One of my favorite cartoons while growing up was Popeye the Sailor Man. Popeye would swallow an entire can of spinach and get superhuman strength—and then go on to save the day. My mother always caught me watching the cartoon. “Eat your spinach,” she’d tell me. “It’s good for you. You’ll be strong like Popeye!” I wanted to be like Popeye, so one day I tried swallowing a large bowlful of spinach. I expected large muscles to pop out my puny arms, but with no success. Although it’s a bit of a stretch that someone could receive superhuman powers from eating spinach, my mom was right to a certain degree—spinach is good for you.
Nutritional Facts about Spinach
Spinach won’t provide you with superpowers, but I would certainly label it a superfood! Spinach is rich in antioxidants, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as vitamins C, K, A, and B2. That means everything from our hair to our bones all benefit when we consume spinach. Our metabolism also benefits when eating spinach. The high levels of magnesium found in spinach help with storing energy and maintaining proper nerve and muscle function.
From a nutritional standpoint, one cup of spinach (raw) contains:
- 27 calories—most of the calories come from the protein, of which there are about 0.86 grams per cup
- 30 milligrams of calcium
- 81 grams of iron
- 24 milligrams of magnesium
Health Benefits of Spinach
1. Diabetes management: Spinach contains alpha-lipoic acid, which is an antioxidant that can lower glucose levels, increase insulin productivity, and prevent oxidative stresses in diabetes patients.
2. Cancer prevention: Spinach contains the chemical chlorophyll, which has the ability to block the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines (chemical compounds that form when food that has been cooked at a high temperature). These chemicals have also been linked to aiding in the development of cancer cells.
3. Asthma prevention: Spinach contains beta-carotene; if consumed on a daily basis, it can lower the chances of an individual developing asthma.
4. Lowers blood pressure: Too much sodium in the body can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The potassium found in spinach can reduce the effects that sodium has on the body— this can lower blood pressure.
5. Bone health: Bone fractures and injuries that occur frequently can be a direct result of low intakes of vitamin K. Spinach contains high amounts of vitamin K and calcium, which are beneficial for bone health.
6. Healthy hair: Have you ever wondered why some people have such healthy, shiny hair? The nutrients that spinach contains (i.e. vitamins B, C, E, iron, potassium, magnesium, etc.) are essential for hair growth. Iron actually assists the red blood cells in carrying oxygen to hair follicles.
If you’re not a fan of the taste of raw spinach, then try adding it to a stir fry to make a delicious, nutritious meal. And while you’re at it, call your mom and tell her, “You were right.”
“The health benefits of spinach,” body+soul web site; http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/nutrition/health+foods+az/the+health+benefits+of+spinach,24063, last accessed June 5, 2015.
Ware, M., “What are the health benefits of spinach?” Medical News Today web site, August 30, 2014; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270609.php.