3 Ways Spinach Could Save Your Life…Or Kill You

August 28, 2013
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Ever since Popeye the Sailor Man first bested Bluto, we’ve been bombarded with a constant stream of stories telling us how nutritious spinach is.

Popeye cartoons helped boost spinach sales, and parents have felt secure that regular servings of spinach have helped their kids get all the iron they need.

Perception and reality take different paths, however, when it comes to spinach. It turns out that while spinach is a good source of iron, it’s not exceptional.

In fact, Popeye’s creators focused on spinach as a wonder-food because it was rich in vitamin A.

Somehow our parents got it all wrong. So what’s the truth? Can spinach help transform us into strong, healthy super-sailors?

Or do children have some justification for leaving it uneaten on their plates?

The Good News

Like other dark greens, spinach is a great source of beta-Carotene, a powerful antioxidant that reduces the risk of developing cataracts. It helps the body fight off heart disease, too.

Spinach contains several important phytochcemicals, including lutein, which help prevent age-related macular degeneration.

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It also contains lopoic acid, which helps with the regeneration of vitamins C and E, and because of its role in energy production, it is said to be good for regulating blood-sugar levels.

Spinach is also very good for digestion, easing constipation and protecting the mucous lining of the stomach to help protect it from the formation of ulcers.

Spinach is great served raw–especially when you choose tender baby spinach leaves that are placed under direct light in the stores rather than those stored in darkness.

Cooking spinach increases its health benefits. A half cup of cooked spinach contains three times as many nutrients as raw spinach. Spinach juice is an even better way to benefit from spinach’s nutritional power.

The nutrients are more concentrated and, according to research studies, spinach juice can improve skin health, providing quick relief from dry and itchy skin.

The Bad News

Given all that, what could possibly be bad about eating loads of spinach every day? For starters, some people need to be careful with the vitamin K it contains.

According to the National Institues of Health, vitamin K can decrease or over-accentuate the effectiveness of anti-coagulant medications. So if you take anti-coagulants, you should watch your spinach intake.

The oxalate in spinach can encourage the development of kidney stones in people who are prone to them.

However, you can still probably eat spinach safely, as other dietary ingredients offset the oxalate.

Men with certain genetic disorders are susceptible to accumulating potentially toxic levels of ingested iron, so they should be careful with spinach.

Excessive iron ranks prominently in the constellation of risk factors leading to several chronic disease states of vital organs, including bones and joints, heart, liver, pancreas, anterior pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, and sex-hormone-producing organs.

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The excess iron causes these organs to function abnormally, resulting in a long list of symptoms and potentially early death.

Iron isn’t a problem for most of us–our bodies naturally regulate iron absorbtion to safe levels–but it can be deadly for some.

If you decide to eat spinach, you’ve got to decide between the ordinary stuff and organic spinach.

Regular spinach tends to be sprayed heavily with pesticides that don’t come off with normal washing, so you incur the risk of all the bad things that can happen to you if you ingest pesticides.

But organic spinach is problematic too–it carries a moderate risk of contamination with E. coli. The risk is 64 times higher if the spinach was irrigated with pond water and 172 times higher if the spinach was grown within 10 miles of a poultry farm.

In a recent study, researchers tested 955 spinach samples from 12 farms in two states, finding E. coli was present on 6.6 percent. Ideally, spinach would be grown organically in hydroponic tanks, offering the best of both worlds.

The Bottom Line

So what’s the verdict? Is spinach a highly nutritious part of a healthy diet or a dietary land mine lying in wait for the careless consumer?

The truth is, it’s both. We should all eat more dark-green vegetables than we do, and spinach’s nutritional punch is hard to beat.

At the same time, we need to be aware of possible danger signs and the possibility of contamination in both conventional and organic spinach.

All in all, the evidence tilts in favor of what mom always told us: Eat your spinach. It’s good for you.


One Comment

  1. Dr Soma

    March 22, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Start with small doses if you are unaccustomed to the smell of spinach. As you get used to the flavour, you can start,increasing the intake.
    Regular intake is vital to obtain the full benefits – the thousands of photo chemicals that comes with it.
    It is one of the cheapest food available.

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