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What are Some Health Benefits of Spinach?

Spinach can be used to make healthy, green smoothies.
Spinach.
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  • Written By: Adam Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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Spinach is one of the most nutrient-rich foods in the world. Its combination of vitamins, fiber, and anti-oxidants make it suited to a number of nutritional requirements. Many of the substances in spinach are useful for fighting and preventing a number of diseases, including cancer. The benefits of spinach are numerous and have been documented by studies and anecdotal evidence alike throughout the years.

As is the case with other dark, leafy greens like bok choy and kale, spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene. This anti-oxidant can preserve eye health ad well as fighting heart disease and cancer. A phytochemical known as lutein is also present in spinach, and is known for its ability to prevent macular degeneration, a precursor to blindness. A lesser-known chemical called lipoic acid is under study as a tool for regulating blood sugar, and it is also naturally found in spinach.

Perhaps the most well-known nutrient in the world, vitamin C, is abundantly present in spinach. This powerful antioxidant is essential for maintaining general good health, and some early studies have found possible evidence that vitamin C can reduce the occurrence of the common cold. Most of the vitamin C is lost, however, if the spinach is cooked. Another of the health benefits of spinach is its abundant potassium, which promotes heart health. Calcium, while abundant in spinach, is actually unable to be absorbed by the human body in this case because of another chemical, oxalic acid, which binds with it.

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Two other classes of nutrients -- flavonoids and carotenids -- are in spinach, and these have some very important properties. At least 13 different flavonoid compounds have been identified in spinach that can function as cancer-fighters and antioxidants. Some of them are promising enough that scientists have created specialized spinach extracts to be used in studies. These flavonoids have been shown to fight or prevent breast, skin, and stomach cancers.

Among the more intriguing benefits of spinach are those provided by carotenoids. One type of carotenoid, called neoxanthin, causes prostate cancer cells to self-destruct. It is converted by the body into other chemicals which prevent these cells from multiplying.

Two more notable benefits of spinach are those of improved bone health and cardiovascular fitness. A moderate serving of spinach leaves contains almost twice the vitamin K that a person needs in a day. This vitamin is essential for maintaining bone structure and health. Folate is found in spinach in large amounts as well. This nutrient is used by the body to safely break down chemicals that can lead to heart attack or stroke if their concentrations are too high.

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