34 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Spinach

What is Spinach

 

There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not spinach should be considered a superfood, but many studies prove its outstanding health benefits.

Spinach is a delicious addition to salads and soups and a great way to slim down.

While spinach may not be as popular as kale, its green leafy vegetable brother, it can be easily added to any diet, including the Paleo Diet, protein diets (since leafy green vegetables are allowed), and the Mediterranean Diet.

One of its greatest benefits is that you don’t even have to cook it. All you have to do is just add a few spinach leaves to your meals.

 

History

 

Persia is considered the birthplace of spinach.

Ancient Persians cultivated this vegetable long before Anno Domini.

Crusaders brought spinach to Europe during the Middle Ages.

Spanish monks were the first ones to cultivate spinach and make it popular in Europe.

In the  sixteenth and  seventeenth centuries, spinach bread and spinach juice were especially popular.

This type of bread was baked from the flour derived from spinach seeds, while the juice was widely used as a fancy addition to various meals.

Spinach juice was widely used to color butter and different creams and sauces.

Besides its natural coloring properties, the juice also served as a potent source of vitamins, which is why it spread widely across Europe.

Since the health benefits of spinach are unknown to many people, spinach is not as popular as kale, which has been a food trend in the United States since the 2010s.

 

how-spinach-grows

 

How Spinach Grows

 

It’s best to grow spinach in well-drained soil with a pH of from 6.5 to 7.

It’s also recommended to add compost or composted manure to the soil so that it can be as organic as possible.

If you plan to grow spinach twice a year and have this vegetable year-round, plant spinach seeds from four to six weeks before your last frost in the spring and then about six to eight weeks before the first frost in the fall.

The space between spinach plants must be about twelve inches to ensure the leaves reach their full size.

If your spinach has soft leaves, you must make it grow faster by adding nitrogen-rich soil additives, such as blood meal or cottonseed meal.

Composted manure and liquid fertilizers can also be used before planting to ensure full, quick, and strong growth.

Note that warm weather causes spinach bolting, which makes the vegetable’s leaves taste bitter when it’s flowering.

When this vegetable begins to bolt, its leaves taste bitter, and the plant is ready to be pulled.

Bolting spinach looks tall and fragile when the flowering process begins.

Heat (higher than 75° Fahrenheit) speeds up spinach bolting.

The most preferred temperature for the best growth is between 35° and 75° Fahrenheit.

 

spinach-varieties

 

Varieties

 

The most common varieties of spinach are smooth-leaf, crinkly savoy, and semi-savoy.

Unusual varieties can often be found at specialty grocers and at farmers’ markets (especially in the United States, France, Italy, Spain, and China).

For example, baby spoon spinach and red spinach are not as popular as the above-mentioned types, but they are also used in food.

Smooth-leaf spinach can be recognized by its flat, spade-shaped leaves.

It’s much easier to clean than crinkly savoy and semi-savoy spinach.

Due to its availability, smooth-leaf spinach is the most common choice of commercial producers of canned and frozen spinach.

You can easily find this variety sold fresh at grocery stores.

Crinkly savoy spinach has curly and crinkly leaves and is dark green in color.

You can recognize this type of spinach by its crispness.

It is very difficult to clean.

Semi-savoy spinach is similar to crinkly savoy in terms of crispness, but it is not as difficult to clean.

This type of spinach is cultivated to sell fresh and also for processing.

Baby spoon spinach has a rich green color and is similar to savoy, but compared with crinkly savoy, it is much smaller in size.

It’s just as crispy as regular savoy but sweeter.

Red spinach, the rarest variety of spinach, also has a rich green color, while its leaves are round and thick.

The center of red spinach leaves are red, which explains its name.

It’s a very succulent and sweet.

 

interesting-facts-about-spinach

 

Interesting Facts

 

  • Spinach is widely used in cooking.
  • Colorants, especially green and rich green types, as well as preservatives and various spices, are often made of spinach.
  • Spinach promotes better digestion of protein.
  • China is the world’s largest spinach producer, accounting for 85% of global production.
  • It’s best to eat fresh spinach for the most health benefits.
  • California is the largest producer of spinach in the United States, accounting for more than 74% of fresh spinach in the country.
  • Artists in the Middle Ages extracted green pigment from spinach to use as paint or ink.
  • Popeye, a fictional cartoon character created by Elzie Crisler Segar, eats spinach all the time in theatrical and television animated cartoons.
  • There is even a statue dedicated to Popeye in Crystal City, Texas.
  • China honors spinach’s long history, and many Chinese people still refer to it as “the Persian Green.”
  • English people referred to spinach as “the Spanish vegetable” because the Moors brought it through Spain.
  • National Spinach Day is March 26.

 

Nutritional Facts

 

Spinach is very low in calories, while its content of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients make it a perfect product whether you’re looking to lose weight, gain muscle, or maintain good health.

You don’t have to worry about getting fat, and your body is getting a rich variety of beneficial nutrients.

Spinach is a source of such vitamins as K, A, C, B2, B6, and E, and it’s also rich in potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, calcium, iodine, phosphorus, zinc, copper, fiber, healthy omega-3 fats, and protein.

Spinach is made up of 91.4% water, 3.6% carbs, 2.9% protein, and 0% fat.

A hundred grams of spinach has only twenty-three calories, which makes it an excellent choice for people who want to slim down (1).

In fact, spinach has very few calories, even fewer than such “fat burners” as grapefruit, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and broccoli.

A hundred grams of spinach provide you with 3.6 g of carbohydrates, 2.2 of which are dietary fiber.

It also contains 0.4% sugar, which is composed of glucose and fructose.

Spinach is high in insoluble fiber, which improves functioning of your digestive tract by helping move food through the digestive system more quickly.

Accordingly, eating spinach helps prevent constipation (2).

Spinach also contains about 30% of soluble fiber, which prevents your body from absorbing fat and cholesterol that come with food (3).

Soluble fiber in spinach also regulates blood sugar and cholesterol levels and helps eliminate toxins from your body (4, 5, 6).

Spinach is appreciated for the high amount of protein in its leaves.

Among vegetables, only peas and beans contain more protein than spinach.

Spinach has between 0.5% and 1.4% of carbs in its leaves and about 2.1% of nutrients, with potassium making up most of this amount.

Spinach has a glycemic index of 15, which is why it can be considered a perfect product to promote weight loss and get rid of cellulite (7).

 

science-backed-health-benefits-of-spinach

 

Health Benefits of Spinach

 

Numerous studies have proven that spinach has a number of positive effects on the human body.

By consuming spinach regularly, you get lots of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Spinach contains vitamins A, C, and K, B group vitamins, potassium, magnesium, iron, various antioxidants, lutein, zea-xanthin, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and even protein.

 

Spinach is Rich in Potassium

 

Spinach is one of the best dietary sources of potassium.

A hundred grams contains 558 mg of potassium, which is 16% of the daily value.

By contrast, a hundred grams of bananas (which has always been considered the champion of potassium) contains 358 mg of potassium.

Potassium is responsible for preserving bone mineral density as well as retention of muscle mass (8, 9).

Potassium is also well known for its properties to prevent the formation of kidney stones as well as control heart rate and blood pressure (10, 11, 12).

 

spinach-and-magnesium

 

Spinach and Magnesium

 

Spinach is also the richest dietary source of magnesium, containing 79 mg of this mineral per hundred grams (20% of daily value intake).

Magnesium is important in protein synthesis, regulating neural activity and maintaining nerve function as well as regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels (13, 14, 15, 16).

 

Rich in Iron

 

Spinach is the richest source of iron among other vegetables.

One hundred grams contains 2.7 mg of iron, which helps regulate red blood cell production and prevents anemia and hair loss (17).

 

Spinach and Antioxidants

 

Spinach leaves contain a great variety of antioxidants: vitamins A and C as well as polyphenol antioxidants, lutein, beta-carotene, and zea-xanthin.

Such a rich and potent antioxidant combination protects your body from oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) (18, 19).

These two affect the aging process and the development of various diseases.

 

spinach-is-rich-in-protein

 

Spinach is Rich in Protein

 

For a vegetable, spinach has a surprisingly impressive amount of protein—2.9 g per one hundred grams.

In fact, proteins in spinach are easily digested and broken down by enzymes into amino acids that are especially vital if you’re working out in the gym (20).

 

Kaempferol and Nitrates

 

Spinach is high in an antioxidant called kaempferol, which lowers the risk of developing cancer and various chronic disease.

At the same time, spinach promotes good heart health thanks to its high content of nitrates (21, 22).

 

Spinach and Eye Health

 

Zea-xanthin is a crucial dietary carotenoid, which is partially absorbed into the eyes to prevent age-related macular disease.

Thus, zea-xanthin provides your eyes with antioxidant and protective light-filtering properties (23).

Lutein contained in spinach improves eye function and prevents degeneration of the retina.

It’s especially beneficial to eat spinach regularly if you spend a lot of time in front of your PC or laptop (24).

Lutein reduces tension in the eyes by accumulating in the eye tissues.

In fact, luteinalso prevents eye problems that occur with aging (25).

 

spinach-is-rich-in-vitamin-a

 

Spinach is Rich in Vitamin A

 

Vitamin A contributes to eye health and maintains your skin in good condition.

Spinach is extremely rich in vitamin A, as a hundred grams provide 9376IU of vitamin A, which is 188% of the daily value intake (26, 27).

 

Spinach and Vitamin K

 

Spinach leaves are also very rich in vitamin K, as a hundred grams contains 604% of the daily value intake.

Vitamin K is vital for your health, since it strengthens the bones and stimulates the bones’ osteotropic activity (28, 29).

 

Spinach and Alzheimer’s Disease

 

Vitamin K also reduces neural damage in the brain in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin K is important for brain health, which is why it can even prevent Alzheimer’s if consumed regularly (30, 31).

 

spinach-and-energy-levels

 

Spinach and Energy Levels

 

Spinach is also very rich in B-group vitamins: B1 thiamin (0.1 mg), B2 riboflavin (0.2 mg), B6 (0.2 mg) as well as B9 folate (149 mcg) and B3 niacin (0.7 mg).

Thus, vitamin B complex keeps your energy levels active throughout the day (32).

 

Spinach and Immune System

 

Spinach is high in vitamins A and B, and a hundred grams of spinach contains 28.1 mg of vitamin C, which is 47% of the daily value intake.

In comparison, a hundred grams of grapefruit has just a little more vitamin C than spinach—31.2 mg.

Vitamin C is a vital antioxidant that boosts your immune system and helps your body fight off infections and cleanses it from oxygen-derived free radicals (33, 34).

 

spinach-heart-disease-and-anemia

 

Heart Disease and Anemia

 

Spinach is also a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which your body utilizes for energy and helps prevent various heart diseases and regulates blood pressure.

Potassium also regulates heart rate and blood pressure (35, 36, 37).

Since spinach is high in iron (2.7 mg per 100 grams), you prevent iron deficiency anemia by eating spinach every day (38).

 

Spinach and Digestive Tract

 

By eating spinach, you can forget about constipation, since spinach promotes regularity, thanks to its high content of fiber and water.

Spinach contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which have beneficial effects for your health.

While insoluble fiber prevents constipation and improves the functioning of your digestive system, soluble fiber prevents your body from absorbing fat and cholesterol from food (2, 3).

 

spinach-blood-sugar-and-cholesterol

 

Blood Sugar and Cholesterol

 

Soluble fiber also regulates blood sugar and cholesterol levels and helps your body eliminate toxins and feel good throughout the day (4, 5, 8).

 

Spinach and Diabetes

 

Spinach has protective properties against diabetes.

If you have diabetes, you can lower your glucose levels by eating spinach, strengthen insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative changes in the body thanks to spinach’s rich content of an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid (39, 40).

In fact, people suffering from diabetes can get their peripheral neuropathy and/or autonomic neuropathy decreased thanks to alpha-lipoic acid (41).

However, there is no evidence that any of the diabetes management benefits are true for the oral intake of alpha-lipoic acid, since most studies were carried out using intra-venous alpha-lipoic acid.

 

spinach-and-cancer

 

Spinach and Cancer

 

Spinach can also prevent cancer, thanks to its high content of chlorophyll, which eliminates the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines.

These are released when foods are exposed to high temperatures.

So adding spinach to your BBQ sauce would be a great idea (42, 43, 44).

Spinach also protects against lung cancer because it is high in vitamin A.

Whether you’re a smoker or a former smoker or are simply exposed to tobacco smoke, consuming spinach reduces the risk of developing lung cancer (45, 46).

 

Spinach and Asthma

 

Beta-carotene, which spinach has in abundance, lowers the risks of developing asthma.

Thus, eating spinach and other dietary sources of beta-carotene regularly can prevent asthma (77).

A hundred grams of spinach contains 5626 mcg of beta-carotene.

By contrast, a hundred grams of apricots contains 1094 mcg of this vitamin.

 

spinach-and-pregnancy

 

Spinach and Pregnancy

 

Spinach is especially useful for pregnant women, since its high content of folate ensures normal development of the offspring’s nervous system.

Folate also prevents neural tube defects (47, 48).

Folate also provides normal tissue growth and helps maintain proper cell function.

So if you’re pregnant, introducing spinach into your diet is definitely a good idea (49).

 

Spinach and Bones Health

 

Thanks to its rich content of vitamin K, spinach strengthens your bones and acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins when consumed regularly.

Spinach also provides better calcium absorption and even helps maintain your calcium levels in check (28, 50, 51).

 

spinach-skin-and-hair

 

Spinach and Your Skin

 

As mentioned above, spinach is a rich source of vitamin A, which is vital for maintaining your skin and hair in a beautiful and healthy state.

Vitamin A helps in sebum production to keep your hair moisturized (52).

This vitamin is also  necessary for the development of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair, both of which never stop to regenerate.

Besides, vitamin C found in spinach is vital in producing and maintaining collagen, which gives your hair and skin proper structure (53).

 

Spinach and Hair Loss

 

Spinach is also very rich in iron, which means you can prevent hair loss.

Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of hair loss, so consuming iron regularly helps strengthen the hair follicles (54, 55).

 

spinach-and-thyroid-gland

 

Spinach and Thyroid Gland

 

Due to its high iodine content, spinach is also recommended for people suffering from problems with the thyroid gland.

Iodine is essential for making thyroid hormones, and thyroid cells are the only cells in the body that can absorb iodine (56, 57).

 

Spinach and Body Toxins

 

Spinach has properties to eliminate toxins from the human body.

With the help of spinach, you can regulate your metabolism, raise your hemoglobin levels, and boost your energy (58, 59).

 

spinach-is-easily-digested-and-absorbed

 

Spinach is Easily Digested and Absorbed

 

Spinach can be easily digested and absorbed, meaning you’ll never feel bloated or constipated (60).

 

Spinach is Safe for Children

 

Thanks to its digestibility and lightness, spinach is recommended for children, people with poor appetite, and individuals recovering from complex surgical procedures and chemotherapy (61).

 

 Spinach and Inflammation

 

Spinach has anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it’s often recommended by dentists as a supportive measure to treat inflammation in the gums and throat (62).

 

spinach-and-weight-loss

 

Spinach and Weight Loss

 

Spinach juice is particularly healthy and can be consumed both separately and in combination with other vegetable juices, such as carrot juice.

It increases your work efficiency, boosts the immune system, and promotes weight loss (63, 64).

 

Spinach and Burns

 

Spinach is also effective in treating burns.

For this purpose, it’s recommended to use a special spinach paste, which can be prepared by boiling spinach leaves in olive oil.

The resulting mix is applied to the burned areas (65).

 

spinach-and-neurological-issues

 

Spinach and Neurological Issues

 

Thanks to its high content of antioxidants and potassium, spinach offers a variety of neurological benefits, such as preventing neural or cognitive decline and boosting concentration, cognition, and neural activity (66, 67).

 

Spinach and Cataracts

 

Spinach reduces the risk of cataracts due to its high content of such strong antioxidants as lutein and zea-xanthin.

These two antioxidants reduce the negative effects of free radicals and UV rays, both of which lead to cataracts (68).

 

spinach-curbs-cravings-and-hunger

 

Spinach Curbs Cravings and Hunger

 

Spinach also boosts your entire metabolism, making every organ in your body function at its optimal level.

Besides, thanks to its high content of thylakoid, spinach curbs cravings and hunger, both of which help you lose pounds (69).

 

Spinach is an Anti-Ulcerative Vegetable

 

Spinach protects the mucous membrane of the stomach, which means it lowers the risk of developing gastric ulcers.

In addition, glycocyclerolipids contained in spinach strengthen the lining of the digestive tract (70).

 

atherosclerosis-and-strokes

 

Atherosclerosis and Strokes

 

Lutein, which spinach has in abundance, lowers the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, and other heart disease.

Spinach proteins also help reduce cholesterol and cleanse the blood vessels from other fat deposits (71, 72).

 

How to Buy

 

Spinach is one of the dirtiest vegetables, since it may grow in soils containing salt of heavy metals and other poisonous and harmful substances.

That’s why spinach must be grown far away from harmful industrial areas and garbage dumps.

If you buy spinach at grocery stores, it’s recommended to ask the seller where it was imported from and how it was grown.

When choosing spinach, you need to consider a few things regarding its freshness.

Color

The leaves must be juicy green in color and bright, which means it was delivered to the grocery store straight from the producer and not stored at some warehouse for days or weeks.

In fact, the juicier the color, the more vitamin C present.

Smell

Fresh spinach has a pleasant smell.

If the smell is unpleasant (especially the leaves) or has no smell at all, don’t buy it, as most likely it has been stored for several days.

Leaf structure

Spinach leaves should be a little crunchy.

You can check it quite easily: just press the tip of the spinach between two fingers and squeeze a little.

If you feel a slight crunch and crack, this spinach is fresh and was pulled from the garden no more than 12 hours ago.

No yellow or black spots

If spinach has yellow or black spots, it means it has been damaged by insects or processed with anti-pest agents.

Don’t buy it.

Fresh look

Spinach shouldn’t have any defects; its leaves must be smooth and juicy.

So don’t buy crumpled or withered spinach, as it may harm you.

Stem width

If the spinach’s stem is too wide, it means this spinach is overripe and too bitter to eat.

 

how-to-store-spinach

 

How to Store Spinach

 

It’s best to consume spinach within twelve hours after you buy it.

You can store spinach in the fridge at a temperature no higher than 5° Celsius (41° Fahrenheit).

You can put spinach into a bag or container to preserve its freshness, but don’t wash it before putting it into the fridge, as it will substantially reduce the length of time it can be stored.

Even if you follow all these tips, spinach shouldn’t be stored for more than three days, as it may spoil and be harmful for human health.

You can freeze spinach but for no more than four months because longer periods may reduce its health benefits.

 

How to Add More Spinach to Your Diet

 

Add Spinach to Smoothies

Adding spinach to your smoothie is a great way to start your day with a boost of energy, thanks to its high content of B-group vitamins.

Use Spinach as a Topping for Pasta

If you’re a fan of pasta, you can chop spinach into small pieces and sprinkle it over your pasta.

You can have delicious pasta packed with healthy nutrients.

Spinach is Great Addition to Meat

Meat and spinach are great friends, as they taste amazing when combined.

You can add some spinach to your grilling pan, and your family or friends won’t even notice the taste of this vegetable!

Add Spinach to Salads

You can always add spinach to your salads to spice them up and have more vitamins and minerals.

Add Spinach to Omelets

Since spinach promotes better digestion of protein, it would be a great idea to add spinach to your omelets.

Delicious and healthy at the same time!

Add Spinach to Soups

If you enjoy soup, adding spinach would make it even more delicious, and if you’re cooking chicken noodle, protein will be digested much better with spinach!

Use Spinach in Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza?

You can make your pizza much healthier and not feel guilty after eating it, though, if you add some spinach to it.

In fact, you could also try smearing pureed spinach on top of your pizza instead of sauce to impress your guests.

 

spinach-precautions

 

Precautions

 

The most important precaution about such vegetables as spinach is freshness.

If spinach is stored for more than forty-eight hours (not in the fridge), harmful substances will grow on the leaves.

If you eat spoiled spinach, you risk becoming very sick.

Meals cooked with spinach shouldn’t be stored for long.

It’s best to eat such meals immediately after cooking.

If you tend to develop kidney stones, you shouldn’t eat much spinach because this vegetable has a high amount of calcium and oxalates, both of which cause kidney stones (73, 74).

If you’re taking blood thinners, you may want to steer clear of spinach, as it’s very rich in vitamin K1, which is important in blood clotting (75).

In fact, if you have any problems with your kidneys or urinary tract, you may want to avoid spinach altogether because it’s high in oxalic acid (76).

Don’t eat spinach (or eat in moderate amounts) if you’re suffering from any of the following: nephritis, kidney stone disease, gout, rheumatism, duodenum disease, and diseases of the liver and bile passages.

 

spinach-conclusion

 

Conclusion

 

Spinach is a nutritious, low-calorie vegetable that helps with weight loss and offers a great number of health benefits, including prevention of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and anemia.

It’s highly recommended to include spinach in your everyday diet and consume it fresh.

It’s very important to store spinach properly and buy only fresh leaves to avoid any potential harmful effects from spoiled spinach.

Spinach provides a rich variety of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, B-group vitamins, potassium, magnesium, iron, folate, various antioxidants, lutein, zea-xanthin, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and even protein.

Spinach prevents cancer, heart disease, asthma, anemia, Alzheimer’s, helps manage diabetes, promotes a healthy digestive tract, regulates blood sugar and cholesterol, improves eye health, boosts the immune system, fuels your body with energy, and ensures a healthy pregnancy.

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