Spinach is one of the healthiest smoothie ingredients. It can promote good digestion, reduce oxidative stress, and protect the eyes and skin.
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What Is Spinach?
At the grocery store, spinach is available in full-grown or young leaves (baby) versions.
Sold fresh or frozen, both are great ingredients in smoothies, where they add nutrients and a natural green color.
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12 Benefits of Eating Spinach
1. Helps Immunity
Adding spinach to your diet is an easy way to improve your immune system. The vegetable is high in vitamin C, an essential nutrient for immunity.
Vitamin C collects in phagocytes, a type of immune cell. It helps phagocytes “eat” harmful bacteria, keeping your body healthy.
The nutrient is also an antioxidant, meaning it finds and destroys free radicals. These are molecules that can damage healthy cells and cause disease.
Additionally, spinach offers zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and iron, all of which are needed for immunity.
2. Improves Skin Health
The vitamin C content of spinach is good for your skin. It’s needed to make fibroblasts, or cells that give the skin structure.
This is especially important when you have a cut or wound, as fibroblasts are needed to heal skin tissue. They work by producing the protein collagen.
Vitamin C aids the skin via its antioxidant properties as well. It destroys free radicals in the skin, offering protection against oxidative damage from sunlight or pollution.
With age, the skin naturally loses vitamin C. But eating foods rich in vitamin C, like spinach, could help increase your levels.
3. Decreases Oxidative Stress
Spinach is an impressive source of antioxidants. Examples include vitamin C, vitamin A, and polyphenols.
Antioxidants are compounds that reduce free radicals, or harmful molecules that cause cell damage. This type of damage is called oxidative stress.
Eventually, oxidative stress can contribute to chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. So it’s important to eat a diet rich in antioxidants.
To fight free radicals, antioxidants work by “neutralizing” them. The free radicals become harmless so they can’t cause damage.
4. Reduces Inflammation
At normal levels, inflammation is a necessary reaction in the body. It helps fight infections and sickness.
However, too much inflammation isn’t good. If it continues for a long time, it can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, arthritis, and brain conditions.
Since oxidative stress contributes to inflammation, controlling oxidative stress is crucial. You can do this by eating foods like spinach.
Polyphenols, which are found in spinach, have strong anti-inflammatory properties. They act on the reactions involved in causing inflammation.
5. Promotes Strong Bones
As a source of vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium, spinach can benefit the bones. These nutrients are all needed for supporting bone health.
Calcium is a mineral that gives structure to the bones, making them strong. It’s also required for healthy teeth.
Another mineral, magnesium is also crucial for bone health. It’s involved in reactions that build strong bones.
6. Boosts Brain Health
If you want to protect your brain through food, add more spinach to your diet. The vegetable is packed with brain-friendly nutrients.
This includes vitamin A, which is involved in functions like memory and learning. It works by acting on nerve cells, also known as neurons.
The antioxidants in spinach—including vitamin E, vitamin C, and polyphenols—are beneficial for brain health too.
They reduce both oxidative stress and inflammation, which can damage nerve cells and increase the risk of brain disease.
7. Aids Digestion
Another health benefit of spinach involves the gut. The vegetable is a rich source of fiber, a key nutrient for digestion.
Fiber makes the stool easy and comfortable to pass. This can prevent digestive issues, including constipation or irregular bowel movements.
Polyphenols, like those in spinach, are prebiotics as well. Prebiotics provide food for gut bacteria and keep them in balance.
When this bacteria balanced, it ensures your gut is functioning well and reduces the risk of digestive disease.
8. Increases Satiety
If weight management is one of your health goals, eat more spinach. The ingredient is satiating, meaning it increases the feeling of fullness.
It’s due to the high fiber content. Fiber naturally increases hormones that control satiety.
Plus, fiber slows down digestion. This is beneficial for reducing hunger, as it stays in the body for longer.
When blended into smoothies, spinach will increase the fiber content and add more bulk to the drink.
9. Supports Healthy Blood
As a source of vitamin K, spinach helps promote healthy blood clotting. This is a process that slows down bleeding from wounds.
Specifically, vitamin K helps the body make proteins that clot (or block) blood. It prevents excess bleeding.
Spinach also provides iron, a mineral needed for hemoglobin. This is the protein that helps red blood cells carry oxygen to your organs and tissues.
Without enough iron, your red blood cells won’t be able to properly transport oxygen, making you feel tired.
10. Controls High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, happens when blood flows through your vessels with too much force. This can damage your blood vessels over time.
Eventually, it can lead to heart problems like stroke or heart attack. It’s vital to manage high blood pressure before it gets worse.
Eating spinach can help. It contains potassium, a mineral that naturally lowers blood pressure.
Potassium increases how much sodium leaves your body, which has a blood pressure-lowering effect.
Also, the vegetable is one of the best sources of nitrates. This compound makes the blood vessels dilate, or widen, which decreases blood pressure.
11. Enhances Eye Health
Like other leafy green vegetables, spinach is packed with lutein. This nutrient is essential for good eyesight.
Lutein is a type of carotenoid, or plant compound. It protects the eyes from oxidative stress and inflammation.
This effect is important for eyesight, as oxidative stress and inflammation can damage cells in the eye.
Both lutein and vitamin C, which is also found in spinach, have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases.
12. Maintains Pre-Natal Health
During pregnancy, it’s essential to get enough folate, or vitamin B9. That’s because the fetus needs folate to grow cells, including red blood cells.
Low intakes of folate can increase the risk of neural tube defects, or brain and spine problems.
A good pre-natal supplement will include enough folate. However, eating foods high in folate will add even more to your diet.
Some of the best sources are dark leafy green vegetables, including spinach.
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Since spinach is high in fiber, it’s a good idea to increase your intake slowly. Eating a lot of spinach at once can cause stomach issues.
If you get calcium oxalate kidney stones, be mindful when eating spinach. The vegetable is high in oxalates, a compound that might increase the risk.
Your doctor can let you know how much spinach you can eat.
Look for bright green leaves.
Whether you’re buying full-grown or baby spinach, the leaves should have a bright green color.
Skip spinach that has spots, browning, or other types of discoloration. Avoid mushy leaves.
Only wash spinach when you’re ready to use it.
Moisture can make spinach spoil faster. For the longest shelf-life, keep it dry before putting it in the refrigerator.
Store between paper towels.
To keep spinach fresh, layer it in between paper towels in an airtight container. The paper towels will help absorb moisture.
When stored this way, spinach will last 5-7 days.
Freeze in silicone bags.
If you have a lot of spinach, you can freeze it for later use. Simply put washed and dried spinach in a resealable freezer-safe bag, then put it in the freezer.