Make like Popeye: The powerful benefits of spinach

URI health expert Jacqueline Beatty highlights the leafy green vegetable’s benefits for National Spinach Day

A plate of spinach salad is served during the URI Distinguished Achievement Awards last October.

It turns out Popeye the Sailor may have been on to something. You may not be immediately transformed into a tornado of strength or be magically able to handle whatever comes your way after chowing down a can of spinach, but following the unlikely cartoon hero’s lead and incorporating spinach into your diet can offer numerous health benefits.

In celebration of National Spinach Day March 26, registered dietitian and University of Rhode Island Ph.D. candidate Jacqueline Beatty offers some expert advice on why you should be paying more attention to this versatile vegetable. Here’s her top four reasons you should be reaching for this leafy green:

Spinach is rich in fiber

Fiber is important to heart health, digestive health and weight control. Higher fiber intakes reduce chronic disease risk, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and come cancers, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. High fiber intakes have also been associated with lower body weight. Daily fiber recommendations include 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Just one cup of cooked spinach contains more than 4 grams of fiber.

Spinach provides multiple vibrant vitamins

One cup of spinach contains a form of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and folate, to name a few important vitamins. Together, these vitamins help keep your body healthy and strong.

Beta carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, is important for eye health. Vitamin K assists your body in synthesizing blood-clotting proteins and bone proteins to help with blood calcium regulation. Vitamin C helps keep your immune system strong, and folate plays an important role in red blood cell production and nervous system development to help prevent birth defects – and it also acts in your body to help convert amino acids into other chemicals.

Spinach contains beneficial minerals

Spinach contains calcium, magnesium and potassium — three important factors in energy metabolism. Additionally, spinach is low in sodium, and research has shown that foods high in potassium and low in sodium play a role in significantly reducing blood pressure. This nutrient-dense leafy green can help you lose weight and improve the quality of your health.

Cooking with spinach is easy

Finding ways to add more spinach into your diet is not only easy, but delicious too. Throw leaves of raw baby spinach into salads, soups or casseroles. It’s a simple way to load your meal with phytosterols, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Although spring and summer are the best times of the year to be buying fresh spinach, you can also find frozen spinach on sale and keep it on hand in the freezer to add to your culinary creations at the drop of a sailor hat! Spinach goes well with fruit smoothies as well.  Adding spinach will change your smoothie into a beautiful green color, but the taste of the fruit will never be overpowered by this mild leafy green veggie.