Let alone Popeye, even our moms told us “eat your greens.” They both were right because the big green verdant leaves are loaded with many health benefits. Hence, it does not come as a surprise that nutritionists now too recommend adding spinach to our diet.
Interesting isn’t it? It is worth an attempt to figure out why our humble palak has taken a deserving place on our diet list. That it is nutritious is a given, and it being a good immunity booster is another given.
Known in the botanical world as Spinacia oleracea, this plant belongs to the amaranth family. It is a versatile food which can be steamed, blended in a soup or sautéed with other veggies. If the leaves are young and fresh, they can be eaten raw as a salad. Its typical bitter flavour gives the dish a unique taste. Interestingly, spinach made its first appearance in an English recipe book where it was referred to as ‘spynoches/spinnedge.’
It originated from ancient Persia, thus earning the name ‘Persian vegetable.’ After a brief trajectory, it gained prominence in France and England when in springtime veggies took their time to hit the borough.
Setting it apart:
Spinach has broadly three types. They are:
- Savoy spinach: Resistant to winters, these plants grow low and close to the ground. They are very productive.
- Semi-savoy spinach: A crossbreed between Savoy and Flat-leafed less wrinkly, they are favoured as this type of spinach is less resistant to diseases.
- Flat-leafed spinach: Heat tolerant, this variety of spinach has smooth leaves which are rounded at the edge. It is dark in colour.
Though this healthy leafy veggie grows in any regular soil, it blossoms if the soil is fertile. But sandy loam and alluvial soil get a thumbs up from spinach too. Care should be taken to ensure a good drainage system. Row-to-row spacing should be at least two feet distance with a three-inch space between plants. It can be sown throughout the year. As a spring season crop, it can bloom indoors as well. This green foliage requires a little more than one inch of water per week and more during hot weather. Moisture content in the soil should be good. The ideal pH is between 6.5 to 6.9.
Spinach grows well in pots on our balconies. It can grow from seed germination as well as from cuttings. If harvested well, spinach promises multiple yields. Just remember that spinach only demands good fertilizers.
Wellness and other health benefits
Spinach, the very word spells health!
Loaded with vitamins C, D, A and K, anti-oxidants, minerals potassium, magnesium and more importantly, iron, take it to the top of the charts. Indian women who are known to be anaemic should take note of this and up their spinach intake. Folic acid is good for pregnant women, and iron helps in increasing haemoglobin levels. Perhaps that is why wine with spinach juice was given to injured French soldiers of WWI to decrease their bleeding.
The anti-oxidants reduce oxidative stress preventing life-threatening diseases.
Spinach is very good for bone health. It regulates blood pressure levels. The fibre content takes care of constipation. It is good for building the immune system and for eyesight as it contains chlorophyll, lutein, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
Spinach is very good for skin and hair and all body tissues due to its vitamin A content.
Spinach is good for heart health as it contains vitamin C, lutein and nitrite.
It is known to keep up energy levels as it provides us with the necessary levels of magnesium. It also has folate which converts food to energy that the body can use. Spinach is alkaline, therefore keeps you energized.