Spinach is a great option for boosting your iron intake. Nicola Shubrook talks you through this nutritional powerhouse
Do you remember the cartoon character ‘Popeye’ ? How he was always consuming a can of spinach whenever he needed a good boost of energy-well there’s a good why reason he ate so much of the green stuff: spinach is a veritable powerhouse of nutrients. The good news is, you don’t need to neck loads of this leafy green to reap its benefits.
Just 125g of fresh spinach will provide you with more than 20 nutrients, including more than your recommended daily allowance of vitamins K and A, almost all your daily requirements of folate and around 40 per cent of your daily magnesium needs, and all for around 30 calories. Bargain!
The leaf’s rich vitamin K and calcium levels are great for strong bones, while its unique combination of vitamins A and C, fibre, magnesium and folate have been shown to help prevent cancer. The antioxidants in spinach clinch the deal: its flavonoids help to protect against age-related memory loss and high blood pressure by keeping dangerous inflammation at bay, while the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to help support eye health.
One of the great benefits of spinach is its high iron content, particularly if you’re veggie or suffer from heavy periods. Just one cup of cooked spinach provides around 6.3mg of energy-producing iron. It’s also a super workout food. Research has shown that spinach (in high doses) may help reduce oxidative stress caused by regular exercise and protect against muscle damage. It may also make the body more efficient – spinach contains a compound called nitrate, which has been shown to boost the mitochondria (the microscopic part of cells that generates most of your energy), meaning your body will need less oxygen when exercising.
How to store
Spinach should be stored loosely in a plastic bag, and will remain fresh for up to 4 days. When consuming wash before eating, just to get rid of any soil and chemicals. Opt for steaming or microwaving rather than boiling to preserve all the essential nutrients.
How to eat it
Make sure you keep your spinach refrigerated to preserve its high nutrient content. And try to make the most of it while it’s still fresh – keeping it for up to a week in the fridge could drain around half of its amazing health benefits!
Remember never to store spinach in a metal container, as the iron may oxidise. And definitely don’t follow Popeye’s serving suggestion: this veg is best enjoyed raw or lightly cooked – not canned!
Other Iron food sources
There are of course other food sources that are rich in iron, having more options is always beneficial as you can apply what you like to your lifestyle and still get a good iron intake.
Liver, beef and lamb make good options, however if you are vegetarian soy beans, tofu and kidney beans are also great alternatives.
For grains rich in iron, oatmeal is a great option- it a low fat healthy breakfast and also reduces cholestral.