By mistake, spinach has long been considered ten times more iron-rich than it is in reality. But even if spinach is no longer on the top of the list of iron-containing foods, the vegetables have a lot to offer. Numerous healthy ingredients and few calories make the leafy vegetables not only a popular ingredient in many recipes, but also the ideal food during a diet. What is so healthy about spinach and what should be considered in the preparation, you can find out here.
What is spinach good for?
Spinach is not only popular in the kitchen. Also as a medicinal plant the vegetables are attributed various positive effects on health:
- The cooked leaves can help against flatulence. Even with diarrhea, spinach is considered an easily digestible light food.
- Spinach seeds are used as laxatives.
- Due to its magnesium content and various other ingredients, spinach can reduce blood pressure.
- Thanks to the antioxidants it contains, spinach is said to have a cancer-preventing effect.
- Spinach can promote the growth of muscles. According to an American study, the vegetables contain phytoecdysteroids, which help build muscle - but you would have to eat one kilogram of spinach every day for a noticeable effect. A Swedish study came to the conclusion that the nitrate contained in spinach promotes muscle growth.
In folk medicine, spinach is also considered a remedy for loss of appetite and fatigue. He should also reduce fever and be suitable for the treatment of inflammation.
Spinach protects the eyes
Spinach has a positive effect on the eyes in two ways. First, it contains a large amount of beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. A deficiency of this provitamin can lead to night blindness.
Second, the vegetable scores high with its high content of the carotenoid lutein. The micronutrient helps to bind free radicals in the eye and protects the sensitive retina from the damaging effects of solar radiation. In addition, lutein should help to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Slimming with spinach - is that possible?
Even when losing weight spinach can be a good helper. Because the thylakoids contained in the leafy vegetables can slow down the fat digestion and thus prevent food cravings, as a Swedish study showed. In addition, the value of LDL cholesterol dropped among the study participants.
But if you smell the perfect spinach diet with green spinach smoothies and spinach salad, you'll be disappointed. Because the thylakoids have to be extracted from the spinach according to the researchers in the laboratory, so that they can be used by the body.
Nevertheless, spinach can serve well in diets because the vegetables are low in calories and rich in healthy nutrients. Thanks to its low carbohydrate content, spinach is also great for low carb diets.
Nutritional values and ingredients - that's in spinach
Spinach has a lot of healthy ingredients. For example, spinach is suitable as a source of various vitamins. In addition to the already mentioned beta-carotene, it contains, among other things:
- folic acid
- vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
There are plenty of antioxidants in the vegetables that, as scavengers of free radicals, can help to prevent cancer. The green leafy vegetables are especially rich in the following minerals:
- Potassium and magnesium, which are needed, among other things, for the function of nerves and muscles
- Calcium, which is indispensable for growth and new formation of bones and teeth
- Zinc, which among other things strengthens the immune system and is needed for numerous metabolic processes
- Iron, which is important for the absorption and transport of oxygen
Furthermore, spinach contains about 2.5 percent protein, 1.6 percent carbohydrates and 0.4 percent fat and consists of about 93 percent water.
And how many calories does spinach have? Fresh spinach is relatively low in calories with just twenty kilocalories (kcal) per 100 grams.
Iron content of spinach - myth and truth
For a long time, spinach was believed to contain about 35 milligrams of iron per 100 grams. Then it turned out that this value was wrong - at least not for fresh spinach. The extremely high iron content was calculated for spinach powder in 1890 and later may have been mistakenly transferred to fresh spinach - when and how the error came about is controversial.
But miscalculation or not: Even with "only" 3.5 to 4 milligrams of iron per 100 grams of fresh spinach is still ironier than many other vegetables.
Nevertheless, spinach is not an ideal source of iron. On the one hand, the body can not utilize plant iron as well as animal. On the other hand, spinach contains oxalic acid, which binds the contained iron and makes it so difficult for the body to absorb the mineral.
Therefore, it is advisable to eat spinach in conjunction with foods that reduce the effect of oxalic acid. These include, for example, vitamin C-rich foods such as tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli or oranges. Calcium also facilitates the absorption of iron. Short cooking or blanching of the spinach also reduces the proportion of oxalic acid and makes the contained iron so also better usable.
Dangers due to oxalic acid
The fact that oxalic acid impedes the absorption of iron in spinach is not its only drawback: It binds not only iron but also calcium, which is why it can damage teeth and bones if consumed too much.
In the worst case, the combination of oxalic acid and the body's own calcium can cause deposits in the body that develop into kidney or bladder stones.
This mainly affects people with a previous illness. Except for people with kidney problems, special care should be taken with regard to oxalic acid for osteoporosis, gout, rheumatism or arthritis.
Tip: Eating spinach in conjunction with milk or dairy products such as cream, creme fraiche or cheese can help reduce the effect of oxalic acid on the body's calcium, as the calcium in the milk neutralizes oxalic acid during cooking.
Why do you get dull teeth from spinach?
Oxalic acid in spinach is also responsible for another effect: when eating spinach, it can cause a reaction in our mouth between the oxalic acid and the calcium in our teeth. That's why sometimes you feel like spinach makes your teeth dull. This furry feeling disappears after a short time by itself.
Nevertheless, after eating spinach, you should wait at least half an hour to brush your teeth to avoid further damage to the enamel that has already been attacked.
Can you eat spinach raw?
Contrary to popular belief, raw spinach is not toxic. You can easily eat raw spinach. However, only the young spring or summer spinach is suitable for raw consumption, for example in salads or green smoothies. It contains relatively little oxalic acid. The long-stemmed autumn or winter spinach is always eaten cooked.
However, cooked spinach has a higher recyclability of the valuable ingredients compared to raw spinach - provided it has been gently prepared, for example steamed or blanched.
Nitrate in spinach
Due to its high nitrate content, spinach is said to have some harmful effects on health. However, a fundamental warning about spinach is not appropriate, as confirmed by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.
The fact is: When growing spinach in appropriately fertilized soils, the plant absorbs nitrate from it. In the body or in the processing of spinach, the initially harmless nitrate can be converted to nitrite and then possibly into nitrosamines. This substance is believed to cause cancer when consumed regularly.
However, this is no reason to renounce from now on spinach, because that even nitrosamines, could not be detected in humans so far. And as so often, the crowd makes the poison: The daily intake of a certain amount of nitrate is considered to be harmless to health. Some studies even suggest a health-promoting effect of nitrate and nitrite. For example, nutrition high in nitrates should improve blood circulation in the stomach and lower blood pressure.
However, the general recommendation is that adults should not eat spinach more than once a week. This is especially true for people with poor iodine supply, because nitrate inhibits the uptake and transport of iodine to the thyroid gland.
Tip: The nitrate content in frozen spinach is lower than in fresh spinach, as frozen spinach was blanched shortly after harvest. It may also be advisable to buy organic spinach (preferably summer spinach), as other fertilizers are used in organic farming and therefore the nitrate content is lower.
When can babies eat spinach?
Spinach's assessment of the health risks of babies and young children is different: Nitrite can be detrimental to infants because it can interfere with the transport of oxygen in the blood (methemoglobinaemia), which can lead to life-threatening hypoxia at this age (blue-blooded).
Therefore, children should eat spinach at the earliest from the age of six months - and then not raw, only in small quantities and not when the spinach has been reheated. It is best to use only purchased baby food with spinach at the beginning, as it is subject to strict requirements in terms of nitrate content.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also notes that the risk of methaemoglobinaemia can not be ruled out by the time three years of consuming large amounts of spinach in one day.
Even children suffering from a bacterial gastrointestinal disease should refrain from spinach, because such infections favor the conversion of nitrate into nitrite.
5 facts about spinach - © istockphoto, nata_vkusidey
Use of spinach
Spinach can be prepared very versatile. A popular traditional dish is potatoes with spinach and fried egg. But also in the form of salmon rolls, pasta with spinach, puff pastry snails or as vegetarian spinach lasagna, the leafy vegetables find many supporters.
As a side dish, spinach goes well with carrots, broccoli, tomatoes or onions. For seasoning salt and pepper as well as nutmeg and garlic are best.
Prepare fresh spinach - how it works!
Fresh spinach should be thoroughly washed before preparation but should not be left in the water so as not to leach out the nutrients. The stems are best cut off. The spinach is then blanched, that is, placed in boiling water for one minute. To ensure that the spinach retains its green color and remains crisp, you can immediately dip it into ice water.
Then pour the cooking water away as it absorbs oxalic acid and nitrite from the spinach.
Frozen spinach can be heated directly in the saucepan without prior defrosting. This also reduces the risk of germination. Once thawed spinach should be processed and consumed as soon as possible.
By the way: Since the vitamin A that is so valuable to our eyes is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, spinach should always be prepared with a little fat. Ideal for this is a cold-pressed oil containing a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as rapeseed oil.
Buy spinach - what should I pay attention to?
Spinach can be bought - in one form or another - in every supermarket. You can choose between the tender spring and summer spinach, which has a season between March and May, and the larger and more vigorous autumn and winter spinach harvested from September to November. There is also the frozen spinach available all year round.
The following distinction is also made with spinach:
- Leaf spinach usually consists of quite large leaves. It can be frozen or bought fresh.
- Baby spinach is especially tender and available both fresh and frozen.
- Root spinach is fresh spinach, which is offered along with roots.
- Creamed spinach is shredded spinach refined with cream - for vegans and people with lactose intolerance, this variant, usually frozen, is not suitable.
When buying fresh spinach, make sure that the leaves do not look dull or sick, but look green and crisp.
Incidentally, even if chard is often processed like spinach, these are different types of vegetables.
Shelf life and storage of spinach
Fresh spinach can be stored in the fridge compartment for about two to five days. It is best to wrap the leaves in a damp kitchen towel so that they do not dry out.
But what about any leftovers? Finally you hear again and again, you can not warm up spinach twice and not freeze again. Is that correct?
- Can you reheat spinach? Yes. It should be noted, however, that spinach should not be kept warm for too long, as heat may favor the formation of nitrite. Therefore: Spinach always warm up quickly, let it cool down quickly and store leftovers for at most one day in the fridge. Young children should not eat warmed up spinach.
- Is it allowed to freeze spinach? Fresh spinach can be easily frozen after a short blanching and quenching and stored for about ten months. But when it comes to frozen spin, re-freezing is not recommended. Even if re-freezing is not a problem, as long as food is heated before consumption, it is a good precaution not to freeze once the food has thawed.
Knowledge for the know-it-alls - 5 facts about spinach
There are numerous rumors surrounding spinach - from the myth about the high iron value to the assumption that spinach is poisonous when warming up. And beyond that spinach is good for some surprise. Here are five amazing facts about spinach for you:
- What contains more iron: spinach or chocolate? With an average of 6.7 milligrams of iron per 100 grams of dark chocolate, it is clear that spinach contains only 3.5 to 4 milligrams of iron.
- Why do you eat spinach on Maundy Thursday? Although the name Maundy Thursday does not come from the color green, but the word "weeping", it has become customary in many regions to eat something green on Maundy Thursday - but this does not always have to be spinach.
- Do green gummy bears contain spinach? Indirectly. The green pigment in the spinach, the chlorophyll, gives the green gummy its color. Also for coloring noodles, Easter eggs, mouthwash or toothpaste the dye is used.
- How to remove spinach stains? For fresh spots, warm soapy water helps. Popular home remedy for spinach stains are also alcohol or rubbing with raw potato slices.
- Why is Popeye eating spinach? The reason for Popeye's preference for spinach is probably not the iron content of spinach, which at that time was considered significantly higher. In the early years of the comic, Popeye himself explains that he is eating the spinach because of its high vitamin A content.