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Spinach Juice and Smoothies

April 2, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

A simple addition or substitution can make a profound difference in the overall quality of your diet. If you enjoy freshly made juice or homemade smoothies, you can very easily improve the nutrient density of these beverages by tossing a handful of raw spinach into the mix. The beauty of this strategy is that you’re unlikely to taste the spinach at all, though you’ll probably notice its chlorophyll inspired hue. But, you can be certain that your body will be keenly aware of it.

I’m a strong believer in the importance of understanding why you’re making a change before you actually make it. Part of the reason I encourage you to add more raw spinach to your diet is because of its potent mix of nutrients. A cup of uncooked spinach only contains 7 calories. However, what it lacks in caloric content, it more than makes up for in minerals and vitamins such as folic acid, potassium and Vitamin K. All three of these nutrients are acknowledged as vitally important for the promotion of cardiovascular health. And, since heart disease is the leading cause of mortality around the world, it makes sense to eat more foods that may protect against it.

Taking a closer look at the composition of spinach reveals some additional benefits that extend beyond the cardiovascular system. For starters, eating spinach on a regular basis has been shown to reduce two contributors to degenerative diseases including cancer: DNA instability and lipid peroxidation. Raw spinach may also promote a healthier mood because it’s rich in folate, the naturally occurring B-vitamin. Those living with depressive disorders are often deficient in this essential nutrient. The fact that spinach is one of the best dietary sources of Vitamin K likewise bodes well for various organs and systems in the body. While it’s widely known that Vitamin K supports strong bones, current research also indicates that K plays an integral role in brain functioning. A review appearing in the February 2012 issue of the journal Biofactors explains that Vitamin K is necessary for the production of a type of fat (sphingolipids) present in the brain that may counteract “age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease”.

Whenever possible, I suggest using organic spinach. Conventionally grown spinach is one of the top offenders in terms of detectable pesticide residues. What’s more, the organic version of this green leafy vegetable has recently been proven to contain higher levels of protective antioxidants, including flavonoids and Vitamin C. Flavonoids are one of the key, nonnutritive components of spinach which support cardiovascular health by improving circulation (endothelial function and flow-mediated dilation) and, thereby, lowering systolic blood pressure.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Impact of Spinach Consumption on DNA Stability in Peripheral (link)

Study 2 - Effect of Spinacia Oleraceae L. & Perilla Frutescens L. on Antioxidants (link)

Study 3 - Folate Content and Retention in Selected Raw and processed Foods (link)

Study 4 - Vitamin and Mineral Intakes in Adults with Mood Disorders: Comparisons(link)

Study 5 - Association Between Folate Intake and Melancholic Depressive (link)

Study 6 – Vitamin K Content of Foods and Dietary Vitamin K Intake in Japanese (link)

Study 7 - Vitamin K, An Emerging Nutrient in Brain Function (link)

Study 8 - Changes in Parameters of Bone Metabolism in Postmenopausal Women (link)

Study 9 - Effect of Organic and Conventional Cropping Systems on Ascorbic Acid (link)

Study 10 - Flavonoid-Rich Apples and Nitrate-Rich Spinach Augment Nitric Oxide (link)

Flavonoid Content of Conventional vs. Organic Spinach

Source: J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Mar 20. (link)

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4 Comments & Updates to “Spinach Juice and Smoothies”

  1. Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    For us, not familiar with smoothies, could you suggest a couple of your favorite recipes that do lend to incorporate spinach?

    Your guidance will help us neophytes in this adventure!

    Thank you for all the resources you make available to us!

    Paul

  2. JP Says:

    Hi Paul,

    I’d be happy to share a few recipes. Here goes:

      Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

    1 cup organic, raw spinach

    2 Tbs organic, unsweetened peanut butter

    2 Tbs organic, non-alkalized cocoa powder

    1 serving of chocolate or vanilla protein powder

    unsweetened vanilla almond milk or purified water *

    Sweeten with liquid stevia to taste. Add a few ice cubes to the mix, if a frozen-style smoothie is desired.

      Tropical Spinach Smoothie

    1 cup organic, raw spinach

    1 cup frozen, organic berries

    2 oz of organic coconut milk

    1 serving of vanilla protein powder

    unsweetened vanilla almond milk or purified water *

    * The amount of almond milk or water used in the recipes depends on the consistency you prefer.

    I hope you enjoy them!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Allison Says:

    You mentioned in your article raw spinach. Does lightly steamed spinach retain its nutrient value?

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Allison.

    It retains a fair share of the nutrients found in raw spinach. What’s more, lightly cooking green leafy vegetables (and adding some healthy fat to them) makes the fat soluble antioxidants (carotenoids) and nutrients (Vitamin K) easier to absorb. However, cooking spinach tends to intensify its flavor – which isn’t such a good thing for most blended drinks. ;-)

    Be well!

    JP

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