Do you know what the benefits of spinach are? In this Home Remedy article you will find out all about this vegetable, which is rich in vitamins and minerals and what are the health benefits of regular consumption. In addition, you will learn about various practical and tasty recipes.
The oleracea Spinacia is an edible plant of the family Chenopodiaceae . It can be grown in a variety of climates and adapts well to cold locations, even during the winter months. Because of this, it is widely cultivated and used all over the world. ( 1 )
The real spinach, as it is popularly called, usually measures between 30 and 60 centimeters in height and has dark green and succulent leaves. The plant is native to Southeast Asia and was brought to Western countries only in the 15th century, when it became popular and became part of the traditional cuisine of several countries.
All over the world the vegetable is widely used in the preparation of hot dishes, such as stir-fries and soups, and as one of the main ingredients of the famous green juice. All this due to its large amount of vitamins and antioxidant action. ( 2 ) Read on to discover all the benefits and nutritional properties of this vegetable and how to add it to your diet.
Spinach is not only a tasty vegetable rich in vitamins and minerals, it is also a great source of phytochemicals that bring benefits and help treat and prevent a variety of health problems.
In fact, it is an essential part of Ayurveda medicine, which is the set of traditional Indian practices. Check out the 10 main benefits that can be obtained with the regular consumption of spinach, based on several scientific researches.
1. Helps prevent cancer
Spinach is considered a functional food, as it is rich in several nutrients and brings real health benefits. One of them is its antimutagenic effect, therefore anticancer.
Thus, consuming spinach can help to contain the proliferation of cancer cells, especially breast cancer, and even prevent the onset of the disease in healthy people. ( 1 )
Part of this is related to the presence of chlorophyll, which is responsible for the dark green color of spinach leaves and has an antimutagenic action. In other words, the substance helps protect cells so that they do not mutate and generate cancer. ( 3 )
2. Protect the cells
Another benefit for the body that the consumption of spinach leaves brings is its antioxidant action , derived from the presence of several phytochemical compounds, the main ones being phenolic compounds, carotenoids and even chlorophyll. Spinach is rich in all of them. ( 3 )
Spinach leaves when consumed contain substances that help the body to fight free radicals, protecting the body from various types of diseases, premature aging and even the appearance of various types of cancer. ( 4 )
3. Fight inflammation
Spinach is rich in a substance called luteolin. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant and acts in different parts of the body, helping to reduce inflammation , mainly because it works by inhibiting the production of enzymes that cause the inflammatory process. ( 5 )
A study published in 2012 in Inflammopharmacology , a journal specializing in the publication of studies on inflammatory processes and solutions, indicated that spinach helped to reduce the damage caused by inflammatory diseases in the gastrointestinal system.
As in ulcers, necrosis and even in cases of colitis. Helping to reduce the area affected by these diseases and reducing their symptoms.( 6 )
4. Protects the liver
The large amounts of antioxidant substances in spinach such as carotenoids and vitamin C also help protect the liver from damage caused by external factors and prevent organ degeneration. ( 2 )
5. Fights depression and is a natural tranquilizer
The phytochemical compounds present in spinach leaves also have a calming and antidepressant action. Helping to lower stress levels, improving quality and increasing sleep time. Therefore, improving the quality of life of those who suffer from the symptoms of stress and insomnia .
In addition, consumption of the vegetable decreases the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine and increases the amounts of serotonin in various areas of the brain, improving the feeling of well-being. ( 1 )
6. Acts on the gastrointestinal tract
As already mentioned, spinach leaves are rich in carotenoids, which are natural yellow dyes that act as antioxidants in the body. They act to improve the immune system and protect the gastric system. ( 7 )
Thus, frequent consumption of the vegetable can help to reduce and prevent ulcers, as it is anti-inflammatory ( 6 ), and the appearance of a type of cancer called adenocarcinoma.
This cancer is a malignant and aggressive type that can reach the cells of the gastric tract. In this way, eating not only spinach but other foods rich in carotenoids decreases the risk of developing this and other diseases in the gastrointestinal system. ( 1 )
7. Fight the worms
Spinach also has natural anthelmintic abilities. That is, it acts as a powerful vermicide, which can be used against more common intestinal parasite infections, especially in children and in areas with little access to basic sanitation. ( 1 )
8. Protects against radiation effects
One of spinach’s health benefits is its radioprotective effect. That is, it works by protecting the body against the harmful effects of radiation. This is because it helps protect cells from external damage. ( 1 )
Thus, a study published in 2004 in the journal Phytomedicine indicated that the consumption of spinach may help to lessen the negative effects of radiation treatments. As is the case with radiotherapy or in cases where there was accidental exposure to radioactive materials, for example. ( 8 )
9. Protects eye health
Spinach, being rich in vitamin A and carotenoids, helps protect eye health. Thus, the consumption of the vegetable helps to prevent several degenerative diseases, such as cataracts, as it protects retinal cells from damage. ( 9 )
10. It is effective against anemia
The anemia is a disease where the body is small amounts of healthy red blood cells. This brings various symptoms such as fatigue, paleness and even dizziness. Iron supplements are one of the main treatments.
Spinach is very rich in iron and vitamin C, which is important for the body to absorb this mineral. In addition, it contains high amounts of folic acid, which is a vitamin that acts in the production process of red blood cells. However, for this purpose, the vegetable must be cooked or bleached, to reduce the action of anti-nutrients that hinder the absorption of iron by the body.
Thus, the consumption of the vegetable is important in any age group as a natural supplement for the prevention of anemia. ( 10 )
Medicinal properties of spinach
There are several traditional medicinal properties for spinach. Among them are its positive effects in the treatment of diseases that affect the blood and brain, respiratory problems such as asthma and even skin infections.
Other traditional uses for the vegetable include treating kidney stones as it acts as a diuretic. In addition, spinach has a laxative and digestive effect, serving to improve the functioning of the gastrointestinal system.
Ayurvedic medicine also applies the plant as a treatment for pain caused by inflammatory diseases, fever and problems that directly affect the eyes. Like dry eye syndrome, for example. ( 1 )
All of this is related to the various phytochemical compounds present in the leaves and stems of the plant. Among the main ones are the aromatic and pigment compounds that are called flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and act in various parts of the body.
In addition to all the medicinal properties and benefits of consuming spinach that have already been mentioned, the vegetable leaves are also extremely rich in several nutrients.
Each cup of spinach contains an average of 56% of the entire daily intake of vitamin A needed by an adult. The vegetable still has large amounts of vitamin C, E and B complex, such as B6, B3, B5, choline and also betaine. In addition, a serving of spinach also delivers almost twice the daily requirement of vitamin K, which is essential to prevent bleeding, as it works to improve blood clotting.
Other important nutrients in spinach are dietary fiber and various minerals. Such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and small amounts of copper and manganese.
All of this with very little fat, when cooked or steamed, and with just less than seven calories per serving. It is an ideal food for those who want to eat well and lose weight with health. ( 11 )
Have you seen all the benefits of adding spinach to your diet, but don’t know how to prepare it? The good thing about the vegetable is that it can be consumed in many different ways, in the form of soups, salads, broths and even natural sandwiches.
Here are some healthy, tasty and nutritious ideas that will delight even people who don’t regularly eat vegetables.
Spinach can be eaten raw, as long as it is in small amounts. For this salad you will need: 300 grams of fresh spinach, which must be thoroughly sanitized and cut before use, two tomatoes , two hard-boiled eggs and half a cup of walnuts. The latter is optional.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl or other container and add the desired dressing on top. A good option is a sweet and sour sauce, which is made with three tablespoons of oil, two of wine vinegar, a spoon of sugar, salt to taste and a spoon of ketchup.
This salad is healthy and refreshing, so it’s perfect to be eaten during the summer. ( 12 )
Chicken with spinach and pasta
Another easy, quick and tasty recipe for adding spinach to your diet. This is a meal considered balanced, as it contains the food groups of cereals, vegetables and also a good source of protein. ( 12 )
For the preparation you will need: 500 grams of pasta, 500 grams of chicken breast, garlic to taste, chicken stock, a bunch of fresh spinach and salt and pepper to taste for seasoning.
First cook the noodles for as long as necessary and drain. Meanwhile, fry the sliced chicken breast and garlic in a skillet with a little oil. When everything is browned, add the chicken stock and spinach and let it cook for a few minutes.
Finally, put the chicken sauce over the pasta, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve while still hot. This recipe is for the whole family, as it yields up to five servings.
Soups and broths are other tasty recipes that can be prepared with the vegetable. In addition, they are light meals, perfect to be consumed at night.
To make this spinach soup you will need: a bunch of fresh spinach, four medium potatoes , half a liter of milk, two tablespoons of oil, three garlic cloves, salt to taste and 100 grams of Minas cheese.
Cook potatoes until very tender, along with spinach. Let it cool a little and blend everything in a blender with the milk, until it becomes a smooth cream. Afterwards, saute the garlic with olive oil and add the whipped cream to the pan. Finally, let it boil for a few minutes, season with salt to taste and add pieces of Minas cheese.
green juice with spinach
Spinach is also one of the most used ingredients in green juice recipes. This one, in addition to the vegetable, has orange, which is a rich fruit and vitamin C that will improve the rate of iron absorption by the body.
You’ll just need the juice of two oranges, a cup of fresh, well-sanitized spinach leaves, and honey or brown sugar to sweeten it. The method of preparation is very simple, just blend everything in a blender, strain and drink it cold.
Is there more than one type of spinach?
Yes, there are two main types of edible leaves that are marketed under the name spinach around the world. These are Spinacia oleracea , which is cultivated in cold climates, and Tetragonia tetragonoides , which is known in Brazil by the popular name of New Zealand spinach.
Both belong to the same family and have similar medicinal and nutritional properties. With the difference that New Zealand spinach is more adapted to hot climates, such as Brazil.(13)
Spinach grown in Brazil is a short plant with green, fleshy and triangular-shaped leaves. In addition, the species is darker than that grown in colder regions.
The so-called true spinach is usually larger, reaching up to 30 centimeters in height and has oval-shaped leaves. This species is more consumed in countries in Europe and North America, as it cannot be cultivated in places with tropical climates.
However, both types are considered to be the vegetables that contain the highest levels of iron and calcium. In addition to containing several other vitamins and minerals that are essential for maintaining good health.(10)
Can you eat raw spinach?
Yes, as long as it’s no exaggeration. Spinach leaves can be eaten raw in salads and green juices. However, many people have heard that the vegetable should not be eaten without prior preparation and there is a reason for that.
The problem is that spinach, like kale, broccoli and beans, contains large amounts of an anti-nutrient called oxalic acid or oxalate.
This substance is called an anti-nutrient because it is not absorbed by the body, it is discarded in the urine and also hinders the absorption of other important nutrients. ( 13 )
When oxalate is found in large amounts, it can lead to kidney stones, as it forms insoluble calcium salts, and decreases the amounts of minerals that are absorbed by the body during meals. ( 10 )
Therefore, it is recommended to cook or bleach the leaves, as this helps to reduce the amount of oxalate in the leaves by up to 80%. Improving the absorption rate of other nutrients present in the plant.( 13 )
Are there any contraindications?
You saw in this article all the benefits of spinach for health, but you must be aware of some precautions that should be taken with the consumption of the vegetable. The main one is not to consume the raw leaves in quantities, because of the presence of oxalate.
Also, people who already suffer from kidney problems should avoid the vegetable in this way. Since the excess of anti-nutrient can lead to kidney stones or worsen the situation in people who already have a history of kidney problems.
The good news is that the consumption of spinach is free for pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding. That’s because the foliage is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the formation of the fetus during pregnancy. ( 13 )