Spinach contains good levels of many minerals including magnesium, needed for muscle and brain function – this is a macromineral, needed in high amounts from our diets. Magnesium is depleted by stress and low levels can cause anxiety, insomnia and muscle spasms; eating plenty of green leaves can help prevent these stress-related symptoms.
As a dark green leaf spinach also contains high levels of chlorophyll, both alkalising and cleansing when we eat it but also signalling that the leaves are greatly exposed to the sun for photosynthesis – the chemical process that plants use to create energy and ultimately nourish us. The rich dark colour is made up of different coloured carotenoids, antioxidant chemicals that protect the plant from UV damage, so the darker the leaf, the more of these nutrients it contains. This means the more protection we get from sun damage on our skin and free radical damage inside the body that can lead to inflammation and potentially age all body tissues.
Like cheese, chocolate and wine, spinach contains the chemical tyramine which increases the release of stimulating brain chemicals that should be avoided close to bedtime if you don’t sleep well.
Spinach is better steamed than boiled to preserve the folate; boiling for just 4 minutes can halve its content. Vitamin C is needed to absorb the bound form of iron in spinach as with most plant sources.
- Contains the liver and brain cell supporting substances alpha lipoic acid and glutathione.
- Folate or folic acid source for growth, energy and renewal, from the word foliage.
- Has good amounts of all essential amino acids – building blocks of protein – for a plant, making it a particularly important food for vegetarians as it is difficult to get all of these or ‘complete protein’ from a non-animal source.
- Good levels of iron for oxygen distribution but not as much as originally believed as the decimal point was placed in the wrong place by researchers.
Did you know? ….. spinach is believed to be of Persian origin (now Iran) and was originally known as “aspanakh”. Cultivation probably began in Persia during the era of the Greek-Roman civilisation. The absence of any Sanskrit name suggests that cultivation of spinach is not ancient. It was apparently unknown to the Greeks and Romans during the time of the Roman Empire (27BC to 395AD). The earliest written record of spinach is Chinese, where it was called “herb of Persia”; the record states that it was introduced into China from Nepal in 647 AD. The Arab Moors introduced spinach into Spain in 1100 AD and then it spread throughout Europe either from Spain or from the Middle East. By the 14th century it had spread to Europe and Britain where it was popular in religious communities, particularly during Lent.