Can You Eat Spinach Raw?

Eating spinach raw in a salad is scary for some people. Is eating spinach leaves good for your health? Basically, the answer to this question is yes! After that, a “but” is immediately added. Fresh young spinach of good origin is a delicacy that tastes good as an addition to salads, in a smoothie, or sliced ​​into quark or yogurt and is a real spring booster for a healthy diet. Raw spinach is only healthy if you pay attention to certain points during processing. Basically, the first restriction is that you should only eat leaf spinach raw, not root spinach, which – as the name suggests – is harvested with the root.

It’s in the spinach

Spinach contains many minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese, as well as vitamins. Raw vegetables in particular contain plenty of vitamin C. Equally healthy and numerous are the carotenoids, which protect the macula in the eye from degeneration. Carrots in particular are said to have high levels of carotenoids, but spinach can top the root vegetable in terms of nutritional benefits. What is wrong is that spinach contains a particularly large amount of iron. This assumption is based on a calculation error in the 19th century: the amount contained was incorrectly related to fresh and not to dry substances. There are about 3.4 milligrams of iron per 100 grams of fresh spinach leaves. That doesn’t seem excessive, but it’s still double to quadruple compared to many other vegetables.

Eat spinach raw: pay attention to the nitrate content!

Spinach, with its possibly high nitrate content, tends to make negative headlines. If the soil contains a lot of nitrogen, the plant also absorbs a lot of it. In principle, this does not have to be negative if the vegetables grow quickly in plentiful sunlight and “utilize” the nitrogen. However, spinach growing in autumn and winter cannot use the substance to its full extent: the spinach then stores the substance, i.e. enriches it. As a result, nitrate can be converted into nitrite in the body. Nitrite is known to oxidize the iron contained in red blood cells. These can then no longer transport oxygen – and that is not very healthy.

With regard to nitrate, the following should be observed:

  • Whenever possible, buy organic spinach or grow it in your own garden in a bed with moderate nitrogen content. Outdoor spinach contains less nitrate than greenhouse spinach.
  • Spinach should be harvested in the evening since that is when the nitrate content is lowest over the course of the day.
  • Babies under five months should not be given raw spinach. They can develop blue addiction (cyanosis) due to a lack of oxygen.
  • After harvesting, spinach should be stored in the refrigerator as cool temperatures prevent the conversion of nitrate to nitrite.

And what about oxalic acid?

Oxalic acid is mainly found in the older leaves of spinach. Oxalic acid can inhibit the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium in the body and promote kidney stones, but only in people who have a tendency to or already have kidney disease – at least according to the statement by the Bremen Consumer Center. Rhubarb and chard have a similar effect. The acidity of vegetables increases over the course of the year. Raw spinach is, therefore, better enjoyed in spring than in summer. Other tips to keep the oxalic acid in spinach low:

  • Young leaves, in particular, should be enjoyed raw. Older leaves with a rippled surface are likely to contain more oxalic acid. The same applies to stems or leaf veins. They can also be torn out or cut before consumption.
  • Combining spinach with sources of calcium such as cheese or sour cream binds to part of the oxalic acid, which is then excreted through the intestines.
  • If you have problems with urinary stones and osteoporosis, you should avoid spinach and other vegetables containing oxalic acid.

Prepare raw spinach properly

Before you eat spinach raw, you should clean the leaves thoroughly. To do this, put them in a bowl of cold water. Yellow or withered leaves are sorted out beforehand. To completely remove soil and dirt, you sometimes have to wash it several times. Then you take the spinach leaves with a sieve or your hands from the water surface. This prevents sand that has settled below from getting into the food. The raw spinach is served as a salad with a fine dressing.

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