Super Star Spinach
Spinach is not only listed as one of the super foods in Dr. Steven Pratt’s SuperFoods Rx (also by Kathy Matthews, NY, NY, 2004), he considers it so rich in so many important nutrients, it is almost in a class by itself. But before I start singing its praises, I have to add his important note that there are other similar foods that also have many of the same impressive substances.
- Swiss chard
- Mustard and turnip greens
- Bok choy
- Romaine lettuce
- Orange bell peppers (yes, that struck me as a pretty distant relative too)
On to the resume for these super stars (using spinach as the proto-type)
- The carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin (both associated with lower macular degeneration and cataract rates), and beta-carotene
- The antioxidants glutathione (protects DNA), alpha lipoic acid (anti-aging nutrient), vitamin C, and vitamin E
- Vitamin K (important for blood clotting and thus to be avoided if taking warfarin (Coumadin) a blood thinner)
- Coenzyme Q10 (needed for cell energy production)
- B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, B6, and folate (cancer fighter)
- Chlorophyll (a potential cancer fighter), Polyphenols, Betaine (may help lower arterial disease risk)
- Plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids
Which is better, raw or cooked spinach? There are benefits to each. Cooked spinach makes the carotenoids more available and increases lutein, but decreases the vitamin C and folate. So, it is probably best to consume raw and cooked spinach each day. Also, adding olive oil, nuts or avocado to cooked spinach will increase the carotenoid absorption.
One more note about the “knock off” vegetables. Kale, as noted in Super Foods by Tonia Reinhard (Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2014) has more than twice the level of antioxidants compared with other leafy greens. Okay kale, you’ve got my vote, and a place of prominence in my garden.