Health Benefits Spinach Nutritional Values, Spinach Culinary Uses

The health benefits of spinach are showcased by its outstanding nutritional values supporting its popularity in its many culinary uses as a green vegetable for main meals and as an addition to various pies and quiches, pizzas, salads and stir-fies.

Spinach's tender, crispy, dark green leaves are favorite ingredient that is rich in fiber, antioxidants vitamins and minerals.

Spinach has very high levels of vitamin C and is rich in riboflavin, folate, magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, as well as vitamins B6, E and thiamin. Spinach is a rich source of iron, but much of this is unavailable for absorption due to oxalic acid, high levels of which can cause gout and kidney stones.

So spinach should be eaten in moderation and mixed with other vegetables.

Often referred to as English Spinach, to distinguish it from other Asian plants its scientific name is Spinacia oleracea and it belongs to the Amaranthaceae family and it is native to central and southwestern Asia.

Closest relatives used as vegetables are chard and orache ('French spinach'). There are many unrelated plants called spinach such as New Zealand spinach, Water spinach, Malabar spinach and various Asian greens.

This article highlights the nutritional values of spinach, its health benefits and its many and varied culinary uses.

Spinach has an outstanding array of nutrients as shown in its Nutrition data and provides many health benefits. The culinary uses are diverse and varied.
Spinach has an outstanding array of nutrients as shown in its Nutrition data and provides many health benefits. The culinary uses are diverse and varied. | Source

Foods with High Oxalate Content

Raw Vegetable
Oxalate content (mg per 100 gram serving)
Spinach
750
Beet greens
610
Okra
146
Parsley
100
Leeks
89
Collard greens
74

Iron In Spinach and Warnings about Spinach's High Oxalic Acid Content

n popular culture, spinach is a rich source of iron exemplified by the cartoon character 'Popeye the Sailor Man' who got strong after eating spinach. It is true that there is a lot of iron in spinach with 60 gram serving of boiled spinach containing about 2 mg of iron whereas most other green vegetables only have half this amount.

However, the actual amount of this that is available to this may only be 2-5% of this, because it is non-haeme iron(not derived from haemoglobin in meat) that is absorbed slowly from food. Also spinach contains relatively high levels of oxalate that binds to the iron and forms ferrous oxalate which block the absorption.

Spinach also has relatively a high amounts of calcium, but oxalate binds with calcium as well, decreasing its absorption. In comparison the body can absorb and use about half of the calcium contained in broccoli (25 g of 50 g present), yet only around 5 % of the calcium in spinach (5g of 100 g present). Iron overload cause by too much iron in the diet can also be a problem.

Oxalate is renowned as one of several factors that can contribute to kidney stones and gout and spinach should be avoided by people who have a history of kidney stones or a high risk of developing them.

The table below lists high oxlate food. Several other factors contribute kidney stones including genetic tendency, excess calcium intake, excess vitamin D, high intake of animal protein, prolonged immobility, renal tubular acidosis,hyperparathyroidism and excessive dietary fiber.

Foods that are high in oxalate are spinach, beet leaves, purslane leaves, collards, swiss chard (leaves and stalks), okra, parsley, leeks, quinoa, rhubarb, parsley, amaranth leaves, sorrel.

Foods that are low in oxalate are: Dandelion greens, kale, watercress, most fruits,kale, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, mustard greens, escarole, turnip greens, cabbage and most other greens.

Nutrition Facts for Spinach

Serving 100 g
Nutrient Value
% Recommended Daily Allowance
Energy
23 Cal
1%
Carbohydrates
3.63 g
3%
Protein
2.86 g
5%
Total Fat
0.39 g
1.50%
Cholesterol
0 mg
0%
Dietary Fiber
2.2 g
6%
Vitamins
 
 
Folates
194 mcg
48.50%
Niacin
0.72 mg
4.50%
Pantothenic acid
0.06 mg
1%
Pyridoxine
0.2 mg
15%
Riboflavin
0.19 mg
14.50%
Thiamin
0.08 mg
6.50%
Vitamin A
9377 IU
312%
Vitamin C
28.1 mg
47%
Vitamin E
2.03 mg
13.50%
Vitamin K
482.9 mcg
402%
Electrolytes
 
 
Sodium
79 mg
5%
Potassium
558 mg
12%
Minerals
 
 
Calcium
99 mg
10%
Copper
0.13 mg
14%
Iron
2.71 mg
34%
Magnesium
79 mg
20%
Manganese
0.9 mg
39%
Zinc
0.53 mg
5%
Phyto-nutrients
 
 
Carotene-beta
5626 mcg
--
Crypto-xanthin-beta
0 mcg
--
Lutein-zeaxanthin
12198 mcg
--

Health Benefits of Spinach

The two tables show the nutrition facts for spinach in relation or other green vegetables chard, swiss, celery, kale, endive, beet greens and broccoli.

Spinach has a high nutritional value and is rich in many key nutrients such as antioxidants, especially when fresh, quickly boiled or lightly steamed, or used in stir fries. Prolonged boiling can destroy its value. The key nutrients are vitamins A, C, E, B6 and K. Spinach is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, protein, copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin B2, iron, betaine and folate. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have been shown to occur in spinach.

The main features of the health benefits are:

  • Spinach is very low in fats and calories and fats (100 g of raw leaves provide just 23 calories). It is also rich in soluble dietary fiber ( 2.3 g per 100 g) and protein (2.8 g per 100 g) for which these values are higher than most of the other green vegetables.
  • Fresh spinach leaves are rich source of various anti-oxidant compounds such as vitamins A and C; and other antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin.
  • 100 g of Spinach provides all of the of the recommended daily requirements for vitamin-K requirements and spinach is the richest source of folate for the comparable vegetables with about 200 micrograms per 100g of fresh spinach.
  • Spinach is also a rich source of many B-complex vitamins, particularly thiamin, (vitamin B-1), riboflavin, folates, vitamin- B6 (pyridoxine) and niacin.
  • Spinach is a good source of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and copper, with values exceeding those in other vegetables.

Comparison of Spinach Nutrients with Alternatives

serving 100 g
spinach
chard, swiss
celery
kale
endive
beet greens
broccoli
Macronutrients
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Calories (kcal)
23
19
16
51
16
21
34
Protein (g)
2.87
1.81
0.69
3.3
1.24
2.21
2.82
Total Fat (g)
0.4
0.19
0.18
0.7
0.2
0.13
0.37
Total Carbohydrates (g)
3.63
3.75
2.98
10.01
3.36
4.34
6.64
Dietary Fiber (g)
2.33
1.67
1.63
1.94
3.2
3.68
2.64
Sugar (g)
0.43
1.11
1.83
 
0.24
0.5
1.7
Vitamins
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Vitamin C (mg)
28
30
3.13
120
6.4
30
89.23
Thiamin (mg)
0.08
0.04
0.02
0.11
0.08
0.1
0.07
Riboflavin (mg)
0.19
0.09
0.06
0.13
0.07
0.22
0.12
Niacin (mg)
0.72
0.4
0.32
1
0.4
0.4
0.64
Pantothenic Acid (mg)
0.07
0.17
0.25
0.09
0.9
0.25
0.57
Vitamin B6 (mg)
0.2
0.1
0.07
0.27
0.02
0.11
0.17
Folate (mcg)
193.33
13.89
36.25
28.36
142
15.79
62.64
Vitamin B12 (mcg)
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Vitamin A (IU)
9376
6116
448
15376
2168
6326
623
Vitamin E (mg)
2.03
1.89
0.28
 
0.44
1.5
0.78
Vitamin K (mcg)
483
830
29.25
817.01
231
400
101.65
Minerals
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Calcium (mg)
100
50
40
134.33
52
115.79
47.25
Iron (mg)
2.7
1.81
0.2
1.7
0.82
2.58
0.73
Magnesium (mg)
80
80.56
11.25
34.33
16
71.05
20.88
Phosphorus (mg)
50
47.22
23.75
56.72
28
42.11
65.93
Potassium (mg)
556.67
377.78
260
446.27
314
763.16
316.48
Sodium (mg)
80
213.89
80
43.28
22
226.32
32.97
Zinc (mg)
0.53
0.36
0.13
0.43
0.8
0.37
0.41
Copper (mg)
0.13
0.18
0.04
0.29
0.1
0.19
0.05
Manganese (mg)
0.9
0.37
0.1
0.77
0.42
0.39
0.21
Selenium (mcg)
1
0.83
0.38
0.9
0.2
0.79
2.53
Fatty Acids
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Saturated Fat (g)
0.06
0.03
0.04
0.09
0.05
0.02
0.04
Monounsaturated Fat (g)
0.01
0.04
0.03
0.05
0
0.03
0.01
Polyunsaturated�Fat (g)
0.17
0.07
0.08
0.34
0.09
0.04
0.04

Culinary Uses for Spinach

Spinach is sold loose, in bunches of fresh spinach, packaged fresh in bags, frozen or canned.

Fresh spinach can lose its load of nutrients during storage beyond a couple of days.

To prepare fresh spinach wash the leaves thoroughly in clean running water and then rinsed in salt water.

Trim away any tough stems.

The raw leaves can be used individually or chopped for use in various recipes.

Serving tips include:

Raw fresh spinach can be added to salads, veggie burgers pasta source or as juice.

The antioxidant properties are rapidly lost though steaming, boiling or frying and so minimal cooking is recommended.

Spinach can be added to noodles, pie, pasta, quiches, various rice preparations, soups as well as in baby foods. It goes well with feta cheese

You can chopped fresh or frozen spinach to lasagna and other pasta dishes to add color and nutrients

Spinach dips can be eaten with whole grain breads as a quick snack.

Use fresh spinach to replace lettuce in sandwiches and other lunch items.

Add chopped fresh or frozen spinach to frittatas and omelets.

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 2 comments

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

This really shows the picture of spinach. We have it about twice a week. Sometimes cooked and sometimes raw. Also vary it with other greens. I love it and I know there are a few caveates. thanks for putting this great hub together and voted UP./


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

You went into great detail about all of the many micro-nutrients and reasons why spinach is healthy for us to consume except for those people who suffer from gout and a few other problems. I added a link from your hub into my latest recipe hub titled Spinach Balls ~ The Perfect Bite Sized Hors d'oeuvre. It makes a nice addition. Thought that you would like to know. UUI votes and will share.

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