Spinach: not just for Popeye

Spinach is the bane of most children and many adults, and yet when it is cooked properly it is an awesome vegetable (and a key ingredient in many classic and modern dishes). Spinach is related to beets and chards but not cabbages or lettuce, to which it bares a superficial resemblance. It was first cultivated in Asia by the Persian, and it spread along the trade routes to China and eventually to Spain by the 11th century. It took another five centuries to arrive in Britain.

Spinach is really a plant for a cool climate. It dislikes hot, dry summers, when it will very quickly go to seed, often before it is fully developed and ready to harvest. However, if you make sure that the plants are properly watered, it is possible to produce a crop that should last for two or three weeks and, with successional crops, it can be extended.

The plants look rather like a loose lettuce, with stalked leaves rising from a central stem.

Spinach has a relatively short life, especially in summers. There are other vegetables that are cooked in a similar way to spinach and have the advantage of a longer life. They are generally known as “perpetual spinach” and the king among them is Swiss chard. Another good alternative is New Zealand spinach which is not related botanically to spinach but makes a good substitution.

Nutritional Highlights…

Spinach is low in calories and packs protein and fiber. One cup of cooked, boiled and drained spinach contains only 41 calories and a full 5.3 grams of protein and 4.3 grams of dietary fiber, according to Harvard School of Public Health.

Spinach is known to be a good source of iron. It is also high in other minerals: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc in one cup of cooked spinach.

Spinach is rich in vitamins, especially vitamins A and K.

Research Highlights…

Spinach contains a phytonutrient that research indicates slows down the division of cells in human stomachs and skin cancer cells. Also, spinach has been shown to help protect against aggressive prostate cancer, what is considered Stage III or IV prostate cancer with a Gleason score of at least 7.

Powerful antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc, and selenium, are also found in spinach.

Spinach has also been shown to lower blood pressure because of a peptide found in spinach.

Side Effects :
If eaten in large quantities, spinach may have some side effects. Spinach has a chemical that binds with iron and calcium and causes the body to absorb less of these nutrients. Also, for those who are prone to kidney stones, it is advised to avoid spinach because it contains purines, an organic compound that the body turns to uric acid. High levels of uric acid will increase the risk of developing kidney stones.

Since spinach is high in dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, eating too much can cause an upset stomach. One can experience gas, bloating and cramping, and possibly diarrhea.

Grub wisely


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