- 24 Oct - 30 Oct, 2020
The health benefits of spinach
- 29 Aug - 04 Sep, 2020
- health & nutrition
Of all the leafy greens, spinach is one of the most versatile. I whip it into smoothies, enjoy chilled spinach salads, steam and sauté fresh spinach, add it to stir frys, and even blend it into baked goods like brownies. Spinach also has many health benefits, and you can easily build it into your meals. Here are six perks of eating more of this powerfully protective plant, and simple ways to incorporate it into meals and snacks.
Spinach is nutrient-rich
Three cups of raw spinach provides just 20 calories, no fat, two grams of protein, and three grams of carbohydrate with two grams as fiber (so one gram of net carbs). Though it has so few calories, spinach is packed with nutrients. A three cup portion provides over 300 per cent of the daily need for bone-supporting vitamin K. Spinach also provides over 160 per cent of the daily goal for vitamin A, and about 40 per cent for vitamin C, which both support immune function and promote healthy skin.
Spinach also contains 45 per cent of the daily need of folate, a B vitamin that helps form red blood cells and DNA. And spinach supplies 15 per cent of the daily goal for both iron and magnesium, 10 per cent for potassium, and six per cent for calcium, along with smaller amounts of other B vitamins.
Spinach is high in antioxidants
In addition to its many vitamins and minerals, spinach provides antioxidants tied to anti-inflammation and disease protection. These include kaempferol, a flavounoid shown to reduce the risk of cancer, as well as slow its growth and spread. Another, called quercetin, has been linked to possible protective effects on memory as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Spinach is a functional food
In a study published in the journal Food & Function, researchers summarise the protective effects of spinach, based on the activity of its naturally occurring phytochemicals and bioactive compounds. They state that these spinach-derived substances can reduce oxidative stress, DNA damage, and disease. They're also able to positively influence the expression of genes involved in metabolism and inflammation. In addition, they trigger the release of satiety hormones, which can make you feel more full and satisfied.
For these reasons, the researchers conclude that eating more spinach may help fend off heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Spinach supports brain health
The anti-inflammatory effects of spinach make it a key contender for protecting the brain, particularly with aging. In one study, researchers tracked the eating patterns and cognitive abilities of more than 950 older adults for about five years. They saw a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline among those who consumed larger amounts of green leafy vegetables. The data indicated that people who ate one to two servings of leafy greens daily had the same cognitive abilities of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed no leafy greens.
Spinach may help manage blood pressure
Spinach is a source of naturally occurring nitrates, compounds that open up blood vessels to improve blood flow and ease the workload on the heart. In one small study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, 11 men and seven women consumed four different nitrate-rich drinks, including a spinach beverage.
Researchers found that blood nitrate levels increased after downing all four drinks. The spinach drink, in addition to those made from beetroot juice and rocket salad (another leafy green), also lowered blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure remained lower five hours after ingesting the spinach and rocket drinks. (Diastolic is the lower number on the blood pressure reading, which indicates the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats.)
Spinach protects eye health
One of the antioxidants in spinach, called lutein, has been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that can blur the sharp, central vision required for activities like reading and driving. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss for people age 50 and older. There is currently no cure or treatment to reverse the condition, so prevention is key.
In one Japanese study, researchers examined the eyes of 11 healthy nonsmokers who consumed 75 grams of frozen spinach containing 10 mg of lutein daily for two months. The intake of lutein-rich spinach increased blood lutein levels, and it also increased measures of macular pigment optical density (MPOD). That’s important, because macular pigment acts like internal sunglasses to protect the eyes, and low or decreased MPOD is a risk factor for AMD. This research indicates that spinach may help curb AMD risk.
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