Nutrition facts and recipes from one of nature's best superfoods.
Spinach Nutrients - Part One
Nutrition science is constantly evolving. New plant nutrients are being discovered on a regular basis and the human nutritional and health benefits of them, or the way they work in synergy with other nutrients are also still being discovered. Therefore, this list of the currently known vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients is unlikely to be complete and will no doubt grow as further scientific discoveries and understanding develops.
From the list of nutrients on this page and in Part 2 of this article, you will quickly see that spinach contains a greater range of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients than you will find in most commercial multi-vitamin/mineral supplements.
The comments provided in this article on each of the nutritional components of spinach are intended only as a brief, introductory overview. They are not to be taken as being "the whole story". That would take a thick book for each, not a mere paragraph.
Vitamin A - Spinach does not contain Vitamin A as such, yet has a high "Retinol Equivalent Activity". (Retinol is another name for Vitamin A.) This is due to the Beta Carotene content of Spinach (See next item). Vitamin A is an antioxidant vitamin, essential for eye health and vision (particularly prevention of night blindness), assists in growth and bone formation and strength, maintains healthy hair, skin and mucous membranes, assists protein synthesis, prevents and fights viral and respiratory infections.
Beta Carotene - The human body converts Beta Carotene into Vitamin A in the intestines and liver. Spinach is one of the richest sources of beta carotene. (Only carrots and parsley contain more.)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) - Acts as a coenzyme that facilitates the conversion of glucose into muscular and nerve energy. In many foods, B1 is not readily bioavailable (ie not much is absorbed into the body.) Thiamine in Spinach is one of the most bioavailable sources due to the presence of folate. Folate raises the bioavailability of Thiamine.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) - Sometimes also known as Vitamin G, Riboflavin is necessary for the maintenance and repair of mucous membranes and body tissues. It also assists in converting proteins, fats and carbohydrates into energy.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) - Sometimes known as Vitamin PP, Niacin assists in cell respiration, stabilizes cholesterol levels, produces energy from proteins, fats and carbohydrates, maintains a healthy brain and nervous system, as well as skin, tongue and digestive health.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) - Vitamin B5 is well known as an anti stress or anti anxiety vitamin, though plays a much wider role in nourishing and maintaining the nervous system and the production of anti stress hormones. It acts as a detoxifying agent, controls fat metabolism, assists in the production of energy and the formation of antibodies.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) - The anti depression vitamin, it is also an anti allergy vitamin. Additionally, Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of brain chemicals, nerve impulse transmitters, blood formation and energy production.
Vitamin Bc (Folate) - Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli are nature's strongest sources of folate. Sometimes also known as Vitamin M, folate or folic acid is an anti-anaemia vitamin. It also prevents neural tube and other birth defects in fetuses, builds up resistance to infection in infants, is essential for blood formation, the transmission of genetic code and in cellular protein synthesis in the metabolism of RNA and DNA.
Vitamin C - Spinach is a moderate source of Vitamin C - another of the antioxidant vitamins. Vitamin C produces various brain chemicals and nerve substances, activates folic acid, promotes iron absorption, boosts immune function to provide resistance to infection, controls cholesterol levels, promotes wound healing and maintains collagen levels for healthy connective tissues such as in skin, joints and organs throughout the body.
Vitamin E - Spinach is a moderate source of this Vitamin that is commonly deficient in modern diets, particularly low fat diets. (Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and usually accompanies fats/oils.). Vitamin E is an antioxidant, anti cancer and cardiovascular enhancing & protecting vitamin. It also enhances immune response. A little confusing by many is that there are eight different natural varieties of Vitamin E, plus synthetic varieties. Although their functions overlap, each has specific strengths or benefits over the others. Synthetic Vitamin E supplements often do not provide cardiovascular benefits even though they may prevent and treat prostate cancer effectively, for example. One of the many marvels of spinach is that it contains a broad spectrum of all the natural varieties of Vitamin E, so all the benefits from this group of vitamins can be found in the one plant.
Vitamin K - Spinach is one of the better sources of dietary Vitamin K (though cauliflower is by far the best source). This vitamin's main function is the control of blood clotting - hence the name "K" (for Koagulation. Pardon the spelling, but it was discovered and named by a Danish scientist about 75 years ago. This probably accounts for the misspelling by today's English language standards. Besides, "C" was already taken as a vitamin name.) Up until recently, the blood clotting control function was believed to be Vitamin K's only function. Research in recent years has discovered numerous other functions, such as being an even more powerful antioxidant than Vitamin E. It is now known to be necessary for bone health (as is Vitamin D) because it "glues" calcium into the bone matrix. In regulating calcium, Vitamin K also keeps calcium out of artery walls (prevents atherosclerosis, and accordingly heart attacks).
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