This Veggie of the Week seemed like an excellent opportunity to write a bit of an expose on why we should all be eating more `green leafy veggies``. We hear it all the time and know how nutritionally dense these foods are – but perhaps some of the health benefits these veggies (spinach included) provide are not as obvious and worth a refresher!

Popeye`s fave veggie made him strong – spinach is an excellent source of nutrients: 1 cup contains 35.7% of daily iron requirements, 30% of vitamin C, 40% of magnesium, and 65% of our daily folic acid requirements! Spinach is also one of the best food sources of Vitamin K and calcium – which means this veggie is seriously good for the bones! One thing to keep in mind, spinach is high in oxalic acids – which binds up a certain amount of the minerals it naturally contains. To get the most out of your spinach – consider lightly steaming it (for no longer than a minute!) to free up the minerals and maintain nutrient density.

Spinach and other green leafy veggies should ideally be a staple of our diet – and perhaps when we were still `foraging` for our foods it was. The flavanoids and carotenoids in spinach and other green leafy veggies (reportedly spinach has some of the highest amounts of these phytochemicals) are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in the body! Now you may have heard me use those words before – but what do they really mean....

Antioxidants are crucial in the body to repair damage done by `free radicals`and other toxins that unfortunately we cannot always avoid. High oxidant or free radical stress can eventually contribute to skin damage, cognitive decline, heart disease, and cancer – so regular consumption of these foods is very important in preventing the latter!  We all have some degree of inflammation from time to time, as it is a natural and required immune response – but we run into trouble when inflammation is allowed to persist due to high stress levels, poor diet, and lack of exercise. This type of chronic inflammation leads to health concerns like chronic allergies, skin conditions, joint & muscle pain, headaches, irritable bowel, menstrual cramps and low energy among others. Bottom line is – food, especially green leafy veggies – has the power to prevent the negative effects of oxidant and inflammatory stress on our system!

The final health benefit I wanted to praise spinach for – its high fibre content. Fibre should be thought of as an essential nutrient – it is needed to maintain bowel function, elimination and therefore detoxification. Fibre is also an important consideration in maintaining healthy weight – as it contributes to appetite control and stable blood sugar levels. If you want to reduce your afternoon carbohydrate cravings – consider bumping up the fibre by eating more green leafy veggies like spinach!

So there you have it – the power of Popeye`s spinach! Enjoy!

Bronwyn Hill, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor & food lover. She is currently in practice in Toronto's Forest Hill Neighbourhood, at Mahaya Forest Hill Integrative Health. She specializes in using food as medicine, acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine & botanicals; and has particular experience treating digestive concerns, women's health concerns including menopause, stress management, insomnia, healthy detoxification, and chronic respiratory conditions including asthma. She can be reached at . Follow her on Twitter @drbronwynnd.