Spinach: Top Benefits, Nutrition, & Recipes

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Rebecca Zinger (RD, LD)

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The green leafy vegetable that Popeye loves is beneficial to real characters (not fictional) as well. Yes, we are talking about the benefits of spinach. They include skincare, improved eyesight, regulated blood pressure, stronger muscles, and prevention of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and hemophilia. Spinach also helps with health conditions such as cataracts, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and neurological disorders. It helps in bone mineralization and exerts anti-ulcerative benefits. Also, it aids in the healthy fetal development and growth of infants.

What is Spinach?

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is one of the most popular green, leafy vegetables in the world as it is a rich source of minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. It is a member of the Amaranthaceae family. It is native to the Middle East and was cultivated in Persia thousands of years ago. From there, it was brought into China and made its way into Europe. Spinach quickly became a staple in several cultural cuisines.

Due to the vast range of benefits from this vegetable, it is advised to consume spinach regularly. One of the biggest reasons why these greens are so important and valued around the world is that they are very durable. It can survive through the winter season and into spring if properly cared for.

A bowl of spinach leaves on a gray background

Spinach helps strengthen your bones. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Spinach can be eaten raw as a part of salads, and it can also be cooked or sautéed. This green leafy vegetable is the star ingredient in popular detox green juices and is usually combined with fruits like bananas, apples, and berries.

Nutrition Facts

Spinach, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]91.4
Energy [kcal]23
Energy [kJ]97
Protein [g]2.86
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.39
Ash [g]1.72
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]3.63
Fiber, total dietary [g]2.2
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.42
Sucrose [g]0.07
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.11
Fructose [g]0.15
Galactose [g]0.1
Calcium, Ca [mg]99
Iron, Fe [mg]2.71
Magnesium, Mg [mg]79
Phosphorus, P [mg]49
Potassium, K [mg]558
Sodium, Na [mg]79
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.53
Copper, Cu [mg]0.13
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.9
Selenium, Se [µg]1
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]28.1
Thiamin [mg]0.08
Riboflavin [mg]0.19
Niacin [mg]0.72
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.07
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.2
Folate, total [µg]194
Folate, food [µg]194
Folate, DFE [µg]194
Choline, total [mg]19.3
Betaine [mg]102.6
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]469
Carotene, beta [µg]5626
Vitamin A, IU [IU]9377
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]12198
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]2.03
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]0.18
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]482.9
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.06
14:0 [g]0.01
16:0 [g]0.05
18:0 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.01
16:1 [g]0.01
18:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.17
18:2 [g]0.03
18:3 [g]0.14
Phytosterols [mg]9
Tryptophan [g]0.04
Threonine [g]0.12
Isoleucine [g]0.15
Leucine [g]0.22
Lysine [g]0.17
Methionine [g]0.05
Cystine [g]0.04
Phenylalanine [g]0.13
Tyrosine [g]0.11
Valine [g]0.16
Arginine [g]0.16
Histidine [g]0.06
Alanine [g]0.14
Aspartic acid [g]0.24
Glutamic acid [g]0.34
Glycine [g]0.13
Proline [g]0.11
Serine [g]0.1
Sources include : USDA

Spinach Nutrition

The various health benefits of spinach are due to the presence of minerals, vitamins, pigments, and phytonutrients, including potassium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium. The green leafy vegetable is a source of vitamins like folate, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, and contains traces of the rest of the essential vitamins. Other important elements, including thiamine and riboflavin, which are used in various reactions in our body, are also found in this green, leafy vegetable. The best part is that spinach is very low in calories and has no fat content.

Carbs in spinach: According to the USDA Food Central Database, 1 cup of raw spinach contains just 7 calories and 1.09 grams of carbohydrate, making it a healthy choice for dieters as well as keto followers.

Natural plant compounds: It is also a good source of plant protein and carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein.

Health Benefits of Spinach

Spinach plays many important roles in helping to maintain a healthy body. The various health benefits include the following.

Improves Eyesight

Helen M Rasmussen, a researcher at Cambridge University, in her 2013 report published in the Clinical Interventions in Aging revealed that spinach is a rich source of beta-carotene, lutein, and xanthene, all of which are beneficial for eyesight. Beta-carotene, in raw spinach, helps boost eye health. It can also prevent vitamin A deficiencies, itching eyes, eye ulcers, and dry eyes. The anti-inflammatory properties of these greens can also reduce the puffiness or irritation in the eyes.

The lutein and zeaxanthin present in spinach both act as strong antioxidants, thus preventing the eyes from the harsh effects of UV rays that can lead to cataracts. They also reduce the impact of free radicals, which can be a major cause of cataracts and other eye conditions.

Macular Degeneration

AMD or Retinitis pigmentosa is responsible for causing blindness, which is due to the degeneration of lutein and xanthene that are a central part of the retina.

In a paper titled, ‘Age‐related macular degeneration and recent developments’, published in the Post Graduate Medical Journal, it was revealed that patients with AMD, must consume fresh green leafy vegetables, specifically spinach because it contains carotenoids. It also contains a wealth of antioxidants that reduce the harmful effects of free radicals, which are known to negatively impact vision and cause age-related conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration as well.

Provides Neurological Benefits

Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a researcher at the Department of Neurosurgery and Physiological Science, University of California, US, suggests that spinach with high antioxidant capacity has been associated with the mitochondrial activity, responsible to influence cognitive function.

Several components of this vegetable like potassium, folate, and various antioxidants are known to provide neurological benefits to people who regularly consume it. Folate helps to reduce the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease. So consuming spinach might be a good idea for people who are at risk of neural or cognitive decline. Potassium is an integral part of brain health as well, and it has been linked to increased blood flow to the brain and heightened cognition, concentration, and neural activity.

Relieves Symptoms of Hemophilia

Vitamin K-rich spinach helps in blood clotting by producing prothrombin and it helps relieve symptoms of hemophilia. It is great for controlling excessive bleeding and it also keeps the liver functioning by stimulating the production of glycogen.

However, if you are taking an anticoagulant such as warfarin (brand name is Coumadin), it is advised to not increase your leafy green intake. You should discuss your current intake with your health care provider or registered dietitian and monitor vitamin K intake while taking warfarin.

Maintains Blood Pressure

Spinach is rich in potassium and contains low sodium content in its raw form before preparation. This composition of minerals is very beneficial for people with high blood pressure as potassium helps regulate blood pressure. Folate present in spinach also contributes to the reduction of hypertension and relaxes blood vessels, while maintaining proper blood flow. By reducing blood pressure and relaxing the tension of vessels and arteries, you can reduce stress on the cardiovascular system and increase oxygenation to the body’s organ systems for optimal functionality.

Health benefits of spinach infographic

The green leafy vegetable that Popeye loves is beneficial to real characters (not fictional) as well.

Strengthens Muscles

Factor Coenzyme-Q10 (C0-Q10), which is an antioxidant present in spinach, plays an important role in strengthening muscles, especially heart muscles which continuously pump blood to all parts of the body. C0-Q10 can be used to prevent many cardiovascular diseases like hyperlipidemia, heart failure, hypertension, and coronary heart disease.

Helps in Bone Mineralization

Spinach is a good source of vitamin K, which functions in retaining calcium in the bone matrix, thereby leading to bone mineralization. Apart from this, other minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus also help in building up strong bones. This, in turn, can help prevent an individual from developing osteoporosis. These minerals are also essential for maintaining healthy teeth and nails.

Helps Aid the Digestive System

According to a paper titled, ‘Antiulcer Activity of Aqueous Extract of Spinacia Oleracia in Rats’, published in the International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Chemistry, spinach can protect the mucous membrane of the stomach, thereby decreasing the occurrence of gastric ulcers. Furthermore, the glycoglycerolipids found in spinach can boost the strength of the digestive tract lining, thereby preventing any unwanted inflammation in that part of the body.

Prevents Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is caused due to the hardening of the arteries. A pigment called lutein that is found in spinach has been shown to reduce the occurrence of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. This is because spinach proteins tend to reduce cholesterol and other fat deposits in the blood vessels.

Helps with Fetal Development

Spinach is rich in folate and is suggested for pregnant women. A growing fetus needs an ample amount of folate for proper development of the nervous system. Defects like cleft palate or spina bifida may occur due to a deficiency of folate. The high levels of vitamin A in it are advised to be consumed in recommended daily amounts by the mother. Vitamin A is required for proper lung development of the fetus and can be transferred during breastfeeding, so spinach consumption is recommended to be continued after birth as well.

Reduces Inflammation

There are many anti-inflammatory compounds found in spinach; more than a dozen. They are classified into the category of methylenedioxy flavonoid glucuronides, and spinach is one of the most powerful vegetables when it comes to reducing inflammation throughout the body. This not only means protecting the heart but also reducing the inflammation and pain associated with conditions like arthritis and gout, which afflict millions of people around the world.

Protects Skin

Different phytonutrients and pigments have been shown to protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun, including UV rays.

Proteins for Infant Growth

‘Popeye, the Sailor Man’ is known for his obsession with spinach. The cartoon was deliberately aimed to convince children to eat spinach and get strong. Infants are advised to be fed spinach, which will give them protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. These nutrients result in proportionate development in their essential growing stages.

Simple Spinach Recipes

Tender baby spinach leaves are a great addition to any salad preparation you make. But don’t limit yourself to that. Here are some easy spinach recipes.

Wilted spinach: Warm olive oil in a pan and add minced garlic. Now add spinach leaves to it and sauté. Add salt and pepper to season. If you want, you can add dark soy sauce or any sauce of your choice. You can also garnish it with some seeds and nuts.

Lasagna rolls: Lay cooked lasagna noodles on a cloth. Now take a bowl and mix 2 cups minced spinach, 1 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves, salt, oregano, and ground black pepper. Now spread this mixture on the noodles and make them into rolls. Grease a 9*9 baking dish and place the rolls in it. Now slather some marinara sauce on it and cheese if you like. Bake for 25 minutes at 350°F.

Strawberry spinach salad: A simple salad of baby spinach, sliced strawberries, and chopped almonds drizzled with balsamic vinegar can make a perfect summer lunch. Try our Crunchy Apple Cranberry Walnut Salad Recipe made with spinach for a fall special.

We have many juice and smoothie recipes where you can enjoy the fresh green goodness of spinach. Here are our favorites:

Word of Caution

For people with kidney problems: Those who are receiving dialysis due to End-Stage Renal Disease are advised to consume a diet low in potassium and phosphorus, therefore spinach intake is to be limited and discussed with your Registered Dietitian. Additionally, if you have a history of kidney stones, it is best to limit your intake as spinach is high in oxalates, a natural plant compound that can interfere with calcium absorption. It can cause the formation of calcium stones, which consists of mainly calcium oxalates.

Also, those who are on anticoagulants are not advised to increase their spinach intake, but rather keep spinach intake, if any, the same before taking Warfarin.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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