Food Spotlight: Spinach
Spinach is a dark, leafy green full of nutrients, but not of calories. It is important for the health of the skin, eyes, bones and hair. Spinach is rich in iron, vitamins, minerals and proteins. It contains small amounts of the sugars glucose and fructose, and no fats.
One cup of raw spinach has a lot of minerals including 810 mg of iron, vitamins such as A (2,813 international units – IU) and folate (58 µg) and very few in particular 7 calories.
Iron is one of the key elements in maintaining oxygen levels in the blood. Low iron levels result in iron deficiency or anemia. Iron should be digested together with foods rich in vitamin C to increase its absorption.
Magnesium which can also be found in spinach is important for maintaining muscle and nerve function, as well as immunity and blood pressure.
When it comes to the health benefits, spinach can help in lowering blood glucose levels and increasing insulin sensitivity because of the presence of the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid.
Spinach also helps in regulation of blood pressure because of the presence of potassium which neutralizes the effects of sodium in the body. Moreover, it contains inorganic nitrates that lower the chances of having a heart attack. Namely, nitrates widen the blood vessels, improve blood flow and lower the workload on the heart.
Potentially, it can aid in cancer prevention because it is rich in chlorophyll. Namely, a study on rodent and fish models showed that natural chlorophyll can inhibit carcinogenic uptake in the investigated animals. When incorporated in a healthy and diverse diet, chlorophyll-rich green vegetables can be helpful in cancer prevention.
Chlorophyll combined with carotenoids beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are important for healthy eye-sight. Vitamin A helps maintaining mucous membranes that are needed for normal eye-sight.
High levels of vitamin A moderate production of oils in the skin pores and hair follicles, and therefore helps in maintaining their health. Besides vitamins, iron is also important for hair health; such nutrient combination can be found in spinach.
In addition, vitamin C which is also present in spinach is crucial for building and maintenance of collagen. Spinach reduces acne, gives silky and smooth skin, and makes you look younger. Spinach is rich in calcium, manganese and vitamin K that are involved in maintaining healthy bones, so consuming spinach as part of your diet can prevent osteoporosis.
Although generally considered very healthy, eating spinach can have its downsides. Since it is rich in calcium and oxalates, spinach can cause formation of kidney stones over time. This is why people who are prone to formation of kidney should limit the consumption of spinach. Consuming cooked spinach can reduce this risk.
Eating too much spinach can interfere with absorption of minerals that can lead to mineral deficiency. Since it is rich in fibers, eating too much spinach can cause bloating, gases, stomach cramps and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
At last, vitamin K that is found in spinach is involved in blood clotting. As it can interfere with the function of blood thinning medications like Warfarin, it should be consumed with caution.
How to Consume?
Spinach can be incorporated easily in the everyday diet in the form of soup or in different sauces. You can also bake it in vegetarian pies or salty muffins.
It can also be consumed fresh in salads and, lately, in super smoothies. An example of a healthy spinach-containing breakfast are eggs Florentine or an avocado sandwich with fresh spinach.