7 Benefits of More Spinach in Your Diet
Dark leafy greens aren't America's favorite vegetables, but they're some of the healthiest. Spinach, in particular, packs a powerful nutritional punch, and it's a surprisingly versatile green that's easy to hide in dishes like lasagna, soups, casseroles, and even smoothies.
Here are just seven of the many benefits of spinach, along with some great ways to use it.
- It helps improve your eyesight.
Spinach is rich in beta carotene, xanthene, and lutein, which are essential for optimal eyesight. These nutrients have been shown through research to help macular degeneration. Additionally, the lutein and an antioxidant called zeaxanthin can help reduce the impact of free radicals, which can cause cataracts. When you eat spinach on a regular basis, it can even help relieve dry and itching eyes, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- It improves brain function.
The potassium, folate, and powerful antioxidants found in spinach are a powerhouse of nutrition for the brain. Folate has been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and potassium promotes blood flow to the brain, which improves your thinking abilities, concentration, and neural activity.
- It helps keep your heart healthy.
Spinach contains a high level of factor C0-Q10, a specialized antioxidant that strengthens the muscles of the heart. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing reports that C0-Q10 can help prevent a number of cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, and hyperlipidemia.
- It promotes strong bones.
Due to its high levels of calcium and vitamin K, spinach promotes bone health by helping the bone matrix retain calcium, which is essential for mineralization. Spinach also contains high levels of copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, which are also essential for strong, healthy bones, teeth, and nails.
- It increases metabolism.
The nearly one gram of protein in a serving of spinach is easily broken down into amino acids by enzymes. The re-formed proteins assist muscle development and growth as well as improves immune system function and increases metabolism to help you lose weight. A recent study also suggests that the thylakoid found in spinach can help reduce cravings and stifle feelings of hunger.
- It reduces inflammation.
Spinach contains numerous anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce inflammation in the body. This helps protect the heart as well as helps prevent cancer. It can also reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and gout.
- It helps prevent skin cancer.
A variety of phytonutrients and pigments found in spinach have been shown to help protect the skin from harmful UV rays. They can also help repair some of the damage already done. Other antioxidants found in spinach help reduce the impact of free radicals on the body's cells, further reducing the risk of skin cancer.
How to Use More Spinach in Your Diet
There are more ways to use spinach than just eating it raw as a salad or cooking it as a side dish. Here are some ways to increase your consumption of spinach.
Toss it in soups, stews, and casseroles. Whole-leaf spinach tossed in soups and stews and layered in casseroles won't have a big impact on the flavor, but it can positively impact your health.
Use it on sandwiches. Use spinach instead of lettuce on your favorite sandwiches.
Blend it into smoothies. A fruit smoothie with a handful of spinach tossed in packs a powerful punch. While it may affect the color of your smoothie, it won't affect the delicious fruity taste.
Add it to quesadillas. A quick cheese quesadilla can be made healthier by adding finely chopped spinach.
Add it to spaghetti sauce. Roughly chop up a handful of spinach and add it to warmed spaghetti sauce.
Scramble it with eggs. A handful of spinach in your scrambled eggs or layered in your omelette with other healthy veggies makes breakfast a vitamin and mineral powerhouse.
How do you like your spinach? We'd love to hear your ideas for getting more spinach into your daily diet.