15 Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach, scientifically known as Spinacia oleracea, is a leafy green vegetable that originated in Persia. It belongs to the family Amaranthaceae and is closely related to beets, chard and amaranth.
The word itself derives from the Persian word “esfenaj”, which later became “spanachia” In Latin and eventually evolved into the “spinach” in English.
Spinach is an annual plant that grows best in cool, temperate weather and rich, moist soil. It is widely cultivated for its edible leaves.
There are three main types of spinach that vary in size and shape: Savoy (Curly), Semi-Savoy and Flat Leaf.
- Savoy has crisp, curly, and crinkly leaves. It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets. One heirloom variety of savoy is Bloomsdale.
- Semi-savoy is a hybrid variety. It has the same texture as savoy, but it’s less crinkly and it’s easier to clean.
- Flat Leaf has broad smooth leaves and is more tender than the savoy variety. It is often grown for canned and frozen spinach, as well as processed foods.
Spinach is a versatile vegetable and can be prepared in a variety of ways. You can have it raw in salads and smoothies, or boil it, sauté it, or even cream it. Raw spinach contains more vitamins than cooked spinach. If cooking, opt for steaming or microwaving spinach rather than boiling to preserve the nutrients.
Spinach Nutrition Facts
Spinach is one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables you can eat. This Popeye’s favorite food is loaded with many important nutrients, including vitamin A, C & K, folate, manganese, magnesium, and iron, yet contains a very small amount of calories in each serving.
Additionally, it’s also very high in fiber and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are associated with many health benefits.
A 100 g serving of raw spinach provides about :
- Calories: 23
- Vitamin K: 483 mcg (604% Daily Value)
- Vitamin A: 9376 IU (188% Daily Value)
- Folate: 194 mcg (49% Daily Value)
- Vitamin C: 28.1 mg (47% Daily Value)
- Manganese: 0.9 mg (45% Daily Value)
- Magnesium: 79.0 mg (20% Daily Value)
- Potassium: 558 mg (16% Daily Value)
- Iron: 2.7 mg (15% Daily Value)
- Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g (9% Daily Value)
Health Benefits of Spinach
1. Protects against cancer
Spinach is packed with cancer-fighting substances like chlorophyll, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are believed to help prevent cancers of the breast, cervix, prostate and skins.
A 2013 study carried out on 12,000 animals have shown that chlorophyll to be effective at blocking the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines, which are generated when grilling foods at a high temperature .
Likewise, one animal study notes that spinach might suppress colon cancer formation .
2. Lowers blood pressure
Due to its high potassium content, spinach is recommended for people with high blood pressure. Potassium can help reduce the effects of sodium in the body and relax blood vessel walls, which in turn help lower your blood pressure.
3. Supports bone health
Spinach is an excellence source of vitamin K which aids in calcium formation, thereby helps in maintaining bone density.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that low intakes of vitamin K were associated with an increased risk of hip fractures in middle-aged women .
Apart from this, other minerals, like phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and zinc, in spinach also help in strengthening our bones.
4. Improves eyesight
Spinach contains beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all of which are beneficial for eyesight. Beta-carotene in raw spinach helps the body produce vitamin A, which is important for proper eye function.
The lutein and zeaxanthin work to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, which are major causes of blindness. Spinach also provides vitamin A, which are essential for normal eyesight.
5. Boosts the immune system
Packed with vitamin A and C, spinach is one of the best foods to possibly boost your immune system. These antioxidants can protect your body against viruses, bacteria, and other harmful invaders that can cause disease and illness. Spinach also boosts immunity by lowering inflammation in the body and reducing cell damage.
6. Keeps your skin healthy
The vitamin A and vitamin C in spinach will also accelerate the regeneration of your damaged skin, ensuring you have a healthy glowing skin.
In addition, the antioxidant properties present in spinach aid in fighting off bacteria that cause acne and pimples.
You can blend some spinach leaves with water and apply them on to your face and leave it until the mask dries off, or you can simply add spinach in your salad.
7. Supports digestive system
Spinach is a good source of insoluble fiber, which is known for its ability to promote digestive health. It adds bulk to stool and helps food move through the gut more easily, making bowel movement easier and reducing the risk of constipation.
8. Keeps your brain healthy
Green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, beta carotene and folate.
Research suggests that these plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline. One study even found that eating leafy greens once a day halted mental decline by up to 11 years and helped stave off dementia.
9. Reduces the risk of atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a hardening and narrowing of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque. The lutein found in spinach has been shown to reduce the occurrence of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. Also, spinach contains choline and inositol, which help prevent hardening of the arteries.
10. Maintains a healthy pregnancy
Spinach contains folic acid, which is one of the essential nutrients that pregnant women should include in their diet. Folic acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs).
Studies from the 1980s and 1990s showed that folic acid can help ensure healthy development of babies in early pregnancy. In 1999 Berry et al conclusively found that a daily dose of 400 µg of folic acid alone resulted in a reduction in neural tube defect risk similar to that reported in earlier studies, when taken at least one month before conception and for 12 weeks after conceiving.
11. Prevents anemia
The high iron content in spinach is very beneficial for preventing anemia. It helps reproduce the red blood cells, which carries oxygen to every part of the body.
12. Boosts muscle strength
Spinach contains high amounts of nitrate which has been shown to help boost muscle strength.
One study in Sweden found that eating about 200 to 300 grams of fresh spinach a day will help increase the release of necessary substances in the muscle tissue that tone up muscles .
13. Promote hair growth
Spinach can also lead to hair growth due to the presence of the vitamin A and C. These vitamins help produce sebum, a natural oil that is necessary for your hair to grow and shine.
Sebum is the oily substance secreted by hair follicles and works like a natural hair conditioner, keeping your hair soft, shiny, and moisturized.
14. Promotes weight loss
Like other green vegetables, spinach is low in calories and fats, making it ideal to eat for losing weight. Spinach also contains fiber which keeps you full longer. This is great as it can help prevent excessive eating, which is a significant cause of weight gain.
15. Controls blood sugar
Spinach is a rich source of fiber, which can slow the absorption of sugar. So, it does not cause immediate spikes in blood sugar levels.
Spinach is also very low in calories, and foods that have few calories are generally responsible for stabilizing blood sugar levels, which is crucial for diabetics.
Selection and Storage
When buying whole, fresh spinach, look for leaves that are crisp and dark green. Avoid those that are yellow, limp, or wilted, as these indicate that the spinach is past its prime.
If buying pre-washed, packaged spinach, check the expiration or a “best if used by” date, and also inspect the bag for any slimy or yellow leaves.
Do not wash spinach before storing, as the moisture will cause it to spoil. Try to eat your spinach within 3 to 5 days to get maximum nutrition benefits.
Spinach is high in oxalic acid, so people who are at a high risk of developing kidney stones should avoid or limit their intake. And since spinach is among the foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found, we recommend choosing organic spinach. If not, then be sure to wash it thoroughly regardless of what type it is.