Spinach Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

spinach

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Spinach is a high-fiber food that can add volume, color, and texture to your favorite recipes. Whether eaten cooked or raw, this vegetable offers a nutritious punch without adding any fat or natural sugars to your diet if you're monitoring either of these two substances.

Spinach Nutrition Facts

Three cups of spinach (85g) provide 20.4 calories, 2g of protein, 3g of carbohydrates, and zero fat. Spinach is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 20.4 
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 64.6 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 2g
  • Vitamin K: 410mcg
  • Vitamin C: 24mg
  • Potassium: 470mg

Carbs

Most of the carbohydrates in spinach are from fiber, making it a very filling vegetable. Along with other leafy greens, it may be considered a "free" food on a low-carbohydrate diet because it provides this fiber while being so low in calories.

Spinach also ranks close to zero on the glycemic index. This means that it will have minimal impact on your blood sugar levels.

Fats

There is no fat and no cholesterol in spinach. Though, adding a little fat to your spinach-containing meal may help your body absorb more of its beta-carotene—especially if the spinach is raw or in the form of a steamed puree.

Protein

There are 2 grams of protein in three cups of fresh spinach. So, spinach has almost as much protein as it does carbohydrates.

Vitamins and Minerals

Three cups of fresh spinach provide a whopping 340% of your daily vitamin K needs. You also get roughly 25% of your recommended vitamin C intake and 10% of your suggested potassium intake.

Cooking spinach increases its concentration of vitamin A. You will get 64% of your daily value in a half-cup serving of boiled spinach.

Calories

There are approximately 20 calories in three cups of spinach or just under 7 calories per cup. That makes its calorie count similar to that of kale, which provides 7.2 calories per cup (raw).

Summary

Spinach is high in fiber while also being low in calories and fat. It is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and potassium, making it a great addition to a nutritious meal plan.

Health Benefits

Like most dark, leafy greens, spinach has nutrients that offer several health benefits. That makes this non-starchy vegetable good if you are watching your carbohydrate intake or trying to boost your health.

Promotes Weight Management

The intake of spinach and other vegetables is significantly associated with a lower risk of weight gain. Some studies have suggested that consuming four servings of vegetables per day, instead of two, may reduce weight gain risk by up to 82%.

Reduces Cancer Risk

In addition to being packed with vitamins, fiber, and minerals, spinach contains chlorophyll, which is responsible for its green pigment. Chlorophyll has high antioxidant effects, suggesting promising benefits for cancer prevention.

Protects Eye Health

Spinach's combination of vitamins A and C helps prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This condition is common in older adults—especially those who are White, smoke, and have a history of AMD—and can make it more difficult to read, see faces, or drive.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. So, sautéing your spinach with a healthy fat (like olive oil) or eating with other foods that contain fat (like eggs in an omelet) can improve absorption of the vitamin A in spinach.

Prevents Hair Loss

Spinach is an excellent non-animal source of iron. Iron deficiency is a common cause of hair loss for women, which may be avoidable with an adequate intake of iron-rich foods, like spinach. For vegetarians, in particular, spinach may serve as a vital source of this essential mineral.

Enhances Blood Functions

Iron is also required for the prevention of anemia. Spinach supports the blood's ability to carry oxygen through the proper formation of hemoglobin. Furthermore, the vitamin C in spinach enhances the body's ability to absorb iron.

Perhaps even more significant than its contribution to iron levels, spinach is exceptionally high in vitamin K. Vitamin K clots the blood to reduce excessive bleeding after an injury.

Allergies

Allergic reactions to spinach are rare, but not impossible. Common food allergy symptoms include hives, vomiting, teary eyes, sneezing, and trouble breathing. If you suspect you have a spinach allergy, see your doctor for a proper evaluation.

Adverse Effects

Coumadin (warfarin) is a medication that is prescribed to heart patients to avoid unwanted blood clots. Since vitamin K is a crucial factor for blood clotting, it is important to be mindful of your intake of green leafy vegetables such as spinach.

To help Coumadin work effectively, vitamin K intakes should remain as consistent as possible. Substantial fluctuations in spinach intake will impact vitamin K levels and may increase or decrease the effect of Coumadin.

If you've experienced kidney stones, your doctor may advise you to avoid overeating spinach. Certain foods, like spinach, are high in oxalates. Ask your doctor if oxalates might be causing your kidney stones.

Depending on the type of kidney stones you have, drinking plenty of water, avoiding sodium, and reducing your intake of meat might have a more significant impact on your risk of kidney stones than not eating spinach.

Varieties

There are three main types of spinach: savory, crinkled leaf, and plain leaf. Each has several varieties within its class that vary in size and shape.

Different types of spinach lend themselves favorably to different kinds of climates. Therefore, fresh spinach is available all year long. Frozen and canned spinach can also be purchased throughout the year.

If possible, choose spinach that is organic because this vegetable is on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list due to containing more pesticide residues than other vegetables.

When It's Best

Spinach can be grown in the spring or fall and is harvested once the leaves are big enough. (The outer leaves are usually picked at about 3 inches in length with the inner leaves left to mature.) Once spinach begins flowering, the leaves tend to fall apart, so it's important to pick them before this occurs.

Raw spinach shrivels considerably when cooked. For example, a 10-ounce bag of spinach will typically condense to about 1.5 cups of cooked spinach.

Storage and Food Safety

Like most leafy greens, spinach leaves should be crisp, tender, and green. Avoid wilted leaves or those with blemishes. Any yellow or browning leaves should be thrown out.

If you are purchasing spinach in a bag or box, buy it as fresh as possible. The fresher a product is, the more nutritious it will be. You'll know your spinach has gone bad when it begins to wilt or starts to smell.

It's always a good idea to wash fresh spinach before eating or cooking with it. Fresh spinach should be used right away, within about 3 days. You can also freeze fresh greens.

To do so, blanch your spinach in boiling water for one minute, then place it in an ice bath to cool. Next, wring out as much water as possible and form the spinach into single-serving balls and place them in a Ziploc bag. You can keep blanched spinach in the freezer for 8 to 12 months.

How to Prepare

Rinse spinach in cold water to remove all traces of grit from the leaves. Spinach works well with moist cooking methods with steaming and sautéing the most common.

Some water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and B vitamins, are lost when cooking spinach. Also, be careful when cooking it with oil as it can act like a sponge and soak up a large portion of the fat.

Spinach can be used raw as a salad green or an ingredient in smoothies. Get creative and use it as a replacement for bread when making wraps or as an addition to egg scrambles. Chop it and add it to soups and casseroles for a fiber-rich and filling meal.

You can use spinach to make anything and everything, from dips to salads to casseroles. The options are endless.

Recipes

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20 Sources
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