Today of course is devoted to the exploration of Super Foods. Much like the quality has increased here due to quality ingredients having been added to the original recipe, Super Foods can have precisely the same impact on your quality of life. Not to mention the quality of your fitness level as well as the results of your body benefiting greatly from the boost every cell you will receive from this high-end fuel. The fuel today that meets the conditions necessary to qualify as a Low Carb Super Food is of course spinach, so let’s see what it is that makes this leafy green vegetable so special.
Botanically, spinach belongs to the amaranthaceae family, and its scientific name is Spinicia oleraea. The Spinicia plant grows to about one foot in height. It is best cultivated during cold seasons and is usually available fresh during March through May, and then again from September to November. This season however, I see fresh spinach in abundance at the farmers markets I frequent in Toronto. Whether the ideal harvesting time is cold weather or not, I find the quality of what has been available during this intensely hot summer to be very good.
Spinach is extremely low in calories. A 100 gram serving has just 23 calories, but still contains a decent amount of soluble fiber which helps to control cholesterol. Spinach leaves also store many phyto-nutrients that have been much talked about in recent Super Food articles. Phyto-nutrients are both a great way to enhance health, as well as prevent disease. Any kind of disease that is prevented is another form of health enhancement in my eyes.
Somewhat surprisingly, spinach is a decent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. It is surprising especially since the leaves contain such small amounts of fat, so for there to be fatty acids present at all is a great benefit to the reputation of the already well thought of spinach leaf. There isn’t a lot, roughly the same amount that is available in kale, but it is still worthy of mention.
The best known attribute of spinach is its iron content. Made legendary in the Popeye cartoons, the iron content of spinach will make you very strong – very quickly too. In reality, iron is an important trace mineral required by the body for red blood cell production. The red blood cells deliver oxygen to the muscles as well as everywhere else, so in theory spinach makes you stronger in that regard. Iron is also needed as a co-factor for oxidation-reduction enzymes cytochrome-oxidases during cellular metabolism.
Spinach is also a rich source of several vital anti-oxidants. Vitamin-A, Vitamin-C, as well as flavonoid poly phenolic anti-oxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. All of these nutrients act together as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals, and reactive oxygen species. This plays an important role in the slowing of aging and the prevention of several disease processes. Zeaxanthin is also an important dietary carotenoid that is selectively absorbed through the retinal macula lutea in the eyes where it is believed to provide anti-oxidant and light filtering functions. These functions are thought to protect the eyes from age related macular disease.
Vitamin-K is in abundance as well in the leaves of spinach. A 100 gram serving provides 402 percent of the RDA of vitamin-K. Vitamin-K is crucial in strengthening bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity. Osteotrophic is another way of saying bone building within the bone. Vitamin-K also is making a name for itself as being beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease because it plays a role in limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
Also respectably represented are some of the B-vitamins. Pyridoxine, thiamin, riboflavin, folates, and niacin are all present in the leafy green vegetable. Folates are of special interest to either the pregnant, or soon to be pregnant, as they help prevent neural tube defects in babies.
The leaves also contain good amounts of several chief minerals. Minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps to control heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is needed for the production of red blood and of course tendon strength. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion, and nucleic acid synthesis. Basically every mineral listed plays a role in the growth of muscle, so for that reason alone – eat your spinach.
I’m a big consumer of spinach. It’s an easy way to get all of the above listed ingredients, especially if you buy it pre-washed in those big one pound packages as I like to. Throw a few handfuls into a frying pan on low heat until the leaves soften, and add them to eggs or steak for an easy low carb, muscle meal.
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