New Reasons To Eat Your Spinach
Before Sesame St., there was Popeye the Sailor Man, and as everyone knows, he got his strength by swallowing spinach by the canful. Moms and Dads everywhere used to point out his example to their kids to get them to eat their veggies.
It’s a new day and a new time, and out of a can isn’t the first way most of us would think to eat our spinach. That doesn’t mean it’s not still important. In fact, as the field of nutritional science develops, and we learn more each day about the best way to eat to maintain vibrantly good health and avoid the chronic diseases of aging, we learn that spinach still ranks right up there at the top of the list of foods to include in our diet.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman provides some simple visuals for a diet focused on Nutrient Density, a simple equation which offers the best nutrition in the least calories. It calls for 90% plant-foods, and greens are right at the top of the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) Food Scores. The Food Pyramid provides another visual.
Turns out this kind of diet addresses a host of health problems, including the results of eating too many acidic foods, linked to pain and excess weight as well as bone health, muscle wasting, chronic diseases like hypertension and stroke, cardiovascular health and memory and cognition issues. Too much uric acid in your system also links to some kinds of kidney stones and gout.
When you consume acidic foods like sugar, meat, food additives, transfats and fried foods in small amounts, your kidneys process them, excrete excess acid and maintain your body pH at just about 7.4 where it belongs, very slightly alkaline. Unfortunately in today’s world, we’re surrounded with and eat highly processed food and beverage items loaded with added sugars (under at least 57 different names) and other food additives.
To make matters worse, we eat too much meat, too much protein in general, and too many fried foods. Dr. Fuhrman’s Food Pyramid suggests that non-plant foods (good fats, meat, dairy and whole grains) should be just 10% of your diet. Health experts recommend protein content in our diet of 12-20%, but most Americans are getting a lot more, almost 50 per cent more than the recommend daily amount and not nearly enough vegetables and fruits.
Yet an acidic condition depletes oxygen in our bodies, which every cell needs to function properly. It damages mitochondria, the cells’ energy centers, interfering with vital functions. It can damage tissues, joints, organs and glands, resulting in various kinds of imbalances or dysfunction. If your body stores acid in tissues and joints, that damages them over time. If it depletes minerals like calcium from your bones and magnesium from muscles, it weakens both.
Some of the recommendations to prevent or control these conditions might end up feeling somewhat medicinal, like drinking lemon or apple cider vinegar water daily or eating seaweed products. Of course, if you like those things, have at it – but there are also some delicious solutions out there that you can build into your daily diet.
Start by familiarizing yourself with Dr. Fuhrman’s diet suggestions and visuals. A Nutrient Dense Diet with its 90% plant food recommendation and greens at the top of the list provides you with a great platform.
Another good resource is the PRAL (Potential Renal Acid Load) Index from Dr. Thomas Remer. Dr. Remer devised a method to calculate the impact on our bodies of the acidic content in food, much like the Glycemic Index shows the impact of sugars in food. The results of Dr. Remer’s study displayed in the Index reinforce the dietary recommendations of the Nutritarian Diet (80% alkalizing foods from Dr. Remer’s results and 90% plant foods in the Nutritarian Diet).
If gout or certain kinds of kidney stones are an issue for you, talk with a naturopath about how to integrate greens into your diet without triggering other problems – otherwise, consider almost all veggies and most fruits alkaline inducing.