Top 10 Health And Nutritional Benefits Of Spinach
I’m sure that most of you were introduced to spinach as a weird paradox between the gloopy non-appetizing stuff that your mom forced you to eat, and Popeye the sailor’s secret magic potion that seemed so tasty and instantly made him super strong.
Even as an 8-year-old kid, I knew something didn’t add up. Still, I reluctantly ate it and much to my surprise didn’t start looking like a bodybuilding steroid taking hoodlum. It was only much later when a girlfriend of mine turned me onto raw spinach leaf salad with cranberries, almonds, and avocado (which is delicious by the way) did I start wondering, just what it was about this food that made it so super!
What Is Spinach? Where Does It Come From?
For those of you who didn’t watch the Popeye cartoon or weren’t reluctantly fed this vegetable, here is a basic overview of it. Spinach is a green leafy plant that is generally sold all year round and can be mistaken for a lot of different smaller leafy plants. Unlike so many of foods that rise and fall on the “trendy healthy food lists”, it’s always been considered a very healthy vegetable with medicinal properties.
Spinach (spinacia oleracea) has been known to help with everything from eyesight to blood pressure to bone health. It also helps with healthy fetal development and preventing cancer or killing cancerous cells. If you are looking for a vegetable to add to your daily diet in order to acquire more vitamins and nutrients, this would be the one! Some of the nutrients include potassium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium and much more. It even helps brain functionality and thanks to the presence of phytonutrients. Let’s dive straight into the abundant health benefits of this superfood.
Top 10 Health Benefits Of Spinach
1. High In Potassium
Spinach is packed with potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte -- those things that Gatorade is always bragging about having! Potassium is responsible for lowering blood pressure. High Blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease, which you might think is irrelevant for you, but you would be wrong. Heart disease is the number-one cause of death in the world!
Potassium at high levels allows more oxygen to reach the brain, thereby stimulating neural activity and increasing cognitive function. It also plays a big role in maintaining the electrical conductivity in the brain, improving memory and overall learning capability.
2. Supports Heart Health
Moving on, let’s talk about those vitamins. I feel like vitamins are like kids in a very large family. They often don’t get the credit that they deserve, because there’s so many of them. Let’s start with vitamin K. Vitamin K in spinach is interesting because one cooked leaf already has all the vitamin K that you need for one day. So when you eat a whole bunch of spinach, you’re probably overdosing on vitamin K. Great news, there’s nothing wrong with it. Your body only stores the amount it needs and flushes out the rest. I think it’s pretty cool that we struggle so hard to only keep things that we need, but our bodies can do that really well… that is if we aren’t overloading it with junk.
The benefits of vitamin K are that it supports heart health. It helps with blood clotting, like if you get a cut or a wound it will ensure that your blood is not too thin which all can most definitely derive some benefit from. It also teams up well with the calcium in spinach to help it get to your bones and keep them strong.
3. Rich In Vitamin A
Next we move on to vitamin A. Vitamin A is fat soluble, which is great because it can penetrate your cell walls which are made up of fat and really get in there and do its magic. Vitamin A gives support to your skin. People with acne problems often can be vitamin A deficient. It is also good for your vision and lubricates the eye. Luckily, spinach is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which support eye health, so it’s a two-for-one for eye health. This makes spinach effective for macular degeneration and other eye issues. Not having enough vitamin A can make you susceptible to all sorts of infections.
There are 2 types of vitamins A. Carotene, which you can find in food, and retinol. Your body really wants more of that Retinol stuff, so make sure you don’t only get your vitamin A from veggies, but you can convert carotene and beta carotene into retinol simply by adding a healthy fat such as butter or quality olive oil to your vegetables, in this case, spinach.
4. Controls Blood Sugar
An additional component in spinach that is highly necessary is manganese. Just like some of the other nutritional components in spinach, manganese really helps keep your bones strong. It also helps you have healthy skin, and it’s very efficient in controlling the level of sugar in your blood which is especially vital for diabetics. Let’s just take a moment to look at the ability of manganese to control blood sugar levels. The dark leafy green stabilizes your blood sugar levels and lowers glycemic index. It furthermore helps regulate your metabolism and really get things moving in your body.
As a side point, one interesting quality of manganese is that it helps with those horrid monthly PMS syndromes. Studies have actually shown a connection between low levels of manganese and particularly severe PMS symptoms. This might all sound very enthralling, but before you start overloading on manganese capsules, you should know that too much manganese in your body is very unhealthy.
5. Rich In Iron
Iron. I’m sure you know at least one person taking iron supplements. The symptoms of iron deficiency are very noticeable and can affect our day to day lives. Yes, I know how hard it is to get out of bed, but if it seems extra hard to get out of bed, or up the stairs, or generally making it through your day without feeling wiped out, you might have an iron deficiency.
Iron is a very necessary component of something called hemoglobin which basically helps carry oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. If you’re not getting enough oxygen through your body, chances are that you might be iron deficient.
6. Aids Weight Loss
Cheesy, salty, crunchy, sweet, it doesn’t matter what mood you’re in, the “snack food drug quick fix” is right there. The perfect salty oily or sugary combo that will keep you munching. A very common denominator in most of these foods is that they all contain components that will signal to your body that you are still hungry, even though you’re probably satiated. This is much more of a craving hunger than a healthy natural hunger.
I’m here to tell you how spinach can give you a fighting chance. You see, spinach is rich with components called thylakoids. Thylakoids are actually better known for their role in photosynthesis of the plant. They also have the function of helping to send signals to your brain that you’re getting full.
An additional way that spinach can help you with weight loss is thanks to its high fiber content. It also has nutrients that will speed up your metabolism. And it does all this while having an extremely low-calorie count and being packed with good nutrients. I definitely think spinach plays an important role when thinking about foods for a weight loss plan, especially with rising awareness of obesity in the United States.
7. Prevents Cancer
Spinach is rich with these components called flavonoids. Flavonoids also help the process of photosynthesis of plants as well. Apigenin is a particular flavonoid which possesses a huge chunk of potential cancer-fighting powers. As you might have guessed, spinach is rich in apigenin. It fascinatingly also functions as a stress and anxiety reliever. A Harvard study found the link between these flavonoids and the minimized risk of ovarian cancer. Subjects that had a consistent flavonoid intake were 40% less likely to develop ovarian cancer!
Ovarian cancer is not the only one that has been proven to be prevented by spinach consumption. A study found a compound in spinach called neoxanthin, prevents prostate cancer cells from reproducing. Research has even produced strong evidence that eating spinach leaves and carrots consistently took down breast cancer odds by a large margin. One thing is for certain, all of the antioxidants contained within spinach are definitely beneficial for fighting free radicals and reducing a number of diseases including cancer.
8. Lowers Blood Pressure
As far as high blood pressure goes, spinach gives it that perfect one-two and even three punch. As stated way above, spinach is an excellent source of potassium. Potassium is known to lower blood pressure in the form of lowering the sodium levels, by flushing all that salt out of your body. Additionally, it also is partially responsible for easing tension in your blood vessel walls and blood cells, which will lower your blood pressure. Spinach also houses a nice amount of magnesium.
People who are magnesium deficient can use magnesium to lower the risk of hypertension or high blood pressure. You can contribute the third punch to folates and vitamin B6. Copious research links folic acid (folates) to blood pressure level reduction, particularly in women. The research states that folates are more instrumental in lowering high blood pressure levels than maintaining a normal level. With all of these elements combined, I’m certain that most nutritionists would prescribe spinach to regulate blood pressure.
9. Nourishes Skin
Spinach has so many beneficial aspects to hair and skin, it was almost as if it was made to help you look super glam. Regardless of who needs it, spinach can help with a plethora of skin issues. From offering sun protection to acne help, to averting aging, to just making your skin look much healthier in general. Aside from the nutrients absorbed in your body, you can even make face masks and hair masks using spinach extract.
The nutrients that I’ve listed, and even some that I didn’t get to, are all responsible for good skin care. Vitamin A’s antioxidant activity and rich carotenoids content keeps your skin looking healthy and repairs blemishes and helps with the slowing of the aging process. Vitamin C and vitamin E are just another piece to the puzzle of skin care which helps repair skin cells. Without enough vitamin C, your skin can get dry.
If you’ve ever seen someone with iron deficiency, it would be clear how eating this iron-enriched food can help. Iron will help you have a fresh rosy glow, as opposed to looking all white and pasty. That vitamin K that I rant and rave about works as an anti-inflammatory agent to help keep the bags out from under your eyes by reducing skin inflammation and augmenting blood circulation. Spinach has a high water content which can keep your skin looking hydrated and fresh.
10. Strengthens Hair
When it comes to hair, basically the same nutrients that are beneficial for skin, also really help hair strength and growth. For example, iron, as I mentioned above. People who have iron deficiencies not only have that pasty looking skin, but very often their hair is falling out as well. The iron in this green vegetable enables a flow of oxygen to be getting to those hair follicles which strengthens them.
Aside from that, nutrients that are essential for hair strengthening are B, C, and E, potassium, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids and calcium. I’ve actually been using spinach in my hair in the form of hair masks and my hair never felt softer. It also has been falling out at a much lower rate.
How To Get Your Kids To Eat Spinach
The fact of the matter is that spinach is even more essential for children than it is for adults. So how to get your kids to eat spinach? Fortunately, spinach isn’t like cereal and milk. There’s more than one way to eat it and make it yummy. Even if you’re gonna make that classy mushy spinach, you can spice things up by adding garlic and honey, or cheese. If your child is still not into it, you can try just dropping it in lasagna, or mixing it into your marinara sauce for pasta, or my personal favorite, the spinach and cheese omelet.
You can even use it as a substitute for lettuce in a sandwich and have it raw. There are many things to do with fresh spinach once you start being more creative other than just sauteing it in a pan. “What about juicing it?”, you might wonder once you start thinking along more creative lines. Yes! Juicing spinach is a great way to get your child to consume it. It will be easier for your kids to eat it and when raw, spinach isn’t nearly as bitter and has better health care benefits for your kids.
Spinach, as I stated, is more essential for a child than an adult. This is because things like bone development which the calcium and magnesium help with, are much more important for growing bones. Think about brain development for a second. One’s brain usually is constantly developing from when they’re born, until their early twenties. Studies show that infant’s brains function on a much higher scale. They use much more of their brains than we do ours.
The iron and potassium are both extremely vital for a brain developing at that rate. Spinach is even amazing for your child’s immune system. Those who have children know how much a child’s immune system needs boosting. I highly recommend juicing spinach to get your child to eat it. Once they have a positive view on spinach, it will stop having that stigma of the “horror food” that it had when I was growing up.
Just seeing how spinach has always been at the forefront of healthy vegetables and not just a fad food like kale or quinoa can show you just how valuable this dark green leafy vegetable is. The sheer nutritional value of spinach should be enough to convince you to add it into your diet. Whether you throw it in a smoothie, salad, or omelet, you can’t go wrong with this superfood. The nutrition facts are there and that’s enough for me!
It has most of the essential vitamins and minerals that you need daily. Despite the fact that spinach is rich in oxalic acid it’s still a hugely beneficial vegetable. People looking to eat a healthy diet don’t need to avoid oxalate as this nutrient is not a concern for most people. This is especially true when you compare it to such a nutrient-dense food like spinach. The benefits well outweigh the odds. Overall, it makes your whole body function a lot better. I’ve definitely gotten better at finding dishes to throw spinach into. I always make sure to have it around, as it’s one of the healthiest foods around. And I hope that you do as well!