Popeye, the 20th century pop culture character, wasn’t wrong for having a strong affinity for spinach!
He was right after all, spinach appears to be the rhinestone of the leafy greens, packed with abundance of nutrients from vitamins, minerals, to strongly powerful plant compounds having supernatural benefits.
Of the many ways that people consume spinach all over the world includes munching them directly in their fresh state — when washed under running tap water to rid them of sand and dirt and also lingering parasites.
Yes, you heard that right!
Spinach can be eaten raw, and this method is in fact one of the most common methods of eating spinach around the world. Prior to eating raw spinach, ensure to wash the leaves thoroughly to remove any lingering sand and dirt and also parasites like aphids. Munch on the clean leaves as they are, or blend them together with water or milk to form a green smoothie full of fiber.
For raw consumption, consider the baby spinach variety which has less mature leaves harvested from the spinach plant.
They are comparatively smaller than mature spinach that are harvested at a much later date and are more tender and better tasting to the buds.
Also, ensure to go for spinach from reliable and trusted farms to reduce your chances of eating pesticides and other harmful chemicals sprayed on them.
If you’re growing the spinach yourself, and looking forward to consuming them raw, make sure they’re not sprayed with pesticides and harmful chemicals, but are instead treated with versions of these that are all natural and not synthetic, for example, animal manure.
Is there a nutritional difference and superiority between raw and cooked spinach?
When it comes to the nutritional difference and superiority between cooked and raw spinach, an overwhelming majority of nutritionists maintain that the tie is quite balanced, or the comparison is unneeded.
The reason for such a position is because both methods of eating spinach have their own good side and bad side — which are all significant.
Here’s what we mean by that.
Eating spinach raw means you can get more of the water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C and B absorbed into your body as opposed to heating it up which leaches out a portion of the Vitamins into the broth or substrate water.
Boiling specifically leaches out more than any other method of cooking, especially when it’s done for long!
Additionally, some nutrients just aren’t stable under prolonged heat application, and when they’re initially present in minute quantities, they may be lost completely after cooking the vegetable.
At the same time, some nutrients are only more readily available for the body to absorb when the spinach is cooked.
This is because the heat applied to the spinach causes the cell matrix to break down thus releasing more of these nutrients, which makes their levels boost up more than in the raw product. A typical example is folate!
So you see how the tie is sort of balanced with regards to cooked and raw spinach.
That’s why there’s no best way (between raw and cooking) to eat spinach. In my opinion, everything depends on what you intend to achieve at the end of the day!
One important thing to note about cooked spinach is that, some of the nutrients that leaches from it to the substrate are in quantities that shouldn’t be the cause for anyone’s alarm, for instance, with Vitamin C, you lose some of it when you cook spinach in water, fine, but what’s remaining in one cup of cooked spinach is still more than enough to provide for your Daily Value Vitamin C requirements, the same way the raw variant would!
Additionally, for some of the nutrients that you lose while cooking, you can always replenish them back from other ingredients in the recipe you’re making. (I assume you’re not only cooking spinach plain and eating it like that!)
So keep your heart at ease and do whatever you wish with the spinach leaves!
I’d recommend doing both! Cook spinach the best way you know how to and then top it off with two, three spinach leaves!
What are the health benefits of eating raw spinach?
According to scientific studies and research, spinach has the following health benefits for both the raw and cooked variant.
- Spinach contains the same plant compounds (zeaxanthin and lutein) which are found in our eyes that play the role of protecting them against damage from sunlight. Consuming spinach therefore, is linked to the promotion of healthy eyes.
- Studies have shown that eating spinach can help lower blood pressure levels through the plant compound called nitrates. This same compound is also linked with improved heart health.
- Spinach contains antioxidants that can prevent damage caused by free radicals in the body, for example, accelerated aging and increased risk of cancer.
- Spinach can help keep you hydrated since over 90 percent of the vegetable consists of water.
- Spinach helps to improve the functioning of the immune system through vitamins like Vitamin E and minerals like magnesium.
- Pregnant women can benefit their fetus by consuming spinach. The folate in it can prevent some type of birth defects and even assist with the brain development of the child in the womb and after it’s born.
Who should be wary of eating raw spinach?
Those who have kidney stones, or those in likelihood of developing kidney stones such as individuals with one or more episodes of kidney stones in the past, should be wary of eating spinach whether raw or cooked.
Read: How to eat green bananas
This is because a certain compound called oxalate, increases the chances of forming kidney stones in the body.
So people who fall into this category are advised to seek the medical assistance of the doctor regarding the consumption of spinach.
More on oxalate
Spinach contains an organic compound called oxalate in pretty high quantities.
This compound has been studied and discovered to bind to certain minerals like calcium and iron and prevent their absorption in the gut.
Instead, the result of the love affair between the two compounds is passed out from the body through stool or urine.
So when consuming spinach, always make sure you have other sources of calcium and iron, or better still, make sure you’re incorporating it mainly as part of a balanced diet. And do not consume more than 2 cups per day!
Do not rely on spinach as a sole diet on its own, worse, for prolonged periods.
Don’t rely on it only or mostly for your weight loss regimen or to achieve certain mineral build up. The risks are far too big to ignore!
How to eat spinach raw
Eat spinach leaves raw
Pick up the leaves and wash them thoroughly under running water.
Make sure to go through each leaf carefully to catch aphids and other insects that are lingering around, especially when you harvested the spinach from your backyard farm.
For a much sweeter experience, opt for baby spinach leaves and purpose the much bigger and mature leaves for recipes like artichoke dips and puffs that require subjecting them under heat.
Add spinach to salads
Another way to consume spinach is by chopping them up and adding them to salads. This way, the mild tastes can be masked out to some extent using flavors from other ingredients and vegetables.
Make spinach smoothies
You can blend spinach with water and make the most basic smoothie any recipe book can cover. For more twists in flavor and texture, add fruits like banana, apple and lemon.
Slide them into sandwiches
Make spinach a substitute for lettuxe or other vegetables in your bread sandwiches.
What is the best way to cook spinach for nutrient
Sautéing is one of those cooking methods that preserves nutrients in vegetables that would otherwise leach in broth.
Saute garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Then add washed spinach to the pan and try to coat the spinach with the garlic flavored and scented oil.
Cover and cook for a minute, then stir and cook for an additional one minute.
Thicken cooked spinach with heavy cream and cheese for a hearty dish after work. Season as you like and serve with rice or potatoes.
Aside from being cooked, spinach can be eaten raw and the fresh ones typically pack the most nutrition.
Aged spinach leaves are far less nutritious and are better purposed for uses that do not revolve around their nutritional benefits.
Spinach can be made into smoothies to make eating them easier or more interesting. In this technique, fruits like bananas and apples can be added to uplift the boring flavor of spinach, and milk can be used as substrate to add more protein and absorbable calcium.
Another way that spinach can be eaten raw is as it is, by munching on the leaves or cutting them into salads.