Spinach is a leafy green vegetable with many culinary uses that has long been touted as a nutritional powerhouse.
Spinach is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and many other nutrients, leading many people to call it a ‘superfood’, with good reason.
Spinach is a versatile ingredient – and there are hundreds of spinach recipes from salads to stews – but it’s especially beneficial as a dietary supplement.
Not only is spinach packed with vitamins and minerals, it’s also an excellent source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. However, eating enough fresh spinach to achieve noticeable health benefits from these compounds can be tough, so many people use nutritional supplements instead.
In recent years, spinach supplements have gained popularity as a convenient way to reap the health benefits of spinach, as they promise all of the health benefits with no hassle. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the effects of spinach supplements and discuss the pros and cons of using different forms of spinach for health benefits.
Intro – What is spinach?
Spinach belongs to the Chenopodiaceae (or goosefoot) family, which includes quinoa, chard, and beetroot, and shares a similar taste profile with these vegetables. The taste of spinach can be described as bitter like beetroot greens, and slightly salty like chard, though this varies significantly on how you prepare the spinach.
There are almost as many spinach recipes as there are varieties of this leafy green, and you can eat it fresh, boiled, blanched, or deep-fried. However, it’s important to note that the nutritional profile of fresh spinach varies drastically based on its freshness and how it has been cooked, while spinach supplements are largely uniform.
The Nutritional Value of Spinach
Raw spinach is 91% water, 4% carbohydrates, and 3% protein by volume, so it’s no wonder it shrinks to almost nothing when you cook out the moisture. Spinach contains negligible levels of fat, and 80g (2.8oz) of raw spinach provides 20 calories with a surprisingly high nutritional value of:
- 2.2g protein
- 0.6g fat
- 1.3g carbohydrates
- 2.2g fiber
- 136mg calcium
- 1.68mg iron
- 91mcg folate
- 21mg vitamin C
Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach is high in beneficial compounds, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may provide various health benefits when taken as a dietary supplement. Based on existing studies that use spinach supplements or natural preparations (such as spinach juice), supplementing with this lean green may provide health benefits such as:
Increasing your Antioxidant Levels
Spinach is high in antioxidants like lutein, beta carotene, coumaric acid, violaxanthin, and ferulic acid, which help protect against oxidative stress and chronic disease. Many chronic diseases (such as heart disease and arthritis) are linked to high levels of oxidative damage, so including plenty of antioxidants in your diet can help prevent long-term illness.
Improved Eye Health
Spinach is loaded with zeaxanthin and lutein, two antioxidants that are vital for maintaining eye health and may help protect against age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss. Research suggests that spinach supplements may help support eye health, as they contain high levels of antioxidants and vitamin A.
Improved Bone Health
Spinach is a rich source of calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth, and vitamin K, which helps regulate calcium levels and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. However, raw spinach is high in oxalates, which limit the absorption of calcium and iron in your gut, so spinach supplements are a much better source of calcium.
Improved Heart Health
Spinach is high in nitrates, which help dilate your blood vessels and may lower blood pressure, contributing to improved heart health. Additionally, the antioxidants in spinach may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, both risk factors for heart disease.
Supports Healthy Pregnancies
Spinach is an excellent source of folate (the natural form of folic acid), which is essential for healthy fetal development and supports healthy pregnancies. Adequate folate intake during pregnancy can reduce the risk of neural tube defects, so it may be worth adding spinach supplements to your natal care routine.
Tips on Using Spinach
Spinach is a popular vegetable, and you can buy it in many different forms, including fresh, frozen, canned, and spinach supplements. While dietary supplements are quickly gaining popularity, spinach is an incredibly versatile ingredient used in food much more often than in supplements.
There are hundreds of spinach recipes out there, and it’s delicious on its own or added to other dishes, such as pasta alfredo or saag aloo (an Indian potato and spinach recipes). However, that discussion is better left to the chefs and food writers out there, so let’s look at the pros and cons of fresh vs spinach supplements to help you find the best way to get more of this green in your life.
Fresh Vs Supplements:
Spinach supplements can be a convenient way to increase your intake of this nutritious vegetable, but they are not necessarily “better” than fresh spinach. Fresh spinach and spinach supplements have unique advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them depends on your preferences and individual health needs.
Fresh spinach is a whole food that contains dietary fiber and various nutrients in their natural form, providing holistic health benefits that you would struggle to get from processed dietary supplements. However, fresh spinach can be tough to digest and spoils quickly, making it harder to use effectively.
In contrast, spinach supplements are shelf-stable, offer a more concentrated source of nutrients, and come in various forms, including powders, capsules, and tablets. Spinach supplements tend to be easier to digest and provide a much more consistent dose of nutrients than fresh spinach, which can vary in nutritional content depending on the variety, growing conditions, and storage conditions.