There’s no question that spinach is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Self magazine gives this green, leafy vegetable a score of 91 out of 100 for nutrient balance, meaning that it’s well-balanced, complete nutrition. Spinach has lots of essential vitamins and it’s low in calories, making it a popular food for weight loss. It can be easily added to a multitude of dishes; you can cook with spinach or simply eat it raw. It works for any meal of the day (hello, green juice).
It’s obviously a versatile food, so what’s not to love? There are several benefits to consuming this nutrient-rich plant, but does it have any negative effects on your body? Is too much spinach actually bad for your health? And in what ways does it benefit your body? Keep reading to find out what happens to your body when you eat spinach every day. You might be surprised at what you find out.
Eating spinach every day will give you healthy skin
Spinach contains antioxidants, which may help protect your skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. You see, free radicals, a type of molecule, can damage collagen in the skin or even hurt your skin’s DNA, Allure explained. And that’s where antioxidants come in. They fight those free radicals before they can bind to your skin cells and do damage.
Shape also noted the antioxidants in spinach, calling it a "superfood" that is good for your skin. That’s not only because of its antioxidant content, but because it contains vitamins E and C. An article published in the science journal Nutrients revealed that Vitamin E acts as a protectant for the skin against UV damage. So, eating spinach may help protect your skin from the sun.
A study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science also reviewed vitamin C and asserted that it supports collagen in the skin. According to WebMD, collagen prevents wrinkles and promotes skin’s elasticity, which essentially means younger-looking skin. The vitamin C in spinach can help collagen do its job and keep your skin youthful.
You will be less likely to get cancer if you eat spinach every day
The phytochemicals (aka plant chemicals) in spinach can prevent cancer, according to BBC Good Food. Spinach contains chlorophyll, which makes it green (remember learning that in elementary school?). An article in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal found that, in animals, chlorophyll from spinach extract could decrease the occurrence of tumors in certain organs. Chlorophyll was found to bond to carcinogens and help the body expel them.
In addition to chlorophyll, spinach contains carotenoids, which give plants a red, orange, or yellow tint. Carotenoids are a phytochemical that work as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants stop free radicals from damaging cells, which keeps skin healthy, but that protection also prevents cancer from growing, according to Healthline. An article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the risk of lung cancer could be slightly reduced by eating carotenoids in food, though the study noted that the findings aren’t significant. Either way, eating phytochemicals through spinach every day won’t hurt your health!
Eating spinach every day can build your muscles
Spinach is a leafy green veggie that packs a big punch of nitrates, which aid in muscle building. According to Good Housekeeping, nitrates can help you become more athletic by increasing blood flow and supporting your muscles as they contract.
The Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found in a study that mice who ingested nitrates had stronger muscles than mice who didn’t consume them. Another study on nitrates published in the Frontiers in Physiology journal found that taking a supplement with nitrates develops the fibers in your muscles. Nitrates also make muscle contractions effective so that the body can perform high-intensity workouts for longer, according to an article published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Another way spinach strengthens muscles is through the hormone ecdysterone. In a study done by Freie Universität Berlin, athletes who took pills with this hormone saw a significant increase in muscle mass. They were also able to lift more weight after the ten weeks of the study were up. Impressive!
You could be more prone to developing kidney stones if you eat spinach every day
You may be surprised to learn that there is a downside to eating spinach every day. It turns out that spinach contains a chemical that, if ingested in too high a quantity, can contribute to kidney stones. Ouch!
Harvard Health names spinach in their list of "stone-forming" foods. The site explains how kidney stones develop, writing: "Kidney stones form when certain chemicals become concentrated enough in the urine to form crystals." The stones continue to get bigger and then move into the urinary tract. That’s when things get painful as the stone can lodge there and cause the urine to back up.
Harvard Health explained that stones happen when calcium mixes with another chemical. Oxalate, like that found in spinach, is a common culprit. The good news is that it usually takes a large amount of it to cause this uncomfortable side effect. It’s always a good idea to drink lots of water to make sure that your system is getting flushed out. The publication also recommended drinking citrus juices like orange juice, which can aid in preventing kidney stones.
Eating spinach every day will keep your heart healthy
As the research proves, eating spinach every day is great for your heart. This is thanks to the glycolipids found in spinach because they help the body make nitric oxide, a natural vasodilator. This type of molecule makes blood vessels dilate and when blood vessels are more open, there is less strain on the heart. Blood then moves through the body easier and blood pressure is lowered, as stated by the Mayo Clinic.
The nitric oxide in spinach also means you’ll have a decreased risk of developing atherosclerosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, this condition happens when cholesterol and other materials accumulate in arteries. This thickens the blood vessels and makes them rigid, making it difficult for blood to flow from the heart to the body. Sometimes, this plaque can become a blood clot. This is obviously a serious condition, but it’s possible to prevent. A good way to do this is by eating a healthy diet, including spinach.
You may be able to prevent diabetes by eating spinach every day
The magnesium in spinach helps solidify the veggie as a superfood. According to Today, magnesium keeps blood sugar regulated, which is important to reduce your risk of developing diabetes. As, Healthline noted, people with diabetes often have low levels of magnesium in their blood because it gets passed through urination.
However, you can make sure you’re getting enough magnesium by including it in your diet through foods like spinach. According to Everyday Health, "1 cup of spinach contains 6 percent of your daily value of magnesium." That’s pretty significant for such a small amount of food.
Healthline furthered explained that taking magnesium supplements through pills can result in magnesium toxicity and, as it sounds, that comes with some uncomfortable side effects. Ingesting magnesium every day through diet, on the other hand, doesn’t pose the same risk because your body is able to dispose of any extra. That’s just another reason to choose spinach!
Eating spinach every day will help you feel fuller longer and eat less
One cup of spinach contains three percent of your recommended daily value of fiber, according to Self. Of course, if you eat large spinach salad every day, you can easily up the amount of fiber you’re able to consume in one sitting.
Spinach salads are another good idea for those looking to lose weight as the fiber can help keep your hunger at bay and make you feel fuller for longer, according to the publication. Fiber does this by slowing down the body’s digestion of food. The body isn’t able to digest fiber like it can digest other molecules so the fiber goes through the body intact, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Additionally, Mayo Clinic noted that foods that are high in fiber are also usually low in calories — another bonus for weight loss. The site also highlighted that fiber-rich foods commonly require more time to eat, meaning you’ll be less likely to overeat. Just be sure to drink a lot of water drinking lots of water to help fiber to do its job.
Eating spinach every day can help you reduce your inflammation
The phytochemicals in spinach — that is, those remarkable plant chemicals that prevent cancer — impedes inflammation, according to BBC Good Food. In fact, a 2014 study published in the Nutrition Research journal noted that inflammation has been linked to several chronic diseases, but spinach may just be able to help. How? Well, As Good Food explained, spinach contains carotenoids, a "health promoting" phytochemical, which act as antioxidants.
Spinach also contains the phytochemical lutein, which is especially associated with lowered inflammation and, thus, a lowered risk of heart disease. A study in the Atherosclerosis journal found that the more lutein there was in the body, the less inflammation was present.
Nitrates, another component of spinach, further protects against inflammation, as stated by a study published in the Nutrition Reviews journal. And, as if that weren’t enough, the glycolipids in spinach can also fight inflammation, a 2015 study published in ACS Chemical Biology concluded. Talk about a superfood!
If you eat spinach every day, you can lower your cholesterol
Eating spinach every day can actually lower your cholesterol, thanks to its fiber content, according to WebMD. Additionally, Healthline reported that nitric oxide, a result of the nitrates in spinach, keeps blood vessels dilated, which in turn reduces the risk of cholesterol as cholesterol can build up in arteries and cause them to become narrower. Blood doesn’t flow as well with high cholesterol — and that spells future trouble, including high blood pressure and the risk of heart attack.
The lutein found in spinach also plays a role in preventing high cholesterol. In an animal study published in The Journal of Nutrition, lutein was able to prevent cholesterol from sticking and building up in the arteries. But that’s not lutein’s only role in fighting cholesterol. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, equipping it to battle your body’s inflammation. And, according to Health, high cholesterol causes an "inflammatory response" in the body. This response makes cholesterol build up even quicker — a truly vicious cycle. Eating spinach, and therefore consuming lutein, however fights that inflammation and cholesterol cycle.
If you eat spinach every day, you could keep your body from absorbing nutrients
Eating spinach every day is an inarguably healthy habit. Doing so provides your body with plenty of nutrients, of course. However, consuming too much spinach can actually stop your body from absorbing all those good nutrients. The culprit? A little something found in spinach called oxalate.
Not only can oxalate cause kidney stones, it is also considered an "anti-nutrient", as stated by a study published in the science journal Molecules and it’s present in high levels in spinach. The study asserted that high levels of oxalate prevent the body from absorbing nutritious minerals. Efforts are being made in agriculture to grow spinach with lower oxalate levels, but, for now, be aware of how much spinach you’re consuming so you don’t risk inhibiting your nutrient absorption. You can also make sure to eat foods with nitrates, like meat and citrus, which can regulate oxalate, according to the study.
Eating spinach every day will keep your eyes healthy
Eating spinach every day may do your whole body good, but it is especially beneficial to your beautiful eyes. According to WebMD, eating spinach can protect your eyes from sun damage, which, as it happens, can also lower your risk of developing cataracts (a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded).
Two antioxidants contained in spinach benefit your eyes: lutein and zeaxanthin. Researchers at Ohio State University were able to prove the connection between UV damage and cataracts in their study. Not only that, but the lutein and zeaxanthin in spinach were found to lower the indication of sun damage on the lens by up to 60 percent.
These antioxidants also protect your eyes from macular degeneration, a condition that can eventually cause blindness. One study found the chances of developing an advanced form of macular degeneration were decreased by some 43 percent when a person’s diet included lots of lutein and zeaxanthin as opposed to a minimal intake.
Can eating spinach every day prevent dementia?
A key to preventing dementia, a condition that’s caused by damage to brain cells, is consuming antioxidants. According to a study published in Neurology, participants who ate high levels of leafy greens like spinach were found to be 11 years younger in brain age than those who ate low levels of greens. The researchers hypothesized that lutein was part of the reason that spinach had this positive effect on the brain.
Additionally, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have both been linked to inflammation, according to a study in the Neurobiology of Aging, but thankfully spinach is well-equipped to battle inflammation. It also happens to be a very easy solution.
"Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias," Martha Clare Morris, assistant provost for community research at Rush University Medical Center, told Alzheimers.net, "increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia."
You can help prevent a stroke by eating spinach every day
Eating spinach every day means you’ll be taking in a good amount of potassium, which lowers blood pressure, keeps blood vessels relaxed, and helps prevent sodium in salty foods from causing high blood pressure. Regulating blood pressure is also how potassium prevents stroke.
Eating too much sodium overwhelms the kidneys so they can’t filter it all out, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This causes sodium to build up in the body and when this happens, the body tries to hold onto whatever water it has to balance out the high level of sodium. However, more water means more blood in the body, forcing the heart to work harder. That strain on the heart can make blood vessels stiff, which can lead to high blood pressure and stroke.
In addition to potassium, nitrates in spinach can also work to prevent strokes, according to Harvard Health. Since nitrates relax blood vessels much like potassium does, the chemical keeps blood pressure from getting dangerously high and possibly leading to stroke.
Eating spinach every day will help you feel happier
Spinach is good for your physical health, but is it beneficial for your mental health as well? As it turns out, eating spinach every day can indeed help make you happier. In fact, the leafy green is considered an "antidepressant food," as stated by a study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry. The study asserted that nutrition is closely linked to the health of the brain. Specifically, magnesium, which can be found in spinach, helps stave off depression.
When you’re low in phytonutrients like magnesium, you’re unfortunately at risk for symptoms of depression and, sadly, nearly 50 percent of Americans have low levels of magnesium, according to a study in Nutrition Reviews, so it’s a common problem.
Fortunately, upping your magnesium intake will make you feel happier as it affects your level of serotonin, a brain chemical linked to mood. According to Psychology Today, boiled spinach has a significant amount — about 160 milligrams — of magnesium per cup. The article went on to explain that consuming magnesium can make antidepressant medication more effective and possibly prevent the need for higher doses of medication.