What Spinach Nutrition Can Do For You
It’s hard to bring up the topic of spinach nutrition without talking about Popeye. And that’s because Popeye was onto something!
While spinach may not be in the glamour-set of superfoods, it’s a total powerhouse with an impressive set of vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds.
In fact, this not-so-humble leaf is the original kale; a green, leafy superfood that epitomizes good health.
The Background Of Spinach
The botanical name for spinach leaf is Spinacia oleracea, which sounds a bit, well, spiny!
But it’s far from that. It’s a lovely, tasty, richly coloured leaf that offers so many nutritional benefits, they’re hard to count.
Spinach is common; you’ll find spinach at most supermarkets and fruit and veg stores. It’s fairly easy to grow yourself too, so it’s popular for garden plots.
Originally the plant is native to Asia. There are three basic spinach varieties: savoy; semi-savoy; and flat-leaf. They all look different, but taste similar.
Every spinach variety offers healthy Popeye properties, and can be enjoyed as a tasty side dish (I recommend lightly steamed with lemon juice), or as a powdered supplement. You decide!
Most people know that spinach is good for them thanks to Popeye, but most people don’t really know why. In fact it’s rumoured that Popeye helped increase spinach ingestion in America by a third!
More recently you’re likely to see spinach offered as an ingredient in green smoothies at trendy juice bars all over town.
We’re obviously ALL for spinach over here, but we also think it’s good to understand what the benefits are, and how to maximise them. Particularly as juicing large amounts of spinach (a bit like kale) can create a lot of “anti-nutrients” which block the absorption of vitamins and minerals and can cause digestive discomfort.
But more on that later. First, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of spinach nutrition to understand why it’s a key superfood in our Athletic Greens mix.
The Building Blocks Of Spinach Nutrition
While specific studies on spinach nutrition are lacking, there’s a lot of knowledge about its functional properties and the benefits these properties offer for hungry humans.
Here’s a fun fact:
Spinach became a star during World War 1, when bleeding soldiers were given wine mixed with spinach juice to help them regain strength.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to recommend you mix spinach juice with your evening glass of wine.
But the point is, the benefits of spinach nutrition were already known back then - including its nutrients like vitamin K and iron. These nutrients were likely what made this simple remedy so effective.
Thanks to the functional properties of the spinach leaf, it can be thought of as a building food.
Spinach nutrition = blood building, bone building, and supportive of general health.
It shows promise as an anti-cancer agent, and may protect against diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline, too.
As well as these (already pretty incredible!) benefits, it’s low in calories and high in fiber, making it a great choice for the health - and waistline - conscious.
Spinach Nutrition Comes From These Top Features
Key features and benefits resulting from spinach nutrition include the following:
✔ High levels of minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium
✔ Vitamins A (in plant-form), E, C, K and B group vitamins
✔ Phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) such as glycoglycerolipids, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and chlorophyll
A quick but important note on the mineral content:
Vegetarians and vegans favour spinach for its high iron and calcium content.
However, before relying on spinach as a sole source of these nutrients, remember that it also contains chemicals called oxalates which have the ability to bind to minerals and block their absorption.
Cooking spinach and/or adding lemon juice or vinegar can reduce the effects of oxalate.
Further, spinach has a lower rate of calcium absorption than milk - so it’s a good idea to think carefully if you’re considering scrapping dairy altogether. FYI, there are other plants with higher bioavailability of calcium, such as kale, broccoli and bok choy.
Spinach As A Disease-fighter
Spinach is believed to help stave off diseases:
Spinach may have anti-cancer effects thanks to antioxidants that protect DNA. It contains vitamins such as folate that reduce homocysteine, and glycoglycerolipids - a type of fatty substance only recently identified, which may inhibit tumour growth.
Research also suggests particular benefit for prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.
→ Cardiovascular protection
Spinach is high in folate (literally derived from the word ‘foliage’). Leafy greens help protect the cardiovascular system by supplying vitamins - like folate - which are associated with reduced homocysteine and decreased inflammation.
Antioxidant pigments in spinach also offer protective benefit for vessels and capillaries.
Spinach helps improved nutrition - thanks to a spectrum of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and B group vitamins - which could lower blood pressure.
→ Bone health
As an excellent source of vitamin K, calcium and bone-supportive cofactors, spinach is a good friend to the skeleton!
→ Gut protection
Fatty molecules found in spinach leaves called glycoglycerolipids show potential for protecting the lining of the gut - especially against inflammation.
→ Antioxidant support
Rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants, spinach provides protection from free-radical damage and - alongside a diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables - helps prevent chronic disease.
Special compounds in spinach have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetic complications. As well as that, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber present in spinach boost general health and quality of life.
→ Brain health
Spinach is associated with better outcomes for brain injury, possibly due to the presence of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. High levels of folate also help lower homocysteine, which is associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke.
→ Eye health
The eyes require a lot of antioxidant support, being delicate organs bathed in large quantities of light! Carotenes and vitamin A precursors found in spinach are specifically good for eye protection.
So is there anything to be careful of?
Spinach leaf is considered a food, and dosage depends on individual preference and health status.
Due to high levels of vitamin K, excess spinach leaf could potentially interact with blood thinning medications. Always check with your doctor if you’re taking these.
Spinach: Nutrition From An All Round Superfood
Spinach is a great all round, everyday superfood that is dense with many beneficial nutrients that can help most people.
It’s accessible to many and uncommonly high in beneficial nutrients. But it is also something that is typically under-consumed in the modern diet.
Spinach leaf has a lot of mineral friends in Athletic Greens. Spinach leaf works well with manganese, sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium for maintaining good bone health.
It also works well with ginger rhizome, slippery elm, prebiotics and probiotics for gut health, and with bilberry and grapeseed for eye health.
Strong bones aside, the latest research suggests that spinach may offer benefits against cancer, for the cardiovascular system, for the eyes and even for diabetics.
As Popeye sings: “I’m strong to the finish, ‘cause I eats me spinach…” With your daily Athletic Greens intake, you’ll be strong to the finish in no time too!