Living in the city, I know that there’s bad air without having to breathe it in. But when the American Lung Association officially stamps it as one of the Top 10 most polluted US cities – okay, just by ozone – I have to make sure that I’m doing my best to treat these lungs nicely for putting up with me – without going to those Japanese oxygen-therapy places.

Since the last post recognized the connection between eating watercress and developing stronger, healthier lungs, I have to follow it up with the spinach – no, not exactly Popeye’s spinach. Spinach is so easily accessible here, it really shouldn’t come from a can.

Ever been on the receiving end of, “Eat your spinach?” It’s not only because they’re deliciously green and look so healthy. In fact, spinach is full of healthy benefits, including cleaning the lungs. Although watercress has been proven – in my family – to clear my congested lungs and cure my brother’s near asthmatic symptoms (including wheezing), my mom also liked to toss in a dose of spinach into our meals once a week. When my dad had a bit of the coughing fits – coughing day and night to clear up on-the-job pollutants – my mom steamed and boiled a batch of spinach for him to eat. After two to three days of eating spinach, he stopped coughing. I asked my mom, “Why didn’t you try watercress?” Her reply was, “Watercress takes longer; spinach is a faster relief for polluted lungs.” Well, that’s all the experimenting we have done.

How to cook spinach: Spinach is a dirty vegetable. Yes, it grows close to the ground, and often comes with plenty of soil and, sometimes, bugs. After thoroughly washing it and soaking it in fresh water as many times as one is obsessive, it is still best to cook it thoroughly, in my opinion. Since this is laughably not a cooking site, I’ll explain how to cook spinach in noodle soup. When your noodles and/or contents are almost done cooking, toss in the fresh and cleaned spinach. Boil a good full minute or two. Add your choice of various oils and/or spices, and it’s good to eat. Ah, here’s an advantage for cooked over uncooked spinach: Cooked spinach ensures that you eat plenty of it.

Where to find it: You can find spinach in your local grocery store and in Chinatown vegetable stands. Again, don’t look for them in cans. Like watercress, they are also found in batches. My local Korean fruit and vegetable stand recently acquired the savoy variety of spinach, with a bit of curls. Tastes the same.

What else:  We generally enjoy our spinach steamed, boiled, sautéed, or in noodle or plain soup. Cooking spinach loses the iron and other soluble elements, but spinach is chock full of other nutrients, including vitamins K, A, C, B2, B6, B1, E, B3; and the following: manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, tryptophan, dietary fiber, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, and selenium.

Who’s done the research:

  • Spinach leaves, containing several active components, including flavonoids, exhibit antioxidative, antiproliferative, and antiinflammatory properties in biological systems. Spinach extracts have been demonstrated to exert numerous beneficial effects, such as chemo- and central nervous system protection and anticancer and antiaging functions. A powerful, water-soluble, natural antioxidant mixture (NAO), which specifically inhibits the lipoxygenase enzyme, was isolated from spinach leaves. NAO has been found to be nonmutagenic and has shown promising anticarcinogenic effects in a few experimental models, such as skin and prostate cancer; it has not shown any target-organ toxicity or side effects. The current review provides epidemiological and preclinical data supporting the efficacy of extracts of spinach and the safety of its consumption. – Lomnitski L, et al. Composition, efficacy, and safety of spinach extracts. Nutr Cancer 46(2):222-31, 2003
  • The major dietary sources of lutein in subjects with colon cancer and in control subjects were spinach, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, oranges and orange juice, carrots, celery, and greens. These data suggest that incorporating these foods into the diet may help reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. – Slattery ML, et al. Carotenoids and colon cancer. Am J Clin Nutr 71:575-82, 2000
  • High intake of cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli and cauliflower, may be associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer, particularly extraprostatic disease. – Kirsh VA, et al. Prospective study of fruit and vegetable intake and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 99(15):1200-9, Aug 1, 2007

This entry was published on May 10, 2008 at 9:31 am. It’s filed under lungs and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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