Add your spinach to a smoothie to maximize nutrients: Study & nbsp | & nbspPhoto Credit: & nbspAFP
New European research has shown that eating spinach in the form of smoothie or juice is the best way to get the antioxidant lutein, especially when healthy fats are added to aid absorption ,
Conducted by researchers from Linköping University, Sweden, the new study looked at various ways to prepare spinach to maximize the amount of lutein available after cooking.
Lutein is a natural fat-soluble pigment found in plants. Dark green vegetables contain particularly high amounts. However, like many other nutrients, lutein levels decrease due to cooking.
The researchers opted for spinach because it contains relatively high levels of lutein and is one of the most popular dark green vegetables. To reproduce how it is prepared at home, the team bought baby spinach in a supermarket and fried, steamed or cooked it for up to 90 minutes, measuring the lutein content at different times.
The results published in the journal Food Chemistry showed that heating times and cooking methods are important for the retention of lutein.
The more spinach is cooked, the less lutein remains, and when spinach is roasted at high temperature, lutein is lost after just two steps.
"The unique thing about this study is that we used cooking methods that are commonly used in cooking food at home, and we compared several temperatures and heating times, and we studied cooking methods that use the spinach eaten cold, as in salads and smoothies, "said study author Lena Jonasson.
The team also investigated the effects of microwave warming of spinach as part of a packed lunch, a common practice. They found that microwave heating seemed to partially compensate for the previous cooking method, with more lutein released from the spinach and made available to the body, as the plant structure is further degraded by the microwave. However, the researchers concluded that this was the best way to eat uncooked spinach.
"It's best not to heat the spinach at all, and even better is to make a smoothie and add fat from dairy products like cream, milk, or yogurt, and when the spinach is cut into small pieces, you'll get more lutein Released from the leaves, and the fat increases the solubility of lutein in the fluid, "said Rosanna Chung, lead author of the study.
In a previous study, the team found that lutein can reduce the inflammation in immune cells of patients with coronary artery disease. Low grade chronic inflammation is associated with an increased risk of heart attack.
They also showed that lutein can be stored in immune cells, so that a lutein reserve can be built up in your body.