Spinach

By EAT SMARTER
Updated on 30. Apr. 2020
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A favorite among the health-conscious, this superfood is packed with essential vitamins and nutrients.

spinach

Spinach...

  • ...contains a lot of vitamin A. With an incredible 800 micrograms of vitamin A per 100 grams, spinach is one of the best sources of vitamin A, which plays a role in good vision and healthy skin.
  • ...strengthens your nerves. If you feel anxious or are under stress, spinach can help you to counteract your anxiety. With up to 58 milligrams of magnesium, 100 grams of spinach can have a beneficial effect on your entire nervous system.
  • ...contains iron. Even if it is not the very high amounts assumed in the past, with a good 4 milligrams of iron, spinach still contains a fairly generous portion of the mineral substance which promotes blood formation. In combination with vitamin C, iron can be especially easily absorbed.
  • ...protects your cells. In terms of vitamin E content, spinach is far ahead of many other vegetables: 1.4 milligrams per 100 grams. Vitamin E is important as protection against free radicals that damage our cells and prevents, among other things, premature aging.
  • ...reduces water retention. At 554 milligrams of potassium per 100 grams, spinach can help your body's fluid balance normalize. Particularly in its raw form, for example in a salad or smoothie, spinach helps to gently eliminate water retention in your body.
  • ...keeps you fit and healthy. What many people do not know is that 100 g of fresh spinach contains 51 mg of vitamin C, which is even more than the same quantity of oranges contain! This makes it all the more important that spinach is only cooked for a short time, otherwise it loses a lot of it’s vitamin C.
  • ...can help you lose weight. Very few calories, almost no fat and hardly any carbohydrates: spinach is a great diet vegetable for a reason! Whether fresh or frozen, spinach is a great way to lose or maintain weight.
  • ...contains oxalic acid. Combining spinach with cheese or other dairy products is a great idea, since this can slow down the oxalic acid contained in spinach, which otherwise makes it difficult for your body to utilize iron, among other things. But even when combined in this way, it is still true that if you are prone to kidney stones, it is better to eat spinach in moderation, because the oxalic acid can be harmful in this case.

What You Should Know About Spinach

Anyone who likes to eat spinach can hardly imagine that whole generations had unpleasant memories of their childhood meals because of this delicious vegetable. This is because today we see completely different varieties of spinach. Spinach used to contain more bitter substances and oxalic acid than today, and in turn tasted correspondingly tart and left an unpleasant furry feeling in your mouth. But thanks to modern methods, this is no longer the case. Even the once common, not necessarily appetizing preparation of spinach as chopped and overcooked porridge is hardly used anymore. Instead, spinach is now increasingly served in its most delicious form: as raw spinach.

Origins

Botanists suspect that spinach originated in Central Asia, where a wild-growing original form can still be found today.

Seasonality

Spinach is in season from March to the end of June. The rest of the year, you can buy spinach from greenhouse cultures.

Flavor

Spinach tastes pleasantly "like vegetables" and has slightly bitter notes.

Varieties

Although there are about 50 different types, in reality they are generally only divided into spring, summer and winter spinach. Still relatively new on the market is the so-called baby spinach with particularly small, tender leaves.

Our Favorite Spinach Recipes

Our favourite spinach recipes.

How Healthy is Spinach?

"Spinach replaces half the pharmacy," used to be a popular saying. For a long time it was assumed that there were 30-35 milligrams of iron per 100 grams, until it turned out that in reality spinach only contains about 10 percent of this amount. This was a simple miscalculation. Researchers had measured the iron content in dried spinach and accidentally applied it to the fresh spinach as well. For a vegetable, however, about 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100 grams is still quite considerable. So our forefathers were not completely wrong.

And even if spinach does not really "replace half the pharmacy," it is without doubt extremely healthy. For example, it is packed with all the important minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and iodine) and contains significant amounts of vitamin B.

But spinach can really score points for its vitamin C content. Depending on the variety and season, fresh spinach has between between 50 and 155 milligrams per 100 grams. Frozen leaf spinach, however, "only" contains about 37 milligrams of vitamin C, which corresponds to about one third of our average daily requirement.

Spinach is also particularly rich in vitamin A, which is important for good vision and healthy skin: 795 micrograms per 100 grams—that is almost the entire average daily requirement!

Spinach is relatively rich in oxalic acid, which can hinder the utilization of the important minerals calcium and iron in the body. For this reason alone, the frequent custom of eating spinach with cheese or yogurt is a great idea: Dairy products produce calcium oxalate, which makes the oxalic acid harmless.

It is often criticized that spinach contains a relatively high amount of nitrate. This can indeed be problematic for small children, but it can also be beneficial for adults. Several recent studies show that eating a diet rich in nitrate can lower blood pressure and keep the arteries elastic.

Nevertheless, children under the age of 6 months shouldn’t eat spinach. Babies who are already eating solid food can be fed the vegetable once a week from about the seventh month onward. Important: In the case of ready-to-eat foods with spinach, you should feed the jar immediately after opening and heating it. In the case of home-made porridge, you should only use freshly made or freshly thawed spinach. Leftover baby food or children's meals containing spinach should be thrown away and not reheated! Otherwise the nitrate contained in the porridge can turn into toxic nitrite, which is dangerous for babies and small children, because nitrite can hinder the transport of oxygen in the blood.

Spinach Nutritional Info (100 g)  
Calories 22
Protein 2.8 g
Fat  0.3 g
Carbohydrates 0.6 g
Dietary Fiber 1.8 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips for Spinach

Shopping

Whether spring, summer or winter spinach: Make sure that the spinach has juicy green leaves without wilted spots or stains. If you attach importance to a low nitrate content, it is best to use spinach from organic farming, because it is fertilized differently. Like spinach from conventional cultivation, organic spinach is also available deep-frozen.

Storage

If you want to take full advantage of the health benefits of fresh spinach, keep it in the refrigerator for a maximum of two days, otherwise its vitamin content will drop rapidly. Frozen spinach can be kept in the freezer for a year or more without any loss of vitamins.

Preparation

With frozen spinach, simply follow the instructions on the package. Depending on the recipe, you only need to defrost it or cook it briefly.

The preparation of fresh spinach requires a little more effort. The first step is cleaning, which means removing thick stalks and the ends of the stalks. In addition, you sort out leaves that are not quite fresh anymore. Since spinach from the field can be very sandy, it must be washed thoroughly. Fill a large bowl or the clean sink with water, swing the spinach back and forth in it, put it in a sieve and repeat the process until the water remains completely clean. Cornelia Poletto shows you exactly how to do this in our cooking school video.

At the end, drain only lightly or well. In many cases, the spinach is put into the pot dripping wet and without any further liquid.

What To Make With Spinach

Young, tender spinach tastes wonderful raw in mixed salads and can be easily made into juice in a juicer or used in a mixer as an ingredient for smoothies. For the sake of the nutrients and better taste, cook spinach only very briefly for 1-2 minutes—enough time to steam the leaves or use them to spice up soups, gratins, casseroles or pizza.

By the way: For healthy adults, warming up spinach is no problem. However, do not leave leftovers standing around for long after cooling, but place them covered in the refrigerator.

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