Spinach was Popeye’s favourite food for boosting energy and strength, as it is a good source of folate and a useful source of iron. Spinach is also a good source of antioxidant carotenoids, potassium, calcium, magnesium plus vitamin E and vitamin C. Eating avocado with spinach boosts the absorption of beneficial fat soluble nutrients to quadruple the amount you absorb, and you will find a delicious recipe for an Avocado Spinach Dip at the bottom of the page.
Spinach and folate
Spinach is one of the richest dietary sources of folate, a vitamin whose name comes from the Latin word, folium, meaning leaf. Folate is needed for protein and sugar metabolism, and for normal division of cells. When folate is in short supply a form of anaemia can develop which quickly leads to tiredness and lack of energy. The body stores very little folate and dietary lack rapidly causes deficiency – it is one of the most widespread vitamin deficiencies in developed countries.
In one study involving 60 people with chronic fatigue syndrome, 50% had low levels of folic acid and a regular intake of spinach may help a significant number of people with chronic fatigue.
Spinach and iron
A 100g serving of raw spinach leaves provides just over 2mg iron – around one seventh of your daily needs. The iron present in spinach is less well absorbed than haem iron (found in meat), but the vitamin C present in green leafy vegetables helps to keep the inorganic form of iron in the ferrous state for maximum absorption.
Spinach health benefits
Spinach is widely regarded as a functional food as it is a rich powerhouse of nutrients and bioactive chemicals that protect against premature ageing, can regulate the expression and activity of genes involved in metabolism, inflammation and antioxidant defence, and can even curb food intake by increasing the secretion of satiety hormones. While these biological effects can protect against numerous diseases, spinach consumption remains low compared to other leafy green vegetables.
Spinach and weight loss
Spinach leaves contain structures known as thylakoids, in which photosynthesis occurs. These structures have been found to stimulate the release of a satiety hormone, GLP-1, so that spinach is unusually filling to promote weight loss. A study involving 60 people who were either overweight or obese, found that a 5g dose of spinach thylakoid extract reduced hunger and longing for food over 2 hours significantly more than placebo.
Another study found that, compared to placebo, spinach thylakoids significantly reduced hunger by 21% , increased satiety by 14%, and reduced cravings for all snacks and sweets during the day by 36%. The spinach extract curbed cravings for salty, sweet or sweet-and-fat snacks to a similar extent.
This may help to explain why spinach is so filling and, in addition to it’s fibre content, can help you lose weight.
Spinach and macular degeneration
Spinach is one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidant carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin which help to protect against age related macular degeneration. A typical serving of uncooked leaves supplying around 4mg lutein. Cooking releases the carotenoids and increases their bioavailability, so that a typical serving of cooked spinach can provide as much as 20mg lutein, compared with 2mg for a typical serving of broccoli.
Spinach and blood pressure
Spinach is rich in nitrates, potassium, and at least four peptides with the ability to inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and lower blood pressure. A study involving 30 healthy men and women found that eating nitrate-rich spinach improved dilation of blood vessels, and blood flow, and the combination of spinach and lowered systolic blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet trials also showed that you can significantly reduce your blood pressure within eight weeks by eating more fruit and veg, including spinach.
Spinach and asthma
The antioxidants in spinach help to suppress inflammation, and people with the highest intake of green leafy vegetables, including cooked spinach, are between 18% and 22% less likely to have asthma symptoms than those with the lowest intakes.
Spinach and memory
Green leafy vegetables, including spinach, appear to help slow age-related mental decline. This is partly attributed to their high folate content which helps to lower levels of homocysteine – a harmful amino acid that hastens hardening and furring up of the arteries. The results from 43 trials looking for links between food intake and risk of dementia, found that good daily intakes of fruit and vegetables, including spinach, reduced the risk of dementia by as much as 22% to 54%.
Spinach and wrinkles
A study involving over 400 older people living in Greece, Australia and Sweden, compared their dietary intakes with their degree of skin wrinkling. Researchers concluded that those with good intakes of green leafy vegetables such as spinach showed 21% fewer signs of skin ageing than those with low intakes. This may partly be due to an antioxidant plant hormone, called kinetin, which has a protective, anti-aging effect in plants. It is now included in many anti-ageing creams to reduce age spots, improve skin texture, colour, blotchiness and fine wrinkles as well as to stimulate the proliferation of new, healthy skin cells.
100g raw spinach leaves provide:
|Vitamin C||26 mg|
|Vitamin E||1.7 mg|
|Vitamin B3||1.2 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.2 mg|
NB Prolonged boiling destroys much of the folate present in spinach. Eat spinach leaves raw or only lightly steamed (wilted) as an accompaniment to any meal. Baby leaves are great in salads. Add spinach leaves when juicing fruit and vegetables – you will gain the health benefits without tasting any difference.
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