Categories
Herbs & Plants

Spinach

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Botanical Name : Spinacia oleracea
Family:
Amaranthaceae,(formerly Chenopodiaceae)
Genus: Spinacia
Species:
S. oleracea
Kingdom:
Plantae
Order:
Caryophyllales

Common Name :Spinach

Habitat: The Spinach is native to central and southwestern Asia, probably of Persian origin, being introduced into Europe about the fifteenth century.

Description:
Spinach is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2–30 cm long and 1–15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3–4 mm diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5–10 mm across containing several seeds.

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Common spinach, Spinacia oleracea, was long considered to be in the Chenopodiaceae family, but in 2003, the Chenopodiaceae family was combined with the Amaranthaceae family under the family name ‘Amaranthaceae’ in the order Caryophyllales. Within the Amaranthaceae family, Amaranthoideae and Chenopodioideae are now subfamilies, for the amaranths and the chenopods, respectively.

Types of spinach;
A distinction can be made between older varieties of spinach and more modern ones. Older varieties tend to bolt too early in warm conditions. Newer varieties tend to grow more rapidly, but have less of an inclination to run up to seed. The older varieties have narrower leaves and tend to have a stronger and more bitter taste. Most newer varieties have broader leaves and round seeds.

There are  three basic types of spinach and they  are:

1.Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets in the United States. One heirloom variety of savoy is Bloomsdale, which is somewhat resistant to bolting. Other common heirloom varieties are Merlo Nero (a mild variety from Italy) and Viroflay (a very large spinach with great yields).

2.Flat- or smooth-leaf spinach has broad, smooth leaves that are easier to clean than Savoy. This type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach, as well as soups, baby foods, and processed foods. Giant Noble is an example variety.

3.Semi-savoy is a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It has the same texture as Savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean. It is grown for both fresh market and processing. Tyee Hybrid is a common semi-savoy.

Cultivation:
Plants grow best and produce their heaviest crop of leaves on a nitrogen-rich soil. They dislike very heavy or very light soils. They also dislike acid soils, preferring a neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Plants require plenty of moisture in the growing season, dry summers causing the plants to quickly run to seed. Summer crops do best in light shade to encourage more leaf production before the plant goes to seed, winter crops require a warm dry sunny position. Young plants are hardy to about -9°c. Spinach is often cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties. These varieties can be grouped into two main types as detailed below:- Forms with prickly seeds. These are the more primitive forms. Their leaves are more lobed and they are in general more cold tolerant and also more resistant of summer heat. They were more often used to produce a crop in the winter. Forms with round seeds have been developed in cultivation, These have broader leaves, tend to be less cold hardy and were also more prone to bolt in hot weather. They were used mainly for the summer crop. Most new cultivars are of the round seeded variety and these have been developed to be more resistant to bolting in hot weather, more cold tolerant, to produce more leaves and also to be lower in calcium oxalate which causes bitterness and also has negative nutritional effects upon the body. Some modern varieties have been developed that are low in oxalic acid. Edible leaves can be obtained all year round from successional sowings. The summer varieties tend to run to seed fairly quickly, especially in hot dry summers and so you need to make successional sowings every few weeks if a constant supply is required. Winter varieties provide leaves for a longer period, though they soon run to seed when the weather warms up. Spinach grows well with strawberries. It also grows well with cabbages, onions, peas and celery. A fast-growing plant, the summer crop can be interplanted between rows of slower growing plants such as Brussels sprouts. The spinach would have been harvested before the other crop needs the extra space. Spinach is a bad companion for grapes and hyssop.

Propagation :
Seed to be sown from March to June for a summer crop. Make successional sowings, perhaps once a month, to ensure a continuity of supply. The seed germinates within about 2 weeks and the first leaves can be harvested about 6 weeks later. Seed is sown during August and September for a winter crop

Edible Uses:
It is eaten as very delicius green leafy vegetables.Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach.

Polyglutamyl folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid) is a vital constituent of cells, and spinach is a good source of folic acid. Boiling spinach can more than halve the level of folate left in the spinach, but microwaving does not affect folate content. Vitamin B9 was first isolated from spinach in 1941.

Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables, is considered to be rich in iron. It also has a high calcium content. However, the oxalate content in spinach also binds with calcium, decreasing its absorption. Calcium and zinc also limit iron absorption. The calcium in spinach is the least bioavailable of calcium sources. By way of comparison, the human body can absorb about half of the calcium present in broccoli, yet only around 5% of the calcium in spinach

Medicinal Uses:
Appetizer;  Carminative;  Febrifuge;  Hypoglycaemic;  Laxative.

The plant is carminative and laxative. In experiments it has been shown to have hypoglycaemic properties. It has been used in the treatment of urinary calculi. The leaves have been used in the treatment of febrile conditions, inflammation of the lungs and the bowels. The seeds are laxative and cooling. They have been used in the treatment of difficult breathing, inflammation of the liver and jaundice.

Known Hazards:  The leaves of most varieties of spinach are high in oxalic acid. Although not toxic, this substance does lock up certain minerals in a meal, especially calcium, making them unavailable to the body. Therefore mineral deficiencies can result from eating too much of any leaf that contains oxalic acid. However, the mineral content of spinach leaves is quite high so the disbenifits are to a large extent outweighed by the benefits. There are also special low-oxalic varieties of spinach that have been developed. Cooking the leaves will also reduce the content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition. Possible methaemoglobinaemia from nitrates in children under 4 months. Anticoagulant patients should avoid excessive intake due to vitamin K content.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/spinac80.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinacia_oleracea
http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Spinacia+oleracea

 

Categories
News on Health & Science

Vitamin B Found to Halve brain Shrinkage in Old Age

 

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High doses of vitamine B can halve the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people with memory problems. It may slow their progression toward dementia.

A two-year clinical trial was the largest to date into the effect of B vitamins on “mild cognitive impairment,” a condition which is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Reuters reports:
“[Researchers] conducted a two-year trial with 168 volunteers with MCI who were given either a vitamin pill containing very high doses of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, or a placebo dummy pill

[O]n average the brains of those taking the vitamin treatment shrank at a rate of 0.76 percent a year, while those taking the dummy pill had an average brain shrinkage of 1.08 percent.”

Resources:

Reuters September 8, 2010
Los Angeles Times September 9, 2010

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Categories
Health Alert

Don’t Ever Drink This During Pregnancy

Fluoride avoidance reduced anemia in pregnant women, and decreased preterm births, according to a new study.

Anemia in pregnancy can lead to maternal and infant mortality; it continues to be a problem despite nutritional counseling and maternal iron and folic acid supplementation.

Medical News Today reports:
“Anemic pregnant women living in India, whose urine contained 1 mg/L fluoride or more, were separated into two groups. The experimental group avoided fluoride in water, food and other sources …

Results reveal that anemia was reduced and pre-term and low-birth-weight babies were considerably fewer in the fluoride-avoidance group.”

Click to see:Chlorine may cause birth defect

Resources:
Medical News Today September 3, 2010
Current Science May 25, 2010, Vol. 98, No. 10

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Categories
Healthy Tips

Eggs Could Cut Heart Defects

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Various studies have revealed that choline, which is present in eggs in abundance, is associated with decreased rate of heart defects during prenatal development.
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Researchers examined the offspring of mice that consumed a choline-deficient diet during pregnancy compared to the offspring of mice that consumed a diet containing the recommended amount of choline.

They observed that heart defects were more prevalent among the offspring of mice consuming a choline-deficient diet.

The study also found that low choline intake was associated with increased levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that, when elevated, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and declined cognitive function.

“Choline is a complex nutrient that is intricately involved in fetal development, and this research reveals another piece of the puzzle,” said Marie Caudill, of Cornell University.

“Women with diets low in choline have two times greater risk of having babies with neural tube defects so it’s essential that nutrition education during pregnancy and breastfeeding highlight the importance of dietary sources of choline,” she added.

Apart from decreasing risk of prenatal development, choline plays an important role throughout lifespan too.

Another study found that higher intakes of choline and betaine were associated with lower blood homocysteine concentrations, especially in subjects with low blood levels of folate and vitamin B12.4 Choline, like folate, is involved in breaking down homocysteine in the blood.

Elevated homocysteine concentrations have been associated with increased risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and cognitive decline.

Researchers also studied the impact of choline intake on DNA damage in 60 Mexican-American men.

They found that individuals with greater intakes of choline, even exceeding current dietary recommendations, exhibited the least amount of DNA damage.

Source: The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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News on Health & Science

This Fat Can Actually Protect Against Hearing Loss

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Increased intakes of omega-3 fats may reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss, says a new study.

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High omega-3 intake was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) in people over the age of fifty.Hearing loss is the most common sensory disorder in the U.S.

NutraIngredients reports:
“Other micronutrients have been linked to reducing the risk of age-related hearing loss. In 2007 scientists from Wageningen University reported that folic acid supplements delayed age-related hearing loss in the low frequency region …

Another study … indicated a role for beta carotene and vitamins C and E, and the mineral magnesium in preventing prevent both temporary and permanent hearing loss in guinea pigs and mice.”

Source: NutraIngredients June 11, 2010

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