Spinach is a superfood. It is loaded with tons of nutrients in a low-calorie package. Dark, leafy greens like spinach are important for skin, hair, and bone health. They also provide protein, iron, vitamins, and minerals.
The possible health benefits of consuming spinach include improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering the risk of cancer, and improving bone health, as well as supplying minerals and vitamins that can provide a range of different
Spinach has been used by various cultures throughout history, notably in Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern, and South-East-Asian cuisines. It can be incorporated quite easily into any diet, as it is cheap and easy to prepare.
This article explores the nutrition contained in spinach, how it can benefit the body, and a range of flavorsome ways to include this in the diet.
Fast facts on spinach
- According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 100-gram serving of spinach contains 28.1 micrograms of vitamin C, 34 percent of the daily recommendation.
- Different types include savoy spinach, flat spinach, and semi-savoy spinach.
- Spinach can be added as an ingredient to many dishes and either cooked or served raw.
One cup of raw spinach contains:
- 7 calories
- 0.86 grams (g) of protein
- 30 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 0.81 g of iron
- 24 mg of magnesium
- 167 mg of potassium
- 2,813 interational units (IU) of Vitamin A
- 58 micrograms of folate
Spinach also contains vitamin K, fiber, phosphorus, and thiamine. Most of the calories in spinach come from protein and carbohydrates.
A lack of iron in the diet can affect how efficiently the body uses energy. Spinach is a great source of iron. Make sure to combine vitamin-C-rich foods such as citrus fruits with plant iron like spinach to improve absorption.
Spinach contains approximately 250 mg of calcium per cup. However, it is less easily absorbed than calcium obtained from dairy sources. Spinach has a high oxalate content, which binds to calcium. This makes it difficult for our bodies to use.
Spinach is also one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, which is necessary for energy metabolism, maintaining muscle and nerve function, regular heart rhythm, a healthy immune system, and maintaining blood pressure. Magnesium also plays a part in hundreds more biochemical reactions that occur in the body.
Spinach has the following possible health benefits:
Spinach contains an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative, stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.
However, most studies have used intravenous alpha-lipoic acid, and it is uncertain whether oral supplementation would elicit the same benefits.
Spinach and other green vegetables contain chlorophyll. Several studies, including this 2013 study carried out on 12,000 animals, have shown chlorophyll to be effective at blocking the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines.
These are generated when grilling foods at a high temperature.
This can contribute to preventing the growth of cancer.
A study of 433 children with asthma between the ages of 6 and 18 years, and 537 children without, showed that the risks for developing asthma are lower in people who have a high intake of certain nutrients.
One of these nutrients is beta-carotene. Spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene.
Lowering 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. A low potassium intake might be as potent a risk factor for developing high blood pressure as a high sodium intake.
Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture.
Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health, as it acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improves calcium absorption, and may reduce the amount of calcium that leaves the body in urine.
Promotes digestive regularity
Spinach is high in fiber and water, both of which help to prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract.
Healthy skin and hair
Spinach has large quantities of vitamin A, which moderates the production of oil in the skin pores and hair follicles to moisturize the skin and hair.
It is this oil that can build up to cause acne. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.
Spinach is a versatile vegetable and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is available fresh, frozen, or canned. Here are some tips to try to incorporate more spinach into a daily routine:
- Add spinach to pastas, soups, and casseroles.
- Lightly sauté spinach in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Season with freshly-ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Add spinach to a wrap, sandwich, or flatbread.
- Make a dip with spinach, such as spinach and artichoke dip or spinach and goat cheese dip.
- Add a handful of fresh spinach to an omelet or scramble, or throw a handful into a smoothie.
If someone is taking blood-thinners, such as warfarin, it is important that they do not suddenly begin to change the amount of food they eat containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting.
Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional.
If the kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal. It is important that people with kidney problems do not consume dangerous levels of potassium.
Spinach is best consumed as part of a well-rounded, nutritious diet.