5 health benefits of spinach and how it can help your heart, eyes, and brain

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  • The benefits of spinach include its ability to lower blood pressure, improve eye health, lower the risk of anemia, and support brain health.
  • Spinach is also highly nutritious and contains vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamin C.
  • Spinach also contains high volumes of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds that may reduce the risk of cataracts.
  • This article wasmedically reviewed bySamantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Spinach has long been touted as a superfood in popular culture. Remember Popeye the sailor man and his can of muscle-inducing spinach?

In reality, spinach is rich in vitamins and nutrients, and has lots of health benefits for your eyes, brain, heart, and more. Here are some scientifically-backed benefits you may gain from consuming spinach, and a look at the best ways to consume it.

1. Spinach is highly nutritious

Spinach is a great source of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for your health. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), a one-cup serving of raw spinach contains the following nutrients:

  • Calcium: 24.8 mg
  • Iron: 0.67 mg
  • Potassium: 140 mg
  • Vitamin C: 7 mg
  • Sodium: 19.8 mg

Spinach also contains small amounts of zinc, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin — which are all essential nutrients your body needs to function optimally.

2. Spinach may support brain health

Eating spinach is beneficial for your brain health because it is packed with antioxidants like vitamin A, lutein, and carotene.

“The antioxidant effects may delay ageing-related brain damage,” says Jagdish Khubchandani, PhD, a Professor of Public Health at New Mexico State University. “This would help maintain cognitive functions. There’s also evidence of anti-stress effects of spinach in reducing depression and structural and functional damage to the brain.”

Eating green leafy vegetables like spinach is also thought to slow cognitive decline. In a 2018 study, scientists tracked the dietary intake and assessed the cognitive abilities of participants over the age of 58. They observed a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline in participants who ate a daily average of one serving of leafy green vegetables like spinach.

3. Spinach may lower blood pressure

Spinach is a rich source of nitrates, which are naturally occurring chemical compounds that can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.

“Spinach can increase production, action, and function of nitric oxide in your body,” Khubchandani says. “Nitric oxide helps to dilate and widen blood vessels. This helps lower blood pressure.”

A small 2015 study observed the short-term effect of consuming a high-nitrate spinach soup. After seven days of participants eating the soup, researchers observed a reduction in blood pressure and a decrease in arterial stiffness, when compared to participants who ate a low-nitrate asparagus soup,

High blood pressure and arterial stiffness have been proven to contribute to the development of heart disease, and the researchers concluded that consuming high-nitrate foods like spinach may be an effective way to maintain good heart health.

4. Spinach may improve eye health

Spinach contains high volumes of lutein and zeaxanthin. These plant compounds can also be found in the eye, where they are responsible for protecting against damage from ultraviolet light.

Consuming foods that contain high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of developing chronic eye diseases.

A 2006 study found that people who consumed a high content of lutein and zeaxanthin from a mix of fruits and vegetables in their diets were less likely to develop nuclear cataracts. Nuclear cataracts are the most common form of cataracts. It causes the lens of your eye to become cloudy and yellow as you age.

5. Spinach can reduce the risk of anemia

Anemia is a condition in which your body fails to produce enough red blood cells to function properly. The most common cause of this condition is iron deficiency.

Spinach contains high concentrations of iron, which can not only reduce the risk of developing anemia, but also help manage it.

Children, pregnant women, and women who are menstruating are at a higher risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia — so an iron-rich diet is often recommended for people who fall within these categories.

What’s the best way to consume spinach?

Spinach can be consumed in many different ways. You can cook it, steam it, boil it, or even pop it in a blender to make a juice or smoothie.

One report suggests that the best way to eat spinach in order to make the most out of it and get the highest concentrations of lutein is to take it as a smoothie or juice. This is because the researchers found that the longer spinach is exposed to heat, either by boiling or steaming, the less lutein it’s likely to retain.

Insider’s takeaway

Whatever way you choose to consume spinach, you should know that there are many health benefits you stand to gain. The leafy green vegetable is chock full with antioxidants and vitamins that can help lower blood pressure, boost your eye and brain health, and reduce your risk for anemia.

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