Top 13 Proven Benefits Of Spinach

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

Spinach, a nutrient-dense green leafy vegetable, is more than just a favorite of the cartoon character Popeye. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, making it a superfood for real-life health benefits. Originating from the Middle East and now globally popular, spinach is available in varieties like flat-leaf and savoy. Its remarkable nutrient profile includes essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, and iron, along with vitamins A, C, K, and B6. This blog will explore the myriad health benefits of spinach, from improving eyesight and regulating blood pressure to strengthening muscles, aiding digestion, and much more, underscoring why it’s a valuable addition to any diet.

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. Spinach comes in two fundamental varieties: flat-leaf and savoy. Savoy spinach is often what you get when you buy fresh, bunched spinach at the grocery store. Savoy spinach often has curled, wrinkly leaves. The common ways to purchase flat spinach in the US are in bags, cans, or frozen forms.

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. [1]

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 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 [2]

Spinach Nutrition

The various health benefits of spinach may be 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, may also be found in this green, leafy vegetable. The best part is that spinach can be very low in calories and have no fat content. [3]

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. [4]

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 may include the following.

May Improve Eyesight

Helen M Rasmussen, a researcher at Cambridge University, in her 2013 report published in the Clinical Interventions in Aging revealed that spinach may be a rich source of beta-carotene, lutein, and xanthene, all of which may be beneficial for eyesight. Beta-carotene, in raw spinach, may help boost eye health. It might 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. [5]

The lutein and zeaxanthin present in spinach both may act as strong antioxidants thus can prevent the eyes from the harsh effects of UV rays that lead to cataracts. They may also help reduce the impact of free radicals, which can be a major cause of cataracts and other eye conditions. 
[6] [7]

May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration

AMD or Retinitis pigmentosa is responsible for causing blindness, which is due to the degeneration of lutein and xanthene which 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 can consume fresh green leafy vegetables, specifically spinach because it contains carotenoids. It also contains a wealth of antioxidants that might reduce the harmful effects of free radicals, which are known to negatively impact vision and cause age-related conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration. [8]

A 2016 study in the Journal of the Japanese Ophthalmological Society explored the impact of consuming 75 grams of frozen spinach daily, packed with 10 milligrams of lutein, for two months. Remarkably, this boosted the participants’ blood lutein levels and enhanced macular pigment optical density. [9]

May Provide 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 mitochondrial activity which may possibly influence cognitive function. [10]

Several components of this vegetable like potassium, folate, and various antioxidants are known to provide neurological benefits to people who regularly consume it. Folate may help 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 can be linked to increased blood flow to the brain and heightened cognition, concentration, and neural activity. [11]

May Maintain Blood Pressure

Spinach is abundant in potassium and low in sodium, making it a key player in blood pressure regulation. Its significant folate content can reduce hypertension, promoting relaxed blood vessels and smoother blood flow, which in turn eases the cardiovascular system and optimizes body oxygenation. [12]

A 2016 study in the Journal of Nutrition highlighted that participants experienced elevated blood nitrate levels and a five-hour reduction in diastolic blood pressure after consuming nitrate-rich drinks, including spinach. Meshulam emphasizes the benefits of spinach’s folate and magnesium in boosting nitric oxide production, a pivotal factor in blood pressure control. [13]

This regulation is vital, given that high blood pressure is a leading risk for heart disease, the predominant cause of death in the U.S., as confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[14]

May Strengthen Muscles

Factor Coenzyme-Q10 (C0-Q10), which is an antioxidant present in spinach, may play an important role in strengthening muscles, especially heart muscles which continuously pump blood to all parts of the body. C0-Q10 might also be used to prevent several cardiovascular diseases like hyperlipidemia, heart failure, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. [15]

May Help in Bone Mineralization

Spinach, rich in vitamin K, aids in retaining calcium within bones, promoting their mineralization. This combined with minerals like manganese, magnesium, and zinc fortifies bones, potentially preventing osteoporosis and also bolstering teeth and nail health. Notably, research indicates a connection between low vitamin K intake and increased bone fracture risks. [16]

Furthermore, vitamin K enhances calcium absorption and might decrease its urinary excretion, emphasizing its importance for robust health.
[17]

May Help 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 may boost the strength of the digestive tract lining, and therefore it might also prevent any unwanted inflammation in that part of the body. [18]

May Help 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. [19] [20]

Vitamin A may be 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. The cartoon ‘Popeye, the Sailor Man’ popularized spinach to encourage children to consume it for strength. Feeding infants spinach provides essential proteins, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients crucial for their growth stages.

May Reduce 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 may be one of the most powerful vegetables when it comes to reducing inflammation throughout the body. This may not only protect the heart but can also reduce the inflammation and pain associated with conditions like arthritis and gout, which afflict millions of people around the world. [21]

May Help Protect Skin

Spinach boasts an array of phytonutrients and pigments that may shield the skin from harmful sun rays, including UV exposure. Enriched with vitamin A, spinach can balance oil production in skin pores and hair follicles, preventing acne and ensuring moisturized skin and hair. [22] [23]

Furthermore, vitamin A plays a pivotal role in tissue growth, impacting both skin and hair. The high vitamin C content in spinach is instrumental in collagen formation, skin structure, and hair strength. To top it off, incorporating iron-rich foods like spinach in your diet can be a proactive measure against hair loss due to iron deficiency.
[24]

May Reduce Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress arises from an accumulation of free radicals – natural byproducts of our body’s metabolic processes. Not only can these free radicals speed up the aging process, but they also heighten the risk of developing serious health conditions like cancer and diabetes. Fortunately, nature provides us with a remedy: spinach. This leafy green is packed with powerful antioxidants that actively counteract oxidative stress, thus mitigating the harm it can inflict on our bodies. [25] [26]

Highlighting its potency, a focused study involving eight participants discovered that including spinach in their diet effectively curtailed oxidative damage. While the sample size of this study may appear modest, its conclusions align with broader findings from both human and animal-based research. [27] [28]

Incorporating spinach into our meals can thus serve as a proactive step towards safeguarding our health from the threats posed by free radicals.

Packed With Antioxidants

Spinach is more than just a rich source of vitamins and minerals; it’s packed with antioxidants known for their anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting properties. The Department of Agriculture highlights flavonoids, compounds found in spinach like kaempferol, quercetin, myricetin, and isorhamnetin, as potent defenders against cancer, cardiovascular, and inflammatory diseases. Dietitian Marissa Meshulam points out that spinach’s antioxidant roster also includes lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. [29]

Antioxidants, essential for robust health, counteract free radicals, which, when unchecked, instigate cell damage and oxidative stress. Such stress is implicated in serious conditions like cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. By neutralizing these free radicals, antioxidants in spinach play a crucial role in preserving cell health and preventing oxidative damage. 
[30]

Cancer prevention

Spinach boasts compounds like MGDG and SQDG, identified for their potential to impede cancer growth. Research has observed that these specific compounds not only slowed down the growth of tumors in the cervix but also notably reduced their size. [31] [32]

Furthermore, multiple human studies have found a correlation between regular spinach intake and a decreased risk of both prostate and breast cancers. In the realm of animal research, one study emphasized spinach’s capability to inhibit cancer formation. [33] [34] [35]

Supplementing its anti-cancer credentials, spinach is also a rich reservoir of antioxidants believed to counteract cancer. [36]

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 spinach intake as it is high in oxalates, a natural plant compound that can interfere with calcium absorption. It can cause the formation of calcium stones, which consist of mainly calcium oxalates. [37] [38]

Also, those who are on anticoagulants are not advised to increase their spinach intake, but rather keep their spinach intake, if any, the same before taking Warfarin. [39]

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, spinach stands as a versatile and nutritious green, offering a plethora of health benefits that extend far beyond its popular representation in pop culture. From enhancing eye health, aiding in bone mineralization, and boosting muscle strength to its role in managing blood pressure and improving digestion, spinach is a powerhouse of nutrients. Its rich array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants make it an essential addition to a balanced diet. Whether consumed raw in salads, blended in smoothies, or cooked in various dishes, spinach’s health-promoting properties can contribute significantly to overall wellness and disease prevention. Embracing spinach in your daily diet is not just a wise choice for physical health, but also a delightful culinary experience.

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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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