Eat spinach because it is rich in… lutein. Yes, these vegetables are in fact a precious source of lutein, which is an essential antioxidant for the health of the heart, eyes and the entire body. But how to consume spinach in order to preserve their lutein content? This question is answered by a scientific research published recently in the Food Chemistry journal thanks to the work of a Swedish team (Chung et al, Food Chem, 2019).
Not only iron, spinach also provides the precious lutein
From an early age we were told that it was important to eat spinach as it is rich in iron. And this is certainly true. Unfortunately, however, of all the iron contained in spinach, our body can only absorb from 1 to 7%. So what? Is spinach no longer as healthy as previously thought? Not at all, spinach is to be held in the highest consideration, as well as for the fibers, vitamins and mineral salts that these vegetables bring, also for its content in a very important antioxidant, lutein. Lutein is a carotenoid with an anti-inflammatory action, capable of reducing the levels of chronic inflammation, with benefits for mood, body weight and the immune system, protecting the heart, even in case of arteriosclerosis, and sight, preventing diseases such as cataracts and maculopathy. What is known about lutein is that it is fat soluble and, very importantly, it can be stored in the body for use when needed. But how is it possible to increase the intake of lutein with the diet? Since spinach contains high amounts of lutein, what is the best way to present it on the table? The research we are talking about today has answered these questions.
The best way to serve spinach is… a smoothie
Just to evaluate the amount of lutein that people actually consume, the researchers decided to test the spinach preparation methods commonly used in everyday life. Therefore, the scientists bought packages of baby spinach at the supermarket for their experiments. Then, they made several spinach-based preparations. What emerged is that in general it is good to avoid cooking as lutein is degraded by heat. In case of boiling, for example, the longer the boiling time of the spinach, the greater the amount of lutein lost. When spinach is fried in a pan, it only takes two minutes to lose most of its lutein. The best way to serve spinach and fill up on lutein is, as the study found, a smoothie. In fact, in the smoothie the spinach is raw, and therefore the heat has no way of damaging the lutein. Not only that, when preparing a smoothie the spinach, as well as the other ingredients, are finely chopped and this allows greater quantities of lutein to be released from the leaves. Then, even better if you add yogurt or a source of fat to the smoothie as fat increases the solubility of lutein and makes it more assimilable.