Spinach is one of the very popular herbs in the world. Some of the health benefits of spinach include a good source of essential vitamins and minerals, cures gastric disorders, protects liver, kills intestinal worms, cures urinary disorders and acts as a natural laxative.
Spinach, a very popular green herb from Asia ranks high among most herbs in the world for its nutritional value in its leaves. The ovate leaves can range between 2-10 cm in length and the plant grows to about 40-50 cm in length.
Spinach is believed to have originated in Persia or modern day Iran. From Persia, spinach traveled to east Asian countries including India and China during the 6th century AD. Later on, in 13th and 14th centuries, spinach spread to Europe. The name spinach is believed to have originated from “espinache” which in turn comes from the Arabic word “asabinakh” which literally means “green hand”. Due to its growth in early spring, spinach became a friendly herb in the United Kingdom and other European countries. Spinach was introduced in the Americas by European travelers somewhere between 1600s and 1700s.
Nutrition in Spinach
According to the National Nutrient Database from the US Department of Agriculture, the nutrition of spinach includes
|Nutrition||Value per 100 g||Nutrition||Value per 100 g|
|Water||91.4 g||Energy||23 kcal|
|Protein||2.86 g||Total Lipid||0.39 g|
|Carbohydrates||3.63 g||Fiber||2.2 g|
|Sugars||0.42 g||Calcium||99 mg|
|Iron||2.71 mg||Magnesium||79 mg|
|Phosphorous||49 mg||Potassium||558 mg|
|Sodium||79 mg||Zinc||0.53 mg|
|Vitamin C||28 mg||Thiamin||0.078 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.189 mg||Niacin||0.724 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.195 mg||Folate||195 ug|
|Vitamin A||9377 IU||Vitamin E||2 mg|
|Vitamin K||482 ug|
Can I introduce spinach to my baby’s diet?
Yes, you can introduce spinach to your baby food. As and when your baby reaches the age of having solid food, which is 6 months. In fact, it could be wrong if you do not introduce spinach early on, because spinach is a good source of many vitamins and minerals that are hardly available in other foods.
Health benefits of introducing spinach to babies
Spinach is a champion herb that contains many vitamins and minerals ideal for a baby’s growth. No wonder, Popeye used to become stronger the moment he ate spinach! Here are some of the health benefits of spinach.
Supplies essential minerals: The one good reason why babies should be given spinach is that it is one of the best sources of essential minerals for baby growth and development. Spinach contains high amount of calcium and magnesium, both of which are essential for bone development. It contains high amounts of iron and potassium as well. Iron is useful for hemoglobin production and potassium is essential for brain development.
Supply of essential vitamins: Apart from minerals, vitamins are also essential for a baby’s growth. Spinach supplies vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, vitamin E and vitamin K. Each of these vitamins play an important role in improving body functions in infants. For example, vitamin A is essential for developing eye sight, vitamin C is essential for building a strong immune system, etc.
Natural laxative: Spinach being a leafy vegetable, it has significant amounts of dietary fiber in it. This dietary fiber is good for keeping the digestive system clean. It is better to have fiber in diet because fiber absorbs water and adds bulk to stool. Thus by giving spinach to your baby, bowel movements are eased and in turn, you develop a healthy digestive system for your child. (Bakhru, Foods That Heal).
Cures urinary disorders: Urinary disorders or urinary tract infections take place commonly among children. These infections can occur as a result of bacterial or viral infections. Spinach possesses good antimicrobial properties, thus eliminating microbial infections, it helps in reducing urinary disorders. (Bakhru, Foods That Heal).
Remedy for gastric disorders: Gastric disorders can also occur in babies because their stomach and intestines are not fully developed. The gastric juices would not be as strong as that of a grown up person, leading to indigestion or gastric problems. Spinach can be used during such times. (Dande et al, 2010).
Liver protection activity: Research shows that the biochemicals found in spinach are capable for liver protection. Though, liver is a strong organ in the body in terms of resilience, yet liver can be subject of infections, especially in young ones whose liver might not be developed to the extent of an grown up’s liver. In such cases, it is better to give liver protecting food, as prevention is better than cure. (Dande et al, 2010).
Kills intestinal worms: Intestinal worms can be one of the subtle health issues that children face without the kids themselves or the parents knowing it. Intestinal worms are parasitic worms which invade and settle in the intestines, far from the reach of gastric acids and feed off the food in the intestine. By giving spinach to your babies regularly, you can make sure that this intestinal pest is removed, as spinach possesses good anthelmintic properties. (Dande et al, 2010).
Measures to be taken while giving spinach
Here are some of the measures that can be taken while giving spinach.
- What kind of spinach to choose from: The texture of spinach leaves is very important while choosing the best. Spinach leaves must be firm without any tears, wrinkles or darkening what so ever. Those must be avoided. Fresh and young leaves look more appealing and bright green in colour.
- Clean spinach: Before cooking the spinach, it is essential to wash the spinach leaves in water several times before cooking it. It is absolutely essential to clean spinach in water to avoid unnecessary contamination, be it microbial or chemical based.
- Boiling Vs Steaming: There is always a debate whether or not boiling is better compared to steaming or vice versa. Boiling is relatively easy process than steaming as steaming requires a pressure cooker to steam boil something. But, boiling is essential a waste process where the nutrients in the food get easily separated from the food and evaporate through water. Steaming on the other hand, preserves the nutrients in the food.
- Tips for cooking: If you are boiling spinach, please make sure that you do not add any water. Spinach leaves contain lot of moisture inside and it cooks the leaves from the inside. Adding extra water might spoil the broth.