Spinach Benefits and Side Effects - 2019
Frequently Asked Questions
Spinach (spinacia oleracea) is a dark green vegetable originating from Persia. It comes from the family species named Chenopodioideae (as known as Amaranth), which has a similar background to cacti, beets, quinoa, and even carnations.
It's usually eaten whole, including the stems (because that's where all of the fiber resides). It doesen't last long in the fridge before going bad, which is why most people freeze or dehydrate the delicate leafs.
It can either be eating cooked or raw, although the flavor changes substantialy after cooking. It's filled with antioxidants, some of which are lost while being heated, but still keeps its huge amounts of vitamin K intact.
Spinach is such a versatile vegetable that it can be prepared and cooked with in many ways.
You can either boil, steam, or sautee the leaves. Most commonly, it's sauteed in a pan with olive oil.
Leaving it on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes will lightly fry and soften the leaflets. Half way through you can season it with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese; you can opt to mix in crushed garlic or even substitue it for garlic salt.
Alternatively you can always add a few leaflets over any dish to add another layer of flavor, such as over your beef, chicken, tofu, or mixed in with your pasta.
Spinach grows best in humid, moist soil rich in nitrogen. Because it takes so long to grow, it's often simply bought in the supermarkets.
To properly grow spinach in a reasonable amount of time, here's the general guideline to follow.
1. Its roots grow deep, make sure to soften the soil up to 1 foot deep before planting any seeds. Also make sure the soil pH is between 6.0 to 7.0
2. To have a harvest twice a year plant your seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the last expected cold day of spring. Then 6 to 8 weeks before the first cold day of fall.
3. Space each hole 12 to 14 inches apart to allow it to reach its full size. The depth should be between 1 to 2 inches.
There are many retailers that sell spinach seeds online and in stores. Amazon, Walmart, and your local gardening supplies store.
Break down and Background
Spinach is a commonly found leafy green plant whose leaves are eaten in various forms. Whether they're dehydrated, chopped, fresh, or just eaten raw, baby spinach leaves are always edible and very nutritious.
It's usually paired with olive oil because of their contrasting flavors. The amazing health benefits of spinach are contained in the powerful antioxidants and nutrients.
It's often harvested annually but could be even delayed for up to 2 years in some rare cases.
It has become popular because of its subtle taste and critical role in traditional home cooked meals for the typical Chinese family. Using 1 large cup in your recipes is enough to feed a whole family. China is the world’s largest cultivator of spinach. In 2016, it was credited with cultivating around 92% of the total quantity, globally.
It’s also believed that the cultivation of the plant had begun from the ancient Persian era.
The plant was first introduced to Sicily by the Saracens in 827 AD. It was introduced to both England and France by the Spanish. Previously in England, it was known as “The Spanish Vegetable” while the Chinese called it “Persian Greens”, over the years it was later simply called “Spinach”.
The leafy green plant was first introduced to the Chinese in the seventh century by Nepal, and later on the Moors introduced the plant to the Spanish in the eleventh century.
In the 13th century, the prickly-seeded alternative came to the forefront of German cuisine, unlike the smooth-seeded form which never got proper recognition until 1552. The reason for the popularity of the spinach plant in Europe was based on two factors.
The first reason is because it starts to appear in the early season of spring and can provide a bigger yield. At that time, most other foods and vegetables are not readily available. This made it so that the plant was one of the best resource of vegetables and nutritional health benefits during those periods.
The second reason because there were Lenten dietary restrictions in the 14th century which made a lot of people abstain from having anything other than home foods and dishes.
The first ever known English cookbook is titled “The Forme of Cury”. The first time the name “spinach” appeared in this book was in the version revised in 1930, it was referred to either 'spinnedge' or 'spynoches'.
Spinach is heavily consumed around the world for its vitamins and minerals. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that Americans should consume around 2 ½ pounds annually, which is 0.4 cups a month. This was not the case for the last forty years.
In fact, this is almost four times more than the previously recommended amount of spinach consumption. This can be credited to the impressive breakthroughs in the fields of dieting and medical testing that’s been presented recently, as well as the advancement in health and nutritional research.
Studies have shown that it can help minimize people who suffer from high blood pressure, improve bone health, reduce the risk of heart disease and macular degeneration. Mostly linked to the powerful antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic and its high levels of magnesium.
This plant is especially popular amoung baby boomers and the generation X because it was the vegetable consumed by Popeye, a old cartoon character who eats a cup of spinach to become strong. Parents often leverage this and encourage their children to eat more so that they can follow his footsteps to grow to be big and strong as the character.
The popularity of this plant also increased during World War I. This is because the juice from the plant was mixed with wine and used to help French soldiers who had been weakened by hemorrhage.
Spinach Health Benefits
Spinach has numerous health benefits. This is primarily because of the nutrients and the excellent source of vitamin K. It contains a good amount of Calcium, Iron as well as carbohydrates, protein and fat. Although it mostly contains water which accounts for 92% of the volume of raw spinach.
1. Full of Vitamins and Nutritional Benefits
Whether you consume boiled or fresh spinach, the plant offers high nutritional value as well as 23 calories per 100 grams (3.5 oz). It also contains vitamins vital for a healthy body such as vitamins A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin K, and Riboflavin.
There are also other key nutrients needed by the body such as manganese, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and folate that are also present in the plant.
It’s also one of the best sources of phosphorus, copper and other minerals beneficial to your body which prevents the oxidization of cholesterol. This prevents your body from having free radicals which can potentially be cancerous and harmful to your health.
It can also help with the improvement of skin health and immune system function. All of the vitamins and minerals found in baby spinach help with cleaning your skin from the inside layers to the topmost. A consistent consumption can promote healthy skin tissue as well as improving the functionality of the immune system.
This is because the plant contains vitamin C. Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant and important when it comes to the promotion of healthy sins and boosting of the functionality and strength of your immune system.
2. Good Source of Iron and Calcium
100g of spinach contains a decent amount of your RDA of iron. This reduces people with high blood pressure without having the risk of consuming too much red meat be part of your diet.
This makes it an excellent source for people who suffer iron deficiencies. Lending credence to this fact is the United States Department of Agriculture revealed that 100g of cooked spinach has 2.73 mg of iron. This is higher than 100g of ground beef, of which contains only 2.49 mg.
Iron produces the red pigment of the blood known as hemoglobin, which brings oxygen to the body's tissues. Spinach is often used to prepare foods such as salads as well as sandwiches.
When used in salads they’re usually frozen beforehand, this makes them crisper, tastier, and slightly more green. They’re heavily complimented when used in an olive oil dressing. And when making sandwiches, it's often used instead of lettuce.
It’s also a good source of calcium. As a matter of fact, 100 grams of spinach contains 97mg of Calcium. Calcium is important when it comes to signalling the nervous system, heart, and muscles. The body however never gets to absorb more than 5% of this due to the presence of oxalates found in the spinach plant.
3. Excellent Source of Fiber
This plant is also a rich source of fiber. The insoluble fiber present in spinach makes it great for stablizing people with high blood sugar levels, and suppresses hunger cravings. Also, the insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation as food passes through the digestive system.
This helps with nutrient absorption and digestion, preventing bowel disease, and improving your gut bacteria health.
4. Improves Blood Clotting
A major health benefit of spinach (while for others this can be a side effect) is the fact that it helps your blood clot. This is because it contains a lot of vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting.
In just a few leaves of spinach, you can get all the vitamin K you need for the day. When feeding a family, you should add a cup to your recipes which would satisfy the vitamin K intake for everyone.
New information published by the university of Linköping have determined that it’s a rich source of folic acid, oxalic acid, and alpha-lipoic acid. It also contains potassium folate, which is also referred to as vitamin B.
These levels of folic acid, oxalic acid, and alpha-lipoic acid are vital in ensuring that normal cellular function, as well as the growth of tissue around the body is uninterrupted. This proves that it’s vital for optimal health in pregnant women and their children.
5. Improves Eye Health
Spinach also helps with the improvement of eye health and protects the longevity of your vision. This is because it contains Lutein. It’s believed that Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Meso-zeaxanthin in the macula (near the center of the retina) blocks blue light from reaching and damaging the underlying structures in your retina.
Thereby reducing the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration.
If you are interested in improving the health of your eyes, increasing your spinach intake is at the top of available sources for rounding out your diet.
It’s also a rich source of zeaxanthin. This plant compound is similar to lutein because studies have shown that it improves eye health, specifically protecting your retina, macula, optic disc, and choroids.
6. Decreasing The Risk of Cancer
Another important health benefit of spinach is that it decreases the risk of cancer as well as other chronic diseases.
The reason why this is the case is not farfetched, it's because it contains a plant compound known as Kaempferol. Kaempferol is an antioxidant that has proven to reduce the risk of cancer and oxidative stresses and inflammatory age-related chronic diseases.
GDG and SQDG are enzymes which are present in spinach that's been proven to have the ability to slow down cancer growth.
Tumor growth in a human's cervix was reduced by GDG and SQDG in a study carried out to investigate the effectiveness of these compounds against the growth of cancer. These compounds didn’t only slow down the growth of the tumor, they also decreased the size of the tumor as well.
Studies have shown that breast cancer has also been proven to be prevented by eating spinach. It has also been proven that spinach consumption leads to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
7. Improved Heart Health
It’s also a powerful contributor to proper heart health. This is because it contains Nitrates. In fact, the nitrates present in spinach is found in high quantity. Nitrates are a type of vasodilator. Vasodilators widen (dilate) the blood vessels, improving blood flow and allowing more oxygen-rich blood to reach the heart muscle.
Nitrates also relax the veins to ease the workload on the heart when blood is returning to the heart from the arms and legs, lowering your blood pressure. Improving your cardiovascular system also helps slow down the process of macular degeneration, which is nerve damage over long periods of time usually effected by diet and ageing.
Also lowers your risk of getting heart disease and improves bone health in younger developing adolescents.
8. Prevention of Infections and Inflammation
Spinach is important for the prevention of infection and inflammation because spinach is one of the richest sources of Quercetin. Quercetin is a strong antioxidant flavonoid that can scavenge harmful chemicals in the body as well as reduce tissue and DNA damage.
9. Prevention of Oxidative Stress
Spinach is also known for its ability to prevent oxidative stress. This is because the various antioxidants present in the plant ensures this during the metabolism process, the byproducts of these processes are called free radicals.
These free radicals are harmful to the body. This is because they can cause oxidative stress. The danger of this is that the person will age faster than normal, weakening internal organs and systems in the process. Apart from this oxidative stress also leads to an increase in the risk of cancer.
Studies base on humans and animals has confirmed that in a controlled experiment involving 8 people, showed that the supplementational advantages of spinach are that it has alleviating effects on known markers of oxidative stress and muscle damage in well trained healthy men.
Spinach Side Effects and Detriments
Without any doubt, spinach has a large list of cooking applications. If you want to add spinach to your diet there are some considerable side effects to consider, especially when eating too much since it’s really easy to over eat.
The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. If you eat over your recomended daily allowance they will start to get stored as body fat.
1. Inhibits Iron and Calcium Absorption
There are substances contained in spinach that are detrimental to the rate at which the body absorbs iron. Although spinach has a lot inside the edges of the leaf, it's still difficult for your body to absorb most of it.
These substances are called oxalates. Oxalates are renowned for their ability to bind to iron and form a compound called ferrous oxalate. Ferrous oxalates are bad to your body because they are capable of ridding the body of essential minerals, especially when your body is full of these oxalates.
2. Inhibition of The Absorption of Calcium By The Body
These present oxalates not only inhibit the absorption of iron by the body, they are also responsible for the prevention of the absorption of calcium. This makes the calcium available in spinach almost irrelevant because only about 5% actually gets absorbed.
3. Development of Kidney Stones
Small acids and mineral salt buildup are responsible for kidney stones.
One of the most common types of kidney stones is the one that consists of calcium stones. Calcium stones basically contain calcium oxalate. People who consume large amounts of spinach are at risk of developing kidney stones. This is because it contains a high amount of both calcium and oxalates.
4. Anti-Blood Thinning Properties
The Anti-Blood thinner Vitamin K1 is present in spinach in very high amounts and this makes it help in the process of blood clotting. It's actually beneficial to prevent the loss of blood when bleeding externally.
This, however, becomes detrimental to one’s health especially for people who are taking and rely on blood-thinners, such as Warfarin. These people should stay off most leafy greens altogether and that includes spinach.
Rating and Recommendation
Without any controversy, few plants can match the nutrition facts of spinach. Some of the several health benefits includes the prevention of cancer, prevention of oxidative stress, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and the improvement of eye and heart health.
Hence, this plant should be consumed by anyone who wants to improve their overall health in many different areas.
It is, however, important to note that spinach also has some side effects, especially when taken in high doses. Cooking with too much spinach can be detrimental to your health through the inhibition of the absorption of Calcium as well as Iron with the possibility of causing kidney stones, and in rare cases some people have experienced allergic reactions.
An important thing to note is that these side effects are primarily as a result of consuming too much spinach. Hence, in order to maximize the health benefits of spinach and minimize the side effect. The plant should be consumed regularly, on a daily basis but in small amounts.
Failure to do this will make the spinach plant cause more damage than the intended good which is usually the reason why some people would consume spinach in the first place.
Spinach is also often sold loose, bunched, packaged fresh in bags, canned, or frozen. It is best consumed fresh because it will lose a lot of its nutritional value with the other methods of storage, even more so after just a few days.
However, if you want to store your spinach for a long time, freezing would keep it staying fresh and nutritious for up to 6 months.
Refrigerating spinach can only keep it fresh and nutritious for up to 1 week. Most of its nutrients such as its folate and carotenoid content will be gone if it's stored for too long. There are also many reports of high occurrences of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) contamination of the plant, a type of insecticide.
That’s why it's safer to buy only organic varieties of spinach as often as possible. DDT is a common trigger for cancers, birth defects, and reproductive damage. Detection of products containing DDT have been banned since 1972 in the U.S. but you should still go through all the precautions.
However, DDT is used to fight malaria caused by mosquitos in certain countries. It's dangerous as it can last for up to 4 years when sprayed in the soil. Some brands that grow spinach have been growing the plants in soils that contain DDT based on a report by the USDA.
Spinach nutrition facts and health benefits are relevant at just 30 grams per day.
While its side effects are relevant starting at over 100 grams per day.
5. Front Plant Sci. (2017 Nov 9) High-Resolution and Non-destructive Evaluation of the Spatial Distribution of Nitrate and Its Dynamics in Spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) Leaves by Near-Infrared Hyperspectral Imaging
|Amount Per Serving|
|Calories 23||Calories from Fat 3|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0.4 g||< 1 %|
|Saturated Fat 0 g||0 %|
|Polyunsaturated fat 0 g|
|Monounsaturated fat 0 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0 %|
|Sodium 0 mg||0 %|
|Potassium 667 mg||17 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 3.6 g||1 %|
|Dietary Fiber 2.2 g||8 %|
|Sugars 0.4 g|
|Protein 2.9 g|
|Vitamin A 56 %||Vitamin C 14 %|
|Vitamin E 3 %||Vitamin K 181 %|
|Calcium 3 %||Iron 5 %|
Calories per gram:
Fat: 9 | Carbohydrate: 4 | Protein: 4