Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a hard-leafy plant used as a vegetable. It is sold fresh, dried, frozen, or tinned like this delicious tinned spinach I found on Amazon. Some people cook spinach and others serve it as a salad green. You can also mix it with other plants, fruits, vegetables, and herbs to make a healthy smoothy.
Spinach has high content of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K1, folic acid, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, and vitamin E. Furthermore, it has plant compounds including lutein, kaempferol, nitrates, quercetin, and zeaxanthin.
Lutein is a carotenoid. Carotenoids are yellow, orange, or red fat-soluble pigments produced by plants, algae, several bacteria, and fungi. They give colour to pumpkins, carrots, corn, ripe tomatoes, canaries, flamingos, salmon, lobsters, shrimp, and daffodils.
Besides being anti-inflammatory, lutein is known to prevent age-related macular disease. Age-related macular disease is the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness. Lutein also has many other health benefits including decreasing your risk of cancer and improving cardiovascular health. Some people take lutein capsules as eye supplements like these I found on an Amazon listing.
Zeaxanthin is also a carotenoid. It is one of the most common carotenoids found in nature. Zeaxanthin and lutein are good for your eyes. They accumulate in the eye lens and macular region of the retina. They protect the eye from ultraviolet phototoxicity. There are also zeaxanthin supplements, for example, these ones from Amazon.
Blindness is the state of being sightless. That means not being able to see. There are so many eye conditions and they include cataracts, refractive error, trachoma, river blindness, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
Treatments for blindness depend on the cause. They include cataract surgery, prescribing and giving spectacles, dietary changes, corneal transplantation, and medications.
Can regular consumption of spinach prevent your eyes from damage and blindness? To find satisfactory scientifically proven answers to this question, I searched for information in scholarly peer-reviewed journals and below is the scientific evidence.
Richard L Roberts, Justin Green, and Brandon Lewis, 2009, reviewed scientific literature on the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on the human eye and skin.
They found out that many studies reported that lutein and zeaxanthin protect against the damage caused by sunlight striking the retina. Lutein and zeaxanthin filter high-energy wavelengths of visible light and “act as antioxidants to protect against the formation of reactive oxygen species and subsequent free radicals.”
J M Seddon and colleagues, 1994, evaluated the relationship between dietary intake of carotenoids and vitamin A, C, and E and the risk of neovascular age-related macular degeneration.
They found out that a higher dietary intake of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin found in large amounts in spinach was associated with a lower risk for neovascular age-related macular degeneration.
They concluded that increasing consumption of dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach may decrease the risk of developing advanced or exudative age-related macular degeneration.
Hein T V Vu and colleagues, 2006, evaluated the association of cortical, nuclear, or posterior subcapsular cataract with dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin in a population-based sample. They found out that high dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin was associated with low prevalence of nuclear cataract.
Emily Y Chew and colleagues, 2013, investigated whether adding lutein and zeaxanthin, docosahexaenoic acid, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or both to the age-related eye disease study formulation decreases the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration. They also evaluated the effect of eliminating beta carotene, lowering zinc doses or both in the age-related eye disease study.
They concluded that “because of potential increased incidence of lung cancer in former smokers, lutein + zeaxanthin could be an appropriate carotenoid substitute in the age-related eye disease study formulation.
Rong Liu and colleagues, 2014, evaluated the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on visual function in randomized controlled trials of age-related macular degeneration patients. They found out that lutein and zeaxanthin intake significantly decreased age-related macular degeneration compared with a placebo. The researchers concluded that “lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation is a safe strategy for improving visual performance of age-related macular degeneration patients, which mainly showed in a dose-response relationship.”
Side effects of eating spinach:
Although spinach is a healthy and safe to eat vegetable, it may cause side effects in some people. Spinach is high in both oxalates and calcium so it may cause kidney stones in people at high risk if intake is not limited. Spinach could interfere with blood thinning medication because it is high in vitamin K1 content. If you are taking blood thinning medications like warfarin, you should consult your doctor before taking large amounts of spinach.
Besides preventing your eyes from damage and blindness as evidenced in the above scientific research articles, eating spinach regularly can also moderate your blood pressure levels, reduce your risk of heart disease, and may slow down cancer growth.
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