Listen to your mother: Eat your spinach

Believe it or not, not all vegetables are created equally. Darker green, leafy vegetables generally pack a higher punch of nutrients than light-colored vegetables. Perhaps Popeye was on to something.

Although downing a can of spinach will not increase your bicep size, research shows that it could do something way more important — help prevent and slow the growth of some types of cancer, help fight diabetes and ward off heart disease.

Spinach and other greens can do wonders for your present and future health. (AP Photo)

The magic of dark, leafy greens lies in their fiber, folate, carotenoids and flavonoids. Fiber, in the form of vegetables, passes through the body without being digested or broken down, helping to normalize bowel movements and make you feel fuller which aid in weight loss. Folate helps maintain and produce healthy cells. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, carotenoids and flavonoids prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect and repair cells that may be damaged by “free radicals,” unbonded atoms that may damage the cardiovascular system.

Green vegetables also have a noteworthy amount of vitamins A, C, E and K, making them good for our eyes, blood and bones. Why take a vitamin when you can eat a vegetable?

Although we are conditioned to associate calcium with milk, one cup of collard greens has more calcium than one cup of milk. Bananas may seem to be the poster child for potassium. One cup of spinach, however, contains twice the amount of potassium. What they are low in is just as important — calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol.

Spinach and broccoli are the easiest to identify, but next time that you are in the supermarket take a second to get familiar with other members of the family — kale, arugula, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory, Swiss chard and any of the numerous types of lettuce.

“They don’t taste good” is not a good enough reason to ban them from your diet. Learn ways to incorporate them into your everyday meals because it is worth it.

Try some of these easy ways to get them:

1. Throw them in an omelet
2. Add a salad to your meal
3. Add extra vegetables to a stir fry
4. Hit up a juice bar and order the green smoothie
5. Put extra greens on a wrap or on a sandwich