Dark leafy greens like spinach are important for skin and hair, bone health, and provide protein, iron, vitamins
Spinach is a super food loaded with tons of nutrients in a low calorie package.The possible health benefits of consuming spinach include improving blood glucose control in diabetics, lowering the risk of cancer, lowering blood pressure, improving bone health, lowering the risk of developing asthma and more.
This MNT Knowledge Center article is part of a collection of features on the health benefits of popular foods, all written and reviewed by our qualified nutritionist.
Health benefits of spinachDiabetes management: spinach contains an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes. Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown decreases in peripheral neuropathy and/or autonomic neuropathy in diabetics.1
Spinach and other green vegetables contain chlorophyll which has shown to be effective at blocking the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines which are generated when grilling foods at a high temperature.2
Asthma prevention: The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is beta-carotene, of which spinach is an excellent source. Apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin and carrots are also rich sources of beta-carotene.3
Lowering blood pressure: because of its high potassium content, spinach is recommended to those with high blood pressure to negate the effects of sodium in the body. A low potassium intake may be just as big of a risk factor in developing high blood pressure as a high sodium intake.4
Other high potassium foods include potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans, avocado and oranges.
Bone health: Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk for bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health, as it acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improves calcium absorption and may reduce urinary excretion of calcium.5
Promotes regularity: Spinach is high in fiber and water content, both of which help to prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract.
Healthy skin and hair: Spinach is high in vitamin A, which is necessary for sebum production to keep hair moisturized. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair. Spinach and other leafy greens high in vitamin C are imperative for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair.
Iron-deficiency is a common cause of hair loss, which can be prevented by an adequate intake of iron-rich foods, like spinach.
Nutrition of spinachOne cup of raw spinach contains 27 calories, 0.86 grams of protein, 30 milligrams of calcium, 0.81 grams of iron, 24 milligrams of magnesium, 167 milligrams of potassium, 2813 IUs of Vitamin A and 58 micrograms of folate.
Most of the calories in spinach come from protein.
Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary potassium, weighing in at 839mg per cup (cooked). To compare, one cup of banana has about 539mg of potassium.
A lack of iron in your diet can effect how efficiently your body uses energy. Spinach is a great non-heme source of iron, along with lentils, tuna and eggs.
Spinach contains approximately 250mg of calcium per cup (cooked), however it is less easily absorbed than calcium from sources like dairy products. Spinach has a high oxalate content, which binds to calcium deeming it unavailable for use in our bodies.
When it's all said and done, our bodies can only absorb about 5% of the calcium in spinach (about 12.5mg per cup) whereas the absorption rate from calcium in milk is about 28% (300mg of calcium in one cup of milk at a bioavailability level of 28% would provide 84 mg per cup).
Spinach is also one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, which is necessary for energy metabolism, maintaining muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, a healthy immune system and maintaining blood pressure.
Magnesium also plays a part in hundreds more biochemical reactions that occur in the body.
Those with digestive disorders, alcoholic, older adults and individuals taking medications such as antibiotics and diuretics are more likely to have a magnesium deficiency and should consume more leafy greens. Spinach also contains vitamin K, fiber, phosphorus and thiamine.
Anemia is related to a problem with the hemoglobin cell that carries oxygen throughout the body. When the body is unable to get enough oxygen to the cells and tissues the body feels weak and fatigued.
Anemia is generally related to insufficient iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid, all of which are required to make hemoglobin. Anemia can also be caused by loss of blood. It’s important to see a doctor to determine the exact cause of the anemia.
Top Foods For AnemiaLiver – Beef liver is very high in iron and vitamin B12 and a variety of other important minerals. If unable to consume cow liver, make sure you include grass fed, organic beef as an alternative.
Blackstrap molasses – Take a spoonful daily, as it is very high in iron.
Brewer’s yeast – High in folic acid, B12, and iron. Add to cereal, salad, or juice.
Foods high in vitamin C – Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. If you are eating a high iron food (beef) try to include a source of vitamin C at that same meal such as tomatoes, peppers, or strawberries.
Green leafy vegetables – These provide a significant amount of iron and folic acid. Raw spinach is high in oxalic acid which can reduce iron absorption, however steaming spinach will this reduce this acid. Other green leafy vegetables to include are steamed kale and broccoli.
Foods to AvoidChocolate – Chocolate contains a substance that removes iron from your body, so it is best to avoid when you are trying to increase your iron levels.
Bran – Bran is high in insoluble fiber that traps and removes iron during digestion.
Conventional dairy – Calcium binds with iron in foods and can lead to poor absorption.
Soda – Soda is high in sugar and poor in nutrients and it blocks iron absorption.
Coffee and black tea – Excessive coffee intake may block iron absorption, so reduce it to no more than one cup per day.
Top 5 Anemia Natural Cures#1 Iron (25-30 mg daily)
Look for iron chelate which is generally well absorbed. Take with a vitamin C source and avoid calcium supplements. Iron supplements can cause constipation, therefore, it is important to confirm that Anemia is being caused by iron deficiency. Ask your doctor for a blood test before boosting your iron intake.
#2 Vitamin B12 (1,000 mcg daily)A deficiency in vitamin B12 may cause anemia, but since B12 is water soluble it is generally not harmful for most people to take as a supplement. Your doctor may recommend higher levels of B12 if you are deficient.
#3 Folic acid (800-1200 mcg daily)Folate deficiency can also lead to anemia. Women of childbearing age who take birth control pills are especially prone to folate deficiency. Your doctor may recommend a higher level than what is listed here.
#4 Vitamin C (500 mg daily)Vitamin C helps with absorption of iron.
#5 Green superfood powder
Choose one that contains spirulina, vitamin B12, dandelion, and folic acid.
Essential Oils For AnemiaCinnamon essential oil supports blood sugar balance so can help with some anemia symptoms. Ginger oil and Citrus oils can also improve anemia symptoms because they may improve iron absorption.
Consider trying these anemia natural cures to see fast results.
Anemia occurs when your blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells or if your red blood cells don’t have enough hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives your blood its red color and helps those cells bring oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
But if you have anemia, your body simply doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood, leaving you tired and weak. Severe or unabated anemia can damage your heart, brain and other organs in your body — and may even cause death. An iron deficiency is most commonly linked to anemia, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S.
Therefore, it’s imperative that you learn how to recognize the symptoms in yourself or your loved ones first and then learn the best ways to treat these anemic symptoms and reverse an iron deficiency naturally.
Symptoms of AnemiaFeeling a little “out of it” and tired can be common for many of us for many legitimate reasons: stress, lack of sleep, battling a virus, etc. Therefore, when it comes to knowing whether or not you should be checked for anemia, it’s important to understand the many possible anemic symptoms:
- Pale skin
- A fast or irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Cognitive problems
- Cold hands and feet
5 Steps to Reversing Anemia
Next, I will share with you my five-step process to treat anemic symptoms naturally, along with the anemia triggers that you absolutely want to watch out for.1. Nourish Your Spleen
The first natural treatment for anemia is really nourishing your spleen. Your spleen is an organ that is responsible for red blood cell production, as well as keeping fluids together in your system. If your spleen isn’t healthy, that’s one of the first factors that’s going to cause anemia.
There are specific foods that will actually help nourish your spleen, helping you overcome anemia naturally. That first food group is squash, specifically pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash and those bright orange-colored foods. Think fall harvest! Those sorts of foods are fantastic for nourishing the spleen. Aim for getting one to two servings of squash in your daily diet. If you want some ideas, try my Butternut Squash Soup as a starter.
The other food group that’s very important for nourishing your spleen and red blood cell production is going to be green leafy vegetables like nutrition-rich spinach, kale and chard. Having one serving of those per day, something like a Kale Caesar Salad or sautéed spinach, is also very nourishing to your spleen.
Last, but not least, bitter foods are great for the spleen, specifically vegetables like romaine lettuce and arugula salad. You can even consume bitter herbs before a meal as a supplement. But anything that’s sort of a bitter food is very nourishing for the spleen.
2. Use Probiotics for a Healthy Gut
Step number two to help you naturally overcome anemia is you need to start getting your gut healthy with probiotics. The principle is not: “You are what you eat.” Rather, it is: “You are what you digest.” If you’re not digesting properly and absorbing and assimilating nutrients properly, you’re not absorbing iron.
So for a lot of people, you might even be taking iron supplements, and they’re not working. The reason is that your digestive system isn’t healthy, and you probably have a condition called leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut doesn’t allow you to properly absorb iron as well as certain other vitamins and minerals, like benefit-rich vitamin B12, magnesium and zinc.
A medical study out of Stanford found that when somebody supplements with probiotics, all of her B vitamin levels go up along with iron levels. So listen, treat the root cause, not the symptom. So many doctors today say, “Hey, just go and take this iron tablet.” It’s not fixing it. You’ve got to be able to absorb the iron tablet for it to work.
For that reason, you want to add in probiotic-rich foods like real homemade yogurt, goat milk kefir and sauerkraut. Then taking a probiotic supplement, typically 50 billion to 100 billion IUs daily, can definitely help support your iron absorption.
3. Remove Processed and Junk Food from Your Diet
Next, you need to get those processed and junk foods out, especially excess sugar and anything that can cause candida. Oftentimes, candida and anemia are linked.
If you ever notice a white color on your tongue or in the back of your throat, or if you ever tend to get any sort of yeast issues, those are candida symptoms. Candida will block iron absorption, so diet is key. In order to really overcome that, you’ve got to support the spleen, like I talked about earlier, but also eliminate processed sugars and grains.
If you are eating a lot of sugars, pastas, breads, cereals, any type of grain product or sugar product, that’s going to feed yeast. Replace those with healthy fats in your diet. Or if you’re going to use a sweetener, raw local honey in small amount, a tablespoon at most at a time, or stevia is the best option in terms of natural sweeteners.
4. Consume Iron-Rich Foods
The next step in helping you overcome anemic symptoms is consuming iron-rich foods. Some of the best include beef liver and chicken liver.
Liver? It might sound gross to you, but if you buy organic chicken liver at your local farmers’ market or at your health food store, you can put it in a crockpot with chicken in equal ratios, or about a third liver, two-thirds chicken, and do a big crock pot with vegetables like carrots, celery, onions and sea salt. This is the perfect meal to help replenish your liver, as it’s very high in iron.
For other iron-rich foods, look toward organic, grass-fed meats like beef, bison and lamb. Also, eat spinach, kale and chard. Have a bison burger with a side of spinach, which is fantastic for helping you reverse anemia.
5. Reduce Stress
I know, easier said than done. But if you’re emotionally stressed out and you struggle with forgiveness, anger, or have chronic worry and anxiety, those things really deplete your spleen and your liver and will exhaust those organs. So really make sure that you are scheduling in times of relaxation and fun during your week, plus getting plenty of sleep at night. Those things will really help recharge your system and body and help you bust stress. If you do those things, you’re going to see fantastic results in overcoming anemia.
Last little bonus tip here: In Chinese medicine, anemia is very closely related to the spleen, and certain herbs actually help support the spleen, especially ginseng. Ginseng is known as an adaptogenic herb that lowers cortisol and can help your body better deal with stress. Lastly, benefit-rich beets also help with a healthy circulatory system and healthy iron levels.
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