Spinach is not exactly the type of ingredient you put in your morning sandwich when you use your 2 slice toaster with retractable cord. It may not be your number one choice when making pasta or cooking dinner for your friends and family.
Unlike the old Popeye cartoons, eating spinach out of a can won’t immediately pop up your muscles and make you defeat your enemies, but this doesn’t mean the leafy green won’t positively impact your diet and your overall health. If you want to discover more about the health benefits of spinach and how to integrate it into your eating habits, keep on reading this article.
What is the nutritional value of spinach?
Leafy green vegetables, especially spinach and kale, contain more nutrients than all other vegetables. One cup of cooked spinach only has 41 calories but is extremely rich in vitamins K and A, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Apart from that, spinach is also known for its high values of manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B complex (B2, B6), vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. That being said, the same one cup of spinach (approximately 100 grams) can offer up to 84% of your daily required dose of manganese, around 38% of the daily dose of iron, and 24.5% of your daily dose of calcium.
Assuming that you combine spinach with dairy products, eggs, lean meat, and other vegetables, it’s easy to maintain a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle that not only helps you lose a few pounds but also improves your strength and builds up muscles.
What are the benefits of eating spinach regularly?
- Flawless complexion
Spinach is rich in vitamins and natural antioxidants that fight against free radicals, the number one cause of premature skin aging, fine lines, and wrinkles.
One study conducted in Australia linked regular consumption of spinach to the skin’s ability to regenerate faster and produce the necessary elements to keep it flawless and glowing. Since spinach is rich in vitamin K, it can also have a positive impact on people battling with oily complexions and its downsides, including pimples, acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and dilated pores.
Spinach is also rich in vitamins A, E, and C, which are the main ingredients you usually find in cream and serums. These vitamins will maintain skin’s elasticity, boost the production of collagen, moisturize, and fight signs of premature aging, as well as dark spots, brown spots, and the dull aspect of your skin.
- Improve your vision
Spinach is packed with two important plant components – lutein and zeaxanthin that accumulate in your eye’s retina, acting like a pair of UV sunglasses. Regular consumption of spinach will fight against free radicals and blue light that can be harmful.
Although more research is required, some preliminary studies show that spinach can lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, which is the number one cause that leads to blindness. In time, it can improve your vision and prevent premature aging of your eyesight.
- Improve exercise recovery
Whenever we exercise, our bodies lose a lot of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients through sweat. Professional athletes, including weightlifters, have a very strict diet that often includes proteins and protein supplements to improve their body mass and help with bone density.
In one study conducted on runners, those who ate spinach for two weeks leading to a marathon showed lower markers of muscular damage after the race as compared to runners who were given a placebo. After all, Popeye the Sailor Man may be close to 90 years old, but how else did he stay in shape if not by going through all those cans of spinach?
- Good for your bones
We have previously mentioned that those who consume spinach regularly might be able to recover faster after intense workouts. This means less pressure on the muscles and less pain.
A similar principle applies to bones. It is known that spinach contains high amounts of calcium, which is one of the first ingredients required for strong and healthy bones. Spinach is also a good source of vitamin K, which is known to increase bone density. As a result, your bones will be stronger and less prone to breaks and fractures.
Integrating spinach in your weekly menu is recommended for people of all ages but especially for older women who are around their menopause. Menopause can negatively impact the bone’s structure, making the joints and bones weaker and more susceptible to fractures.
Combined with another source of dairy or non-dairy calcium, spinach can be the key to preserving the strength of your bones and joints for a longer time, improving mobility.
- Prevents and fights constipation
One sensitive topic many people are afraid to open is constipation. Out of both genders, women are more prone to be constipated, especially around or during their monthly cycles, as well as throughout pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause.
One easy way to reduce constipation and help your bowels function properly is to integrate more fibers into your daily diet. Leafy greens, especially spinach, contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, which help ease you through the blockage.
One single cup of cooked or fresh spinach contains 4.3 grams of spinach, which is about a fifth of the recommended daily intake. Other good sources of fibers include whole-grain products, beans, broccoli, berries, avocado, apples, dried fruits, artichoke, and pears.
- Improves blood pressure
Beans, arugula, and spinach contain naturally-occurring nitrates that are good for your health and can lower your blood pressure without requiring additional medicines, treatments, and pills. There are even scientific studies conducted to back up these findings, and doctors recommend eating as many leafy greens, vegetables, and fresh fruits as possible.
However, keep in mind that natural remedies like spinach can take a few hours to work as they first need to be processed by the stomach. One spinach-based beverage or a spinach salad might take up to 4-5 hours until it starts lowering your blood pressure. Therefore, you shouldn’t consider spinach as your only treatment for maintaining a healthy body and a balanced blood pressure.
- Good for your nails and hair
As we previously mentioned, spinach is rich in vitamins and minerals that are necessary for healthy skin and strong nails and hair. It contains high amounts of vitamins A and C, both of which are important ingredients you can find in any hair masks and nail treatments.
Vitamin A reduces the production of sebum, which is responsible for greasy hair but also acts as a lubricant for the nails and skin. On the other hand, vitamin C can stimulate the production of collagen, which is beneficial not only for your complexion but also for growing long, thick, luscious, and healthy hair.
Together, both these vitamins will also have a positive impact on your nails, making them stronger and preventing breaking.
How to integrate spinach into your diet?
Spinach can be consumed both raw or cooked, and there are hundreds of delicious and nutritious recipes you can try.
In the morning, you can try a liquid breakfast by blending one cup of green spinach leaves with one banana, berries of your choice, apple slices, pears, beetroot, carrots, or any other fruits and veggies you want. Use water instead of milk for a delicious drink that will boost your energy levels and keep you satiated well after midday.
For lunch or dinner, you can stick with a low-calorie salad made of baby spinach, lettuce, spring onions or scallions, cherry tomatoes, and one source of proteins at your choice (think of lean meat like grilled chicken breast, chicken wings, salmon, tuna, or turkey). Add other ingredients according to your taste (grated carrots, celery, seeds, bell peppers, avocado, cucumbers, etc.) and keep it simple with a vinaigrette made of salt, pepper, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil.
Since avocados are an incredible source of vitamins and proteins, we recommend combining them with one type of cheese of your choice (preferably mozzarella, feta, or goat cheese) instead of meat.
Spinach-based snacks can include the famous Greek pie Spanakopita (made with perfectly crispy layers of phyllo dough and a rich filling of feta cheese and spinach), or club sandwiches that include spinach. Since this ingredient is low on calories, you can integrate it in any type of dish you want, and it will add flavor and taste.