When many people think of spinach, they immediately visualize the canned, mushy, sometimes unpleasantly flavored vegetable that Popeye slurped down. The reality is that spinach is a versatile lettuce that's a true nutritional powerhouse. Part of spinach's nutritional power comes from fiber. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and can help protect against long-term diseases.
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Fiber has been shown to be an important part of a healthy diet, reports the Harvard School of Public Health. Average fiber intakes for U.S. children and adults are less than half of the recommended levels. Fiber appears to reduce overall risk of heart disease and diabetes and works to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels. In addition, fiber reduces constipation and aids in bowel regularity. Diverticular disease, or inflammation of the intestine, is one of the most common age-related disorders in the United States, occurring in one-third of all those over age 45. In a long-term study among male health professionals, eating fiber reduced the risk of diverticular disease by 40 percent.
Fiber in Spinach
Spinach offers a plethora of nutritional benefits, including a good amount of fiber. One cup of cooked spinach contains 4 grams of fiber. While that may not sound like much, the nutritional density of spinach is displayed when you consider that 1 cup of spinach contains only 41 calories. In comparison, a 1 cup serving of corn also contains 4 grams of fiber, but also packs a hefty 177 calories.
Daily Fiber Needs
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women get 25 grams of fiber per day and men aim for 38 grams per day. After age 50, this recommendation drops to 21 grams per day for women and 30 grams per day for men. One cup of cooked spinach meets almost 10 percent of a 35-year-old man's daily fiber needs and 16 percent of a 35-year-old woman's needs.
Think Outside the Bunch
When thinking of ways to incorporate spinach in your diet and increase fiber intake, don't always think of the mushy stuff Popeye was so fond of. Spinach makes a surprisingly nice addition to a smoothie. It can also be used in an omelet or in a salad with cranberries and walnuts. If you like sauteed spinach, saute it in olive oil and season it lightly with salt, pepper and garlic for a delicious side dish.