Spinach is a green vegetable scientifically regarded as Spinacia oleracea from the Amaranth family. Spinach is a green leafy vegetable that is native to central and western Asia. It is not native to Nigeria, so there is no Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa Nigerian name for spinach. Although some native Nigerian leafy vegetables might look a lot like spinach, but they are not spinach.
In Nigeria, spinach is sold in malls, either as fresh leafy vegetables, frozen or canned. It is usually Nigerians abroad that use spinach for cooking, as it is not easily found in Nigeria.
It is a low-calorie food and is also packed with a lot of essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which makes it one of the healthiest and most beneficial plant-based foods. This article discusses the nutritional content of spinach, health benefits of spinach and the side effects of spinach.
Nutritional Content of Spinach
A 100g serving of spinach contains 23 calories. It is made up of 91% water, 4% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and negligible fat. It is equally a rich source of riboflavin and vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and dietary fiber. Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, iron, and folate are also contained in spinach.
Health Benefits of Spinach
That being said, here are some health benefits of spinach:
1. Helps in Managing and Preventing Diabetes
Spinach is a great source of alpha-lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant which numerous studies posit to be very effective in managing diabetes as it helps in lowering glucose levels, reducing peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy, boosting insulin sensitivity, as well as inhibiting oxidative, stress-induced changes in diabetic patients.
Due to its low glycemic index, which prevents sudden blood sugar spikes, Spinach is often regarded as a diabetic superfood and also rated among the best superfoods for people with diabetes.
Apart from diabetic patients, Spinach is also an ideal food for people without the health condition as multiple studies [such as the one conducted in England] reveal that it helps in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by a significant margin as it keeps blood sugar levels in check.
In addition to the above, Spinach contains an excellent amount of magnesium, and this goes a long way in preventing you from the occurrence of diabetes as it also regulates the levels of your blood sugars.
2. Prevents Cancer
Spinach contains carotenoids, potent antioxidants which are scientifically proven to be effective in getting rid of dangerous free radicals from the body.
In addition to that, the American Institute of Cancer Research also opines that foods with a high content of carotenoids [such as spinach] are capable of preventing various cancer types, ranging from mouth cancer, pharynx cancer, larynx cancer, etc.
The institute further stated that these antioxidants might also help inhibit or delay the spread of cancers of the breast, lung, stomach, as well as the skin, which makes spinach a great food for preventing the occurrence or spread of cancer.
Apart from the presence of carotenoids, Spinach is also capable of preventing cancer as it contains an excellent amount of flavonoids, a phytonutrient that exhibits anti-cancer properties. This phytochemical has been proven by several studies to be effective in delaying cell division in human stomach and skin cancer cells while also preventing aggressive prostate cancer from surfacing.
Some other leafy veggies that are effective in lowering the risk of cancer include kale, lettuce, chard, to mention but a few.
3. Prevents Asthma
Asthma is one of the common inflammatory diseases, and it is often accompanied by dyspnea, chronic coughing, bronchial constriction, etc.
However, spinach contains two potent anti-inflammatory epoxyxanthophylls [Neoxanthin and violaxanthin], which keeps inflammation in check while also preventing related diseases like asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, migraine headaches, etc.
Additionally, multiple studies reveal that foods rich in nutrients like beta-carotene [such as spinach] are capable of lowering the risk of asthma and that they are also effective in clearing the respiratory tract while relieving respiratory ailments such as whooping cough.
Apart from the anti-inflammatory properties in spinach, the leafy veggie is also rich in magnesium, which reduces the severity and eases the symptoms of asthma while promoting respiration and lung function. Magnesium is also considered to be effective in lowering blood pressure, minimizing the occurrence of migraine headaches, promoting healthy bone, etc.
4. Lowers Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure, otherwise known as Hypertension is a serious health condition which is often linked with kidney disease, heart ailments, stroke, etc. One thing about this condition is that it is barely noticeable, and it claims thousands of lives annually.
However, Spinach is an excellent source of peptides, potassium, nitrates, folate, magnesium – all of which play major roles in lowering high blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
The Peptides, in particular, helps in hindering the angiotensin I-converting enzyme in the body, which in turn reduces blood pressure.
Additionally, the potassium content in Spinach has been proven by multiple studies to be very effective in lowering blood pressure as it reduces the effects of sodium in the body. In fact, several studies opine that potassium deficiency may result in hypertension as there’d be an excess amount of sodium in the body, which may further trigger high blood pressure.
Another way spinach lowers blood pressure is that it contains special properties, which plays an essential role in reducing stress and anxiety – one of the leading causes of hypertension.
5. Strengthens the Bones
Vitamin K, Calcium, Vitamin D, dietary fibre, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C, are some of the essential nutrients your bone requires to remain healthy any day anytime, and the deficiency of any of these may result in bone fracture, osteoporosis or even stroke.
However, Spinach is a rich source of all the nutrients mentioned above, which makes it a great food for people intending to get a stronger bone.
With the aid of these nutrients, Spinach promotes healthy bone by improving your calcium absorption, strengthening your bone, boosting your bone’s strength and density, building your muscle tissues, and stimulating the growth of collagen in your body. It also helps in preventing fractures while preventing you from the risk of osteoporosis and stroke.
6. Promotes Healthy Skin and Hair
Looking for a leafy veggie to help improve your skin and hair health? Spinach is an ideal choice for you!
The reason is because spinach is packed with formidable antioxidants, the essential vitamins [Vitamin A, C, E and K], as well as vital minerals – all of which eliminates skin related diseases and provides the skin with the adequate nutrients its cells need to develop evenly and produce a healthy skin tone.
To start with, Spinach contains a significant amount of Vitamin A, one of the essential nutrients your skin and hair require to grow rapidly and healthily. It promotes healthy skin by moisturizing the skin and hair as it regulates the production of oil in the skin pores and hair follicles. It also helps the body to retain moisture to combat skin issues like dryness, psoriasis, as well as acne.
Another essential nutrient found in Spinach is vitamin C, which plays a major role in promoting healthy skin and hair as it stimulates the building and maintaining of collagen in the body.
However, it will interest you to know that Spinach also contains a high content of vitamin K and folate, which enhances your complexion by reducing the appearance of acne, bruising on the skin and dark circles.
7. Good for the digestive system
Spinach contains a lot of fiber and water, which makes it good the digestive tract. Spinach does not cause constipation, it prevents constipation. Raw spinach can also can gas and bloating.
Side Effects of Spinach
Although spinach is very healthy and nutritious, it can have adverse effects in some people. Below are a few of spinach’s side effects:
• Kidney Stones
Kidney stones is a medical condition that is caused by acid and mineral salt buildup in the body. The common mineral salt include calcium stones, which comprises of calcium oxalate.
Spinach has a high content of calcium and oxalate, thus anyone with a high risk of developing kidney stones should reduce or avoid the intake of spinach.
• Interferes with blood-thinning medication
Spinach is also rich in vitamin K1, which main function in the body is in blood clotting.
Thus, spinach can interfere with blood-thinning medication. If you are taking blood thinners, such as warfarin, you should limit your intake of spinach, because it can interfere with the medication.
Spinach is a healthy and nutritious leafy vegetables. From the article about spinach health benefits, you have learnt that it strengthens the bones, promotes healthy skin, prevents cancer and so much more.