Beneficial Foods 1.4 – Spinach
Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia and later introduced to India and China then made it to Europe around the middle ages and travelled with Catherine de Medici from Florence to France when she married King Henry II. When you hear “a la florentine” in a recipe it is a nod to Catherine who is said to have loved spinach so much that she brought her own chefs from Florence to prepare it for her.(3)
Spinach is a cool season crop that loves the early spring and late summer and fall seasons. It tends to grow in sandy soil and pests love it, so there tends to be a healthy dose of pesticide sprayed on the spinach crop. So buy organic when you can, and always wash the spinach you are going to consume very well, even if you buy it in a bag that says “washed and ready to eat.” (3,4)
There are so many reasons to love spinach, it has many health benefits and is very versatile, it can be used in hot and cold dishes to great delight.
Spinach contains so many amazing nutrients such as:
Fiber – 2 grams (g) – 17% DV
Omega 3’s – 138 milligrams (mg) – 7% DV
Vitamin A – 469 Micrograms (mcg) – 105% DV
Vitamin B1 – 14% DV
Vitamin B2 – 32% DV
VItamin B3 – 6% DV
Vitamin B6 – 26% DV
Vitamin C – 24% DV
Vitamin E – 2 mg – 25% DV
Vitamin K – 987% DV
Beta Carotene – 5626 mcg
Riboflavin – .189 mg
Folic Acid – 194 mcg
Calcium – 99 mg – 24%DV
Iron – 2.71 mg – 36% DV
Zinc – .530 mg – 12% DV
Copper – .130 mg – 34% DV
Manganese – .897 mg – 84% DV
Selenium – 1.0 mcg – 5% DV
Folate – 66% DV
Magnesium – 39% DV
Choline – 8% DV
Potassium – 24% DV
Phosphorus – 14% DV
It also contains only 15 calories, 2g of protein 11% DV, 2g carbs, 45mg sodium. All g, mg, and mcg are based on a one cup serving of cooked spinach. Daily value (DV) percentages are based on 1 cup raw spinach. (1,5,6)
Crazy Nutrient power!!
What does this mean for you?!?
The biggest thing I found in my research is that the vitamin A content, specifically beta carotene, in spinach has a huge impact on our eyesight. Preliminary lab research suggests that spinach can help prevent or delay age related macular degeneration (AMD) which 60% of caucasians at 90 years old suffer from.(2)
Prevention or delay of age-related cognitive decline (Those of us who suffer from “mom brain” have no excuses now😉), risk for cardiovascular disease like stroke and coronary artery disease and many forms of cancer are also helped with the consumption of spinach.(2) The amount of antioxidants that can neutralize cell damage and help clear the way for more focused thinking, better memory and better body self-preservation are high in spinach. Specifically, women who eat the most spinach have a lower risk of getting ovarian cancer. Reducing meat consumption and increasing leafy greens can also reduce the risk of getting benign uterine fibroids.(4) For those of you fighting with diabetes, spinach can help you improve your blood glucose levels.(8)
For all of you who have considered the concept of “Meatless Monday” you are in luck! Eating spinach raw will give you an excellent source of plant based proteins and bone strengthening calcium. So no worries on missing out on the nutrients you get from meats and dairy. You will also get a great energy boost consuming spinach raw. This source did not give a specific amount to consume. (3) A side note on plant based proteins and nutrients, they are easier for your system to digest. So if you are feeling run down or under the weather getting plant based nutrients will serve your body far better than animal based nutrients as they will not rob your body of the excessive energy it takes to process animal based nutrients.
For those of you looking for the anti-aging magic pill, spinach might help you in achieve your goal. It protects against inflammation, oxidative stress-related issues and contains antioxidants like glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid that gives our skin that smooth young look, which the body stops making as we age. So you get the benefit of “age-proofing” yourself from the inside out.(3)
On a digestive level, spinach is great for cleansing, purifying and restoring the balance to the intestines and protecting the digestive tract lining from damage, especially from unwanted inflammation. Nutrients called glycoglycerolipids are responsible for the digestive protection.(6,7)
Now onto the warnings 😜
Those of you taking blood thinners, the high Vitamin K content can interfere with your medication. So consult your primary care doctor about how much spinach you can consume safely.
Also, spinach like many veggies from the brassica family contains oxalates. There has been a lot of controversy on how harmful these oxalates are for you. Studies have shown that oxalates bind to calcium and other nutrients, preventing the body from absorbing these nutrients. None of the studies I have found are recent, so I will keep looking. One book I found suggests that “wild grown spinach with high oxalates also have a higher calcium content to counter the binding effect of the oxalates” and still provide calcium to the consumer. The author also brings up the possibility that this binding effect is designed to bind toxic metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium and remove them from the body.(1) So, as for me, the jury is still out. I think there are more benefits than harm to eating spinach.
1. Edible Wild Plants – Wild foods from dirt to plate
John Kallas PhD
2. Superfoods Healthstyle – Proven Strategies for lifelong health
Steven G Pratt MD & Kathy Matthews
3. Power Plants – Simple Home Remedies You Can Grow
Frankie Flowers & Bryce Wylde
4. The New Healing Foods
Colleen Pierre M.S., R.D.
5. Farm to Table – Website
6. World’s Healthiest Food – Website
7. Food Reference – Website
8. Live Science – Website