We present the superfood of Popeye, which has lasted through to today: Spinach, one of the green leafy vegetables with the greatest health benefits.
What is Spinach
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) is a plant from the Amaranthaceae family, to which also belong other species of widespread use such as beetroot, chard, quinoa and amaranth.
The origin of the plant is oriental, it is believed to have originated in Persia (Iran), although its consumption has spread throughout the east and west, where it has now established itself as a food that we can find in any supermarket.
What properties does Spinach have?
Spinach was made famous by “Popeye the Sailor”, an animated character of American origin who ate spinach as an energy source, a food that gave him unrivalled strength.
Popeye, eating spinach.
The reason that led Segar (the character’s creator) to choose spinach and not another food was “its high vitamin A content”, but the benefits do not stop there.
Spinach leaves are one of the well-known dark green leafy vegetables, which are the main source of vitamin K in any Western diet.
When it is dried in the processing for powder presentation, this water is removed for the most part, allowing the compounds naturally present in the leaves to concentrate.
Hence comes the association between spinach and iron as an incredible source of dietary iron, when the reality is that…
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🌿Spinach is a great source of iron, right? ❌No, not really. 📜This belief originates from the late 19th and early 20th century. The earliest report was published in 1871 and stated that spinach was relatively high in iron. 🤔However, it was not clear whether dried of fresh spinach was used in these early reports. A report in 1936 stated that fresh spinach should be used for the determination of iron content instead of dried spinach, because drying of the samples interferes with the analysis. 📊The iron content of fresh spinach is now set at around 2-4 mg per 100 g, while dried spinach has about 20-40 mg per 100 g (10-fold difference!). 🌱In addition, there are two forms of iron: heme and non-heme (this was not known in 1871). Iron in plant-based products is typically non-heme iron, which has poor absorption in the small intestine. 🥩In contrast, animal-based sources typically contain heme iron that is much better absorbed. 🔍It has also been suggested that the high reported iron content in spinach was simply the result from an incorrect placed decimal, which overestimated the iron content by ten-fold. However, there is no evidence for this mistake. 💡In conclusion, spinach is not a great iron source as often claimed. 💪🏻(fun fact: the creator of Popeye stated that Popeye ate spinach because of the high vitamin A content, not iron). 👆See bio for clickable study reference. #popeye #spinach #iron #micronutrients #minerals #popeyearms #ironrichfoods #dieting #vegan #vegetarian #diet #plantbased #plantbaseddiet #vegetables #veggies
…No, spinach is not naturally a high-iron food – this was determined based on concentrations of spinach leaf powder.
In addition, spinach contains a small fraction of lipids, mainly mono- and polyunsaturated (of the omega 3, 6, and 9 series).
In a natural state they contain 2.2g of fibre for every 100g of leaves, so they are a food with high fibre content, given their caloric potential, according to FAO’s bases in Europe.
It contains significant amounts of magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin C.
In addition to other phytochemicals such as carotenoids, among which lutein stands out, and of which spinach is the main dietary source.
And phenolic compounds, among which we find a very wide range of flavonoids.
Vitamin and mineral content of spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce (A, B, C and D; respectively), a comparison between the phenols (E), flavonoids (F), phenolic acids (G) and lignin (H) content of these four plants.
For example (and there are many like this), restriction of exposure to solar UV radiation during growth significantly affects the amount of phenolic acids in spinach.
The same is true with the harvest time, with baby spinach (more tender) less dense in nutrients than spinach at the point of ripening.
Effects of different variables on the nutritional profile of spinach.
What is Spinach for?
I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’m telling you that there’s an overwhelming amount of medical literature that supports fruit and vegetable consumption to maintain good health, right?
A higher intake of these foods has been associated with:
- Lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome.
- Less diabetes.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Lower concentrations of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
- Less risk of morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular causes.
- Lower relative risk of death from any cause.
(Aune et al. 2017; Dreher, 2018)
Ratio of daily servings of fruits and vegetables to risk of death from any cause.
In addition, observational studies show an inverse association between the number of servings of fruits and vegetables eaten and the mortality rate.
Who doesn’t want to take care of themselves a little more, live longer and better?
Ageing and longevity. Graph representation of the concept of “healthspan” and “lifespan” as health expectancy and life expectancy, respectively.
Metabolic properties of Spinach
Phytonutrients containing spinach leaves have been shown to have positive effects on a variety of factors that determine the person’s metabolic health state:
Theoretical systemic effects of spinach bioassets.
First, these compounds are capable of sequestering reactive oxygen species produced during oxidative catabolism, thus preventing cell damage from oxidative stress and acting as antioxidants.
Animated graphic representation of an antioxidant by donating an electron to a reactive oxygen species that can damage a healthy cell. The antioxidant stabilises this molecule.
Second, they can: Modulate the expression of the activity of genes involved in metabolism, cell proliferation, inflammation, and endogenous antioxidant defence.
They can be established as promising mechanisms, for now only demonstrated in vitro and some animal models, to inhibit uncontrolled growth of tumour cells.
Mechanisms for regulating short- and long-term energy consumption and their interrelationships with different system structures.
Effects of Thylakoid consumption on serum leptin concentrations. The image on the right is after a non greasy meal.
Thylakoids are chloroplast cell structures, which in turn are an organelle of plant photosynthetic cells.
Even so, the effects on leptin may be mediated by the fat content of food and not so much by thylakoids, we need more information before we can conclude it with certainty.
Classic histological arrangement of plant cells in the form of tile. Chloroplasts are green structures.
What we do know is that spinach thylakoids are responsible (at least in part) for their acute satiating effects, so using spinach in the form of smoothie or simply a juice can be a good strategy to cope with the desire to skip the diet during a weight loss and fat loss program.
Effects of the consumption of thylakoids of spinach leaves on the desire to eat sweets and chocolates, in front of the group that made the same meal without eating spinach.
Did you know this about Spinach?
It can be used as a possible protector against age-related vision degradation.
Lutein, together with the zeaxanthin, are the two main carotenoids that make up the macular pigment, a structure of our retina.
Diagram of the approximate location of macular pigment in the retina.
The objective of this area is to act as a filter to the wavelengths of blue light, maintaining normal and regulated activity of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, protecting the optic nerve from radiation damage and allowing good vision to be maintained over the years.
Gamer using glasses with blue light filter, to avoid continued exposure to the wavelength emitted by unfiltered electronic devices.
Spinach Powder from HSN
At HSN we were amazed to discover all the properties of spinach leaves, and we set out to find a raw material that met all the characteristics, cultivation, harvesting and processing that determine its maximum nutritional quality.
We found it, and produced our HSNessentials Spinach Powder, a concentrated version of natural spinach leaves, simply treated by washing, drying and shredding to keep your priorities to the maximum.
Science has trolled us by enriching biscuits with spinach, so no recipe you look at will ever seem crazy…
Health study of 15% Spinach biscuits.
- Ahmed, S. S., Lott, M. N., & Marcus, D. M. (2005). The macular xanthophylls. Survey of Ophthalmology, 50(2), 183–193.
- Aune, D., Giovannucci, E., Boffetta, P., Fadnes, L. T., Keum, N. N., Norat, T., … Tonstad, S. (2017). Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality-A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Epidemiology, 46(3), 1029–1056.
- Galla, N. R., Pamidighantam, P. R., Karakala, B., Gurusiddaiah, M. R., & Akula, S. (2017). Nutritional, textural and sensory quality of biscuits supplemented with spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, 7, 20–26.
- Gutierrez, R. M. P., Velazquez, E. G., & Carrera, S. P. P. (2019). Spinacia oleracea Linn Considered as One of the Most Perfect Foods: A Pharmacological and Phytochemical Review. Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 19(20), 1666–1680.
- Hosseinpour-Niazi, S., Bakhshi, B., Betru, E., Mirmiran, P., Darand, M., & Azizi, F. (2019). Prospective study of total and various types of vegetables and the risk of metabolic syndrome among children and adolescents. World Journal of Diabetes, 10(6), 362–375.
- Jovanovski, E., Bosco, L., Khan, K., Au-Yeung, F., Ho, H., Zurbau, A., … Vuksan, V. (2015). Effect of Spinach, a High Dietary Nitrate Source, on Arterial Stiffness and Related Hemodynamic Measures: A Randomized, Controlled Trial in Healthy Adults. Clinical Nutrition Research, 4(3), 160.
- Junghans, A., Sies, H., & Stahl, W. (2001). Macular pigments lutein and zeaxanthin as blue light filters studied in liposomes. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 391(2), 160–164.
- Kohnke, R., Lindbo, A., Larsson, T., Lindqvist, A., Rayner, M., Emek, S. C., … Erlanson-Albertsson, C. (2009). Thylakoids promote release of the satiety hormone cholecystokinin while reducing insulin in healthy humans. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 44(6), 712–719.
- Milano, F., Mussi, F., Fornaciari, S., Altunoz, M., Forti, L., Arru, L., & Buschini, A. (2019). Oxygen availability during growth modulates the phytochemical profile and the chemo-protective properties of spinach juice. Biomolecules, 9(2).
- Rebello, C.J. (2015). Dietary Strategies to Influence Appetite: Effects of Oat Beta-Glucan and Thylakoids from Spinach on Satiety and Reward-induced Eating Behavior. LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 1469.
- Roberts, J. L., & Moreau, R. (2016). Functional properties of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) phytochemicals and bioactives. Food and Function, 7(8), 3337–3353.
- Schalch, W. (2001). Possible contribution of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids of the macula lutea, to reducing the risk for age-related macular degeneration: a review. HKJ Ophthalmol, 4(1), 31–42.
- Schalch, W. (2008). Possible contribution of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids of the macula lutea, to reducing the risk for age-related macular degeneration: a review.
- Seals, D. R., Justice, J. N., & Larocca, T. J. (2016). Physiological geroscience: Targeting function to increase healthspan and achieve optimal longevity. Journal of Physiology, 594(8), 2001–2024.
- We recommend this recipe Spinach and Chickpea Salad. Click here.
- Do you know the benefits for eye health that Lutein offers? Everything you need to know in this post.