When you want a salad or just a little green in your sandwich, opt for spinach over traditional lettuce. These vibrant, green leaves pack even more health benefits than many other types of greens, making them a worthy addition to any diet. Best of all, spinach is delicious, too!
Vitamins and Nutrients Found in Spinach
Although spinach is largely made of water, these leafy greens are packed with vital nutrients, protein, beta-carotene, carotenoids, flavonoid compounds and other important substances. In fact, a serving of spinach contains a generous amount of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin K: Necessary for blood clot formation to prevent excessive bleeding.
- Vitamin A: Plays important roles in cell growth, organ maintenance, and vision.
- Vitamin C: Helpful for wound healing and iron absorption.
- Folate: Needed for DNA synthesis and cell growth.
- Calcium: Essential for bone, muscle, and heart function.
- Iron: Necessary for red blood cell production and cell growth.
- Magnesium: Involved in the function of muscles and nerves, as well as the regulation of blood pressure.
While spinach can be eaten raw, be aware that cooking spinach may allow you to absorb its nutrients more easily.
Ways Spinach Can Prevent Disease
In addition to being cholesterol and fat-free, spinach’s many nutrients and vitamins help fight off disease. For example, the many flavonoid compounds found in spinach are powerful antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals found in the body. This has the potential to help prevent cancer by getting rid of these dangerous invaders that cause oxidative stress. Flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory properties, meaning that they may offer some protection against germs that cause infection in the body.
Spinach, along with other leafy green vegetables, has also been associated with improved cardiovascular health and lower incidence of heart disease or stroke. This is in part because the antioxidants in spinach help to protect against the oxidative effects of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which can be very dangerous to the arteries and the heart. Additionally, the magnesium in spinach also helps regulate blood pressure levels. Moreover, the folate found in spinach can decrease risk of stroke.
In addition to regulating blood pressure, spinach can also help regulate blood sugar levels, making it a great food for people with diabetes to add to their diet. That is, spinach’s magnesium aids in glucose metabolism.
Other Surprising Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach has been linked to many other health benefits that aren’t related to the prevention of disease. For instance, the antioxidants in spinach do more than just prevent cancer. They also help strength and restore skin and prevent wrinkles. Additionally, some of the pigments and phytonutrients in spinach can help protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Spinach can also:
- Increase Your Energy Levels: The iron in spinach helps to build red blood cells and carry blood to different parts of the body, which helps to alleviate fatigue and provides more energy.
- Protects Your Vision: Beta-carotenes have long been associated with eye health, which is why spinach is a great thing to eat if you want to help protect your eyes against retinal stress.
- Provides Digestive Support: Dietary fiber aids in the digestive process and regulation of bowel movements.
Keep in mind that a spinach-heavy diet may not be suitable for everyone. For example, alterations in vitamin K intake can have dangerous consequences if you’re taking blood-thinning medications. And, because spinach contains oxalic acid, it may actually be unhealthy for people who manage gallbladder and kidney problems, since it can increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
Remember that spinach alone cannot be used as a treatment for any of the conditions listed in above. As always, before changing your diet significantly, consult with a healthcare professional about how such a change will interact with any medications you’re taking and impact your health in general.
- “Spinach Expert System: Diseases and Symptoms” via International Journal of Academic Information Systems Research
- “Vitamin K” via National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
- “Vitamin A” via National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
- “Vitamin C” via National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
- “Folate” via National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
- “Magnesium” via National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
- “Iron” via National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
- “Flavonoids: isolation, characterization, and health benefits” via Beni-Suef University Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences
- “Effect of Natural Food Antioxidants against LDL and DNA Oxidative Changes” via U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Kidney Stones: Oxalate-Controlled Diet” via Cleveland Clinic
- “Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Specific Vegetable Types: A Narrative Review” via Nutrients (MDPI)
- “Protective role of carotenoids in the visual cycle” via Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology