Spinach is a great staple to add to your diet. This leafy green vegetable grows all year round and is packed with vitamins and minerals.
There are two basic types of spinach: flat-leaf and savoy. When you buy fresh, bunched spinach at the grocery store, it is usually savoy spinach. The leaves of savoy spinach are typically wrinkled and curly. Flat spinach, also known as baby spinach, is widely popular in the U.S. and is often sold bagged, canned, or frozen.
Though not the most exciting of foods, the health benefits of eating spinach are abundant:
Lower Blood Pressure
Spinach is an excellent source of lutein, an antioxidant known to protect against age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Studies have found that people who take lutein supplements are at a lower risk for macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness.
Cataracts are an eye condition caused by oxidation of the lens of the eye. Studies have shown that lutein appears to prevent ultraviolet damage to your lenses. One study found that women who had a higher dietary intake of lutein were 23% less likely to develop cataracts than those who had a low-lutein diet.
Lutein has also been shown to help preserve cognitive abilities. Studies of older adults have shown that those with higher lutein levels exhibited better verbal fluency, memory, reasoning ability, and processing speed than those with low amounts of the nutrient.
Vitamin K is essential to bone health and growth, and spinach is packed with it. Eating just one cup of spinach fulfills the recommended daily amount of Vitamin K your body needs.
The vitamin A in spinach is used by your body to grow tissues, including the largest organ in your body, skin. Not only does Vitamin A support the skin’s immune system (preventing disease and damage), but it also helps skin stay hydrated, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Spinach is an excellent source of iron, which helps your body make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is needed to transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. This is why one of the primary symptoms of iron deficiency is heavy fatigue.
Nutrients per Serving
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 7
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
Things to Watch Out for
Spinach is chock full of fiber. Eating too much fiber can cause gas, cramping, and abdominal pain.
Spinach is rich in oxalate, a naturally occurring substance found in almost all plants. People at risk for developing calcium oxalate kidney stones should moderate their intake of oxalate-rich foods. If you are in this risk group, talk to your doctor about including spinach in your diet.
How to Prepare Spinach
Raw, cooked, canned, or steamed, plain old spinach isn’t always exciting. But when combined with other foods, spinach can be delicious. Here are some ways to incorporate more spinach into your diet:
- Microwave strips of fresh spinach combined with olive oil, lemon juice, and cheddar or mozzarella cheese to make an easy spinach dish kids will love.
- Saute fresh spinach with garlic, onions, and olive oil for a quick and nutritious side dish.
- Blend fresh or frozen spinach, strawberries, pineapple, banana, plain Greek yogurt, and chia seeds to make a delicious smoothie.
- Fold spinach, red bell peppers, and hummus together in a whole wheat flatbread for a healthy, filling snack.
- Combine spinach, garlic, onions, chicken broth, and a russet potato in a blender to make a hearty soup.
- Toss spinach, feta, toasted almonds, red onions, and apples to make a classic spinach salad. Dress with a mustard vinaigrette.
- Bake together spinach, artichoke hearts, mayonnaise, Parmesan, and Monterey Jack cheese for a classic dip.