Spinach, made famous by the cartoon character Popeye, is a leafy green vegetable with edible leaves that can be eaten raw or cooked. It is helpful for eye health, blood pressure control, protection against cancer and diabetes, stronger bones, digestive health, and healthier skin, hair and blood.
In this article, we will focus on the anti-diabetic properties of spinach.
Exhibit 1 below shows the summary of various anti-diabetes benefits of spinach.
Disclaimer: Irrespective of what Hippocrates said, food is not medicine; the two serve different purposes. Do not consume any food item in lieu of your medications. Use the information in this article to learn about the benefits, read more from the reference links, and have a healthy discussion with your doctor. Only after her consent can you incorporate that food into your diet; don’t do it on your own.
Nutrients in Spinach
Raw spinach has 91% water, 3.6% carbohydrates, 2.9% proteins, and 0.4% fats.
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, a great supplier of vitamin B9, vitamin A, manganese, and vitamin C, and a good source of magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, vitamin B2, calcium, vitamin B6, iron, and phosphorous, in that order. But some compounds in spinach called oxalates prevent most of its iron and calcium from being absorbed. So while spinach has good amounts of iron and calcium, your body won’t get much.
There are many excellent antioxidant plant compounds in spinach that play protective actions against various disorders:
- Quercetin: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-cancer, brain-protective, and heart protective.
- Carotenes: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, protective of eyes, skin, heart, brain, and immunity.
- Kaempferol: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antimicrobial, and protective of the heart, brain, bones, liver, lungs and digestive system.
- Nitrates: Help in heart health.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and protective of the eyes, heart, and brain.
- Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA): Antioxidant, anti-diabetes, and anti-obesity.
Anti-Diabetic Benefits of Spinach
Spinach helps in many aspects of diabetes due to its myriad healthful plant compounds and dietary fibres.
Spinach and Insulin Resistance
- Insulin resistance, or the body’s inability to use insulin for utilising blood glucose, is considered the primary cause of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Spinach is high in compounds called nitrates, which help reduce insulin resistance.
Spinach and Blood Glucose Spikes
- Dietary fibres slow down glucose absorption from the digested food.
- Spinach is high in dietary fibres. It reduces a spike in blood glucose after a meal and helps in better post-meal blood glucose control.
Spinach and Satiety
- Spinach increases satiety levels after a meal. This effect is due to its fibres as well as water content.
- Spinach consumption reduces hunger pangs and cravings, helping one to curb excess calorie consumption.
Spinach and Fat Metabolism
- Many green leafy vegetables, including spinach, have an antioxidant compound called alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), which improves fat metabolism and weight reduction in obese patients.
- Many diabetics are overweight or have weight management issues.
Spinach and Inflammation
- Type 2 diabetes increases inflammation in the body, which is known to damage blood vessels causing heart disease as well as many other degenerative diseases.
- Reducing inflammation through various mechanisms seems to help in the control and management of diabetes, including type 1 diabetes.
- In turn, inflammation is found to worsen diabetes.
- Nitrates in spinach reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel condition.
Spinach and Diabetic Neuropathy
- Diabetic neuropathy is a complication in people with long-standing diabetes, in which nerves are damaged due to high blood glucose over a long period. The main symptoms are pain and numbness in the hands and legs. Some people with diabetic neuropathy develop problems with heart rate, bladder control, and intestinal food movement, which are controlled by our nervous system.
- ALA is thought to help in diabetic neuropathy by preventing oxidative nerve damage.
How Much Spinach to Consume?
- There is no recommended ‘dose’ of spinach.
- Experts suggest consuming a cup (seventy-five grams) a day. But you don’t need to eat it every day. Eating various vegetables daily and consuming spinach every two to three days is better.
- If you are susceptible to kidney stone formation, have damaged kidneys, or are on blood-thinner medicines, avoid consuming spinach without consulting your doctor.
Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).
To Read More
- American Diabetes Association: What superstar foods are good for diabetes?
- On this Website: Is Spinach A Good Source Of Iron?
First Published on: 26th July 2023
Image Credit: Racool_studio on Freepik