Dark leafy greens come loaded with life-sustaining nutrients and antioxidants, and spinach is no exception.
Spinach is a dynamic superfood dense with vitamins, potassium, calcium, and fiber. Including it regularly in your diet holds a host of health benefits.
There are countless ways to boost your spinach intake by including it in smoothies, salads, sandwiches, omelets, pasta, casseroles, and more!
The key is variety — you should eat spinach both cooked and raw to maximize its health benefits. You’ll absorb more calcium and iron if you eat spinach cooked because its oxalic acid blocks absorption of those minerals until heated.
But spinach loses many other nutrients when boiled or steamed, so sauteing or stir-frying can reduce vitamins lost during cooking. Folate, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin C are more available to our bodies when we eat spinach raw.
Just one serving of spinach (2 cups raw) per day offers a powerful dose of wellness.
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Health Benefits of Spinach
1. It protects the heart and brain.
Spinach is high in potassium, which is known to reduce blood pressure by helping our kidneys flush sodium out of our bodies, according to the American Heart Association. High blood pressure, or hypertension, causes heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Spinach and other low-sodium leafy greens are an excellent addition to any diet aimed at lowering blood pressure.
It also contains an antioxidant called lutein that’s associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease. Spinach contains nitrates, which may prevent insulin resistance and relieve inflammation, a primary risk factor for diabetes. Vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene may promote brain health and slow cognitive decline, too, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
2. It reduces the risk of anemia.
Spinach is one of the many foods high in iron, which can help to reduce your risk of iron-deficiency anemia.
Iron promotes the transport of oxygen to the body’s tissues. You may develop anemia without enough iron in your diet, which can cause extreme fatigue, heart problems, and cognitive impairments. Combining a food high in iron with a food high in vitamin C, like bell peppers or tomatoes, will help to boost absorption.
3. It may help prevent cancer.
Spinach contains beta carotene and vitamin C, both of which act as protectors against developing cancer cells and may help reduce your risk of developing some cancers. As antioxidants, they help your body block carcinogens.
4. It boosts immunity.
Packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium, spinach is a one-stop immunity boost that will reinforce your body’s natural defenses against viruses and bacteria.
5. It reduces inflammation.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach contain plenty of vitamin E, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. Things like processed foods, stress, lack of adequate sleep, and substance use can cause inflammation. Chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer, according to the American Heart Association. Spinach contains a host of anti-inflammatory properties to keep your body healthy.
6. It protects vision.
The vitamin A in spinach helps maintain mucus membranes essential for eyesight, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin help maintain vision, too. Spinach can also stave off cataracts and age-related eye degeneration.
7. It supports weight management.
Low in calories and high in fiber, including more non-starchy vegetables like spinach in your diet is the perfect way to maintain a healthy weight. The fiber in spinach can keep you feeling satisfied longer and it can also facilitate proper digestion and help to regulate blood sugar.
8. It’s great for hair, skin, and nails.
Spinach contains vitamin A, vitamin E, and iron — which help keep skin, hair, and nails healthy, according to the National Institutes of Health.
So, skip the beauty supplements next time and help yourself to a bowl of spinach instead.
Easy and tasty spinach recipes
Try these no-frills, mouthwatering spinach recipes to start reaping the benefits of this potent superfood!
- 1 pound fresh spinach
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves sliced garlic
- Wash, soak, and drain spinach to remove excess water.
- Saute garlic in olive oil in a skillet on medium heat until garlic starts to brown.
- Combine spinach with garlic in the skillet, coating it evenly.
- Cover the skillet and let spinach cook for 1 to 2 minutes until tender.
- Remove from heat, drain excess liquid, and serve hot!
Apple spinach salad
- 4 cups fresh spinach.
- 2 thinly sliced apples.
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries.
- 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese.
- Balsamic or apple cider vinaigrette.
- Add spinach, apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, and goat cheese in a large mixing bowl and toss.
- Drizzle with the vinaigrette dressing into the bowl and toss to combine.
- Serve immediately.
Spinach penne rosa pasta
- 1/2 pound penne pasta.
- 4 cups fresh spinach.
- 2 cloves minced garlic.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- 1 jar creamy tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano.
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and cook pasta until tender.
- While pasta is cooking, add garlic and olive oil to a large skillet and saute over medium heat until garlic is brown.
- Add oregano and basil to the skillet, stir.
- Add spinach to the skillet and stir until tender. Remove from heat.
- Drain pasta and heat creamy tomato sauce in a separate saucepan.
- Add skillet contents to sauce and stir.
- Spread sauce over the pasta and serve.
About UPMC Nutrition Services
Nutrition is vital for maintaining your overall health. UPMC Nutrition Services offers comprehensive diet and nutrition counseling on a variety of topics, including eating disorders, weight management, and heart disease. Our team provides medical nutrition therapy for chronic conditions such as celiac disease, cancer, and diabetes. UPMC’s network of registered dietitians is available to help guide all patients toward a healthier life.