The cartoon character "Popeye" may have led you to believe that eating spinach caused your muscles to grow instantly, making you big and powerful. Unfortunately, Popeye may have exaggerated a little, but he wasn't completely wrong. Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse that offers a number of health benefits that can improve your overall health and quality of life.
Choosing foods with a low-energy density, meaning they have fewer calories in a large portion, can help to manage hunger and weight control. A 1-cup serving of raw spinach contains 7 calories, and 1-cup serving of boiled spinach contains 41 calories. Including spinach in your diet can control your appetite, help you eat fewer calories and aid in either weight loss or prevention of weight gain. Maintaining a healthy weight over the long term can reduce your risk of developing weight-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
The potassium in spinach can help to reduce your blood pressure. A 1-cup serving of cooked spinach contains 839 mg of potassium. The American Heart Association recommends you aim for 4,700 mg of potassium from natural foods per day to improve heart health. Potassium is a mineral that helps you to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance and it counteracts the effects of sodium on your blood pressure. A high potassium diet is not appropriate for everyone. Certain illnesses, such as kidney disease, require a potassium-restricted diet. Talk to your doctor about your daily potassium needs.
Including spinach in your diet can help protect you against cancer. The antioxidants in spinach, including vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein and lycopene, can protect your cells from free radicals, unstable atoms that react with your body's cells and causing them to become damaged, potentially leading to cancer. Including more antioxidants can possibly slow cancer growth and prevent it altogether. The American Cancer Society recommends you include five servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet each day to prevent cancer, choosing those with the most color, like green spinach, for higher nutrient content.
The lutein in spinach can protect you from developing cataracts. Lutein is a natural pigment in spinach. In your body, it gathers in the retina and lens of your eye, and as an antioxidant protects your retina from free radical damage. People with higher intakes of lutein in their diet develop fewer cataracts, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A 1-cup serving of raw spinach contains 3,659 mcg of lutein. Daily recommendations for lutein have not been established