Spinach (Spinacia oleraceae) is a dark green leafy vegetable belonging to the Amaranthaceae family. Native to Central and Southwestern Asia, spinach plant grows up to a height of about 1 foot. It has a slightly bitter taste but is considered as one of the functional foods due to its nutritional, antioxidants and anti-cancer constituents. Its tender, crispy, dark green leaves are used as ingredients in a variety of cuisines. Though it is available all the year round, fresh greens are best after the winter season from March through May.
This green vegetable comes into the category of healthiest plant based foods. Besides being rich in iron, it is one of the principal resources of pigments, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Thus, it is a promising food with an array of health benefits.
Types of Spinach:
Generally two varieties of spinach are cultivated for their edible leaves, savoy type with dark green crinkle leaves and flat leaf type with smooth surfaced leaves. Modern varieties of spinach have been introduced which grow more rapidly and do not bolt easily to warm conditions. The older varieties have narrower leaves and a stronger and bitter taste than the newer ones. There are generally three different types of spinach.
- Savoy: This variety has dark green crinkly (wrinkly) and curly leaves. It is widely sold in supermarkets in the United States. Savoy also has several varieties such as “Bloomsdale” which is resistant to bolting, “Merlo nero”-a variety grown in Italy and “Viroflay”- a very large spinach with great yields.
- Flat or Smooth-leaf Spinach: This variety has broad, smooth leaves which are quite easy to clean. It is widely sold in the form of canned and frozen spinach and used in soups, baby foods and processed foods.
- Semi-savoy: This is basically a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It is similar to savoy in texture but it can be cleaned easily. It is used for both fresh market and processing. “Five star” is the most commonly grown variety that is resistant to running up to seed.
Spinach: Health Benefits
1. Beneficial for Weight Loss:
Spinach leaves help in weight reduction as it is low in calories and fat. It is very nutritious and has a good quality of fat soluble dietary fibre. This fibre aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar and curbs overeating. Thus, this leafy vegetable is often recommended to dieters because in dieting, it is important to avoid repetitive eating.
Spinach is rich in flavonoids- a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties. Thus, it has been found to be effective in slowing down cell division in human stomach and skin cancer cells. Moreover, spinach has proven to be effective in providing protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.
3. Eye Health:
Spinach contains antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in plentiful which protect the eye from cataracts and age related macular degeneration (ARMD). Zeaxanthin is an important dietary carotenoid which is absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes, providing light filtering functions. Spinach also contains vitamin A which is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and essential for normal eyesight.
4. Healthy Bones:
Spinach is rich in vitamin K which is vital for maintaining bone health. A cup of boiled spinach provides around 1000% of the RDA of vitamin K which lowers and controls the over activation of osteoclasts. These are the cells that aid in breaking down the bone structure over a short period of time. Vitamin K also promotes the synthesis of osteocalcin, the protein that is essential for maintaining the strength and density of bones. Spinach is a good alternative to dairy products as it gives proper substitute to calcium, thus preventing the occurrence of osteoporosis. It is an important protein diet for vegans as it helps in building the muscle tissues as well as supporting the collagen growth.
5. Lowers Hypertension:
Hypertension or high blood pressure is responsible for causing kidney disease, heart ailments and stroke. Consuming spinach is beneficial in lowering hypertension as some of its constituents help to reduce stress and anxiety. The nutrients play a critical role in keeping the balance of Na- K pump by lowering the K (potassium) in your body. Vitamin C also plays an important role in lowering hypertension.
6. Relaxes the Body:
Spinach keeps the body relaxed and completely stress free. It contains tremendous amounts of zinc and magnesium which enable you to sleep better at night, thus making way for more effective healing. Magnesium helps in replenishing your lost energy within seconds. A good quality sleep rests your tired eyes, thus relaxing your body as a whole.
7. Gastrointestinal Health:
Consuming more of spinach promotes gastrointestinal health. The beta-carotene and vitamin C present in it protect the cells of the body’s colon from the harmful effects of free radicals. Besides, folate prevents DNA damage and mutations in colon cells.
8. Brain and Nervous Function:
Spinach maintains proper brain functioning specially during old age. Consumption of spinach on a daily basis makes your brain young and active, thus enabling you to think intelligently. Spinach contains folate, vitamin K and vitamin C which help in modulating the hormone production of our nervous system. Vitamin K promotes healthy nervous system and brain function by facilitating the synthesis of sphingolipids, the crucial fat that makes up the Myelin sheath around our nerves. Thus, spinach can prove beneficial for correcting behavioral and cognitive issues.
9. Prevention of Atherosclerosis and Heart Attack:
Excessive fat deposition can cause thickening of the human artery wall resulting in Atherosclerosis. Heart attacks are caused due to the hardening of the artery walls. Spinach is rich in Lutein content which prevents thickening of the walls of arteries, thus reducing the risk of heart attack. Besides, spinach contains a high quality nitrite which not only helps in preventing the occurrence of heart attack but also cures the heart diseases associated with fat deposition.
10. Lowers Blood Pressure:
Peptides contained in spinach are effective in lowering blood pressure as they inhibit the angiotensin I-converting enzyme.
11. Anti-inflammatory Properties:
Spinach contains Neoxanthin and violaxanthin, the two anti-inflammatory epoxyxanthophylls that regulate inflammation. Thus, it is beneficial in preventing inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, migraine headaches and asthma.
12. Aids in Calcification:
Being rich in vitamin K, spinach aids in calcification. This is because this vitamin is a crucial component of the process called carboxylation which produces the matrix Gla protein. This directly prevents calcium from forming in tissue, thus fighting atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
13. Boosts Immunity:
Vitamin A in spinach protects and strengthens the entry points into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts besides being a key component of lymphocytes (white blood cells) that fight infection. One cup of spinach provides as much as 337% of the RDA of vitamin A.
14. Prevents Anaemia:
Regular consumption of spinach can prevent anaemia as it is an excellent source of iron. This mineral is particularly important for menstruating women and growing children and adolescents. Moreover, it is much better than red meat as it provides a lot less calories and is fat and cholesterol free. Iron is also needed for good energy as it is a component of haemoglobin which carries oxygen to all cells of the body.
Spinach: Skin Benefits
Skin is the largest and the most sensitive organ of our body. We all crave for healthy and glowing skin as it enhances our appearance to a great extent. Thus, even our skin needs certain nutrients for maintaining its health. Green leafy vegetables are great for skin and spinach is no exception. Loaded with most useful vitamins like Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K as well as vital minerals, this vegetable plays an important role in skincare. Following are the benefits of spinach for skin.
15. Cures Acne:
Spinach is effective in clearing up acne, thus maintaining healthy skin. To get rid of acne, you can make a face mask by blending spinach with little water and applying it on your face for 20 minutes. This will remove dirt, oil and inflammation from your skin, thus refreshing and rejuvenating it from within. You can also drink spinach juice with other vegetable juices mixed in the following proportions, ½ tomato, ¼ cucumber, 1 carrot, 1 celery, ½ red pepper, ½ cup cabbage, 1 green onion and a handful of spinach. Blend these ingredients to get the juice and drink it daily. This is effective for skin healing and prevents acne.
16. Sun Protection:
Spinach is rich in vitamin B which protects your skin from the harmful ultra violet rays that cause sun damage, skin cancer and pre-mature ageing of skin.
17. Anti-ageing Benefits:
Spinach is loaded with tons of antioxidants that destroy free radicals in your body. These free radicals damage your skin, thereby causing pre-mature ageing. Thus, eating spinach regularly will maintain the youth of your skin and slow down age related degeneration, making your skin look younger and rejuvenated.
18. Improves Complexion:
Being rich in vitamin K and folate, spinach gives you a clear complexion by minimizing acne, bruising on the skin and dark circles. The bounty of vitamin and minerals in this vegetable give you quick relief from dry itchy skin, thus providing you with a radiant complexion.
19. Skin Repair:
As stated earlier, spinach is a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin A improves skin tone whereas vitamin C plays an important role in the repair as well as growth of skin cells. The amazing antioxidants and nutrients in spinach even out your complexion, making your skin look radiant.
Spinach: Hair Benefits
Proper nutrition is vital for getting luxurious hair. For this purpose, it is important to have a balanced diet which provides you with the required nutrients. Spinach occupies an important place in this regard as it is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that promote healthy hair. Regular consumption of spinach can offer the following benefits to your hair.
20. Promotes Hair Growth:
Spinach is a super food comprising of vitamins B, C and E, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids all of which are required for healthy hair growth. Iron helps the red blood cells carry oxygen to hair follicles which is essential for healthy hair growth and strong strands.
21. Combats Hair Loss:
Hair loss is often caused due to the deficiency of iron. This mineral strengthens the hair strands by enabling the blood cells to carry oxygen to the hair follicles. Deficiency of iron causes anemia which results in hair loss among other adverse effects. Spinach is rich in folate and iron. While folate aids the creation of red blood cells, iron helps them carry oxygen, thus combating hair loss.
Nutritional Value of Spinach:
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), raw,
Percentage of RDA
|Total Fat||0.39 g||1.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.2 g||6%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.065 mg||1%|
|Vitamin A||9377 IU||312%|
|Vitamin C||28.1 mg||47%|
|Vitamin E||2.03 mg||13.5%|
|Vitamin K||482.9 µg||402%|
This dark green leafy vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients comprising of carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamin, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and water. Its various health benefits can be attributed to its favorable nutritional profile explained below.
- Water: Spinach has a high content of water with 1 cup of cooked spinach providing 164 gram or approximately 5 oz. of water. This is particularly important because our skin cells are also made up of water. Consuming plenty of water keeps your skin cells hydrated, making your skin look young and radiant.
- Vitamin A: Spinach is a rich source of vitamin A. A cup of cooked spinach provides approximately 943 mcg of this vitamin which is equivalent to 105% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for men and 135% of the RDA for adult women. However, chronic use of vitamin A in high levels (more than 10 times the RDA) can lead to toxicity. So it is necessary to monitor the consumption of this vitamin.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant which is vital for growth and repair of your skin cells. Since this vitamin is not stored in the body, it has to be provided from your daily diet. Spinach is rich in vitamin C with one cup of cooked spinach providing approximately 17.6 mg or nearly 20% of the RDA for adult men and 23% of the RDA for adult women.
- Iron: As stated earlier, iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that supplies oxygen to the tissues. One cup of cooked spinach contains approximately 6 ½ mg of iron which is equivalent to 81% of the RDA for adult men and 36% of RDA for adult women.
- Magnesium: Magnesium plays an important role in healing skin wounds and infections. A cup of cooked spinach provides about 157 mg magnesium which is approximately 37% of the RDA for adult men and 49% of the RDA for adult women.
- Oxilic Acid: Cooked spinach should be preferred to raw one because like most leafy greens, spinach contains oxilic acid. This acid interferes with the body’s calcium absorption but cooking the spinach can eliminate its effects. Therefore, it is advisable to cook the spinach rather than adding it to a salad in the raw form
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