Top 5 health benefits of spinach
We asked registered nutritionist Jo Lewin about the benefits and the myths behind Popeye's leafy green vegetable of choice, spinach.
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What is spinach?
Spinach belongs to the chenopodiaceae family (also known as goosefoot), which includes beetroot, chard and quinoa. It shares a similar taste profile with these vegetables – the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavour of chard. There are three different types of spinach available: savoy, semi-savoy and smooth leaf.
Nutritional benefits of spinach
An 80g (raw) serving contains:
- 2.2g protein
- 0.6g fat
- 1.3g carbohydrates
- 2.2g fibre
- 136mg calcium
- 1.68mg iron
- 91mcg folate
- 21mg vit C
What are the 5 top health benefits of spinach?
1. May help maintain good vision
The dark green colour of spinach leaves indicates they contain high levels of chlorophyll and health-promoting carotenoids including beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. As well as being anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous, these phytonutrients are especially important for healthy eye sight, helping to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
2. May support energy levels
Spinach has long been regarded as a plant which can restore energy, increase vitality and improve the quality of the blood. There are good reasons for this, such as the fact that spinach is rich in iron. This mineral plays a central role in the function of red blood cells which help transport oxygen around the body, supports energy production and DNA synthesis. However, high levels of a compound called oxalic acid, naturally found in spinach, appears to inhibit the absorption of minerals like iron; that said, lightly cooking or wilting appears to minimise these effects.
3. May support heart health
Spinach, like beetroot, is naturally rich in compounds called nitrates; these may help improve blood flow and pressure by relaxing the blood vessels, reducing arterial stiffness and promoting dilation. A reduction in blood pressure helps reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies suggest that nitrate-rich foods, like spinach, may also help heart attack survival.
4. May support healthy bones
5. May be protective
Spinach is loaded with protective compounds called polyphenols. Studies suggest, that along-with its vitamin content these compounds may promote cancer-protective properties. Animal studies suggest including spinach in the diet may protect against colon cancer.
Is spinach safe for everyone?
Spinach is safe for most people, however there are some individuals who need to exercise caution. Spinach contains a high amount of oxalate, for this reason people with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should minimise their consumption.
Those on blood-thinning medication need to consider their vitamin K intake. Typically, the advice, while taking this medication, is that you need to keep your dietary intake approximately the same. Check with your GP before making any significant changes to your diet.
If you are concerned or have queries please consult your GP or registered dietitian for guidance.
This article was reviewed on 17 February 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
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