Why spinach deserves a place in your diet
World Spinach Day – Nutritionist-backed benefits of this leafy green
What is spinach?
Spinach belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family (also known as goosefoot), which includes beetroot, chard and quinoa. It shares a similar taste profile with these vegetables – the slightly salty flavour of chard, and the bitterness of beetroot leaves. There are three different types of spinach available: savoy, semi-savoy and smooth leaf.
Spinach nutritional content:
Although spinach has very few calories it is packed with nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron, folate, and potassium. Plus, spinach is full of fibre (5).
A 90g portion provides over 300% of the daily need for bone-supporting vitamin K. Spinach also provides over 160% of the daily goal for vitamin A, and about 40% for vitamin C which both support immune function and promote healthy skin (5).
Spinach also contains 45% of the daily need of folate, a B vitamin that helps form red blood cells and DNA. And spinach supplies 15% of the daily goal for both iron and magnesium, 10% for potassium, and 6% for calcium, along with smaller amounts of other B vitamins (5).
Spinach is high in antioxidants
Spinach it contains an antioxidant called quercetin, this has been shown to have potentially improve memory, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It also contains kaempferol, a flavonoid which may be associated with decreased risk of cancer, cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases in humans (1).
Spinach supports brain health
The anti-inflammatory effects of spinach make it a key contender for protecting the brain, particularly with aging. In one study, researchers monitored cognition and tracked the eating patterns of over 950 older adults for five years. They saw a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline among those who consumed larger amounts of green leafy vegetables. The data indicated that people who ate one to two servings of leafy greens daily had the same cognitive abilities of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed no leafy greens (2).
Spinach improving skin health
Vitamins C and A found in spinach nutrition can help to fight off ultraviolet (UV) light damage that may lead to skin cancer. Frequently eating foods such as spinach that contain antioxidants can help foster new skin cell growth and support the production of collagen, one of the main building blocks of the skin that is responsible for its elasticity and youthful appearance (3).
Is spinach safe for everyone?
Spinach is safe for most people, however there are some individuals who need to exercise caution. Spinach contains a high amount of oxalate, for this reason people with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should minimise their consumption (4).
Those on blood-thinning medication need to consider their vitamin K intake. Typically, the advice, while taking this medication, is that you need to keep your dietary intake approximately the same. Check with your GP before making any significant changes to your diet (4). If you are concerned or have queries, please consult your GP or registered dietitian for guidance.
Incorporating spinach into both raw and cooked dishes, some research shows that not cooking the greens is the best way to preserve its lutein content. Check out our Instagram page for our top 5 recipes to include spinach in your diet!