How many of you all have grown up hearing that spinach is good for health? Us too! Well, it happens to be that it really is and that our parents weren't just capitalising on the cartoon character, Popeye's love for spinach for nothing! Also, it happens that the best way to consume the leafy vegetable is by having it as a juice or as a smoothie. According to research from Linkoping University, Sweden - the findings of which are published in the journal Food Chemistry - this is the best way to obtain the antioxidant lutein.
High levels of this antioxidant are found in dark green leafy veggies like spinach and researchers at the university have compared different ways of preparing fresh spinach in order to maximise the levels of lutein in the finished food. Many people with atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) have low-grade, chronic inflammation that can be measured in the blood. This very inflammation is linked to an increased risk of myocardial infarction. The research group at Linkoping University studied the effects of antioxidant lutein which is a natural fat-soluble pigment found in plants. Researchers found that lutein can dampen inflammation in immune cells from patients with coronary artery disease.
They further proved that lutein can be stored in immune cells, which means it is possible to build up a reserve of lutein within your body. This led the researchers to wonder whether it is possible to influence the level of lutein in the blood by increasing lutein dietary intake. Hence, in the new study conducted, they chose to study spinach, which contains comparatively high levels of lutein and is eaten by many people. Just as many other nutrients, lutein is degraded by heat.
“What is unique about this study is that we have used preparation methods that are often used when cooking food at home, and we have compared several temperatures and heating times. We have also investigated methods of preparation in which the spinach is eaten cold, such as in salads and smoothies”, said Lena Jonasson.
The researchers concluded that how you cook spinach matters greatly. “Best is not to heat the spinach at all. And even better is to make a smoothie and add fat from dairy products, such as cream, milk or yoghurt. When the spinach is chopped into small pieces, more lutein is released from the leaves, and the fat increases the solubility of the lutein in the fluid,” said Rosanna Chung, principal author of the article.