Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach is a godsend for those who want to get loads of nutrients without consuming a lot of calories. Spinach is extremely beneficial for skin, hair and bones, besides our overall health. It provides vitamins, minerals, iron and protein.
Spinach is easily available, inexpensive and can be easily made into delicious dishes; this is the reason that it has been adopted in various cultures. But it’s mainly used in Southeast Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Benefits for Asthma
It has been found that those who consume certain nutrients in high amounts have lower risk of developing asthma than those who don’t. Beta carotene is one of these nutrients and spinach is full of this nutrient. Other sources are carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, apricots and pumpkin.
Benefits for Cancer
Spinach and other leafy greens have chlorophyll in them which has been found to block the cancerous effects of heterocyclic amines which are produced when foods are grilled at high temperatures.
Antioxidants and flavonoids in spinach, especially the antioxidant beta carotene, have been found in multiple studies to help fight many types of cancers, including prostate, breast and ovary.
According to researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, spinach may also lower the risk of skin cancer. These researchers found a link between leafy greens like spinach and silverbeet, and a decrease in the risk of skin cancer, especially among those having a history of the disease.
Benefits for Diabetes
One of the ingredients of spinach is an antioxidant named alpha-lipoic acid which has been found to increase insulin sensitivity, reduce blood glucose levels and prevent oxidative stress-related changes in diabetes patients.
Alpha-lipoic acid has been found to reduce autonomic and peripheral neuropathy in diabetes. However, most studies are based on intravenous administration of alpha-lipoic acid and it’s not been proved whether oral supplements would produce the same benefits.
Benefits for Gut Health
There is a high amount of fiber and water in spinach which prevents constipation and offers health to digestive tract.
Benefits for Bones
Low vitamin K intake has been associated to an increased risk of bone fracture. Sufficient consumption of vitamin K improves calcium absorption, works like a modifier of bone matrix proteins and may decrease excretion of calcium through urine.
Benefits for High Blood Pressure
Spinach is recommended for high blood pressure patients because of its high potassium content. It can help lessen the effects of sodium. A low intake of potassium may be a big risk factor for developing high blood pressure, just as a high sodium intake.
Other good sources for potassium are banana, potatoes, oranges, avocado, beets, lima beans and tomatoes.
Benefits for Muscles
A recent research has shown that a bowl of spinach every day improves muscle efficiency. Scientists in Karolinska Institute in Sweden have found that participants who were given 300 gm of spinach every day showed reduced requirement of oxygen by 5% to power their muscles during workout. This effect was seen just after three days of spinach consumption.
Benefits for Hair and Skin
There are high levels of vitamin A in spinach which is essential in sebum production for moisturizing hair and skin. Vitamin A is also essential for the growth of all tissues, including hair and skin. Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are packed with vitamin C which is important for producing and maintaining collagen, which offers structure to hair and skin.
A common reason for hair loss is iron deficiency which can be prevented by a sufficient intake of iron-packed foods, such as spinach.
Benefits for Weight Loss
With only 78 calories in a full bunch of spinach, eating a lot of spinach won’t much affect the diet of one who is aiming for weight loss. However, that’s not the only way spinach helps someone shed excess pounds. Research has shown that spinach extract can keep anyone full and reduce cravings long after meals, possibly because of the small sections in spinach leaves named thylakoids. If someone adds spinach in their breakfast, they can overcome cravings at lunch and beyond.
Spinach Nutrition Info
One cup (30g) of raw spinach contains:
- 0.9 g protein
- 0.81 mg iron
- 167 mg potassium
- 2,813 mcg vitamin A
- 30 mg calcium
- 24 mg magnesium
- 58 mcg folate
- only 7 calories
Spinach also consists of fiber, vitamin K, thiamine and phosphorus. The calories in spinach mostly come from carbohydrates and proteins.
Deficiency of iron can affect how well the body can utilize energy. Spinach is loaded with iron. One should make sure to have sufficient amounts of vitamin C in diet to facilitate the best absorption of iron. Due to its high iron content, spinach is also excellent for eye health and has powerful anti-aging properties.
Spinach is one of the richest sources of dietary potassium i.e. 839 mg per cup of cooked spinach. (One cup of banana has around 539 mg of potassium).
One cup of cooked spinach contains around 250 mg of calcium. However, it’s not as easily absorbed as calcium from sources like dairy products. This is because spinach has high levels of oxalate which binds to calcium thereby making it difficult to absorb.
Spinach is also loaded with magnesium which is essential for maintaining nerve and muscle function, a healthy immune system, heart rhythm and blood pressure, and energy metabolism. Magnesium is an important component of hundreds of more biochemical reactions occurring in the body.
Those who take blood-thinners like warfarin should not suddenly start eating more or less vitamin-K-rich foods.
Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting.
Consuming overly amount of potassium can be dangerous for those whose kidney function is hampered. If excess potassium from the body is not removed by one’s kidneys, it can be life-threatening.
The high fiber content in spinach is good for the health of digestive tract but eating too much of it can result in digestive problems like gas, bloating and cramps.
Spinach also carries an increased risk of kidney stones but only in those who are susceptible to the condition.
Long Story Short: from time to time, a cup or two of spinach in your juices can be very beneficial to your health, especially if you can find organically grown spinach.
So, if you can, include spinach in your daily nutrition and enjoy its benefits.