With National Spinach Day around the corner on March 26th, we feel like celebrating! What better way to highlight this vegetable’s incredible health benefits than by helping you find more ways to eat spinach?
The CDC estimates that only 1 in 10 adults eats enough fruits and vegetables. That percentage drops even lower when you look at fruit and vegetable intake among men, young adults, and the impoverished.
The US government recommends between 1.5 and 2 cups of fruit per day. Meanwhile, recommendations for vegetable servings are much higher at 2 to 3 cups per day.
Yet, you may be wondering: why does fruit and veggie intake matter?
If so few people meet the daily recommendations, skipping out on these two food groups isn’t that bad… right? Read on to discover the answer to that question, plus three new recipes you’ve got to try for yourself!
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Veggies?
Did you know that eating more fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, type II diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers?
Considering that seven out of the 10 top causes of death are due to chronic disease, you can see why these food groups are so vital.
The nutrients in fruits and veggies also promote your health in other ways. For example, some vegetables are high in nutrients like Vitamin A, which provide benefits for your eyes and skin. Others contain Vitamin C, a nutrient important for a healthy, beautiful smile.
Spinach is no different.
The Incredible Benefits of Spinach
All vegetables are great, but there’s one that stands out. Spinach is what’s known as a functional food, which means it has a diverse variety of nutrients, vitamins, and other natural chemicals that promote multiple aspects of health.
Spinach Keeps You Fuller for Longer
Did you know that spinach reduces your feelings of hunger, keeping you satisfied after a meal for longer?
There are two different hormones that control your hunger. One of these hormones is secreted to remind your body to eat, which is why it’s known as a hunger cue.
There’s another little hormone that your body secretes when you’re full called leptin. Spinach interacts with this hormone, promoting feelings of fullness, and reducing your hunger cues.
Spinach Regulates Metabolism, Inflammation, and More
The compounds in spinach have an incredible variety of benefits beyond curbing your hunger, including regulating metabolism and inflammation. This is because the nutrients in spinach regulate the activity of proteins that are involved in this process.
In addition to providing positive benefits for metabolism and the inflammatory response, spinach is an excellent source of antioxidants. Spinach’s interaction with these three processes is responsible for its chronic disease-fighting properties.
Spinach Helps Reduce Free Radicals
It seems everyone’s talking about free radicals these days. Free radicals aka Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are known to negatively influence the aging process and even damage macromolecules in your body (i.e., carbs and proteins).
How does spinach relate to ROS? The nutrients and antioxidants in spinach actually “eat up” free radicals. That way, they can’t do damage to your cells.
Some researchers suspect that this quality of spinach is the reason for its anti-cancer effects. Of course, that doesn’t mean spinach can cure cancer. Eating a diet rich in spinach and other antioxidants, though, can reduce your chances of developing cancer later in life.
3 Unique Ways to Eat Spinach for the Whole Family
Do you want to take advantage of the health benefits of spinach? Check out these three foolproof recipes that the whole family will love!
There’s no easier way to incorporate spinach into your daily routine than with a smoothie. Bonus points for the extra fruit!
You can mix up an all-green smoothie to knock out your recommended daily vegetable servings in one go. Or, you can make a more kid-friendly smoothie that disguises the spinach for picky eaters.
Here’s a breakfast smoothie recipe the whole family will love.
Berry Green Smoothie
1 Cup of Frozen or Fresh Spinach
1 Frozen Banana
1 Cup of Frozen Berries
1/2 Cup of Plain Greek or Full Fat Yogurt
1/2 Cup of Water, Non-Dairy Milk, or Orange Juice
To a blender, add the banana, your family’s favorite berries, yogurt, and liquid of your choosing. Blend until smooth. Add the spinach during the last step and blend well for an invisible spinach smoothie every time.
Sandwiches, Wraps, and Burgers
Looking for an easy lunch recipe you can add spinach to every day? Search no further than sandwiches, wraps, and burgers. Switch out the lettuce or greens you typically dress with for a few leaves of spinach.
Check out this recipe for quick and healthy weekday lunches.
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
2 Slices of Whole Grain Bread
Your Favorite Homemade or Store-bought Chicken Salad
1 Slice of American Cheese
2 Large Spinach Leaves
Toast the slices of bread before placing the cheese on one slice to melt. Add a heaping portion of chicken salad to the other slice and arrange the spinach leaves on top. Cut in half and enjoy it for lunch or as a snack!
Pasta and Pizza
Wilting spinach in your family’s favorite pasta dish or pizza recipe is another sneaky way to get more leafy greens into your diet.
Try this recipe next time you’re cooking dinner for the whole family.
Chicken Florentine Pizza-Pasta
2 Large Chicken Breasts, cooked
1 Pound of Pasta
1 Cup of Cherry Tomatoes
1 Cup of Fresh or Frozen Spinach
1 Cup of Grated Parmesan Cheese
While you cook the pasta according to your package’s directions, dice the chicken into bite-size pieces. Strain out most of the cooking water before quickly adding the spinach, tomatoes, chicken, and 3/4 cup of the cheese. Mix until combined and serve with extra parm on top!
More Healthy Advice for You and Your Family
Loved these ways to eat spinach and want more advice for living a healthier life? Check out more from our blog, and don’t forget to enroll in our medical network for the highest quality health care services in California.