The probiotic effect of spinach
According to a research team from Melbourne, UK, consumption of spinach leaves may have the same effect on the human gut as a probiotic tablet. They found that spinach leaves contain significant amounts of a newly discovered enzyme, sugar sulfoquinovose (SQ), which nourishes good gut bacteria.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Ethan Goddard-Borger of the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute, explains that when we eat spinach, we also consume SQ sugars contained in vegetables. The SQ sugars make their way to our colon and, once there, feed the good bacteria, encouraging them to take over the gut, thus preventing the action of the bad bacteria, through the so-called barrier effect. “By virtue of the fact that good gut bacteria are there, they create a [preventive] barrier against bad bacteria,” says Dr. Goddard-Borger. And it seems that not only spinach bought from stores has such an effect. The results of the study are valid for all available leafy greens, including seaweed.
So, if you want to benefit from a good probiotic, eat your green vegetables. The general rule is: the greener, the better!
A very interesting fact is that every year, green leafy vegetables – such as spinach – produce SQ enzymes on a huge scale globally, comparable to the total annual iron ore production in the world.
The discovery of the SQ enzyme provides essential information about intestinal bacteria, which could be exploited to develop a whole new class of antibiotics. New antimicrobial strategies are imperative, as more and more bacteria acquire resistance to existing classes of antibiotics, says the study.
It will soon be possible to use these SQ sugars to create antibiotics that target harmful forms of E. coli and other pathogens, such as Salmonella (responsible for food poisoning), but leaving the good bacteria in the gut untouched.
Further research is still underway to identify how many SQ sugars are contained in each type of green leafy plant, as well as research to determine the amount of SQ sugars needed to produce a positive effect on the gut and on the general health.