The Surprising Benefits of Spinach

Spinach is a popular choice at the dinner table and a beneficial addition to your diet. This leafy green vegetable is known for supporting vision, brain, and bone health and its potential to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. (Shutterstock)

Contrary to common belief, eating it with tofu won’t cause kidney stones.

Considered a superfood, spinach boasts a wealth of essential vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and bioactive substances. This versatile leafy green graces our tables as a culinary staple and offers health benefits such as improved vision, brain function, and bone health. It also helps prevent the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

It is widely known that dark green leafy vegetables are a vital component often missing in the American diet. Among these vegetables, spinach is among the most desired due to its rich nutrient profile. Spinach contains an abundance of beta-carotene (vitamin A) and folic acid while providing significant amounts of vitamin C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium. Additionally, it is also a good source of antioxidants.

Health Benefits of Spinach

1. Protects Vision Health and Prevents Cataracts and Macular Degeneration

Spinach is a nutrient-dense vegetable with high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, essential for maintaining optimal eye health. These carotenoids are critical in supporting vision health by protecting against macular degeneration and cataracts.

A 2000 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed high intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin, especially from certain lutein-rich foods such as spinach, broccoli, and eggs, can reduce the incidence of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration by 20 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

However, the American Dietetic Association warns that the consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin must be accompanied by fat to ensure proper absorption by the body. Therefore, while consuming spinach, it is recommended to incorporate unsaturated fat, such as a small amount of olive oil or a few slices of avocado.

2. Preserves Brain Health and Delays Cognitive Decline

Spinach contains magnesium, lutein, folic acid, beta-carotene, and chlorophyll quinone, all supporting brain health.

In 2023, the European Journal of Nutrition published a report revealing that individuals who consume more magnesium have better brain health than those with lower intake levels, particularly among women.

In 2018, a report published in Neurology revealed that the daily intake of leafy greens like spinach might help delay cognitive decline in old age. This is attributed to these greens’ neuroprotective effects of lutein, folic acid, beta-carotene, and chlorophyll quinone.

3. Lowers Blood Pressure to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

According to a study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine in 2012, consuming nitrate-rich spinach can increase nitric oxide levels, improve endothelial function, and promptly decrease blood pressure, positively affecting cardiovascular health.

A study published in Experimental Neurology in 2005 found that long-term consumption of spinach can assist in reducing ischemia, reperfusion-induced apoptosis, and brain infarction.

4. Prevents Cancer

According to a 2010 study published in the journal Bioactive Foods in Promoting Health, spinach was found to have the highest levels of sulfoquinovosyl diglycerides (SQDG) and monogalactosyl diglycerides (MGDG) among the green vegetables tested for their glycoglycerolipid fractions. Glycosphingolipids extracted from spinach can inhibit the activity of mammalian replication polymerase and inhibit the growth of human cancer cells when taken orally.

5. Prevents Obesity

In 2019, the Journal of Functional Foods published a report that revealed the preventative effects of a spinach extract, rich in chlorophyll, against high-fat diet-induced obesity in mice. The study noted that the extract was linked to changes in the gut microbiota.

6. Prevents Osteoporosis

Spinach is rich in vitamin K and calcium and contains vitamin D, which are crucial for maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis.

7. Prevents Skin Aging

Spinach is essential in maintaining healthy skin because it contains vitamins A, C, E, and K.

During the 2021 IEEE International Conference on Health, Instrumentation, and Measurement and Natural Sciences, researchers presented a study demonstrating that extract from red spinach leaves notably reduces skin aging.

Eating Spinach With Tofu Won’t Lead to Kidney Stone Formation

Taiwan nutritionist Lin Shih-hang wrote an article on the Taiwanese National Health Service of the Ministry of Health and Welfare website that spinach and tofu eaten together would not cause kidney stones.

He explained that consuming spinach and tofu together has long been thought to increase the risk of oxalic acid stones due to spinach’s high oxalic acid content and tofu’s calcium content. However, oxalic acid and calcium combine in the intestine to form calcium oxalate stones that are not absorbed by the intestine but are excreted in feces. This means that eating spinach and tofu together does not cause any stone-related issues. It is recommended to consume calcium and oxalic acid to increase the likelihood of oxalic acid and calcium ions binding in the intestine. This binding process reduces the absorption of oxalic acid, thus lowering the risk of developing calcium oxalate stones.

Important Notice: This article was also published at by Lisa Bian where all credits are due.


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