20th May 2001
Sports| Mirror Magazine
Food and fitness
By Chris FernandoSpinach is one of the most popular greens we use for cooking. It is also used raw as a salad.
How to buy spinach:When buying spinach, look for the fresh, crisp, springy variety with bright leaves and short stems. Avoid those with wilted, torn or yellowed leaves, long stems, seed shoots and excessively dirty leaves. Spinach is available throughout the year.
ConsumptionSpinach cooks in a very short time. Before preparing it, rinse several times in lukewarm water to remove sand, then drain or shake off the water and steam the spinach, using only the water that clings to the leaves. Do not overcook spinach. This will result in a mushy mess.
Cooked and pureed spinach is excellent for soups and pasta.
Since many people dislike the taste and texture of cooked spinach, it can be eaten raw as a salad. It is the most nutritious of salad greens and can replace lettuce as a base for a variety of salads.
Why you should eat spinach:Spinach is exceptionally high in vitamins A and C. It also contains a high concentration of iron, which helps in the formation of red blood cells.
It is also an excellent source of carotene, which can help prevent cancer. Research by oncologists has proved that spinach is one of the most potent of vegetables in helping to prevent cancer.
Spinach also contains a high concentration of carotenoids, including beta carotene, which is the plant form of Vitamin A.
It is also a rich source of lutein, which is a pigment that has an anti-oxidant effect. Several studies indicate that eating spinach and other dark green vegetables regularly can prevent many types of cancer. Research has also shown that a diet rich in carotene reduces the risk of age related muscular degeneration, which is a common cause of blindness in the elderly.
Spinach is also a valuable source of folate, which is essential for blood formation together with iron. Folate is essential for pregnant women to help prevent spina bifida in the foetus.
Use in traditional medicine:In traditional medicine, spinach has been and is being prescribed for high blood pressure, anaemia and constipation. Spinach contains potassium, which is important in regulating blood pressure.
The myth about spinach:There is a misconception that spinach is very rich in iron. This is a result of a mathematical error made by a food analyst when calculating the iron content in spinach.
However, your body will absorb more of the iron content in spinach if you take it along with foods that contain Vitamin C, such as a lime or a tomato.
Dangers of over-consumptionSpinach has a very high concentration of oxalic acid. This can cause stones in the kidney and bladder. This acid can also inhibit the absorption of calcium. Spinach also has very high levels of nitrates.
How to store spinach:Spinach is best eaten fresh.
Recipe of the week - Spinach saladRaw spinach
Salt to taste
Toss ingredients together to make a nutritious salad.
Beauty tip of the weekIf your eyes start smarting, place two fresh spinach leaves on them for five minutes and feel the difference. Eating spinach will give a bright sparkle to your eyes and moisturise your skin.
Nutritive value of spinachQuantity Raw(1 cup) Cooked(1 cup)
Weight (gms) 55 180
Calories 10 40
Protein (gms) 2 5
Fat 0 0
Carbohydrates(gms) 2 30
Calcium (mg) 8 7
Iron (mg) 1.5 6.4
Potassium (mg) 307 839
Vitamin A (IU) 3,600 14,740
Vitamin C (mg.) 15 18
By Laila NasryPeople never know how they put on weight. They 'just' do. Maybe the 'just' is a result of bad eating habits, genes or a complicated hormonal problem like thyroxin deficiency. Whatever the reason, getting rid of excess fat has always been a bigger problem. Exercise, crash diets, pills, starvation are all tried and if one is lucky, that elusive waistline reappears. But for some the tried and tested methods just don't work.
'Morbid obesity', as this condition is known, is more prevalent among women than men. It is not very common in Sri Lanka but, to the afflicted few, there is no denying the discomfort, embarrassment and heartache.
"My stomach used to hang in front of me so much so I could carry it," says Mrs. Fernando. Weighing over a hundred kilos she had tried every possible method to reduce her weight but to no avail.
When her belly began to protrude and sag she was faced with severe back problems as the weight in front caused a strain on her back. "I was even unable to walk properly," she recalled "nor could, I sit still for long periods. I even had trouble using the bathroom."
Excess sweating underneath the skin fold added to her discomfiture as it resulted in fungal infections. "I had to clean the area with surgical spirit daily and use a deodorant to avoid breaking out in rashes."
"As the skin in the abdominal wall stretches because of the collection of fat the stomach starts to hang and looks like an apron," says Surgeon Dr. Gamini Goonetileke. A sagging belly can also be found in women who are not fat. Repeated child-birth can also cause lax stomach muscles and, with no proper exercise to improve the condition, can lead to similar problems. For such patients, lipectomy offers hope.
Lipectomy is a two to three hour operation where the excess fat between the skin and muscle is cut off. The extra skin is also removed leaving just enough to cover the exposed area. Done under general anaesthesia, this is a painless operation and is preferred to the wiring of teeth and shortening of intestines, two other methods used to arrest weight problems.
The operation also differs from liposuction where the fat content in the body is dissolved and sucked out. This can be dangerous at times resulting in residual fat particles clogging the brain.
"Before the operation we first try to ascertain the root cause and treat it," Dr. Goonetileke says. "Most often patients have had too much to eat but at times we find cases with hormonal problems." Those with heart conditions are not operated on and prior tests are carried out to determine other complications like diabetes. "We don't have that many elderly patients for the operation is best done when the patient is young."
Hernia is a common problem for those with sagging bellies and is treated at the same time as the removal of fat. "We insert a synthetic mesh for the hernia strengthening the weak abdominal wall in the muscle layer." Around seven to ten days after the operation the stitches are removed and the skin heals.
Aftercare in such an operation is of paramount importance. Dr. Goonetileke strongly advocates healthy eating habits, a low carbohydrate and low fat diet. The sutures healed; three months after the operation, the patient is put through physiotherapy in order to strengthen the abdominal muscles further. Thereafter she is able to lead a normal life.
However Dr. Goonetileke does not recommend this operation for purely cosmetic purposes. "A protruding stomach can always be cleverly covered up by wearing a saree."
He stresses that this procedure is only for those for whom the other methods have failed. For them cutting away the fat is not a step closer to looking good in an evening gown but the removal of a burden that is both physical and mental.
"The satisfaction on their faces after the operation is unbelievable."
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