Spinach is good for you. Children are still hearing parents say, “Eat your spinach” — for its iron content — “so you can be big and strong”. But is it really so ? Spinach, known as Spinacia oleracea, is an annual plant eaten for its elliptical leaves, which average 2 to 30 centimeters (.78 to 22 inches) in length. There are several myths surrounding spinach. Another is that spinach isn’t really a good source of iron – people just thought so due to a maths error. We’ll take a look at the myths — and facts — all wrapped up in this veggie.
Spinach’s History and Nutrition
Spinach has been grown in Asia for so many centuries that its origins predate existing records. Even if scholars and spinach experts aren’t able to pinpoint the exact birthplace of this vegetable, one thing is certain: If there were an award for lifetime achievement, spinach would definitely be in the running. By the 1400s, spinach had made its way throughout Asia where it became a mainstay of many European menus. Today, it’s a multi-faceted green eaten worldwide in everything from casseroles and pastas to soups and salads. Currently, China produces about 85 percent of the world’s supply of spinach, followed by theUnited States, which harvested 280,000 metric tons (618,000 pounds) of spinach in 2011 alone.
The controversy surrounding the amount of iron in this leafy green centers on a report made in 1972 by a nutritionist. Professor Arnold Bender asserted that 19th century German researchers made an error when recording spinach’s iron content by placing the decimal point in the wrong position, accidentally multiplying spinach’s iron content by 10. The story, which contended spinach had no more iron than other common vegetables, was perpetuated as fact in medical journals, textbooks and popular culture for more than 30 years until it was proven incorrect in a meticulously researched article by criminologist Mike Sutton. Sutton concluded that these German researchers never existed.
So what’s the truth about spinach’s iron content? One cup of cooked fresh spinach contains about one milligram more iron than you’ll find in 3 ounces (85 grams) of beef liver, which has long been known for its iron content. And far more than you’d encounter in a head of lettuce. In fact, you’d need to eat the entire head of lettuce to gain just 2.02 milligrams of iron, a fraction of what you’ll find in spinach. However, spinach also contains oxalic acid which inhibits iron absorption. So it’s good to eat it with foods that enhance iron absorption like meat, fish, poultry, citrus fruits or certain vegetables like broccoli, sweet peppers, tomatoes and potatoes.
The Real Truth
Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. In addition to being high in iron, it contains high levels of vitamins B and C, as well as antioxidants like beta-carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A) and lutein. Spinach also is a good source of minerals, including magnesium and zinc If you’re selecting canned or frozen spinach at a local supermarket, you don’t need to employ a lot of strategy to find the right one. Simply check the expiration date, compare the price and make a decision. Fresh spinach, however, requires a bit more consideration. Fresh spinach should be consumed at the height of its color, so look for taut upright leaves with a deep, viridian hue — the lush sort of green that brings to mind rainforests and leafy canopies. Then, turn a few of the leaves to make sure they are free of bruises, abrasions or yellowed areas. Keep in mind that spinach is often grown in sandy soil, so unless you’re purchasing the pre-washed kind, you’ll need to briefly soak the leaves in cold water, swish them around and then empty the bowl of debris. After a few rounds of this, you should have clean spinach at your fingertips. Fresh spinach loses nutrients every day it is stored in the refrigerator so you may not want to buy more than you can consume quickly. If you’re using spinach as an ingredient when cooking, you’ll need to pay attention to whether the recipe calls for fresh, canned or frozen spinach. Fresh spinach is 92 percent water, which means you’ll need a lot more of it to equal the same amount as a can of spinach. This explains the differences in iron content in the boxed list. However you elect to ingest it, there’s a simple truth about spinach: It’s good for you.
The average person needs 8 milligrams of iron per day. Premenstrual women need 18 milligrams and pregnant women need 27 milligrams.
Source : Howstuffworks
Health Benefits of Palak (Spinach)
- Spinach is a rich source of vitamin A and reduces the risk of eye diseases, like night blindness, itching eyes and eye ulcers. Components like beta carotene, lutein, xanthenes and zeaxanthin act as strong antioxidants and protect the eyes from the harsh effects of UV rays, further lowering the chances of cataract formation and are all beneficial for maintaining overall good eyesight.
- Spinach is also rich in potassium and low in sodium. The former is known to lower the blood pressure while the latter is known for increasing it. Therefore, spinach, included in a regular diet brings the blood pressure down to normal levels. The amount of folate present in spinach also reduces hypertension, relaxes blood vessels and maintains a proper blood flow.
- According to the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, C0-Q10, an anti-oxidant present in spinach can be used to prevent and treat many cardiovascular diseases like hyperlipidemia, heart failure, hypertension and coronary heart diseases as it strengthens the heart muscles, allowing the blood to be pumped to all parts of the body. Also, the spinach proteins are known to reduce the cholesterol levels and other fat deposits, thus reducing the chances of atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
- Spinach is rich in minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus which help in building strong bones and lowering the chances of osteoporosis. It is also a good source of vitamin K, which functions in retaining calcium in the bone matrix, leading to bone mineralization.
- It has been found that spinach has the ability to protect the mucous membrane of the stomach, thereby decreasing the occurrence of gastric ulcers.
- Studies show that spinach lowers cancer risk by 34 per cent, particularly breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and stomach cancer. Components like vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, tocopherol, chlorophyllin, folic acid and fiber are considered beneficial in fighting against cancer cells.
- Spinach is a great source of magnesium, a mineral which is known to prevent complications occurring after diabetes. And regular consumption of spinach stabilises blood sugar levels and prevents it from fluctuating too much.
- Another important mineral, iron, which is found abundantly in spinach, is known to reproduce red blood cells, thereby preventing chances of anemia. The same iron is also useful for boosting the body’s metabolism, leading to more fat burning and giving way to reduce weight.
- It is advisable for pregnant women to include spinach in their regular diet as folate found in it is needed by the growing fetus for development of a new nervous system. Also, vitamin A present in spinach is required for the lung development of the foetus as well as during breast feeding.
- Folate found in spinach aids in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B protects the skin against the harmful effects of UV radiations. And finally, the high alkaline properties in spinach make it a perfect food for people suffering from inflammatory ailments, like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. n
Source : Indobase.com