Five Easy Ways to Eat More Spinach (Your Muscles Will Thank You, Says Science)

by Siobhan O’Connor

Siobhan O’Connor is a natural beauty and health expert and the co-author, with Alexandra Spunt, of the blog No More Dirty Looks.

It turns out that Popeye was onto something: Besides providing the body with protein, iron, powerful antioxidants, and a natural glow, spinach may also benefit muscle building. So much for the puny-vegetarian stereotype!

And since it’s such a health superstar, we’re going to tell you how to incorporate it into your diet without having to think too much about it. Here’s why.

The Daily is reporting on a new(ish) study published in Cell Metabolism which showed that eating spinach may help muscles work more efficiently during exercise. Apparently the inorganic nitrate found in spinach does this by fueling mitochondria—the little engines in our cells that could—with more energy on less oxygen. The lead scientist on the study, Dr. Eddie Weitzberg, compared it to being able to run a car on less fuel but at the same speed.

Whether or not you’re taking the GOOD 30-day challenge or did our own Vegan For a Week Challenge (and have been following ourMeatless Monday recipe series), eating more spinach is a great idea. Its mild flavor makes it one of the most versatile super foods, and it pairs easily with (or hidden in) just about anything. Because you can buy it frozen it’s also convenient and affordable.

Here are a few no-brainer ways to add it to a meal:

Hidden in smoothies: You can load a smoothie with spinach and still have it taste like vanilla ice cream—it’s truly an incredible trick for anyone who thinks they hate veggies (if you’re dealing with a finicky kid—or as I was, a finicky man—just add blueberries to hide the color). Smoothies are also a happy home for spinach because the iron is more readily absorbed with vitamin C, which is found abundantly in fruits. Go for strawberries right now—they have a ton of C and they’re in season (at least in California).

In omelettes: Whether you want to power up at breakfast, or make a lazy dinner, adding spinach to an omelette will take it to the next level. I like doing a Greek-inspired fast frittata with olive oil, onion, and feta. Just saute the onions in a pan that can go in the oven, then add the spinach and let it cook down for a minute. Then pour in your eggs and let that sit until it looks like the bottom half is cooked; then sprinkle it with feta, salt, and pepper and throw it in the oven under the broiler. When the eggs brown at the edges and the feta bubbles you’re done. Takes ten minutes, tastes gourmet.

With pasta or on pizza: It really doesn’t matter whether you like a red sauce, a cream sauce, or a simple olive oil drizzle on your pasta or pizza—spinach pairs with all. You can easily add it to something store-bought but a recent taste triumph at my house involved frozen peas and spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic in a pan. To that I added the brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s (cooked of course), some red chili flakes, lemon juice, and lots of salt and pepper. If you’re vegan you’re done (or you can add some nutritional yeast to taste). If you like cheese, throw in some parmesan. If you want meat in there, prosciutto works great.

As a side: This is basically the same as above but without the pasta. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan with some chopped garlic and saute your spinach for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste along with a squeeze of lemon juice (for both flavor and some vitamin C).

In a salad: Spinach can be added to just about any salad—from a caesar to a chopped to a simple olive oil and vinegar variety. I like making a good vegan caesar dressing with the following: 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs vegenaise, 1 tsp dijon, juice of a lemon, 1 tbs of capers (if you like them), 1 tsp of nutritional yeast (if you have it/like it), and salt and pepper to taste. (Note: if you use the capers you may not need the salt, taste it first.) Do a romaine and fresh spinach mix and add anything you like to it: You can go traditional with croutons and parmesan, or make it more of a mixed vegetable salad with artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Ok, your turn! What’s your favorite way to use this muscle-building age-fighter?

Photo (cc) from Flickr user srqpix

 

Drinking 3 cups of coffee daily can help prevent Alzheimer’s

Do you find yourself making multiple trips to Starbucks daily? Well, those caffeine headaches and jitters may be worth it in the long run. New research from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee found that people who drink between three and five cups of coffee daily may lower their risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease by up to 27 percent.

“Moderate coffee consumption could play a significant role in reducing cognitive decline which would impact health outcomes and healthcare spending,” said professor Rodrigo A. Cunha of University of Coimbra in Portugal.

The combination of caffeine, antioxidants, and polyphenol naturally found in coffee are the likely contributing factors to this scientific discovery.

 

The report cited that caffeine’s role in the reduction of cognitive decline was particularly effective in elderly men. Weight loss is definitely a challenge, but these tips will equip you with the information you need to conquer it.

Also, consuming up to 400 milligrams of coffee daily (or approximately five cups) does not raise any immediate health concerns.

Eating spicy food linked with longer life in Chinese study

Spice up your diet? It may be the key to longevity.

Spice up your diet? It may be the key to longevity.  (iStock)

Firing up the flavors in your food may help you live longer: Eating spicy foods frequently may be tied to a slightly lower risk of an earlier death, according to a new study. However, more research is needed to confirm the link, experts say.

In the study, researchers asked nearly 500,000 people in China how often they ate hot, spicy foods. The participants were ages 30 to 79 when the study started, and the researchers followed up with them for about seven years, during which time about 20,000 of the people died.

The researchers found that the people in the study who ate spicy foods one or two days a week were 10 percent less likely to die during the study, compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, according to the study published today (Aug. 4) in the journal The BMJ.

Moreover, the people in the study who ate spicy foods three or more days a week were 14 percent less likely to die during the study, compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week. [Extending Life: 7 Ways to Live Past 100]

However, the study was observational, and so it is too early to tell whether there is a causal relationship between eating spicy food and lower mortality, said study author Lu Qi, an associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. “We definitely need more data from other populations,” Qi told Live Science.

The researchers don’t know why exactly the consumption of spicy food may be linked to lower mortality, but previous research on cells and animals has suggested several possible mechanisms, Qi said. For example, the consumption of spicy foods has been shown to lower inflammation, improve the breakdown of fat in the body and change the composition of gut bacteria, he said.

In the study, the researchers also asked the participants to specify the main sources of spices they typically used, allowing them to choose between fresh chili pepper, dried chili pepper, chili sauce and chili oil. Fresh and dried chili peppers were the most frequently used types of spices among the people who ate spicy food at least once a week, the researchers said.

However, “itis unclear whether the observed associations are the direct result of chili intake, or whether chili is simply a marker for other beneficial but unmeasured dietary components,” said Nita Forouhi, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study, in a editorial published with the study in the journal.

At this point, researchers don’t know for sure whether eating spicy foods can have a beneficial effect on human health and mortality, Forouhi wrote. “Future research is needed to establish whether spicy food consumption has the potential to improve health and reduce mortality directly, or if it is merely a marker of other dietary and lifestyle factors,” she said.

%d bloggers like this: