You’ve seen it in salads and as a popular addition to omelettes and smoothies. While many say they don’t like it, baby spinach is a nutrient-dense vegetable that provides some serious health benefits.
Baby spinach is just young spinach (Spinacia oleracea) that farmers harvest during the early stages of plant growth, generally between 15 and 35 days after planting. The smaller leaves are more tender and have a sweeter flavor than mature spinach.
Spinach has been around for quite some time. It appears to have been cultivated in the Middle East for over 1,000 years. Today, you can find it growing in countries all across the world.
In addition to its vitamin and mineral content, baby spinach also offers plenty of antioxidants. It contains nutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin, nitrates, and quercetin, which are all good for your overall health and wellbeing.
With so many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, baby spinach provides many health benefits, such as:
Carotenoids in spinach, namely lutein and zeaxanthin, give the vegetable its color. They can also help to keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risk for developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Baby spinach has a decent amount of potassium, which is good for heart health. Many studies link potassium with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of stroke and heart disease. The nitrates in baby spinach also help to keep your blood pressure under control, which can help improve heart health.
Baby spinach has many antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid can lower blood sugar levels and boost insulin sensitivity. It may also reduce tingling and numbness (peripheral neuropathy) for people with diabetes.
In addition to antioxidants, baby spinach is full of glucuronides and methylenedioxyflavonol. These compounds are anti-inflammatories and can help to prevent cancer. Some studies show that they can be effective in reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Reduced Risk of Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. Without enough iron, your blood can’t make hemoglobin. Just 4 cups of raw baby spinach has about 15% of your recommended daily allowance of iron. Eating it regularly, in addition to other sources of iron, can help to reduce your risk of anemia.
Baby spinach is rich in vitamin K and magnesium, two very important nutrients for bone health. Just 4 cups of baby spinach has nearly five times your daily recommended allowance of vitamin K. Vitamin K may be able to lower your risk of bone fractures, and works with Vitamin D to improve bone density.
Antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, beta carotene, and chlorophyll can all help to boost your immune system, which allows your body to fight infections more effectively and stay healthy.
Folate (also called folic acid) is vital for a healthy pregnancy. It can help to prevent spina bifida and anencephaly in babies during the early stages of development. Spinach can help to boost your folate intake and help you to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Nutrients Per Serving
In 4 cups of baby spinach, there are:
- Calories: 20
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Baby spinach also has a variety of vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Baby spinach is one of the best sources of plant-based iron available, and the majority of its calories come from protein. It’s a nutrient-dense green that’s low on calories, which makes it a favorite among many vegans and vegetarians.
How to Prepare Baby Spinach
When choosing baby spinach at the store, look for vibrant green leaves with no signs of yellowing. The leaves should look fresh, and not wilted, bruised, or slimy.
Once a bag or plastic container of baby spinach is opened, moisture can get inside. Place the leaves in a new bag or sealable container with paper towels and store them in the crisper drawer.
You can enjoy baby spinach raw or cooked. There are countless recipes that include this nutritional powerhouse of a vegetable. A few ways to prepare baby spinach include:
- Mixing with apple slices, walnuts, crumbled feta, and a champagne vinaigrette for a nutritious salad.
- Adding it to your favorite fruits and vegetables to make a healthy green smoothie.
- Blending it with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese for pesto.
- Sautéing it in a little olive oil with garlic and onions.
- Incorporating it into your breakfast scramble, omelet, casserole, or lasagna.
- Tossing it into a vegetable soup.
- Making a spinach-artichoke dip.
- Making homemade spanakopita.