Spinach has a long history of having major health benefits. Where would Popeye be without his spinach? Although, we now know that spinach wouldn’t actually give you enormous arms like Popeye led us to believe.
But, that doesn’t mean spinach doesn’t have a place in the health community. Over the years, research has shown that dark leafy greens like spinach have a positive impact on other aspects of our health. Most notably: our eyes.
Spinach is the number one food when it comes to eye health care. You may think carrots would be, but research tells us that spinach can help prevent the worst of the age-related eye diseases.
Our ingredient of the month, if you haven’t guessed it, is spinach! Learn how you can incorporate it into your favorite winter comfort food and how it can keep your eyes healthy all year long!
Spinach Eye Benefits
Spinach contains a high amount of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are two types of antioxidants. These antioxidants help to fight free radicals in the body. When free radicals begin to form, they attack the cells in the body. Cells can become severely damaged or even die from the free radicals.
By eating spinach, your body can use the antioxidants to keep molecules stable and cells, healthy. Healthy cells are the key to preventing future eye diseases. This is especially true for age-related eye diseases. Weak cells put you at a higher risk of developing the diseases.
The eye diseases it helps to protect against the most are the trifecta of age-related eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and glaucoma.
AMD is a disease that affects the macula of the eye, which is located in the center of the retina. When the macula begins to deteriorate, it affects your central vision. Unfortunately, AMD is not preventable, but its progress can be slowed down with the proper care.
Cataracts are caused by a protein buildup on the lens. It clouds your vision and, again, affects the central vision. It is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60.
Glaucoma is the third of the major age-related eye diseases. It is caused by high intraocular pressure. When this occurs, the optic nerve sustains the most damage and can lead to blindness. Once damaged, the optic nerve cannot be healed.
Spinach is also very high in vitamin A (otherwise known as vitamin EYE!). Vitamin A is crucial for good vision. It helps, mainly, to protect the cornea. The cornea is the clear part of the eye. When the cornea becomes damaged, it can severely affect your central vision.
Vitamin A can help to protect against cornea related diseases such as cataracts, which clouds the cornea. However, vitamin A can also make the cornea stronger in the event that it becomes damaged or scratched. Having a healthy cornea will allow the cornea to heal quicker.
How Much is Too Much?
Spinach is definitely one of the best foods for your eyes and your overall health. It’s low in calories, but high in nutrients. That, to a lot of people, means that they can eat spinach endlessly and never have to worry about their health.
Well, too much of a good thing can have some backlash. Consuming too much spinach can lead to kidney stones. In some cases, it may even cause anemia as excessive spinach consumption also causes your body to have trouble with iron absorption.
Spinach is definitely not a food you want to avoid. Ideally, you would eat spinach every day, but limit yourself to about a cup worth of spinach. More than that is when the spinach starts to work against you and you stop reaping the benefits.
Creamy Spinach Casserole
A winter food staple! Casseroles are incredibly easy to throw together and will help you warm up on those blisteringly cold winter evenings. This is our favorite creamy spinach casserole by myrecipes.com:
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Two teaspoons of vegetable oil
- Half an onion (chopped)
- Three garlic cloves (minced)
- 30 ounces of spinach
- One cup of sour cream
- Four ounces of cream cheese
- One cup of milk
- One and a half cups of cheddar cheese (or any melting cheese of your choice)
- ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
- One teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of pepper
- One egg
- ¾ of a cup of Panko bread crumbs
- ¼ of a cup of grated parmesan cheese
- Two tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter
I know, this ingredient list is a doozy, but the steps to making this dish are very simple.
First, you need to sauté the onions for about three minutes or until tender. Then add in the garlic for about two minutes. Remove from heat as soon as the garlic becomes fragrant otherwise you risk burning the garlic. Burnt garlic is very bitter and very unpleasant.
Next, you’ll need a big bowl to combine every listed from spinach to egg. Add in the onions and garlic and mix well. Once mixed, pour it into a baking dish.
The final step is to combine the Panko, parmesan and butter in a small bowl. Gently sprinkle the mixture over the baking dish. Then bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
Chickpea and Spinach Stew
Another easy winter classic is a nice hearty stew. This chickpea and spinach stew recipe by Weight Watchers is high in fiber, protein, vitamin A and much more! It’s a dish that will also be a little easier on the stomach if you’re lactose intolerant.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Two teaspoons of olive oil
- Two small onions
- One teaspoon of table salt, divided
- Two medium garlic cloves (minced)
- Two teaspoons of ground cumin
- One teaspoon of ground ginger
- 15 ounces of canned diced tomatoes, packed in their own juice
- Three, 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 10 ounces of baby spinach
- Two tablespoons of water
- One tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 a cup cilantro
First, sauté the onions, then add everything into the pot! So easy! Stir the stew. You can even mash the chickpeas a little, if you prefer a more mashed chickpea texture. If not, leave them whole.
Cook on medium heat until the spinach is wilted, about 10 minutes. For bigger flavours, let the stew simmer for a few hours on the stove or a slow cooker.