Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spinach - Raw vs. Cooked

Was Popeye right?  

There is no denying spinach is healthy for us but does the way in which we eat it affect its ability to give us superhuman strength?

One of the most popular misconceptions I come across regularly is people telling me how they juice and eat spinach for iron and calcium.  After all, we are told leafy greens contain plenty of the both and lots of vegetarians need to load up on their iron and calcium.  Truth is, spinach (and chard and beet greens) contains high amounts of oxalic acid, which prevents the absorption of both iron and calcium!

Wait...don't put that spinach down yet!  It still contains buttloads of Vitamin K, A and Folate...but its not the iron powerhouse that many think it is.  In addition, although raw veggies are chock full of enzymes, it seems that the verdict is out and lightly cooked spinach contain some higher concentrations of these vitamins and minerals.  Cooking or steaming spinach does kill off some of the oxalates but probably not enough to make a significant difference.  Due to the oxalic acid in this leafy green, it is estimated that only about 5% of the calcium contained in those luscious leaves can be absorbed.

Cooking spinach and some other veggies breaks down the cell walls of the vegetable, making the vitamins and minerals more available to us.  While both raw and lightly cooked can be considered healthy, the cooked version supposedly does boast more vitamin and mineral content than that of is raw sister.  When cooking, though, steam or lightly saute.  Boiling will diminish the nutritional content so much that it's hardly worth eating.

People prone to kidney stones should also note that oxalates found in raw spinach (beet greens, chard, etc) combine with calcium to form kidney stones.  This does not mean that eating spinach will cause kidney stones, but that if you are prone to them, you may want to limit your intake of this veg in the raw.  Those suffering from thyroid disease or gout may want to limit consumption also.


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