“I am what I am what I am.” Like the spinach-munching cartoon character, Popeye, our dogs always seem to be telling us this in one way or another! And if spinach is part of our pet’s diet, too, what he or she may be is a dog with good eyes, strong bones, and a sturdy digestive tract.

Spinach has long enjoyed a reputation as the leafy vegetable bursting with vitamins and minerals. Its vitamin C and carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin) are largely responsible for sustaining good vision.

Biologists are investigating a relatively new category of nutrient they call “glycoglycerolipids.” These are the main molecules in the membranes of light-sensitive organs in most plants, and they are essential for the process of photosynthesis. Research with animals shows that the glycoglycerolipids in spinach help to protect the lining of the gut. An animal whose diet includes spinach may be less inclined to experience digestive tract problems, especially problems related to inflammation. As well, the high fibre content in spinach can ease constipation.

An abundance of calcium, folic acid, vitamin K and iron flourishes in spinach, as do flavonoids, the compounds found in fruits and vegetables that have a variety of positive biochemical and antioxidant effects.

According to one provincial government document (www.eatrightontario.ca), the phytonutrients (vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and fiber found together in whole plant foods) produces a complex result. It’s likely that the interaction of all these single elements is responsible for many health advantages.

And to maximize on the benefits of this leafy green you can follow Popeye’s lead as he seems to have it figured out (judging from all those cans of  he empties into his mouth), cooked spinach provides optimal nutrition for our dogs and ourselves as the body can’t fully break down and metabolize the nutrients contained in raw spinach. But even in the raw form this green leaf packs a huge nutritional punch.

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