There are some really incredible health benefits of spinach, the nutrient-dense leafy green packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and we enjoy eating it regularly here at Trail & Kale HQ, which is why I am so excited to teach you more about this superfood.
In this post, I’ll delve into the top health benefits of spinach, discuss the advantages of eating spinach raw versus cooked, and offer some tasty spinach recipes for you to try.
This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with everything you need to know about spinach and its role in promoting optimal health.
8 Health Benefits of Spinach including eye health and antioxidant properties
1. High in Antioxidants
Spinach is a powerful source of antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals, which can cause cellular damage and contribute to aging, inflammation, and chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
By consuming antioxidant-rich foods like spinach and other dark leafy greens such as another favorite of ours, kale, you can support your body’s natural defenses against these harmful substances.
As an athlete, running at least 4 times a week, I love that Spinach can help reduce inflammation because this is such an important part of a smart, active recovery routine.
2. Supports Brain Health
The nutrients found in spinach, such as folic acid, vitamin K, vitamin E, and other B vitamins, play a crucial role in maintaining brain health.
These nutrients help boost cognitive function, support memory, and protect against age-related decline. Regular consumption of spinach can help keep your brain sharp and promote mental well-being.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
Spinach is rich in nitrates, which are compounds that help dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow.
Therefore consuming spinach may contribute towards a reduction in blood pressure, which is an essential factor to help prevent heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues.
4. Improves Eye Health
Spinach also contains significant amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that help protect the eyes from age-related diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, this is one of the key health benefits of spinach.
According to this scientific study published in the National Library of Medicine, including spinach in your diet may help maintain good vision and promote overall eye health.
Here’s an extract from the study: “Several food items rich in carotenoids were inversely associated with AMD. In particular, a higher frequency of intake of spinach or collard greens was associated with a substantially lower risk for AMD (P for trend < .001).”
5. Boosts Bone Health
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, which is crucial for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. Vitamin K works with other nutrients like calcium and magnesium to ensure optimal bone health.
Spinach’s high levels of these essential minerals further contribute to its bone-boosting properties.
6. Supports Heart Health
The nutrients in spinach, including antioxidants, potassium, and fiber, help support a healthy cardiovascular system.
Potassium helps balance sodium levels in the body, reducing the risk of high blood pressure, while fiber lowers cholesterol levels. These factors contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease.
7. Enhances Digestive Health
Spinach is a great source of fiber, which promotes regular bowel movements and supports a healthy digestive system. Fiber also helps maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for overall health and well-being.
8. Supports Immune Function
Spinach is high in vitamin C, an essential nutrient that supports a healthy immune system. Vitamin C helps the body produce white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting infections and maintaining overall health.
Types of spinach: A guide to the different varieties
Spinach is a versatile and nutrient-dense leafy green that comes in various types, each with its unique characteristics and flavors.
By exploring the different types of spinach, you can find the perfect variety for your taste buds and culinary needs. Here’s a guide to some popular spinach varieties:
This is the most common type of spinach found in grocery stores. It has dark green, crinkly leaves with a slightly curly texture. Savoy spinach has a robust flavor and is perfect for salads, sautéing, and using in soups or stews.
Flat-leaf spinach (also known as smooth-leaf spinach)
This variety features smooth, flat leaves with a mild flavor. Flat-leaf spinach is easy to clean and is ideal for using raw in salads, sandwiches, and wraps. It’s also great for cooking, as it wilts down quickly when sautéed or steamed.
As the name suggests, semi-savoy spinach is a hybrid between savoy and flat-leaf spinach. It has slightly crinkled leaves and a milder flavor than savoy spinach. Semi-savoy spinach is versatile and can be used interchangeably with both savoy and flat-leaf spinach in various recipes.
Baby spinach is simply a younger version of the other spinach varieties. It has smaller, more tender leaves and a milder, sweeter flavor. Baby spinach is perfect for salads, adding to sandwiches, or using it as a base for a light sauté.
We love to use it in smoothies too and it’s one of the most popular varieties for its versatility.
This unique spinach variety features green leaves with vibrant red veins. Red-veined spinach has a similar taste to other spinach varieties but adds a beautiful visual element to dishes. It can be used in salads or cooked in the same way as other spinach types.
When choosing which type of spinach to use in your recipes, consider the flavor profile and texture you prefer. You can even mix and match different varieties to create a unique and flavorful dish.
Spinach Raw or Cooked: Which provides the most nutritional benefits?
Both raw and cooked spinach offers unique health benefits. Raw spinach retains more of its vitamin C content, which supports a healthy immune system.
Cooking spinach, on the other hand, can make certain nutrients, such as calcium and iron, more easily absorbed by the body. Including both raw and cooked versions of spinach in your diet can help you maximize the health benefits of this versatile leafy green.
Spinach Nutrition Facts: A Closer Look
A one-cup serving of spinach provides a wealth of essential nutrients with very few calories. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate.
It also contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Additionally, spinach is a good source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin and vitamin B6, as well as dietary fiber.
Incorporating spinach into your meals can help ensure that you’re getting a wide range of nutrients necessary for optimal health.
Here is the nutritional information (including vitamins and minerals) for 100g of spinach, which is approximately 3 cups of fresh spinach:
- Calories: 23
- Carbohydrates: 3.6 g
- Fiber: 2.2 g, 8% Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 3 g
- Fat: 0 g
- Vitamin A: 9376 IU, 188% DV
- Vitamin C: 28.1 mg, 47% DV
- Vitamin K: 482.9 mcg, 603% DV
- Folate (Vitamin B9): 194 mcg, 49% DV
- Calcium: 99 mg, 10% DV
- Iron: 2.7 mg, 15% DV
- Magnesium: 79 mg, 20% DV
- Potassium: 558 mg, 16% DV
3g is an impressive amount of protein for this leafy green vegetable, and because it has oxidative properties, it’s the ideal plant-based whole food to blend in a smoothie with water and berries after a workout or run, in order to aid in faster recovery.
How to Incorporate Spinach into Your Diet
With its incredible nutritional profile and versatility in the kitchen, it’s easy to include spinach in your daily meals.
Here are some simple ways to incorporate this nutritious leafy green into your diet:
- Add spinach to your morning smoothie for an extra boost of nutrients.
- Toss fresh spinach into salads for added texture and flavor.
- Sauté spinach with garlic and olive oil for a simple, flavorful side dish.
- Stir spinach into soups, stews, and curries for added nutrition and color.
- The easiest way is to take the AG1 supplement each morning – I do this and option 1 regularly.
Check out some of our Spinach recipe ideas below.
Delicious Spinach Recipes to Try Today
- Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken: Stuff chicken breasts with a mixture of spinach, feta cheese, and garlic for a delicious and nutritious main course.
- Creamy Spinach Soup: Blend cooked spinach with vegetable broth, onion, and garlic, then stir in some cream for a comforting, nutrient-packed soup.
- Spinach and Quinoa Salad: Toss cooked quinoa with fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and a tangy lemon vinaigrette for a light and refreshing meal.
- Spinach and Artichoke Dip: Combine spinach, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, sour cream, and grated Parmesan cheese for a crowd-pleasing appetizer.
- Spinach Smoothie: Blend fresh spinach with a banana, and some frozen berries of your choosing (I like to throw in some nutrient-rich blueberries, for example), for a nutritious and delicious smoothie.
- Spinach and Mushroom Frittata: Sauté spinach and mushrooms, then add beaten eggs and cook until set for a protein-rich breakfast or brunch dish.
- Spinach Pesto Pasta: Blend spinach with basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts to make a fresh pesto sauce, then toss with cooked pasta for a quick and easy dinner.
- Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms: Fill large Portobello mushroom caps with a mixture of spinach, ricotta cheese, and breadcrumbs, then bake until tender and golden.
How to Select and Store Spinach Leaves
When selecting spinach, look for fresh, bright green leaves without any yellowing or wilting. Fresh spinach should have a crisp texture and a pleasant, slightly sweet aroma.
To store fresh spinach, place it in a tupper ware container in the refrigerator, and use it within a few days for optimal taste, texture, and nutrient retention.
If you choose to buy frozen spinach, ensure that it is free of added salt or preservatives.
Side Effects of Eating Too Much Spinach
While spinach is generally healthy, consuming excessive amounts may lead to side effects such as kidney stones due to its high oxalate content. Individuals prone to kidney stones should be cautious about consuming large quantities of spinach.
Likewise, as spinach is also very high in vitamin K1 (which has a role in blood clotting as well as bone health), people on blood thinners should also consider consulting their doctor before eating large quantities.
Moderation is key to enjoying the health benefits of spinach without negative consequences.
Additionally, spinach contains a compound called purine, which, in high amounts, may contribute to gout flare-ups in susceptible individuals.
Can Dogs Eat Spinach?
If you’re a regular reader of Trail & Kale, then you’ll know we love adventuring with our dog Kepler, and as we care about him so much, we are always researching whether or not it is safe for him to eat certain foods (he would eat most things given the opportunity).
I know many of you have a furry friend at home too, so this section is for you guys! 🙂
While spinach is not toxic to dogs, it should be fed in moderation due to its high oxalate content, which can cause digestive upset in large quantities.
If you decide to share spinach with your canine companion, it’s better that it’s cooked first, so that some of the oxalates break down making it easier for your pet to digest. Additionally, always consult with your veterinarian before introducing new foods into your dog’s diet.