Life Extension Magazine®
Spinach being washed before cooking rich in calcium, magnesium, and other minerals

Superfood: Spinach

Low-calorie spinach contains calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin K, nitrates, and lutein. It may help slow cognitive decline, improve blood flow, and protect against age-related blindness.

Scientifically reviewed by: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N, on July 2021. Written By Laurie Mathena.

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable with health benefits as rich as its history.

Known as the “Persian vegetable,” spinach originated in Persia and was sent to China as a gift in the seventh century. By the time it was introduced to Europe in the 12th century, it was dubbed “the chieftain of the leafy greens.”

Its nutrient profile and health benefits make it worthy of this nickname.

Spinach contains just seven calories per cup, but is a good food source of calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin K.

One study found that consumption of green leafy vegetables was associated with slower cognitive decline.1

Spinach also contains plant-derived nitrates, which are compounds known to help dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow.

In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, people who consumed nitrate-rich drinks—including a spinach drink—saw anincrease in blood nitrate levels and lower blood pressure.2 Their diastolic blood pressure remained lower for five hours after consuming the drink.

And because spinach contains lutein, it could be beneficial for anyone at risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults.3

Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked, and is available fresh, frozen, or canned. It can be used in soups, casseroles, or omelets, added to sandwiches or wraps, sauteed with olive oil and garlic, or added to smoothies.

Anyone taking warfarin should be aware that spinach contains vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting.

The anticoagulant Coumadin® (warfarin) is a vitamin K antagonist; ingesting vitamin K from food or supplements can interfere with the treatment effect of this drug, but newer anti-coagulant drugs like Eliquis®, Pradaxa®, or Xarelto® do not antagonize vitamin K, and therefore vitamin K from food and diet does not interfere with the treatment effect of these drugs.

References

  1. Neurology. 2018 Jan 16;90(3):e214-e22.
  2. J Nutr. 2016 May;146(5):986-93.
  3. Nutrients. 2017;9(2):120.