Spinach: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits of spinach, its nutritional information, and various cuisines that include this leafy green, along with storage tips and potential side effects.

What Is Spinach?

  • Spinach is a leafy green flowering plant native to central and western Asia
  • The leaves are a common edible vegetable eaten either fresh, or after storage using techniques to preserve it by canning , freezing , or dehydration .
  • Spinach belongs to the amaranth family and is related to beets and quinoa

Is Spinach Good For You?

Spinach is definitely good for you! It is loaded with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

4 Health Benefits Of Spinach

  1. Spinach is a good source of quercetin , a phytochemical
    1. Quercetin adds color/pigment to fruits and vegetables and is an antioxidant
    2. Quercetin may be good for heart health by helping lower blood pressure and cholesterol
    3. It may reduce inflammation and help blood circulation, which is good for brain health
  2. Spinach is good for eye health
    1. Spinach is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids (versions of Vitamin A) that are important for eye health. They may help prevent macular degeneration.
  3. Spinach is a good source of iron and calcium
    1. Iron is a mineral that the body needs for growth and development. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. Your body also needs iron to make some hormones
    2. ​​Your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly. Some studies suggest that calcium, along with vitamin D, may have benefits beyond bone health
    3. You’ll absorb more calcium and iron if you eat it cooked. Spinach is loaded with oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of iron and calcium but breaks down under high temperatures.
    4. A study found that cooking spinach quickly in boiling water, then plunging it into cold water, reduced oxalate content by 40 percent, on average, which was more effective than pan or pressure cooking.
  4. Spinach is a good source of fiber
    1. Fiber is helpful for good digestion and to help move food through our digestive system

History, Background About General Facts Spinach

  • Spinach is thought to have originated about 2,000 years ago in ancient Persia . It was then introduced to India and ancient China through Nepal in 647 AD as the "Persian vegetable"
  • The first written evidence of spinach in the Mediterranean region was recorded in three 10th-century works
  • Spinach became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean and arrived in Spain by the end of the 12th century
  • Spinach is mentioned in the first known English cookbook , the Forme of Cury (1390), where it is referred to as 'spinnedge' and 'spynoches'.
  • During World War I , wine fortified with spinach juice was given to injured French soldiers to stop their bleeding .
  • The comics and cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man has been portrayed since 1931 with him eating spinach to get strong, particularly the canned variety.
  • It can be eaten cooked or raw (the taste is very different raw vs. cooked)
  • High in oxalates (compound naturally found in foods that can contribute to the formation of kidney stones). The high oxalate content can be reduced by steaming or boiling (with changing the water a couple of times) the spinach
  • True spinach(Spinacea oleracia)grows best in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, although early and late varieties can extend the season into summer and winter.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Spinach?

  • Greek - spanakopita, spanakorizo (creamy rice and spinach dish)
  • Indian - saag paneer
  • Persian - borani (yogurt topped with cooked spinach and fried onion and walnuts)
  • French - Florentine means a dish with cooked spinach, a protein, and a Mornay sauce (a creamy, cheese sauce) like a Florentine omelet, or chicken Florentine
  • Italian - spinach stuffed in pasta
  • Thai - stir fried spinach with garlic and peanuts
  • Japanese - ohitashi (spinach salad) cooked spinach with sesame seeds
  • Chinese - stir fried spinach with garlic

What Is The Best Way To Store Spinach?

  • Most people say to wash it, take off stems, and wrap in paper towels and put in a container or a bag in the refrigerator drawer
  • Baby spinach, keep in the bag or container it came in in a drawer or on a shelf in the refrigerator

What Are The Different Types Of Spinach?

  • Savoy : handles cold well, crinkled leaves, looks pretty sturdy
  • Semi-Savoy: plant stands more upright, less crinkled, easier to wash, disease and bolt resistant (home gardeners use this often)
  • Smooth-Leafed: very clean, smooth leaves, used in canned and frozen

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Spinach

  • Spinach is a good source of Vitamin K (almost 4x the daily needs), so if you take Warfarin or other blood thinners, talk to your doctor about consuming spinach because it could decrease the effectiveness of the drug.
  • Spinach is high in both calcium and oxalates (both can build up in some people causing kidney stones), so people who are at a high risk of developing kidney stones should limit their intake

Best Spinach Recipes