Spinach and bananas aren't necessarily a pairing that would immediately come to mind, but eating these two foods during the same meal may have some benefits. They contain some nutrients that are better absorbed when eaten together and offer slightly different nutrient profiles, so eating both foods at the same time gives you a broader range of nutrients than either food alone. If the combination sounds unappealing, keep in mind that you wouldn't necessarily have to eat them in the same dish to get these benefits, just around the same time.
Benefits of the Combination
Spinach is one of the better vegetarian sources of iron, with a cup of cooked spinach providing 36 percent of the daily value for this important mineral and a cup of raw spinach providing 5 percent of the DV. But your body doesn't absorb iron from vegetarian sources, called non-heme iron, as well as iron from animal sources. Eating a banana at the same time, however, provides you with 17 percent of the DV for vitamin C. Vitamin C helps improve iron absorption.
Raw spinach and bananas are both good sources of vitamin C, with the combination of a cup of raw spinach and a medium banana providing you with 31 percent of the DV. Almost all of the 58 percent of the DV for vitamin A and 182 percent of the DV for vitamin K in this combination comes from the spinach, however. Spinach is also higher in folate, with 15 percent of the DV in a cup, with a medium banana adding an additional 6 percent of the DV for this nutrient. The banana provides most of the vitamin B-6, with 22 of the 25 percent of the DV in this combination coming from the banana.
You need vitamin A for keeping your vision healthy, vitamin C for forming collagen and healing wounds, and vitamin K for blood clotting. The B vitamins, vitamin B-6 and folate are important for turning the food you eat into energy and keeping your hair and skin healthy.
A combination of banana and spinach will also provide you with significant amounts of minerals. Both of these foods are good sources of manganese, with the combination providing 29 percent of the DV. The small amount of magnesium in each of these foods adds up to a significant 14 percent of the DV. Although raw spinach provides a little potassium, with 5 percent of the DV per cup, you'll get an additional 12 percent of the DV if you add a banana to your meal as well.
Potassium is important for maintaining proper blood pressure levels, and all three of these minerals play a role in keeping your bones strong and healthy.
A cup of spinach and a medium banana will also provide you with 15 percent of the DV for fiber, the majority of which -- about 3 grams -- comes from the banana. Fiber helps fill you up so you feel full longer, and may also help limit your risk of constipation, cancer, high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels. Most Americans only get about 11 grams of fiber per day -- much lower than the recommended 25 to 35 grams per day.
You can always serve cooked spinach as a side and have a banana for dessert to include them in the same meal, but this isn't the only option. Two of the more popular ways to include both these foods in the same dish are green smoothies and fruit salads made with spinach.
For a green smoothie, mix about 2 cups of baby spinach with a frozen banana along with about a cup of liquid, such as fruit juice, milk or almond milk. You can also add other fruits, such as cherries, strawberries, mango or blueberries, which will mask the taste of the spinach. If you want an extra nutritional boost, add a small amount of flax or chia seeds, or add a spice like cinnamon, ginger or turmeric for a flavor boost.
For a salad, mix spinach, banana, strawberries, cranberries, mandarin oranges and nuts and top with a poppy-seed dressing or vinaigrette. Mangoes would also be a delicious fruit addition, and macadamias, walnuts or pine nuts would all make tasty nut choices.
- Harvard Medical School: Listing of Vitamins
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool
- American Council on Exercise: 4 Green Smoothie Recipes to Kick-Start Your Day
- University of Arizona Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Iron and Iron Deficiency
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Top 10 Foods Highest in Iron You Can't Miss