Health Benefits of Spinach

Wednesday, August 19, 2020 - 12:30
Spinach

Three cups of raw spinach provides just 20 calories, no fat, 2 grams of protein, and 3 grams of carbohydrate with 2 grams as fiber (so 1 gram of net carbs).

A three cup portion provides over 300% of the daily need for bone-supporting vitamin K. Spinach also provides over 160% of the daily goal for vitamin A, and about 40% for vitamin C, which both support immune function and promote healthy skin, MSN reports.

Spinach also contains 45% of the daily need of folate, a B vitamin that helps form red blood cells and DNA. And spinach supplies 15% of the daily goal for both iron and magnesium, 10% for potassium, and 6% 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 flavonoid 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 summarize 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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