If you’re still thinking of spinach as an also-ran among veggies, you’re missing the anti-aging boat in a major way. Ounce for ounce, spinach is actually the most nutrient-dense of all vegetables, and the nutrients it delivers become more important as we age. Here are three reasons why over-50s should make a point of getting lots of spinach into their diets.
1. It’s an antioxidant festival. Spinach is packed with Vitamins A, B, C, K, and E, all of which are proven antioxidants capable of preventing, neutralizing, or even repairing the free radical damage. This is hot stuff for over-50s, because free radical damage is associated with just about every age-related illness, disease, and condition.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that are a byproduct of cellular oxidation; in other words, whenever the body’s cells interact with oxygen, odds are that some of the molecules produced won’t have an even number of electrons. These molecules attempt to correct their instability by “borrowing” electrons from the cells with which they interact, and in so doing they damage and weaken the cells they scavenge.
The damaged cells then seek to stabilze themselves by scavenging still more cells, and a chain reaction of damage occurs. This oxidative breakdown is associated with everything from sagging skin and wrinkles to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, as well as age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
This is where antioxidants come in. Certain types of molecules are capable of stopping the oxidation chain reaction before it even starts by “donating” electrons that stabilize – and therefore neutralize – free radicals. Rather than attempting to correct their own instability, antioxidant molecules that have become unstable simply decay into a harmless product.
Antioxidants come in the form of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other chemical compounds and are primarily delivered via diet.
2. It’s rich in lutien, which is crucial for vision and can play a huge role in maintaining vision as we age. Lutien is a nutrient that’s chemically classed as a caretenoid, and it’s mainly deposited in the eyes where it does a number of important jobs, including absorbing potentially damaging UV rays and filtering out the blue light spectrum that can cause damage to parts of the eye.
This is particularly important for people over 65, who are at maximum risk for both cataracts and macular degeneration. Getting enough lutien is absolutely vital to maintaining eye health as we age, but it’s important to know that the body cannot produce it – it must be supplied via diet or supplementation.
3. It’s loaded with phytonutrients, which have been proven to detoxify certain carcinogens and even to cause cancer cells to die. If that’s not enough reason to want to stack your diet with a heaping helping of phytonutrients, how about this: they enhance immune function and hormone metabolism, improve communication between cells, and are capable of repairing DNA damage caused by exposure to toxins. And if that’s not enough, they’re powerful antioxidants.
Like lutien, phytonutrients are compounds that the body needs but cannot manufacture. They must be provided by diet or supplementation.