The Health Benefits of Spinach Feature Image

Fact Checked

Introduction

It is a well-known fact that spinach is an incredibly nutritious vegetable that has a ton of health-boosting qualities. In fact, it would probably be challenging to find a healthy, nutritious smoothie recipe that doesn’t contain spinach!

Classified as a leafy green, spinach originated in Persia but is now mostly produced in China and the US.

A superior supplier of various vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants, spinach is rarely left out when talking about healthy and balanced diets.

So, how exactly does this leafy green benefit our health? Why should we be eating more spinach – and how can incorporating more spinach into our diets make us healthier? Read on to find out!

1. Spinach Is Highly Nutritious

This leafy green is loaded with essential nutrients and vitamins.

It is incredibly high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and folate [1]. One cup of spinach (30 grams) has only 6.9 calories, but is high in the following vitamins:

  • Vitamin A: 56% of the Daily Value (DV);
  • Vitamin K: 181% of the DV;
  • Folate/ folic acid: 15% of the DV;
  • Vitamin C: 14% of the DV;
  • Vitamin B6: 3% of the DV;
  • Vitamin E: 3% of the DV;
  • Thiamin: 2% of the DV.

As you probably already know, these vitamins play various essential roles in the health of the body. For example, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, while folic acid is necessary for healthy tissue growth and cellular function.

In addition to this variety of essential vitamins, spinach is also an excellent source of the following minerals:

  • Calcium: 3% of the DV;
  • Iron: 5% of the DV;
  • Magnesium: 6% of the DV;
  • Potassium: 5% of the DV;
  • Manganese: 13% of the DV;
  • Copper: 2% of the DV.

Spinach is also a great source of insoluble fiber, which is in fact what most of the spinach carbs consist of. Insoluble fiber remains unchanged as it moves through the digestive system, and is highly effective in preventing and treating constipation.

Fiber also benefits our health in many other ways, such as protecting against certain gastrointestinal diseases, diverticulitis, obesity, stroke, and cardiovascular problems [2].

As you can see, spinach is an abundant source of health-boosting vitamins and nutrients, which the body needs for healthy functioning. Adding this extremely nutrient-rich vegetable to your diet could really boost your vitamin intake.

2. Spinach Contains Powerful Plant Compounds Which Protect The Body Against Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress – also known as the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body – increases your risk of various illnesses including diabetes and cancer [3].

Spinach is a source of various healthy plant compounds which are known to boost the body’s health in many ways, particularly in fighting oxidative stress. These compounds are:

  • Kaempferol: A dietary flavonoid and antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables which is known to have many beneficial health effects. It has been linked to a lower risk of cancer and chronic diseases [4];
  • Spinach is high in nitrates which have been known to benefit our cardiovascular health [5] as well as protect the body against infections [6];
  • This particular antioxidant is a pigment produced by plants that gives vegetables and fruits their yellow to reddish color. It is best known for the protective role it plays in eye health [7];
  • Spinach is high in quercetin, a plant pigment which helps your body fight inflammation and infection. Quercetin is also known for lowering the risk of various diseases as well as slowing aging [8];
  • Zeaxanthin, like lutein, is an antioxidant that’s been found to boost eye health [9].

These plant compounds provide powerful protection against oxidative stress, which in turn reduces the body’s susceptibility to various chronic illnesses. Oxidative stress also accelerates aging, meaning that consuming plenty of antioxidant-rich foods helps naturally slow the aging process.

Several human and animal studies support this claim, with findings showing that the antioxidants spinach contains fight oxidative damage and help reduce the damage it causes [10, 11].

3. Spinach Keeps Your Eyes Healthy

Thanks to its high contents of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, eating spinach is excellent for eye health.

Human eyes contain these pigments in high quantities too – and their role is to protect the eyes from sun damage [12].

Several research studies have also shown that zeaxanthin and lutein may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration – two severe eye problems that may cause blindness [13, 14].

Not only do these antioxidants protect your eyes from damage caused by sunlight, but, according to several studies, they may also reverse existing damage [15]!

4. It May Help Lower Blood Pressure

Nitrates are compounds which help widen the blood vessels, making it easier for blood to flow, and allowing more oxygen to reach your heart [16].

Several studies have found that nitrates help moderate blood pressure levels, this way helping reduce the risk of heart disease [17].

Spinach is an excellent source of nitrates – and some studies have shown that it may help regulate blood pressure levels. Therefore eating lots of spinach may boost the health of the most important organ – the heart [18].

5. Spinach May Prevent Cancer

Cancer is one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide [19]. But did you know that something as simple as choosing healthier foods may help prevent the risk of certain types of cancer?

Yes, increasing our intake of vegetables and fruits may help lower the risk of cancer. Spinach is one of those vegetables we should be filling our plate with because it’s high in antioxidants, which are known to aid cancer prevention [20].

But that’s not the only way it may protect against cancer. Spinach also contains two important compounds which, according to several studies, may prevent cancer growth. These components are MGDG and SQDG.

In one particular study, both compounds were effective at slowing tumor growth in a human’s cervix – as well as decreasing the size of the tumor [21].

Several other studies have shown similar results, with one particular study linking spinach consumption to a lower risk of prostate cancer [22].

Another study found that regularly consuming vegetables like carrots and spinach may prevent breast cancer [23].

Conclusion

Spinach is an incredibly healthy leafy green which has many impressive health benefits.

It is high in essential vitamins and nutrients which our bodies need to remain healthy.

Thanks to its high antioxidant content, it may help improve your eye health, as well as prevent heart disease.

Because spinach is a potent antioxidant which contains important plant compounds known to prevent cancer growth, it may even lower the risk of certain types of cancer!

Taking these health benefits into consideration, it is worth including spinach in a healthy and balanced diet.  Luckily, this leafy green is very versatile and can be prepared in many ways. You can add it to healthy and nutritious smoothies, fresh salads, flavorsome stir-fries – and even filling, savory pies! It can be eaten raw or cooked, on its own or in other dishes.

Close Menu

Fact Checked


This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.