targeted by this factor and they can be used to prevent such cardiovascular diseases as hypertension, heart failure, coronary heart disease and hyperlipidemia.
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