Spinach is rich in properties, it counteracts aging, it is friends of the eyes and of the heart. Let’s see in detail all the properties of spinach.
Spinach, scientifically known as Spinacia oleracea, is a herbaceous plant native to Persia belonging to the Chenopodiaceae family, which includes amaranth, beetroot and quinoa.
Having become famous due to a printing error, spinach is not as rich in iron as it has always been thought, but it still has excellent properties and is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant molecules, useful in preventing various diseases. such as ocular ones, but also hypertension and tumors. Let’s now go into the characteristics and nutritional values of these vegetables.
Spinach: calories and nutritional values
Spinach is rich in nutrients and antioxidants and its consumption is considered very healthy as it would be useful in ensuring eye health, reducing oxidative stress, preventing cancer and lowering blood pressure levels. From the point of view of macronutrients, they mainly contain water and fiber, followed by proteins, while the intake of fats is almost nil. Also few calories: 100 grams of spinach provide only 31 kcal, therefore it is a food suitable for low-calorie diets.
Spinach also contains some vitamins (in particular vitamin C and folate) and some minerals, including potassium, calcium and iron, as well as compounds with antioxidant action. Let’s see below the table with the nutritional values of spinach.
Nutritional values per 100g of raw spinach:
- Kcal: 31
- Waterfall: 90.1 gr
- Proteins: 3.4 gr
- Fat: 0.7 gr
- Carbohydrates: 3 gr
- of which sugars: 0.4 gr
- Fibers: 1.9 gr
- Iron: 2.9 mg
- Soccer: 78 mg
- Potassium: 530 mg
- Phosphorus: 62 mg
- Zinc: 1.43 mg
- Vitamin B1: 0.7 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.37 mg
- C vitamin: 54 mg
- Folate: 150 µg
Spinach: nutritional properties
As we anticipated above, most of the carbohydrates present in spinach are represented by fibers, in particular insoluble fibers whose function is to increase fecal mass and accelerate intestinal transit, thus preventing constipation.
They are also an excellent source of many vitamins, minerals and plant components. Let’s see in detail what spinach contains.
- Vitamin A: spinach is rich in carotenoids, which the body can transform into vitamin A, useful for preventing infections and for keeping eyes and skin healthy;
- Vitamin C: powerful antioxidant that promotes skin health, immune function and aids in iron absorption;
- Vitamin K1: present in spinach and in many green leafy vegetables, this vitamin is essential for blood clotting but also useful in preventing osteoporosis;
- Folate (vitamin B9): essential for normal cellular function, tissue growth, in reducing both physical and mental fatigue and is very important for women’s health, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding;
- Iron: component of hemoglobin, the globular protein that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. Compared to what is believed, spinach is not among the foods richest in this mineral;
- Calcium: essential for bone health, it is also a crucial signaling molecule for the nervous system, heart and muscles;
- Potassium: useful for heart health, muscle and nervous function, it is also important for the hydro-saline exchange at the cellular level;
- Lutein: carotenoid present in spinach and linked to improving eye health;
- Campferol: flavonoid with antioxidant action associated with a decrease in the risk of cancer and chronic diseases;
- Quercetin: flavonoid with antioxidant action useful for fighting infections and inflammations. Spinach is one of the richest food sources of quercetin;
- Zeaxanthin: Like lutein, zeaxanthin is helpful in improving eye health.
Spinach: health benefits
The elements just seen, give spinach useful properties to support the health of the organism on several fronts. In particular, the consumption of these vegetables has been associated with various beneficial effects on our body. Let’s see in detail.
✓ Reduction of oxidative stress
The antioxidants found in spinach can help fight aging and reduce the risk of cancer and diabetes, both of which are related to increased oxidative stress.
✓ Spinach improves eye health
Zeaxanthin and lutein help protect our eyes from damage caused by sunlight. Furthermore, several studies have shown that both of these pigments work to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts, which are the main diseases that cause blindness.
✓ Regulation of blood pressure levels
This property of spinach is given by the large amount of nitrates present, which would seem capable of reducing blood pressure levels and consequently reducing the risk of developing heart disease.
✓ Spinach: an aid in cancer prevention
Spinach contains two components, MGDG and SQDG, which appear to be able to slow the growth of cancer cells. Furthermore, according to some studies, the consumption of spinach is associated with a reduction in the risk of prostate and breast cancer.
Spinach and iron
Spinach is not as rich in iron as has always been thought. The printing error occurred in 1890: a comma out of place and 3 mg became 30, thus attributing an iron content 10 times higher than the real one. The mistake was discovered after decades, but in the meantime Popeye and its spinach had conquered the world!
Therefore, only thanks to a mistake did spinach acquire the property of builder of muscles. People ate tons of it during World War II because it was said to contain as much iron as meat.
It is true that fresh spinach contains iron, about 3 mg (2.9 to be exact) per 100 gr, but less than rocket, just to stay among the vegetables, and certainly much less than dried fruit, olives, of all. legumes, eggs or seafood and finally meat, especially horse meat.
Spinach also contains a particular type of iron, the non-heme (non-Eme), typical of plant foods but, unlike the Eme iron (found in meat and shellfish and which has a high bioavailability) it is not so easily absorbable by our body.
And this is where vitamin C comes in. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) increases the acidity of the intestine allowing non-heme iron to be more easily absorbed!
To increase iron absorption, it is therefore important to combine foods sources of Eme iron + non-Eme iron + vitamin C, of which they are particularly rich: guava, chilli, currants, peppers, parsley, broccoli, kiwi, papaya, lettuce, strawberries, lemons, oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit.
How many spinach to eat
A standard portion of spinach corresponds to about 200 grams (weighed raw) or, more practically, half a plate. The guidelines for a healthy diet recommend consuming about 3 portions of vegetables a day, therefore, given their beneficial properties, a portion of spinach can also be introduced into our diet every day, possibly combined with other vegetables to vary the own diet.
Spinach: fresh or frozen?
Frozen spinach can be eaten safely because it does not lose its nutritional value during freezing.
Contraindications of spinach
Spinach is generally considered to be very healthy and has almost no contraindications, but in some individuals it can cause side effects. Here are on what occasions it is good to pay attention to their use:
- Kidney stones: caused by the accumulation of “pebbles” (mineral salts) in the kidneys, mainly represented by calcium oxalate. Spinach is rich in calcium and oxalates, so people who are predisposed or at risk of developing kidney stones should not consume large amounts;
- Blood clotting: Spinach contains very high amounts of vitamin K1 which, among other functions, plays a role in blood clotting. People taking blood thinners should take very controlled amounts of vitamin K or, in some cases, avoid green leafy vegetables, as directed by their doctor.
Raw or cooked spinach?
To improve the bioavailability of carotenoids (of which spinach is rich), it is better to consume cooked spinach (cook only a few minutes so as not to lose its vitamin content) in a pan or steamed. Cooking, in fact, breaks the carotenoids, facilitating their absorption in our body. If, on the other hand, we prefer to eat raw spinach, it is good to season them with a lemon vinaigrette (rich in vitamin C) to promote the absorption of iron by our body!