Botanical name: Spinacia oleracea L.
Spinach is a herbaceous plant of the botanical family Chenopodiaceae. It is a vegetable rich in nutrients particularly vitamins and minerals which accounts for its various medicinal applications. Aside other health benefits of spinach, it is well known for its protective property concerning the retina.
Properties of spinach
Spinach is one of the most endowed vegetables when it comes to nutrients. • It contains a quite high protein content, about 2.86%.
• Contains carbohydrates in small amounts, just about 0.8% of its content.
• It also contains little amount of fats, representing about 0.35% of its content.
• It contains significant amount of vitamins which are responsible for its healing power. It provides two thirds of the daily need for vitamin A, half of the daily need for vitamin C, and virtually all the folates needed daily by the body.
• It also contains reasonable amount of minerals which are also responsible for some of its medicinal applications. As it provides more than one-fourth of the daily need for iron, and also about one-fourth of the daily need for magnesium.
Health benefits / medicinal uses of spinach
As said earlier, the health benefits of spinach are mainly due to its richness in minerals and vitamins. Below are some of its applications:
• Anemia: As already known, Iron helps in the production of blood cells and its absence initiates an anemia called “Iron deficiency anemia”. Spinach contains about 2.71 mg of Iron per 100 g, a proprotion that is higher than that found in meat. Even though plant Iron is difficult to absorb, the presence of vitamin C in spinach facilitates the absorption of iron.
So, the consumption of spinach is highly recommended for those willing to prevent anemia or those suffering from Iron deficiency anemia.
• Retinal disorders: The property of spinach in preventing retinal disorders has been proven by a research carried out at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, it shows that persons between 55 and 80 years of age who regularly eat spinach present a much lower risk of losing visual acuity due to macular degeneration.
Regular consumption of spinach is highly recommended for those willing to maintain their sight especially those above 50 years of age.
• Pregnancy: Spinach is an ideal green leafy vegetable every pregnant woman should consume. Its richness in folates helps prevent fetal malformations, and its high iron content provides an antianemic action to the fetal.
•Elevated cholesterol level: Several experiments with animals have shown that the proteins in spinach helps stop the absorption of cholesterol and bile acids. Thus, its regular consumption helps in reducing blood cholesterol level.
• Growth and physical activities: The high mineral and vitamin content of spinach makes it highly recommended for adolescents especially during times of fast growth, and for those who regularly engage themselves in physical activities.
Preparation and use
Spinach can be prepared and used in basically three ways, namely:
• Raw: spinach can be eaten raw, especially in salads. This way all its nutrients are conserved.
• Cooked: Cooking spinach is the best method of serving, more especially by steaming it. This way there is virtually any loss of nutrients.
• Juice: Its juice can be prepared by blending fresh spinach to a desireable quantity.