What Are the Benefits of Spinach if You Are Diabetic?

Fresh spinach
bowl filled with fresh spinach leaves (Image: Teleginatania/iStock/Getty Images)

The American Diabetes Association calls spinach a diabetes superfood and recommends that you regularly include this dark green leafy non-starchy vegetable in your diet. Besides being rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, spinach possesses a low glycemic index, which means eating it will help support healthy and stable blood glucose levels.

Calories

Spinach
close up of fresh spinach leaves (Image: Robert Burnside/Hemera/Getty Images)

Spinach is exceptionally low in calories. One cup of raw spinach contains only 7 calories. The fact that spinach contains so few calories is a major benefit to persons with diabetes. This is because one of the goals of a healthy diabetes diet is to promote a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight can help improve your blood glucose levels as well as your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Carbohydrates

Baby spinach in the garden
baby spinach in garden (Image: Sylvie Bouchard/iStock/Getty Images)

All non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrate -- about 5 grams per cup -- but spinach is particularly low in carbohydrates, containing only 0.83 grams per cup. The fact that spinach contains so few carbohydrates makes it an excellent choice on a diabetes diet. Carbohydrate-containing foods cause your blood glucose levels to rise. This means that you must restrict your carbohydrate intake in order to control your glucose. A healthy diabetes meal includes about 45 grams to 65 grams of carbohydrates, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Satiety

Pat's spinach surprise
small spinach salad (Image: Alejandro Salvador Mir/iStock/Getty Images)

Your diabetes diet should include at least three to five servings of non-starchy vegetables per day, A serving size equals 1-cup raw or 1/2-cup cooked. Spinach is one of the only foods on a diabetes diet where more is better. Because spinach contains so few calories and carbohydrates, it is almost like a “free” food. This means that you can load up on spinach in order to curb your hunger without jeopardizing your diabetes health. So the next time you finish a meal and are still feeling hungry, instead of going for seconds, try preparing a simple spinach salad with diced tomato, ground black pepper and balsamic vinegar.

Considerations

Crepes with Spinach, Tomatoes and Cheese
healthy spinach crepes (Image: Ildiko Papp/iStock/Getty Images)

Plain raw spinach contains 0 milligrams of cholesterol and 0.12 grams of total fat, per serving. In order to keep these figures low, avoid preparing your spinach in butter or other high-fat sauces. Creamed spinach, for instance, does not make a particularly healthy choice. Flavorful -- and healthy -- dishes that call for spinach include whole wheat manicotti shells, spinach and low-fat ricotta cheese crepes or a veggie quesadilla on a whole grain soft tortilla.

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