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Spinach Benefits and Recipes: Why and what you need to be eating!

Spinach, a popular green leafy vegetable, is loaded with many nutrients. It is full of iron and has various vitamins and minerals. This cruciferous vegetable is scientifically known as Spinacia oleracea, and it originated in Persia. However, nowadays, it is available globally. The USA and China are the leading producers of spinach.

This anti-cancerous veggie is commonly known as ‘Palak’ in India. It is known to fight cancer cells, regulate blood pressure levels and improve vision. So let’s dive deep into it to explore the benefits and healthy recipes to include in our daily diet.

Nutritional Properties of Spinach

Did you know about 90% of spinach is composed of water? At the same time, the remaining 10% constitutes carbohydrates and proteins. One hundred grams of this veggie provides only 23 calories making it a low-calorie food. 

The nutrition facts for 100 grams of raw spinach are-

Calories: 23 kcalWater: 91%Protein: 2.9 gmCarbs: 3.6 gmSugar: 0.4 gmFibre: 2.2 gmFat: 0.4 gm

Benefits of Adding Spinach to Your Diet

Spinach is a storehouse of nutrients. As a result, it has a protective action against certain life-threatening diseases such as cancer, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, nutritionists regard it as a functional food due to its antioxidant properties. In addition, it has metabolism promoting activities and promotes the secretion of satiety hormones. These hormones help us keep our tummy full for longer.

Prevents Cancer

Kaempferol, a potent antioxidant, reduces the risk of cancer. As per studies, spinach may help prevent prostate and breast cancer. In addition, it slows down tumour growth, thus suppressing tumour formation.

Moderates Blood Pressure

As per studies, an increase in nitrate intake can augment circulating nitrite and nitric oxide. It may lead to lower blood pressure and improved vascular function. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are rich sources of nitrate. It, in turn, helps prevent the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Improves Cardiovascular Health

Another study suggests that the potential use of un-concentrated dietary nitrate found in vegetables like spinach can effectively aid the maintenance of cardiovascular health. Dietary nitrates decrease arterial stiffness and central BP. In healthy individuals, it may be more accurate prognostic indicators of cardiovascular health than brachial BP. 

Spinach is a rich source of dietary nitrates. Therefore, adding spinach to your diet may help you prevent cardiovascular diseases and improve heart health.

Increases Bone density

Insufficient intake of specific vitamins, particularly A and D, and other nutrients, such as calcium, may affect bone health. It even involves the time and degree of bone healing in case of fracture. Spinach contains a significant amount of calcium, tremendous for bone health. In addition, it helps in replenishing the daily calcium losses.

Aids in Weight Loss

You need to consume fewer calories to lose weight. One hundred grams of spinach contain only 23 calories. In addition, spinach is full of nutrients, including insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre keeps you full for longer and prevents the body from absorbing calories. You can add spinach to your daily diet and see the difference in a few days. 

As per studies, spinach extract containing thylakoids increases satiety over two hours than placebo. In addition, thylakoid consumption may influence gender-specific food cravings. Finally, it curbs hunger by releasing satiety hormones. Thus, it keeps you full for longer and prevents binge eating.

So, if you want to lose weight, add spinach to your daily diet. It will aid weight loss and benefit you in many ways. 

Improves Vision

Our eyes are major sensory organs that require special care. Numerous studies suggest that lutein and zeaxanthin are essential components for eye health. Spinach is high in lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, the precursor vitamin A. These carotenoids play a significant role in improving vision. In addition, they prevent macular degeneration and cataracts, thus improving eye health.

Has Anti-inflammatory Properties

Quercetin is one of the plant compounds present in spinach. It helps ward off infections and performs an anti-inflammatory role. In addition, research shows that vitamin K-rich leafy greens like spinach help reduce inflammation. 

Spinach is a rich source of vitamin K. The vitamin K contents of spinach provide many health benefits. For example, it protects the bones from osteoporosis and helps to prevent inflammatory diseases.

Prevents Premature Ageing

Various studies suggest that spinach protects the brain from oxidative stress. Hence, it helps prevent the negative aspects of ageing. On the other hand, premature ageing plays a massive role in declining cognitive abilities. Therefore, spinach also plays a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Potent Antioxidant

Research study suggests that consuming spinach has a positive effect on reducing the free radicals in the body. Our body produces these free radicals during metabolic reactions. Therefore, the consumption of spinach improves the antioxidant status of the body.

Raw vs Cooked Spinach – What’s better?

You can consume this versatile vegetable in countless ways. Eating it raw as a salad or blending it into a smoothie for its folate content is an excellent way to extract its health-boosting potential. However, the raw form of spinach contains oxalic acid, which can interfere with absorbing specific nutrients like iron and calcium. Additionally, oxalic acid also attaches itself to other vital nutrients. Therefore, the long-term consumption of food rich in this organic compound can lead to a large-scale deficiency of nutrients.

Raw Spinach

Raw spinach has many essential nutrients in higher portions than the cooked version. However, there are some adverse effects too.

You can get more folate, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin C, and potassium on consuming it raw. Therefore, if you aim to obtain these nutrients specifically, you can eat this vegetable in its raw form. However, you must eat it in moderate amounts. Consuming this raw cruciferous veggie may lead to gastric issues. That is because it is difficult for the body to digest it raw. People suffering from thyroid issues and kidney stones should avoid eating spinach in its raw form as it is rich in calcium and oxalate, which increases the formation of kidney stones.

Cooked Spinach

It is a well-known fact that cooking alters the nutritional value of vegetables whether we perform blanching, steaming, boiling or microwaving. But, using the dry cooking method will help limit nutrient loss.

Cooking increases the bioavailability of beta-carotene present in spinach, which is imperative for eye health. Cooking also positively affects the vitamin E content, crucial for decreasing oxidative stress in the body and preventing heart disease and cancer.Cooking spinach also removes unwanted substances like dirt, pesticides and microbes. The cooked version also helps evaporate oxalic acid. Furthermore, you can absorb higher protein levels, zinc, thiamine, iron, vitamins A and E, calcium, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin on eating cooked spinach.

Healthy Spinach Recipes

Including the dark green leafy vegetable in your diet can provide you with several health benefits. While spinach may not be a favourite, preparing it the right way can make it a lot more enjoyable. We have put together a few lip-smacking recipes that will make your mouth water.

Easy Sautéed Spinach

Prep Time: 10 minsCook Time: 5 minsTotal Time: 15 minsServings: 4

Ingredients

Spinach: 2 large bunches (about 400 gm)Extra virgin olive oil: 2 tablespoonsGarlic: 3 cloves garlic (sliced)Salt to taste

Method

Clean the spinach properly with water to free it from dirt or sand. Remove any extra moisture after cleaning. Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds until it becomes brown.Add the spinach to the pan and stir properly to let olive oil and garlic mix with it.Once the spinach wilts, remove it from the heat. Drain any excess liquid from the pan. Add a little more olive oil if you wish. Then, sprinkle it with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Spinach Soup with Chickpeas

Prep Time: 10 minsCook Time: 25 minsTotal Time: 35 minsServings: 2

Ingredients

Spinach: 2 Cups (chopped)Chickpeas: 1 cup (half-cooked and soaked in water)Onion: 1 small (sliced)Shallots: 2 (sliced)Fat-free butter: 1/2 tbspGarlic: 3-4 cloves (chopped)Cumins powder: ¼ tbspRed chilli powder: ½ tbspTurmeric: A dash

For Garnish:

CreamBlack and white sesame seedsRed chilly powderSesame oil

Ingredients

In a pan, heat the butter and add the onions and shallots to it. Add the spices and mix well.Once it browns a bit, add the chickpeas. Reserve the water in which the chickpeas were soaked.Saute the chickpeas for a while.When it becomes nice and moist, add the reserved chickpea water.Then, add the spinach leaves to the mix and let it cook for about two minutes (Spinach cooks fast.)Let the mix cool down for a couple of minutes.Once it comes down to room temperature, add it to the blender and blend it well.Dabble a little cream and black sesame seeds for garnish.

Cucumber and Spinach Raita

Prep Time: 10 minsCook Time: 5 minsTotal Time: 15 minsServings: 2

Ingredients

Curd: 1 bowlChopped onion: 1 (small size) Cucumber: ½ (small size)Blanched spinach paste: 2 tbspGround cumin: ¼ tbspSalt: As per tastePepper: As per taste

Method

Add the chopped onions and cucumbers to a bowl of curd and mix them well.Add the blanched spinach paste, and mix all the ingredients.At last, add the ground cumin, salt and pepper according to your taste.Serve it chilled.

Baked Spinach with Mushroom and Cheese Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minsCook Time: 45 minsTotal Time: 65 minsServings: 2

Ingredients (For the Spinach Bake)

Spinach: 50 gmWater: ½ cupBeaten egg yolks: 2Cream: 1 tbspNutmeg: A dashSalt: As per tastePepper: As per taste

Ingredients (For the mushroom and cheese sauce)

Porcini mushrooms: 20 gmChanterelle mushrooms: 20 gmFat-free Butter: 1 tbsp (for the mushrooms)Cheese: 50 gmWine: 110 ml

Method (For Baking the Spinach)

Boil the water and blanch the spinach. Once done, shift it to some cold icy water for a while. Do not throw away the water used to cook the spinach.Clarify the eggs. Drain out all the water from the spinach thoroughly.Add the spinach, 1 Tbsp cream, 3/4 egg yolk, salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg in a mixer and blend.Now use a small quantity of butter on the dish, and add some grated cheese.Spread the spinach mixture smoothly into the dish.Now, heat the spinach water and put it into a big bowl. Place the dish with the spinach mixture inside the water to cook.Put this entire set inside the oven for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius.

Method (For the Mushroom and Cheese Sauce)

Cook the mushrooms in water to make them nice and moist.Add a bit of butter to it.In another pan, mix the wine and the cheese. Let it cook on low heat.Add the sauteed mushrooms into the sauce, mix well and remove from heat.Place this rich and cheesy sauce over the baked spinach.

Spinach Pancake

Prep Time: 10 minsCook Time: 30 minsTotal Time: 10 minsServings: 2

Ingredients (For the Pancakes)

Whole wheat flour: 100 gmEgg Yolk: 1 eggYoghurt: 150 ml (whipped)Milk: 100 mlWater: ¼ cupVegetable oil: 1 tbsp Spinach leaves: 500 gm (drained and chopped to a paste), blanchedNutmeg (grated): A pinch Salt and pepper: As per taste

Ingredients (For the Filling)

Oil: 1 tbspSpring onions (sliced): 3 tbspBeaten hung curd: 250 gmCheese: 100 gm (grated)Egg: 1Sauteed mushrooms: 250 gmChilli powder: A pinchParsley: 2 tbsp (chopped)Salt and pepper: As per taste

Ingredients (For tomato salad)

Cherry tomatoes: 500 gmBasil leaves: 3 tbsp (Torn)Salt and pepper: As per taste

Ingredients (For dressing)

Salad/olive oil: 3 tbspLemon juice: 1 tbspMustard powder: A pinchBrown sugar: A pinchGarlic: ½ tbsp (chopped)Salt and pepper: As per taste

Method

Sift flour into a bowl. Beat in egg, curd, water and oil. Now, stir in spinach paste, nutmeg and seasoning. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Method (For the filling)

Heat oil and saute onions for 2-3 minutes. Let it cool.Beat onions into yoghurt with remaining filling ingredients, using only half the cheese.

Method (For the salad)

Whisk dressing ingredients together. Combine with tomatoes, herbs and seasoning. Chill and serve.

Method (For the pancake)

Pour some batter into an oiled pan to form a thin pancake.Cook for about 2 minutes on each side.Spread 1 Tbsp of filling over each pancake. Fold it.Arrange on an ovenproof buttered dish, scatter on cheese and bake at 180 degrees Celcius for 15 minutes.

Serve hot, with tomato salad.

Try these delicious recipes to experience the benefits of this nutrient-rich vegetable truly, and let us know what you think of them in the comments.

Spinach: Precautions

Spinach is excellent for your health. But, for medical purposes, there are some restrictions like:

Thyroid and Kidney stones

People suffering from thyroid issues and kidney stones should avoid eating spinach in its raw form as it is rich in calcium and oxalate, which increases kidney stones’ formation.

Oxalate and purine formation

Gas and bloating

Spinach is dietary fibre. So it takes a lot of time to digest. Slowed metabolism may lead to gas, bloating and cramps.

Drug interference

People eating anticoagulant medicines like warfarin must avoid eating spinach. It is rich in vitamin K, which may lead to a reaction between the drug and spinach. As a result, you may experience hampered action of medications.

Low blood pressure

Excess consumption of spinach may lead to low blood pressure, tremors or convulsions, vomiting and weak pulse.

Summary

Spinach is a great low-calorie superfood rich in various vitamins and minerals. It may help prevent chronic diseases. In addition, the health-boosting properties of spinach make it an easy food to add to your diet. However, you need to be careful about the usage. Wash them properly before use. In addition, you should also be cautious of its side effects. However, if you use it correctly and in adequate quantities, spinach may benefit your body in so many ways. So, add spinach to your diet and enjoy delicious recipes made of spinach with all the health benefits. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is the benefit of spinach?

A. Spinach is great for eye health, bone density, prevents cancer and premature ageing, weight loss and heart health.

Q. Is it OK to eat spinach every day?

A. Yes, there is no problem with eating spinach every day. But an excess of it may lead to bloating, gas and kidney stones formation. 

Q. What’s bad about spinach?

A. Spinach has purine content. Eating excess spinach may aggravate gout or gouty arthritis and result in joint pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Q. Why is spinach a superfood?

A. Spinach contains many nutrients like vitamins A, E and minerals, plant compounds like quercetin, lutein and xanthine. These compounds are beneficial for overall health. 

Q. How do you eat spinach?

A. You can eat spinach in the form of salad or cooked in the form of a sandwich or many other dishes.

Q. Does spinach help lose belly fat?

A. Spinach curbs hunger by releasing satiety hormones. Thus, it keeps you full for longer and prevents binge eating.

Q. Who should avoid eating spinach?

A. People having thyroid and kidney stones related issues shouldn’t eat spinach.

Q. Is it better to eat spinach raw or cooked?

A. Spinach is rich in nutrients. However, if you eat cooked spinach, your body can absorb more calcium and iron.

Q. What is spinach rich in?

A. Spinach is rich in calcium and iron. It also has many phytonutrients like lutein and xanthine, beta-carotene, protein and zinc. 

Q. What is the nutritional value of fresh spinach?

A. 100 grams of fresh spinach contains 23 calories, 91% water, Protein, Carbs, Sugar, Fiber and Fat.

Q. How much protein is in 200g of spinach?

A. 200gm of spinach contains 58gm proteins.

Q. How much iron is in 100g raw spinach?

A. There is approximately 2.1-2.7mg/100g of raw spinach.

Q. How many calories are in 100g of spinach?

A. 100g of spinach contains 23 calories. However, spinach is a low-calorie and nutrient-dense veggie. 

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