Switch to Spinach

June 25, 2006

Switch to Spinach 

 Competency # 14  SUPERFOOD                  Reference:  Superfoods by Steven Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthew 

 It’s summer and spinach is in!  This is a SUPERFOOD, a term coined by authors Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews.  Spinach is an amazing vegetable and here’s the reason why.  I have seen article after article about the various ingredients of spinach over the last few years.  It’s time to just weigh in and switch.  Pratt and Matthews have now published a book called “Superfoods”.    It’s great summer reading because all the good stuff is now in at the grocery store or farmer’s market.  Time to feast on really good food. 

 Popeye talked about the iron.  His girlfriend, Olive Oil (intentional misspelling) was the perfect friend.  But the benefits of spinach are hardly limited to its iron content.  It’s the other nutrients in spinach that make it a superstar.  Did you know that half of spinach’s calories are from protein?  Yes, protein.  In fact, it’s one of the plant kingdom’s most concentrated sources of protein.  

Then there’s a ton of vitamin A and a bunch of other carotenoids.  It contains Vitamin K, which is crucial for bone health.  It’s one of only two foods that give you CoEnzyme Q.  Then, there are all the other antioxidants.  All around, spinach has very high nutritional density.  That’s the key.  We need so many nutrients a day, we need to make sure the foods we eat have enough of them to justify and make up for the low-density calories we find ourselves eating when we have a donut or a piece of white cake at the company picnic. 

What’s important to know about spinach is that it’s not a solo actor.  All the foods in its group are about as good.  Kale and collards are very similar.  Swiss chard and mustard greens are up there too.  When our grandparents ate collards, greens, and chard, they were getting great food. When you get into the research articles about the benefits of spinach, you find things like:  heart disease benefit: for each serving of spinach a week you get a 7% reduction in your risk profile for coronary artery disease.  I’m not sure if you eat 14 servings a week you drop to zero, but the data suggests it works up to 2-4 servings.  And every ophthalmologist wants you to eat more to protect your eyes.  If you Google spinach, you will find dozens of websites that continue the rave.   Do it, and switch. 

 WWW: What will work for me.  This is easy.  We’ve really stopped eating most of our iceberg lettuce.  When I have any choice, I make my salad from spinach, with olive oil dressing.  Now, I’m trying to explore and find out other spinach recipes that aren’t just boiled.  There are wonderful Greek recipes, Indian curries, southern recipes that are just delicious.  Time to explore!

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)