Spinach is a superfood. The leaves are replete with essential vitamins and minerals and other powerful antioxidants. The leafy green vegetable fights oxidative damage and associated ailments. It also helps combat cancer and may lower blood sugar levels (1).
In this post, we will explore the varied nutritional profile of spinach and its incredible benefits.
Table Of Contents
What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Spinach?
The most abundant nutrients in spinach include vitamins A, C, K1, and iron, folic acid, and calcium. It also contains potent antioxidants, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and quercetin.
The following table will give you more insight into the nutrition profile of the leafy veggie.
|Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 1 April 2018 Software v.184.108.40.206_2019-06-13|
|Nutrient data for: Spinach, raw|
|Nutrient||Unit||1Value per 100 g||1 cup = 30.0g||1 bunch = 340.0g||1 leaf = 10.0g||1 package (10 oz) = 284.0g|
|Total lipid (fat)||g||0.39||0.12||1.33||0.04||1.11|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||g||3.63||1.09||12.34||0.36||10.31|
|Fiber, total dietary||g||2.2||0.7||7.5||0.2||6.2|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||mg||28.1||8.4||95.5||2.8||79.8|
|Vitamin A, RAE||µg||469||141||1595||47||1332|
|Vitamin A, IU||IU||9377||2813||31882||938||26631|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||mg||2.03||0.61||6.9||0.2||5.77|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||µg||0||0||0||0||0|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||µg||482.9||144.9||1641.9||48.3||1371.4|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||g||0.063||0.019||0.214||0.006||0.179|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||g||0.01||0.003||0.034||0.001||0.028|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||g||0.165||0.05||0.561||0.017||0.469|
Source: United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database, spinach, raw
These potent nutrients work in synergy to offer the many benefits of spinach. We will discuss them at length in the following section.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Spinach?
Spinach is full of carotenoids that fight oxidative stress and cancer. The fiber it contains also promotes satiety and may help manage diabetes. Calcium promotes bone health, and lutein and zeaxanthin improve vision.
1. May Help Fight Cancer
The glycoglycerolipids in spinach have been found to help prevent cancer. They can achieve this by inhibiting tumor growth (2).
The vitamin A in spinach can also cut the risk of breast cancer. Eating spinach (or carrots, which are also rich in vitamin A) more than twice a week has been linked to a modest decrease in breast cancer risk (3).
Spinach is a cruciferous vegetable. Studies show that cruciferous veggies can play an important role in cancer prevention. These veggies are rich in carotenoids (like lutein and zeaxanthin) that may aid cancer treatment (4).
Cruciferous veggies also release indoles (upon preparation), which inactivate carcinogens and fight inflammation (4).
2. May Aid Diabetes Treatment
Spinach promotes satiety, thereby reducing postprandial glucose responses. This was attributed to the high fiber and water content in the vegetable (5).
Spinach also contains nitrates. These compounds were found to help prevent insulin resistance. They can also relieve inflammation, a primary risk factor for diabetes (6).
Another reason spinach can be a part of an anti-diabetic diet is its low carb count. Compared to starchy veggies, spinach is a non-starchy vegetable with a low carb count (7).
3. Helps Regulate Blood Pressure Levels
The nitrates in spinach deserve the credit. These compounds improve endothelial function, thereby lowering blood pressure levels (8).
Spinach nitrates can also relieve arterial stiffness, which can lead to high blood pressure levels (9).
Spinach leaf proteins were found to relieve hypertension (10).
The magnesium in the vegetable also regulates blood pressure levels. This mineral relaxes and widens the blood vessels, thereby allowing the blood to flow easily (11).
4. Boosts Vision Health
Spinach contains two important antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been extensively studied for their vision-promoting effects. These compounds fight reactive oxygen species and cut the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (12).
In another study, regular intake of spinach increased macular pigment optical density (13).
5. Can Strengthen Bones
Spinach can maximize bone health. It is rich in vitamin K and calcium, two nutrients important for bone strength (14).
Low calcium intake over a lifetime also leads to osteoporosis. It is linked to low bone mass, rapid bone loss, and high fracture rates. Spinach contains calcium and can help counter this (15).
6. May Promote Digestion
The fiber in spinach aids digestion and keeps you feeling fuller for long (16). Fiber also helps promote regularity as it helps the food move through the digestive system (17).
7. May Help Treat Asthma
Oxidative stress plays a role in asthma. Spinach contains vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that can combat oxidative stress. This way, the veggie may aid asthma treatment (18).
The lutein and zeaxanthin in the leafy green can also help treat asthma (18).
8. May Promote Fetal Development
Spinach contains folic acid, a nutrient essential for fetal development. This nutrient reduces the risk of defects in the unborn child’s nervous system (19).
The iron in spinach helps prevent pre-term deliveries and low birth-weight babies (19).
9. May Boost Brain Health
Spinach is rich in brain nutrients, namely vitamin K, folate, lutein, and beta-carotene (vitamin A). These nutrients help slow down cognitive decline (20).
Spinach also may have anti-stress and anti-depressive effects. These effects can be attributed to the ability of spinach to reduce blood levels of corticosterone (a hormone involved in stress responses) (21).
10. May Keep Your Skin, Hair, And Nails Healthy
The vitamin A in spinach can protect the skin from UV radiation. It fights oxidative stress occurring on the dermal layers and promotes skin health (22).
Spinach also contains biotin, a mineral that helps treat brittle nails (25).
Spinach indeed is a superfood. Eating raw spinach as part of a salad can be a good idea. But then, there are other ways.
How To Include Spinach In Your Diet
Including spinach in your diet is easy.
- You can make it a part of your hummus.
- Make spinach the primary ingredient in your cupcakes.
- Add spinach to your morning smoothie. You can also grind spinach leaves and prepare a green smoothie.
- Spinach can also be added in curries.
How To Select And Store Spinach Leaves
Picking locally grown spinach works best. Also, look for the best-before date. You should pick the freshest spinach.
Go for bright green leaves. Avoid leaves that are brown or yellow or wilted.
Choosing spinach stored in a cooler is better (than that stored on a shelf).
Remember to keep spinach in the original bag or container and wash only prior to use. Store the remaining spinach in the same bag in the refrigerator, ensuring there is no moisture.
Wrapping the bag in a clean towel can offer extra protection.
Though spinach is a powerhouse of nutrients, it still comes with certain warnings.
What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Spinach?
- May Aggravate Kidney Stones
This is the most common concern with spinach. Spinach contains large amounts of oxalates (just like beets and rhubarb). These may bind with calcium in the urinary tract and can lead to calcium oxalate stones (26). Hence,
individuals with kidney disease/stones must stay away from spinach.
- May Interfere With Blood-Thinning Medications
The vitamin K in spinach plays a role in forming blood clots. Hence, it may interfere with medications that help in blood thinning (including Warfarin) (27). You may need to reduce your consumption of spinach if you are on Warfarin.
Spinach is among the most important foods you can eat on a regular basis. It is chock-full of vital nutrients and keeps most diseases at bay. However, you may want to limit its intake if you have kidney disease.
Though research is less, some sources suggest that spinach may also interfere with thyroid medication. Hence, please check with your doctor.
Do you eat spinach every day? How do you consume it? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Should you eat spinach raw or cooked?
Raw spinach may have a slightly higher amount of nutrients, though the difference is not a lot. But raw spinach may cause gas. It boils down to your preference and experiences.
Is spinach good for weight loss?
Spinach is low in calories and high in fiber. Though it may not directly aid weight loss, it sure can be part of a weight loss diet.
How is regular spinach different from baby spinach?
Baby spinach is typically harvested in the early stages of plant growth. The leaves are smaller, and the texture is more tender. Regular spinach has large leaves.
- Functional properties of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) phytochemicals and bioactives, Food & Function, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Anti-cancer effect of spinach glycoglycerolipids as angiogenesis inhibitors based on the selective inhibition of DNA polymerase activity, Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Intake of carrots, spinach, and supplements containing vitamin A in relation to risk of breast cancer, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute.
- Satiety effects of spinach in mixed meals: comparison with other vegetables, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effects of spinach nitrate on insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction markers and inflammation in mice with high-fat and high-fructose consumption, Food & Nutrition Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Diabetes and Carbohydrates, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Flavonoid-rich apples and nitrate-rich spinach augment nitric oxide status and improve endothelial function in healthy men and women: a randomized controlled trial, Free Radical Biology & Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effect of Spinach, a High Dietary Nitrate Source, on Arterial Stiffness and Related Hemodynamic Measures: A Randomized, Controlled Trial in Healthy Adults, Clinical Nutrition Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Antihypertensive properties of spinach leaf protein digests, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Spinach: Popeye’s Favorite Food, Magaram Center Nutrition Experts Blog.
- Dietary Sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin Carotenoids and Their Role in Eye Health, Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effects of Constant Intake of Lutein-rich Spinach on Macular Pigment Optical Density: a Pilot Study, Nippon Ganka Gakkai Zasshi, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Eat Spinach to Grow Strong? Yes! But There’s So Much More! National Osteoporosis Foundation.
- Osteoporosis Prevention, West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease.
- Spinach, Iowa Department of Public Health.
- Fiber, Harvard School of Public Health.
- Dietary Factors and the Development of Asthma, Immunology and allergy clinics of North America, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Nutrition and Diet for a Healthy Pregnancy, Mississippi State Department of Health.
- Foods linked to better brainpower, Harvard Medical School.
- Anti-Stress and Anti-Depressive Effects of Spinach Extracts on a Chronic Stress-Induced Depression Mouse Model through Lowering Blood Corticosterone and Increasing Brain Glutamate and Glutamine Levels, Journal of Clinical Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health, Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Spinach, University of Delaware, Food & Nutrition Education Lab.
- Top 10 Foods To Reduce Hair Loss, New York College.
- Biotin, National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.
- Nutritional Management of Kidney Stones (Nephrolithiasis), Clinical Nutrition Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Warfarin and Vitamin K, Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan.
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