By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Spinach is a nutritious, high-fiber food that adds volume, color, texture, vitamins, and minerals to recipes. Whether eaten cooked or raw, spinach is a nutrient-packed vegetable. Like most dark, leafy greens, spinach has nutrients that offer several health benefits. Spinach is a non-starchy vegetable that is perfect for anyone who is watching their carbohydrate intake or trying to boost their health. (1)
Spinach is available all year round but is in season during the spring (Mar-Jun). It is well known for its nutritional qualities and has always been regarded as a plant with remarkable abilities to restore energy, increase vitality and improve the quality of the blood. (2)
Spinach is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A- Spinach is high in carotenoids, which your body can turn into vitamin A.
- Vitamin C- This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that promotes skin health and immune function.
- Vitamin K1- This vitamin is essential for blood clotting. Notably, one spinach leaf contains over half of your daily needs.
- Folic acid- Also known as folate or vitamin B9, this compound is vital for pregnant women and essential for normal cellular function and tissue growth.
- Iron- Spinach is an excellent source of this essential mineral. Iron helps create hemoglobin, which brings oxygen to your body’s tissues.
- Calcium- This mineral is essential for bone health and a crucial signaling molecule for your nervous system, heart, and muscles.
Spinach also contains several other vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B6, B9, and E. (3)
Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach has the following possible health benefits:
- Diabetes management: 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. Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown decreases in peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy in diabetics.
- Cancer prevention: Spinach and other green vegetables contain chlorophyll. Several studies 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.
- Asthma prevention: 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.
- Bone health: 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 and other leafy greens high in vitamin C are crucial for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair. Iron deficiency is a common cause of hair loss, which may be prevented by an adequate intake of iron-rich foods, such as spinach. (4)
- Heart health: Spinach’s potassium levels are heart-healthy. “High potassium intakes are associated with a reduced risk of stroke, lower blood pressure, and lower risk of death from heart disease.” Potassium is an essential part of heart health, according to the American Heart Association. Spinach’s astronomical levels of vitamin K are also associated with heart health and blood clotting. There are also suggestions that vitamin K might reduce the risk of heart disease because without it, mechanisms that stop the formation of blood vessel calcification may become inactive.
- Pregnancy: The essentiality of folic acid (also known as folate) during pregnancy is well-documented. Folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects specifically spina bifida and anencephaly that occur early in pregnancy.
- Eyes: Spinach is a good source of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are associated with helping to prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. (5)