Table of Contents
- 1 Spinach Nutrition
- 2 Is Spinach a Vegetable ?
- 3 How much fiber is in spinach
- 4 Health Benefits of Spinach
- 5 How to Incorporate Spinach in Your Diet
- 6 Conclusion
Spinach is one of the most popular vegetables all over the world. This is not only because it is vibrant and bright looking but also because of its numerous health benefits. Spinach flavour is one that has to grow on some individuals since it has a bitter aspect but generally, it compliments a lot of dishes and gives you a boost of numerous vitamins.
The great thing about spinach is the fact that it is available all year round. The younger spinach leaves are normally eaten raw in salads while the older leaves are cooked for a short period of time. Spinach takes the shortest time to cook compared to all other vegetables.
Is Spinach a Vegetable ?
There are some vegetables which are at times classified as fruits. This is something that has created a lot of confusion for people. Some people have a hard time classifying fruits and vegetables. Spinach is a vegetable that is also considered to be a functional food since it has numerous health benefits such as antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Spinacia oleracea is Spinach’s scientific name and it botanically belongs to the family Amaranthaceae. (1)
How much fiber is in spinach
Although most people know that spinach is a healthy vegetable, not many people know its nutritional content such as how much fiber is in spinach or how much protein is in spinach.
This is a vegetable that is rich in Vitamin C(14%), Potassium, Calcium(3%), Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2, Copper, Iron(5%), Magnesium(6%), Folate, Manganese, Vitamin A(56%) and Vitamin K. Apart from these, spinach is also rich in dietary fiber, choline, Vitamin B1, protein, Zinc and Phosphorus.
It is also a good source of selenium, omega 3 fatty acids, niacin and pantothenic acid. There is approximately 3% of dietary fibre and 0.9g of protein in 30g of raw spinach.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Anti-Cancer and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
All vegetables are excellent sources of phytonutrients. Spinach however is in the forefront when it comes to phytonutrients since it contains the most compared to other vegetables. Flavonoids and carotenoids are the phytonutrients mostly found in vegetables.
Research has confirmed that spinach is rich in flavonoids that give spinach its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties (2).The high content of flavonoids in spinach as led researchers to come up with extracts from spinach which have been used in laboratory analysis.
The extracts where seen to reduce skin and stomach cancer cells in animals. Back in the 1980s, a study was also done among women to determine the relationship between spinach and breast cancer. From the study, it was evident that there was an inverse relationship between the two.
Women who consumed more spinach were at a lower risk of getting breast cancer compared to those who did not. Inflammation is a characteristic that goes hand in hand with cancer development. Studies have however shown that spinach reduces inflammation even when it is not related to cancer. It is therefore advisable for everyone to incorporate this vegetable in their diet in order to reduce the risk of cancer which is growing rapidly. (3)
A lot of nutritionists advise their weight loss patients to eat more vegetables. One of the most recommended foods is spinach. Weight management is one of health benefits of spinach because it is an excellent source of dietary fiber.
For this reason, when an individual takes a good amount of spinach, they feel more satisfied even when they have not had much to eat for a long period of time. This reduces the need to snack on different foods during the day. It is therefore a great way of lowering an individual’s caloric intake without having to starve them.
With time an individual is able to lose weight especially if they are working out as well. This is because their energy expenditure is lower than their energy intake which is important in achieving weight loss. The other reason why spinach is considered a great vegetable for weight loss is the fact that it is very easy to prepare. This is very important because it eliminates the need of eating ready-made processed food since even without a lot of time on your hands, you can easily prepare a fast meal with spinach or eat it raw in your salad.
Last but not least, spinach has a very small amount of calories which is great if you are trying to lose some weight.
Antioxidant nutrients such as Vitamin C, E and A are very important in our diet since they help in combating oxidative stress. Spinach is rich in these nutrients and many more such as Selenium and Zinc which also have anti-oxidant properties.
High blood pressure and atherosclerosis are some of the problems that come about due to oxidative stress. Spinach has been proven to reduce oxidative stress thereby preventing such health problems. Apart from the antioxidant properties, spinach is also rich in peptides which are effective in inhibiting angiotensin converting enzyme which is responsible for high blood pressure.(4)
Due to its high content in Lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, spinach is also considered to be very beneficial in dealing with eye problems such as macular degeneration. (5)
Popeye ate a lot of spinach and in the show; it is the spinach that was said to make him strong and masculine. Many people may have assumed it was just a trick to get the kids to eat their vegetables but it is actually true. Spinach does make you strong in the sense that it gives you healthy bones.
How does this happen? Spinach is rich in Vitamin K which is very important in bone health. Vitamin K1 in spinach is beneficial because it prevents osteoclasts activation. Osteoclasts are responsible for bone breakdown. The beneficial microorganisms in our gut convert the Vitamin K1 into Vitamin K2 which is also very beneficial for bone health. This vitamin on the other hand is responsible for osteocalcin activation.
Osteoclacin is a protein in the bone that is non-collagen. It is responsible for anchoring Calcium in the bone. This shows how important Vitamin k is in our general bone health. Spinach is the richest source of Vitamin K among all vegetables. You might not get Popeye’s muscles immediately after taking spinach but you will definitely get healthy bones within no time. (6)
Neural Tube Defects
When a woman is pregnant, there are certain stages of foetal development that are described as critical stages of development. These are the stages where the mother has to have adequate nutrition in order to ensure healthy development of the foetus.
In the first few weeks for example, it is very important for the mother to have adequate intake of folate in order to prevent neural tube defects and promote healthy brain development. So where does spinach come in in all this? Spinach is an excellent source of folate. While in most cases a mother will get folate supplements, it is also very important for her to ensure she is getting a good amount of the nutrients from her diet.
Incorporating spinach in the diet is therefore highly recommended for pregnant women and women of reproductive age. Women of reproductive age are advised to take a lot of spinach because it is rich in Iron which all women need due to the monthly loss of iron during their menstrual cycles. (7)
Alpha-lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant normally found in spinach. It is effective in combating oxidative stress in diabetic patients, increasing the sensitivity of insulin and studies have shown that it is able to lower the glucose levels in a diabetic patient.
In most cases alpha-lipoic acid is used intravenously in diabetic patients and has been shown to give these benefits. Spinach consumption is therefore important for individuals suffering from diabetes which is a life threatening disease. Apart from containing alpha-lipoic acid, spinach is also very effective in weight loss which is important in controlling Type II diabetes. (8)
Prevention of Asthma
People who consume high amounts of nutrients are at a lower risk of developing asthma compared to those who do not. One of the most important nutrients in preventing asthma is Beta-Carotene. This is a nutrient that is found in large amount in Spinach.
It is therefore a good idea for children and adults to incorporate this vegetable in their diets from time to time. It is however not clear whether consumption of spinach may help in treating asthma.
Another one of health benefits of Spinach is digestion as Spinach is rich of Dietary fibre. It helps in enabling the intestinal flora to grow and it is also excellent in preventing and overcoming constipation. Spinach helps in constipation because it increases stool bulk, softens the stool and reduces the time it takes for food to move from the digestive system. It is therefore great in promotion of a healthy digestive tract.
Healthy Hair and Skin
Do you have a problem with dry hair? Well, spinach might be the solution you are looking for. Spinach is rich in Vitamin A which is important in production of sebum which is necessary in moisturizing your hair. Vitamin A is a very important nutrient because it facilitates the growth of certain body tissues such as skin and hair. It is therefore a good food if you are looking to grow your hair longer.
Vitamin C is also found in large amounts in spinach, it helps in the health of skin and hair since it stimulates collagen repair which is important in health of hair and skin. Iron is another nutrient that makes spinach an excellent food for hair. Lack of iron causes one to lose hair, with high intake of iron rich foods, this can be controlled. Spinach is therefore a good choice when looking to increase iron intake to prevent hair loss. (9)
Precautions When Taking Spinach
Although spinach is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables, there are certain situations in which you need to be cautious about eating spinach often. First and foremost, it is very important to minimize your spinach intake when you are taking blood thinning medication such as warfarin. This is because spinach is very rich in Vitamin K which plays a very important role in blood clotting. It might therefore not be a good idea to increase your spinach intake in such a situation.
The other situation in which it might not be a great idea to take spinach is when you have a kidney that is not entirely functional. This is because spinach is rich in potassium. A kidney with problems might not be able to get rid of excess potassium. Excessive potassium in the body may be fatal. It is therefore a good idea to consult your doctor in case you are suffering from a kidney problem before you indulge in a spinach containing cuisine.
How to Incorporate Spinach in Your Diet
As mentioned earlier, there are people who require some time to get used to the taste of spinach while there are others who love it instantly. If you are the kind of person who does not fancy eating spinach on its own, there are a number of fun ways to incorporate it into your diet.
First and foremost, you can use it to make a sandwich or add it to flat bread. This will enable the taste of bread and spinach to blend which makes spinach taste less pronounced.
The other way to eat spinach is to incorporate it into your soups, casseroles and pasta. This allows you to add other healthy vegetables you like to make a delicious and healthy meal.
Last but not least, you can make a green smoothie. To make it sweet, it is advisable to add some bananas or any other fruit in the mix. This will give you a sweet taste and you will not be able to taste the spinach in the smoothie.
In conclusion, there are tons of health benefits of Spinach that we should take into account . It is great for children, adults and even the elderly. It has many nutrients that are absent in most processed foods and is a great addition to the natural foods. Make the bold decision to incorporate this vegetable in more of your recipes. Your body will definitely thank you for doing so.