You probably already know that eating a balanced diet with nutritious foods, especially greens and vegetables, is important. Spinach is one of the most nutritious green leafy vegetables. Commonly called 'palak' in India, it is a rich source of vitamins, iron and calcium. As a source of many nutrients, spinach has a range of health benefits.
The spinach plant is a flowering plant that belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, native to Asia. The spinach leaves are what we eat as green leafy vegetables.
Table Of Contents:
1. Nutritional Value Of Spinach
2. Health Benefits of Spinach
3. Side Effects Of Eating Spinach
4. How Can You Include Spinach In Your Diet?
Nutritional Value Of Spinach
You may think of spinach as one of the green leafy vegetables that you don’t particularly like, but it is important to be informed about how healthy and beneficial spinach can be for you. To know the health benefits of spinach, we should also know the nutrients - vitamins and minerals - that are loaded in this green super-food.
By weight, spinach consists of water (91.4%), protein (2.9%) and carbohydrates (3.6%). By knowing well about the nutritional value of spinach, you can make good dietary choices and maybe even eat your way to healthy. Most of the carbohydrates in spinach are fiber, which plays an important role in digestion and avoiding constipation.
Spinach is also a good source of protein in a vegetarian diet. Moreover, it only contains 23 calories in a 100 gram serving, while still being packed with nutrients.
As a nutrient-dense food, spinach leaves are a rich source of Vitamin. Spinach is a source of Vitamin A, C and K. It also contains riboflavin (Vitamin B2), folate (Vitamin B9) and Vitamin B6. It is also one of the few sources of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. When eaten in healthy forms - which include fresh, frozen, steamed or quickly boiled, spinach fulfills 20% of your daily values of these vitamins. Vitamins play an important role in tissue health and development, immunity and other bodily functions.
Spinach is also a source of iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium and when eaten in healthy forms as mentioned before, fulfills roughly 20% of your daily recommended values of these nutrients.
Iron is an important nutrient to keep our blood RBC count healthy, as well as promotes brain development in infants and young children. The iron content in spinach is considerable, but due to the high levels of oxalate in spinach, the body absorbs only a small amount of this iron.
Calcium is a mineral that is essential for bone and tooth growth and health, and can be obtained from different sources like milk and dairy products. Spinach also has a moderate amount of calcium, but the absorption is reduced by the presence of oxalates.
Spinach also contains other plant compounds like nitrates and antioxidant compounds, which help keep you healthy.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach is a nutritious powerhouse. As a result, there are many health benefits of spinach that make it worth including in your meals every once in a while. It reduces oxidative stress, improves eye health, aids in cancer prevention and helps regulate blood pressure.
Prevents Oxidative Stress
As a result of metabolism, there are free radicals in the body, which cause oxidative stress. A result of oxidative stress includes cell damage, aging as well as certain illnesses. Eating vitamin rich foods like spinach ensures that you get a good dose of antioxidants that help fight such cell damage.
The antioxidants in spinach, which protect the cells from damage, also help reduce the risk of cancer. Some studies have proven that eating green leafy vegetables like spinach help reduce the risk of breast, cervical and prostate cancers. Spinach also contains other compounds that help suppress the growth of cancer cells.
The Vitamin A in spinach makes it a source of some carotenoids which are a part of our eyes as well as protect them from sun damage. It also helps reduce the risk of degeneration and cataracts in the eyes, which are leading causes of blindness.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is an important part of keeping your heart healthy. Spinach contains nitrates, which help maintain a moderate blood pressure. In the long run, it might help you maintain a healthy heart, according to some studies.
Side effects Of Eating Spinach
Although spinach is a healthy, nutritious green leafy vegetable, which has numerous benefits, it is also important to note that too much of a good thing can be bad too. In some individuals, spinach can have negative effects if consumed beyond a certain extent.
Kidney stones are caused by a build up of minerals, and is usually caused by calcium oxalate. Spinach is one of the calcium rich foods which contain oxalate, and as a result, should be avoided if you have a history of kidney stones.
Spinach is a rich source of Vitamin K, which conducts several functions in the body. One of its main functions is its role in blood clotting. But if you are on blood thinners, you should watch your intake of this vitamin or avoid green leafy vegetables altogether.
How Can You Include Spinach In Your Diet?
You may find the taste of spinach unpleasant, or simply be unsure about how to include spinach in your recipes. Spinach leaves can be cooked or added to dishes in various healthy and unique forms.
Drink It Up
A great way to do this is by adding it to your fruit smoothies and juices. It helps you quickly gulp a good dose of antioxidants and greens.
Spinach can also be added to many recipes, be it Indian recipes like pulao, or international dishes like pasta. Healthy food does not have to be boring, so don’t be afraid to get creative with your food.
Wash spinach well by soaking it in salt water and rinsing at least twice before you use it in a recipe. Choose fresh spinach leaves, and make sure that you rinse them well to get rid of mud and dirt. Soaking in a mixture of a cap-full of vinegar and a bowl of water before rinsing also helps.
Spinach is a very nutritious green leafy vegetable that you should eat at least once a week in your meals. It fulfills a considerable portion of your daily needs of vitamins and minerals, gives you protein and fiber, and keeps your body healthy.
However, as each individual is different, it is important to look out for issues like kidney stones or blood clotting problems before you consume spinach and other leafy greens.
If you do wish to include this power-food in your meals, don’t be afraid to get creative. You can have it in your juice and smoothies, curries, pulaos, pastas and sandwiches. It is very important to eat a healthy and balanced diet which is filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins. Adding spinach to your meals every once in a while can give your health a nice boost.
So the next time you buy your vegetables, include a nice bunch of spinach leaves in your shopping bag!