Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nourishing Bytes: Power Greens-Spinach & Arugula

My diet prior to cancer wasn't rich in anything green.  I actually really enjoyed salad.  It's just that I didn't consume salad daily prior to cancer.  Today, I make it a point to consume a generous amount of greens daily. I most frequently consume my greens in the form of a delicious salad.  But, if I don't eat my daily salad, I make sure to hide some greens in a smoothie or by juicing.  The latter, drinking options are excellent, tasty ways to consume greens daily if you have difficulty eating greens.  This post is devoted to the many reasons why I now make sure I consume greens daily and some simple ways you can add a little green to your diet.

Here is the lineup of the all-star, nutrient-rich team of power (leafy) greens:

  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Mustard, Collard and Dandelion Greens
  • Broccoli

I am going to focus today's post on Spinach and Arugula and will do later posts on the remaining greens.


I despised spinach growing up.  The only way I had seen it on a plate was opened up from a can (or in the frozen creamed version).  Do you remember those cans with Popeye on them?  They looked like this:
Well, apparently they are still around.  I don't visit the canned vegetable aisle very often, but after a quick Google search I found that Wal-mart still sells the stuff. I have a memory of being around 9 years of age (my twin brothers were 11 months younger than me), and my brothers were challenged by my maternal grandma and grandpa to eat some spinach from this can.  They were told they would be as strong as Popeye if they ate the spinach.   I vaguely recall some of us trying it and then running swiftly to the restroom to immediately remove it from our mouths. For those few people who don't know who Popeye the Sailor man is, he is the cartoon character who got bulging muscles each time he ate the superfood, spinach.  Anyway, the stuff in the can looked disgusting: it was slimy and green.  Who eats this stuff straight out of a can?  Well, it wasn't until I was much older and had eaten a fresh Spinach salad with a delicious balsamic dressing at a nice restaurant that I realized that spinach is really tasty.  And, Popeye had the right idea.  Researchers recently found that eating just one bowl of spinach a day makes your muscles profoundly more efficient!  But spinach isn't just great for your muscles.  Few sources offer more vitamin K than spinach.  Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting, bone health, preventing calcification; it improves brain function and serves as an antioxidant.   Actually, research shows that it also may decrease inflammation, which is linked to many diseases such as Alzheimer's, arthritis, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.  The list of spinach's health benefits doesn't stop there though. It is rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These help protect against heart disease, some forms of cancer and may guard the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.  Lastly, spinach has high doses of vitamins B6 and c, as well as magnesium and folate.  Spinach is truly one of the most nutrient dense foods in existence.

Did you know that one cup of spinach contains your daily requirements of vitamins K and A and almost all of the manganese and folate your body needs?  It also provides about 40% of your daily magnesium requirement.  It is a great source of over 20 different measurable nutrients: these include fiber, calcium and protein.  That one cup only has 40 calories, so it is excellent for those who are trying to lose weight.

My favorite way to eat spinach is by coupling it with Arugula (also called salad rocket) and making it into a delicious salad.  Arugula is a delicious and nutritious peppery green that belongs in the same family as mustard greens and cauliflower.  From the site,, arugula provides an immense amount of health benefits:

  • As in other greens, arugula is one of very low calorie vegetable. 100 g of fresh leaves provides just 25 calories. Nonetheless, it has many vital phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can immensely benefit health.
  • Salad rocket has an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity, a measure of anti-oxidant strength) of about 1904 µmol TE per 100 grams.
  • Rocket salad is rich source of certain phytochemicals such as indoles, thiocyanates, sulforaphane, andiso­thiocyanates. Together, they have been found to counter carcinogenic effects of estrogen and thus help benefit against prostate, breast, cervical, colon, ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
  • In addition, di-indolyl-methane (DIM), a lipid soluble metabolite of indole has immune modulator, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties ( by potentiating Interferon-Gamma receptors and production). DIM has currently been found application in the treatment of recurring respiratory papillomatosis caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and is in Phase III clinical trials for cervical dysplasia.
  • Fresh rocket is a very good source of folates. 100 g of fresh greens contain 97 µg or 24% of folic acid. When given to the anticipant mothers during their conception time, folate helps prevent neural tube defects in the newborns.
  • Like kale, salad rocket is an excellent source of vitamin A. 100 g fresh leaves contain 1424 µg of beta-carotene, and 2373 IU of vitamin A. Carotenes convert into vitamin A in the body. Studies found that vitamin A and flavonoid compounds in green leafy vegetables help protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • This vegetable also rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid those are essential for optimum cellular enzymatic and metabolic functions.
  • Fresh rocket leaves contain good levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful, natural anti-oxidant. Foods rich in this vitamin help the body protect from scurvy disease; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
  • Salad rocket is one of the excellent vegetable sources for vitamin-K; 100 g provides about 90% of recommended intake. 
  • Arugula leaves contain adequate levels of minerals, especially copper and iron. In addition, it has small amounts of some other essential minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.

I love adding arugula to the top of a piece of Ezekiel bread, along with a cage-free farm fresh or organic egg. It is such a delicious combination! Arugula's flavor is zesty and is one of my favorite toppings on a Mediterranean-style pizza.

My favorite salad is one made of spinach and arugula, topped with berries (strawberries are my favorite), and lightly dressed (with a mixture of balsamic vinegar and oil from home, or my favorite Fuji Apple Panera Dressing, which has just a few, completely natural ingredients).  I add a few dried cranberries and it is ready to eat! Yummy!  These salads are so delicious to me that sometimes when I am hungry for a snack mid-day, I make one.  Why not?

A typical lunch for me....yum yum!  (A strawberry and power green salad, with an organic egg/arugula/hormone-free chicken breast combo atop Ezekiel bread).

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