Spinach is one of the most popular leafy greens, eaten all across the world and for very good reason. It is an incredibly versatile and tasty vegetable: steamed, raw, in a smoothie, a salad or in a pastry!
But don’t be fooled, spinach is also packed full of all the nutrients and vitamins to make it the perfect addition to any plate! Spinach can reduce oxidative stress, increase eye health and even help to prevent cancer and heart disease.
Spinach has extremely high water content (nearly 91%!) which is why it wilts so much when cooked. The remaining content is made up of carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals and plant compounds.
The carbohydrate content is predominantly insoluble fiber, which adds bulk as food passes through the digestive track to keep it moving smoothly!
Spinach is high in Carotenoids, which the body turns in to vitamin A. It also contains high levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folic Acid, iron and calcium. Whilst in lower levels, spinach also contains potassium, magnesium and a range of B Vitamins.
Some of the greatest health benefits of spinach come from the plant compounds that it contains. It is high in nitrates, which promote heart health, lutein and zeaxanthin that is linked with eye health and Quercetin, which is an antioxidant that is linked with warding off infections and inflammation. Spinach is one of the highest food sources of Quercetin, so load up on spinach when you are feeling a cold coming on!
Clearly spinach is loaded with a lot of the good stuff, but what does this mean for the health benefits?
- Lowers oxidative stress: oxidative stress is caused by free radicals, which are a by-product of metabolism processes in the body. Oxidative stress can lead to accelerated aging and even some cancers. However, as spinach is high in antioxidants it helps to fight off oxidative stress and fix the damage it causes.
- Eye health: Spinach contains high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which also provide the pigmentation to the human eye and help to protect them from sun damage. Recently these plant compounds have also been linked with the prevention of muscular degeneration and cataracts.
- Promotes heart health: spinach contains high levels of nitrates, which have been shown to moderate blood pressure, as well as decrease the risk of heart disease. Several human studies have linked the consumption of spinach with lowering blood pressure.
Tips to maximize the benefits of spinach:
The iron found in plants is often less bioavailable than that in meat, meaning that it is harder for the body to absorb. However when consumed with a high source of vitamin C such as orange juice, tomatoes or capsicum it can help to increase absorption of iron.
If you are taking blood-thinning medication it is advised to monitor your Vitamin K intake, which is known for its blood clotting properties, thus usually avoid high quantities of spinach or other leafy greens.
For ideas on how to increase the amount of spinach in your diet, visit our Recipes page!