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Amazing Benefits Of Spinach (+5 Refreshing Recipes)

Amazing Benefits Of Spinach (+5 Refreshing Recipes)

Spinach had a long way to go before it got into Pop-Eye’s can… It was cultivated as far back as ancient Persia and by the 12th century, mothers all over Europe were telling their children to “eat your spinach”!  Spinach is in the goosefoot family, making it a relative of other healthy edibles like beets, chard and quinoa. And it’s not only delicious, it is incredibly good for you.  Read on to find out more about the benefits of spinach.

Spinach Treats Anemia

Spinach is an incredibly iron-rich food, one serving clocking in at 21% of the recommended daily allowance.  It is actually one of the best plant-based source of this mineral that you can eat. This makes it a great choice for those who suffer from iron-deficiency anemia.

Without enough iron in the body, it is impossible to make enough red blood cells which take oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body. People who have this condition can suffer from severe fatigue even when they are getting adequate rest.  An diet which includes spinach can help to bring back iron up to healthy levels.

Spinach Makes Your Bones Stronger

Calcium, like iron, is an important mineral. The body needs it to keep bones and teeth healthy and strong. If you are a woman, you have probably been told that eating/drinking a lot of dairy products is important for you so that you get enough calcium to keep your bones from becoming weak and brittle, a condition called osteoporosis.

However, dairy is not the only way to do this! Spinach gives you of 99 mg of calcium in the single serving (which is 10% of the recommended daily allowance), but with less fat and fewer calories than dairy products!

Spinach Has Anti-Cancer Properties

One of the best benefits of spinach is its anti-cancer properties.  It is rich in a group of plant compounds called carotenoids which in many studies have found to have a positive effect on cancer cells, even with aggressive forms of prostate cancer.  It is also a rich source of chlorophyll, another compound which studies have shown to lower cancer risk.

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Spinach Promotes Eye Health, Too

The antioxidants in spinach don’t just help to reduce your chances of getting cancer. They can also help you see better!  Spinach contains generous amount of another antioxidant compound called lutein.  Lutein has been shown to help promote good vision and to slow or prevent macular degeneration, a serious eye disease that can lead to blindness.

Spinach Helps Stop Bleeding

Vitamin K does many things in the body, but perhaps the most important is that it helps the blood to clot. Since blood clotting is one of the main ways that the body stops itself from bleeding uncontrollably if you get a cut.

However, if you are taking a blood thinner like Coumadin, you should talk to your doctor to find out how much spinach you should be eating: too much can reverse the affects of this medication. A single serving of spinach will give you 483 micrograms of vitamin K — 460% of the recommended daily allowance.

Spinach Helps with Cholesterol and Weight Loss

Spinach is not only rich in vitamins and minerals but is a great source of fiber, too.  Fiber is incredibly important for human health and affects many systems. To begin with, clinical studies have found that a diet rich in fiber can help lower cholesterol levels (to reduce the risk of a heart attack).

It has a great effect on the digestive system, too: it is linked with a decreased risk of constipation and is also helpful for those trying to lose weight as it can help to suppress the appetite and reduce hunger pains while dieting. Each serving of spinach will give you 2.2 grams of fiber.

Spinach Helps to Ward off Asthma

Spinach is also incredibly rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant also found in carrots.  Studies have shown that those who have high levels of beta-carotene in their system are least likely to develop asthma, a chronic breathing disorder which can lead to emergency room visits and seriously impact your quality of life.  Eat lots of spinach, though, and you will literally breathe easy.

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Spinach is an Extremely Versatile Food

Apart from the health benefits listed above, spinach is attractive for another reason: it is very versatile to cook with, as you will see in the five delicious, easy-to-make recipes below:

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

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      This is not only a delicious dish with sweet strawberries and crunchy almonds, but the vitamin C in the strawberries makes it easier for your body to absorb the iron in the spinach! It makes a great first course for an elegant meal.

      Curried Spinach Soup

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        Come in from the cold and warm up with a bowl of this delicious soup, which brings together spinach with a ton of healthy spices like turmeric! You can serve this up with warm bread rolls for dipping!

        Spinach Quiche

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            For brunch, lunch or even a light dinner, this quiche is packed with protein and pairs well with a fresh fruit salad.

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            Best Spinach Dip Ever

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              Whether it’s a Super Bowl party or just friends over for dinner, this chunky, tangy dip is sure to be a hit.  It goes great with crackers or tortilla chips.

              Chicken and Spinach Ravioli

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                  This elegant dish takes a bit more time to make, but it is great for a special dinner or for when company is coming over and is great served with garlic bread and a fresh green salad.

                  Featured photo credit: vkuslandia via shutterstock.com

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                  Brian Wu

                  Health Writer, Author

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                  Last Updated on November 15, 2019

                  Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

                  Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

                  Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

                  How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

                  Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

                  The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

                  Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

                  Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

                  When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

                  Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

                  Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

                  The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

                  Shocked? Well, I was too.

                  The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

                  When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

                  On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

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                  Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

                  Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

                  Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

                  Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

                  Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

                  It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

                  Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

                  As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

                  In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

                  A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

                  Your metabolism is like your bank account.

                  To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

                  Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

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                  What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

                  That’s exactly how your body reasons:

                  More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

                  Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

                  Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

                  For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

                  Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

                  Foods That Increase Metabolism

                  Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

                  Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

                  Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

                  • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
                    When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
                  • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
                  • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
                  • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

                  Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

                  To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

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                  1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
                  2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
                  3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

                  Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

                  Sugars and Carbs

                  Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

                  Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

                  Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

                  Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
                  • Dried fruit
                  • Commercial and packaged corn
                  • High fructose corn syrup
                  • All sorts of candies and lookalike
                  • Packaged fruit juices and purees
                  • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
                  Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
                  • Bread and flour-based products
                  • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
                  • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
                  • Potatoes and potato starch products
                  • Oatmeals and other grains
                  Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
                  • All berries except strawberries
                  • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
                  • Sweet potatoes
                  • White rice
                  • All green vegetables

                  Fats

                  Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

                  Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
                  • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
                  • Lard
                  • Gmo oils
                  • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
                  Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
                  • Nuts
                  • Meat fat
                  • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
                  • Seeds
                  Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
                  • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
                  • Avocado
                  • Coconut oil
                  • Butter (organic)
                  • Egg yolks (free-range)
                  • Bone marrow

                  The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

                  Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

                  Proteins

                  Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

                  Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

                  Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

                  Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

                  For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

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                  Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
                  • Cheap whey proteins
                  • Soy proteins
                  • GMO meat
                  • GMO eggs
                  • Packaged meat
                  Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
                  • Canned tuna
                  • Canned fish
                  • Canned meat
                  • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
                  • Farmed fish
                  Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
                  • Free-range meat
                  • Free-range eggs
                  • Wild meat and fish
                  • Whey protein isolate
                  • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

                  Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

                  Other Foods and Supplements

                  Cold water

                  Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

                  This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

                  MCT Oils or Powders

                  Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

                  You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

                  Caffeine

                  Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

                  Green Tea

                  Green tea

                  is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

                  Bottom Line

                  In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

                  For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

                  Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

                  And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

                  Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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