Want to boost your athletic performance? Time to eat more spinach. Yep, you read that right: spinach. Popeye was onto something! Here's why plant-based athletes are loading up on this superfood.
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Ecdysterone, a steroid-like chemical found naturally in spinach, can increase muscle growth and speed up recovery (1). Ecdysterone is so performance-enhancing it was actually under consideration to be banned from use in competitive sports.
So just how powerful are the performance enhancing effects of spinach? In one study, test subjects were given one quarter of a bunch of spinach once a day for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, they were asked to run a half marathon. The spinach consumption had “alleviating effects on known manners of oxidative stress and muscle damage” especially during and after high-stress exercise. The study found that participants experienced less muscle damage and quicker recovery due in part by the spinach’s anti-inflammatory properties (2). This means you can get back to training faster, and harder than ever.
There you have it, load up on spinach before your next workout and see noticeable results!
Even if you’re not a plant-based athlete, you would do well to add more spinach to your plate. Talk about a superfood!
1. Spinach boosts your immune system
Want to give your immune system a boost? Eat plenty of foods naturally packed with Vitamin C. Not only does this super vitamin help protect your body against infection, but it helps repair body tissue, form collagen, and maintain strong and healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, which – SURPRISE – leafy greens are packed with as well!
2. Spinach is a heart healthy superfood
Not only do these magical greens help prevent blood clots and heart attacks, but the fiber content can regulate triglyceride and cholesterol levels. The iron (assisted by vitamin C) helps to transport oxygen around your body through your bloodstream. The power tri: Potassium, calcium, and magnesium work together to lower blood pressure.
3. Spinach promotes weight loss and healthy digestion
Fiber, the wonder carb, aids digestion and helps stabilize blood glucose levels in the body — preventing sugar spikes and crashes, and the production of fat deposits near the gut.
4. Spinach is good for your memory and brain
According to this 5-year study published in Neurology, eating your leafy greens is key to staying sharp as you age (3). Seniors who eat at least one serving of leafy greens a day showed to have much slower cognitive decline than those (with similar lifestyles) who never or rarely eat their greens. They tested better in both memory and thinking skills.
Just how much “sharper” are these salad eaters? They were cognitively 11 years younger than the folks not eating leafy greens.
This is hardly the first study to link boosted brain health and leafy greens. A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found when aging women ate eight servings of leafy greens and five of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), they were able to outperform their non-veggie eating peers on memory tests (4).
What’s so special about spinach and other leafy greens when it comes to brain health? This is still being researched, but experts surmise it’s a combination of all the essential nutrients found in them. Leafy greens are packed with vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K1, lutein, and beta-carotene — all of which have been linked to boosted brain health and delayed memory decline.
5. Spinach can help you detoxify
Chlorophyll, the reason greens are so green, has a powerful neutralizing effect on toxins like aflatoxins that are highly carcinogenic. It is also high in fiber to promote good gut bacteria growth.
6. Spinach is great for your eyes and skin health
Beta carotene not only neutralizes harmful free radicals, but it benefits your eye health and skin health as well!
Not a big greens person? The good thing about spinach is it's relatively mild so it can easily be hid into almost any dish. And it's definitely worth the effort. Here's how you can reap the benefits of spinach, even if you're not into salads.
1. Add raw spinach to your smoothies
Although the chlorophyll may turn your smoothie green, adding 1 loosely packed cup of raw spinach per serving will not result in a flavor change. Try this easy and delicious vegan green smoothie recipe.
2. Add blended spinach to your soup
Blend 1 cup of spinach with 1 cup of water (per 6 servings of soup) until smooth. Stir the mixture into your soup when you add the rest of the liquid.
3. Chop spinach finely and hide it to almost anything
Add it to pizza sauce, pasta sauce, casseroles, stir-fry, lasagna, veggie burgers, and stuffing before cooking or baking.
4. MamaSezz will hide it for you!
Eating healthy doesn't have to be boring! Get hearty and delicious plant-based meals that fill up, delivered right to your door! Some of our favorite spinach-loaded dishes include:
Want to increase your athlete performance with spinach? Get the MamaSezz Peak Performance Bundle.
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- A steroid-like chemical called ecydysterone makes spinach a plant-based athlete superfood as it increases athletic abilities and decreases recovery times.
Spinach is not only an athletic booster, but it’s incredible for your heart, brain, gut, kidneys, eyes, and skin.
Spinach is the MVP of leafy greens for those who don't love greens: it’s versatile and easy to sneak into almost any meal.
- Get spinach-loaded plant-based meals for athletes delivered to your door, ready to heat and eat. Check out the MamaSezz Peak Performance Bundle now.
By Caroline DiNicola Fawley
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.