Spinach oleracea, also known as spinach, is an amazing leafy vegetable packed with micronutrients. While being a great veggie for growing healthy muscle, it does more than just helping Popeye hulk out. The health benefits of spinach are numerous. This leafy plant is good for your eyes, heart, brain, and helps protect against many diseases.
Spinach is part of the amaranth family. This is a broad flowering plant family that includes beets, quinoa, leafy greens, and even ornamental plants.
Spinach is high in carotenoids. The body can turn these into vitamin A. Spinach is also a good source of niacin, zinc dietary fiber, and protein. It’s a great source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, and riboflavin. It also supplies you with vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both found in spinach and good for ocular health. Both are important carotenoids, which turn into vitamin A and account for many of the health benefits of spinach. Zeaxanthin and lutein are capable of preventing macular degeneration and cataracts. Both of these are serious, and blinding diseases.
They are also great for your skin. Vitamin A is used to treat acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, wounds, burns, sunburn, and many more skin ailments.
Spinach is also a natural source of nitrates. The heart health benefits of spinach come from these nitrates. The cardiovascular benefits include enhance endothelial function and lower blood pressure.
Many people are afraid of nitrates because of their link to cancer. We’ve known the harmful effects of nitrate for decades, but nitrates aren’t all bad. Low levels of nitrates are found in beets, celery, lettuce, radishes, and spinach. These are natural nitrates that come from the soil. Organic produce has low enough nitrate levels that they can actually be beneficial. The danger comes when nitrates are heavily added from pesticides, or as preservatives in food. Nitrates are regularly added to meat, specifically cold cuts, to enhance colour and flavour. These are the nitrates to avoid, but nitrates found in organic vegetation are okay.
Kaempferol is one of the antioxidants that is responsible for some of the health benefits of spinach. It is a major preventer of chronic disease.
Another source of the health benefits of spinach is from quercetin. Quercetin is an important inflammation and infection fighter. Spinach is one the richest sources of quercetin, making it an excellent dietary choice for an anti-inflammatory diet.
The antioxidants play a large role in cancer prevention. One study showed that regularly eating spinach helps prevent oxidative damage. Spinach has many anticancer effects. This study showed spinaches positive effect on prostate cancer.
Spinach helps promote a healthy brain. It helps ensure blood circulation to and from the brain. The antioxidants in spinach also help reverse age-related cognitive decline.
Magnesium is another important nutrient found in spinach. Magnesium helps relax muscles and joints and magnesium deficiency can be quite serious. The bioavailability of magnesium stays the same when cooked or boiled. This is great because spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium. Often cooking foods results in a lower nutrient profile, but this isn’t the case with spinach.
While there are many health benefits of spinach, there are a few negatives. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K1. This micronutrient is key for blood clotting. This can affect the use of certain prescription blood thinners. Anyone who is on blood thinners should talk to their doctor about safe levels of vitamin K1 consumption.
Eating large amounts of spinach may result in the formation of kidney stones. It is a good source of calcium and oxalate, which are two key ingredients to form these painful stones. The body poorly absorbs the calcium found in spinach. This is because of the oxalic acid found in spinach. The oxalic acid flushes the calcium (and iron) through your urine. This can lead to the buildup of these minerals and cause the formation of stones. Anyone who is at high risk of developing kidney stones should take note.
Spinach was originally cultivated in Persia but is now produced mostly in the US and China. The closer to home, and the fresher you can get spinach the better. Spinach found in the supermarket is often covered in pesticides and chemicals that allow it to have a longer shelf life, and survive being shipped internationally. Buy organic when you can, and better yet, grow your own spinach. Eating foods when they’re locally in season is also a good way to ensure you’re eating a diverse menu with a diverse nutritional profile.
Get all of the amazing health benefits of spinach by growing it at home. Here’s a great instructional video about how to plant and grow your own spinach.