Spinach – One Of The Best Foods

Popeye was right! Spinach is one of the best foods. It not only tastes good all year round but also knows how to convince in terms of nutritional values. Find out why spinach is so healthy, what needs to be considered when storing and processing it, and why you should eat raw spinach more often.

Spinach isn’t just good for Popeye!

There is no one on earth who made spinach as popular as him: Popeye. The likable sailor was brought to life by the American cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar in 1929 and has been delighting comic fans all over the world ever since. Popeye’s special trademark is that he eats cans of spinach because it gives him supernatural powers. Are the green vegetables really as energizing and healthy as the comic portrays?

From wild spinach to cultivated plant

Unlike Popeye, spinach does not originally come from the USA, but from the Near and Middle East. It is rumored that the plant species, which belongs to the foxtail family, was first bred from wild spinach in the Persian Empire.

From there, the cultivated form – the so-called real spinach (Spinacia oleracea) – reached Spain in the Middle Ages through the Arabs. It quickly became one of the most popular vegetables and consequently made its way throughout Europe. How much spinach was valued is also shown by the fact that it supplanted the orchard, which is related to it and is one of the oldest cultivated plants, as a foodstuff in Europe.

A star in Renaissance cuisine

When dishes contain spinach, they are often referred to as “Florentine style”. This expression is attributed to Caterina de’ Medici, who loved leafy greens more than anything and is considered the mother of French cuisine. When the native Florentine married French King Henry II in 1533, i.e. during the Renaissance, she brought her chefs with her, who was able to prepare the spinach in a variety of ways. She even decreed that vegetables should be served with every meal.

Spinach as a medicinal plant

Of course, spinach was once not only used as a food but – like almost all vegetables – also as a medicinal plant and used, for example, to treat digestive disorders. The latest studies prove that traditional medicine is right. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln took a close look at the green leaves in 2016 and found that it promotes health beyond the usual level due to their diverse nutrient composition.

More than 100 proven ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals interact harmoniously, develop antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power and have a. Conditions such as low blood sugar, obesity, dyslipidemia, depression, and cancer. Mexican researchers came to the same conclusion in 2019, calling spinach one of the best foods.

The nutritional values

Spinach is 91.8 percent water and contains very little fat. The sugar content of 0.5 g per 100 g of fresh spinach is on the lower end, even compared to other vegetables.

  • water 91.8 g
  • Fiber 2.6 (645 mg water-soluble and 1,935 mg water insoluble)
  • protein 2.5
  • Carbohydrates 0.6 (of which 0.5 g sugars: 0.13 g glucose and 0.11 g fructose)
  • Fat 0.3

The Calories

Like any other vegetable, spinach is very low in calories. There are no more than 17 kcal per 100 grams of vegetables, which of course can change quickly if you prepare the leafy greens with a good dollop of cream, butter, or a béchamel sauce and possibly serve with bacon.

The vitamins

In terms of vitamin content, spinach has a lot to offer. In particular, leafy greens are a fantastic source of beta-carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin B2. All vitamin values ​​of 100 grams of raw spinach can be found in our vitamin table.

The minerals

The mineral content of spinach is high. Whether iron, magnesium, or potassium: The green leaves can make a significant contribution to meeting daily needs. Our mineral table gives you an overview of all the values.

Spinach is not a bad source of iron

There are numerous myths surrounding the topic of iron in spinach. This is because leafy greens have been misattributed as being supernaturally high in iron. The Swiss Gustav von Bunge, a professor at the University of Basel, correctly calculated the value at the end of the 19th century. However, his statements did not refer to fresh, but to dried spinach.

In the 20th century, due to an incorrect translation, the myth finally emerged that 100 g of fresh spinach contained an extraordinary 35 mg of iron instead of 3.5 mg. Nevertheless, spinach is significantly richer in iron than other vegetables. Because if you eat 100 g of fresh vegetables, you can still cover up to 33 percent of your daily requirement.

Comparatively included:

  • 100 g tomatoes 0.6 mg iron
  • 100 g broccoli 1.3 mg iron
  • 100 g kale 1.9 mg iron
  • 100 g carrots 2.1 mg iron

The iron myth has led to generations of children and adolescents being forced to eat spinach, which is often underappreciated. But if you force your children to eat something that they do not like at all, you will achieve the opposite. Because measures like these lead to people hating and avoiding food for the rest of their lives.

Popeye cartoons increase vegetable intake in children

In fact, Thai researchers have found that eating habits in early childhood help determine eating behaviors in adulthood. But also that children voluntarily change their preferences if they are motivated accordingly. 26 kindergarten children between the ages of 4 and 5 took part in the study.

Researchers recorded the types and amounts of fruits and vegetables the children liked to eat before and after the experiment. Children were encouraged to plant vegetable seeds, attend fruit and vegetable tasting parties, cook and watch Popeye cartoons. Parents were provided with tips on how to encourage the little ones to eat.

After 8 weeks, the researchers found that vegetable intake doubled and the number of vegetables the children voluntarily ate increased from 2 to 4. Parents reported that their children talked about vegetables more often and felt proud that they had eaten them. This study clearly showed that children would much rather eat healthy foods such as spinach than fries and the like if they are encouraged to do so.

Oxalic acid isn’t that bad after all

In many places you can read that spinach, despite its high iron content, is a poor source of iron and can even lead to iron deficiency. The oxalic acid, which binds the iron, is said to be to blame for this, making absorption more difficult. However, according to studies, it can be assumed that the consumption of oxalic acid in reasonable amounts does not pose a risk.

16 healthy women took part in a Swiss study. The test meals consisted of 100 g wheat rolls and either 150 g spinach with an oxalic acid content of 1.27 g or 150 g kale with an oxalic acid content of 0.01 g.

The researchers found that oxalic acid in plant foods does not inhibit iron absorption and that oxalic acid does not contribute to the reported inhibitory effects of spinach on iron absorption.

Spinach can also be eaten if you have kidney stones

People with kidney stones (crystallized parts of the urine) have long been advised to avoid foods with oxalic acid, as these can promote the formation. Kidney stones form when certain substances in the urine are present in too high a concentration and then precipitate as crystals.

However, most of the oxalate contained in urine (oxalates are the salts of oxalic acid) is produced by the body through metabolic processes. It is therefore primarily the end product of the ascorbate, glyoxylate, and glycine metabolism and not the oxalic acid absorbed from food. As a result, most urologists only prescribe a strict low-oxalate diet (less than 50 mg per day) to patients with very high urinary oxalate levels.

To compare the oxalic acid content in 100 g of the following raw foods:

  • Spinach: 0.97 mg
  • Purslane: 1.31 mg
  • Green bean: 0.36 mg
  • Asparagus: 0.13 mg
  • Rhubarb leaves: 0.52
  • Cucumber: 0.02 mg

How to get less oxalic acid from spinach

The oxalic acid content in fresh spinach varies depending on the variety and growing conditions. It ranges between 0.6 and 1.3 g per 100 g of raw leafy vegetables. The duller the mouthfeel after eating spinach, the higher the content.

If for whatever reason, you want or need to take in as little oxalic acid as possible, you should:

  • especially buy spinach in spring and autumn. Because then the salary is the lowest.
  • preferably enjoy young leaves, which have a lower oxalic acid content than older leaves. Eat the stalks, which contain far less oxalic acid than the leaves.
  • Boil the vegetables in water before eating. Because then 67 percent of the acid – but also part of the water-soluble vitamins and minerals – goes into the water.
  • Normally, the cooking water should not be thrown away so that the vital substances dissolved in it can be absorbed. However, if you want to reduce the oxalic acid content, the cooking water must not be reused.
  • Combine calcium-rich foods such as cheese, flaxseed, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and spices (such as watercress and thyme) with spinach. Because then the oxalic acid is bound and excreted through the intestine.

A fantastic source of beta carotene

To this day, many people are still convinced that spinach is only healthy because of its high iron content. Popeye’s fondness for green leafy vegetables is often attributed to this. But Popeye knew a lot more. Because the strong sailor literally says in a cartoon: “Spinach is full of vitamin A. And that’s what makes hoomans strong an’ helty!” Clever Popeye knew full well that spinach is so healthy because of its very high content of beta-carotene, from which vitamin A is made in the body.

Beta carotene is not only important as a precursor of vitamin A, but also as a free radical scavenger. Free radicals are aggressive oxygen compounds that are constantly produced in the body – for example during metabolic processes, through UV radiation or toxins – and can damage cells and genetic material (DNA). Due to its antioxidant power, beta-carotene is able to render free radicals harmless.

If you eat 100g of fresh spinach, you’re getting more than double the recommended daily dose of beta-carotene. From this amount of beta-carotene, 78 µg of vitamin A is formed in the body, so 87 percent of the daily vitamin A requirement can be covered. Vitamin A is i.a. important for the eyes and contributes to the synthesis of testosterone and estrogen and to the health of bones, cartilage, and teeth.

Spinach promotes muscle growth

At least since Popeye, spinach has been associated with the fact that it makes you strong, i.e. it benefits the muscles. This property has long been attributed to iron. However, substances that are still demonized are said to be responsible for building muscle: nitrates.

As early as the 1990s, scientists showed that nitrates found in spinach and other leafy green vegetables can actually be very beneficial as they nourish the mitochondria in muscle cells. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells. They produce the energy required for each cell in each individual cell.

Since all our bodily functions can only run to the extent that energy is available to them, poorly functioning mitochondria can paralyze or slow down bodily functions, which is not exactly beneficial for our well-being. Powerful mitochondria, on the other hand, ensure that everything in the body runs smoothly. They regulate blood pressure, the immune system, cell metabolism, and much more.

Spinach promotes muscle growth

Nitrates, found naturally in organically grown foods, are used in the body to produce nitric oxide (NO). NO is an important molecular component of our organism, as it is responsible for the transport of oxygen in the blood, for example.

So, the nitrate present in spinach and other leafy green vegetables is converted to NO, which is used throughout the body. Professors Eddize Weitzberg and Jon Lundberg from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm made an interesting discovery in this regard.

They observed that consuming the amount of nitrate found in about 200 to 300 grams of spinach over a period of three days (in addition to regular exercise) noticeably improves the effectiveness of the mitochondria. This reduces oxygen consumption, facilitates muscle growth, and leads to better overall health.

Is spinach a doping agent?

So it’s no wonder that spinach plays an important role in the world of sports. So much so that since 2019 there has been a discussion in the highest circles as to whether the vegetable belongs on the anti-doping list. The Bayerischer Rundfunk reported on: “Spinach in the sights of doping investigators”. The decisive factor for this was a research project funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency ( WADA ) under

the participation of the Freie Universität Berlin. The study found that spinach extract clearly improves performance in sports. The culprit responsible for this was revealed to be the substance ecdysterone, a so-called phytosteroid that has such strong effects on muscle cells that WADA suggested that it be included in the list of banned substances.

In the double-blind study, 12 subjects received 2 capsules of spinach extract (at least 200 mg ecdysterone) or a placebo daily. After 10 weeks, the subjects in the ecdysterone group showed a significantly greater increase in muscle mass and, on average, three times the increase in strength. The more ecdysterone they took, the greater the effect. Ecdysterone turned out to be even more effective than already banned substances and it is not without reason that it has been called the “Russian secret” for increasing performance in sports for some time.

It should also be said that these 2 capsules corresponded to around 250 g to 4 kg of spinach leaves, depending on the extract. You would have to eat as much spinach every day for 10 weeks to get the same amount of ecdysterone as in that study. Nonetheless, the study showed that leafy greens increase performance when included regularly in the diet.

Pre-washed spinach is a germ killer

On the spinach – especially on the so-called baby spinach – not only pesticides are found. Researchers from California University have discovered that pre-washed leaves are full of bacteria that can make us sick. The problem is that spinach leaves are not completely smooth. As a result, no more than 10 percent of the bacteria are washed away during washing.

If the vegetables are now sprayed with pesticides in the field and then washed with disinfecting chemicals, the danger increases. Because the bacteria that survive this are particularly aggressive and defend themselves by producing toxins that are dangerous for us humans.

Whether bacteria, viruses, or toxins: One in ten people worldwide suffers from food poisoning and 420,000 people die from it. In the EU, 23 million cases of illness and 5,000 deaths are reported every year. About 20 percent of food poisoning cases from 2003 to 2008 were related to leafy green vegetables, according to researchers from California University. The contamination of ready-to-eat products is of great concern because they are often eaten raw.

What you should consider with pre-washed, packaged spinach

If you still don’t want to do without pre-washed and packaged spinach, you could heed the following tips:

  • Wrapped leafy greens should not be stored in the refrigerator for more than 1 day.
  • You can tell that the spinach is no longer suitable for consumption by the swollen packaging or an odor reminiscent of sour milk.
  • Wash the leaves very thoroughly under running water just before eating.

Why organic is better

It is advisable to buy fresh and unpackaged organic spinach. According to the 2018 eco-monitoring published by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Rural Areas and Consumer Protection, organically grown vegetables are generally hardly contaminated with pesticides.

While conventionally grown vegetables contained an average of 0.5 mg of pesticides per kilogram of vegetables, the organic samples examined contained an average of only 0.008 mg. However, these minimal residues are not due to the application of pesticides, which are known to be prohibited in organic farming but to drift from conventional fields in the vicinity.

Right purchase

When shopping, you have the choice between root and leaf spinach. While with the latter only the individual leaves are harvested, the former includes the entire plant including the root base.

Make sure the leafy greens are organic and have crisp, fresh, deep green leaves. If the leaves are limp, the leaf edges are yellowish and the stems are rotten, you should refrain from doing so. When transporting and storing, keep in mind that spinach leaves are more sensitive than spinach roots. It must therefore be handled with more care so that the leaves are not crushed.

Proper storage

Fresh spinach has a limited shelf life, so it’s best to process and consume it immediately after purchase. Otherwise, you can store the vegetables in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for a maximum of 4 days.

Avatar photo

Written by Elizabeth Bailey

As a seasoned recipe developer and nutritionist, I offer creative and healthy recipe development. My recipes and photographs have been published in best selling cookbooks, blogs, and more. I specialize in creating, testing, and editing recipes until they perfectly provide a seamless, user-friendly experience for a variety of skill levels. I draw inspiration from all types of cuisines with a focus on healthy, well-rounded meals, baked goods and snacks. I have experience in all types of diets, with a specialty in restricted diets like paleo, keto, dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan. There is nothing I enjoy more than conceptualizing, preparing, and photographing beautiful, delicious, and healthy food.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How Cow’s Milk Increases Breast Cancer Risk

Max Planck Diet: How To Lose Weight With Proteins