Is there any nutrition in cooked spinach? Cooking may sometimes cause a loss of some nutrients like vitamin C, making you wonder whether spinach nutrition is still intact after cooking.
The simple answer is yes, and one reason is that cooking breaks down the level of oxalic acid in spinach, thus promoting nutrient absorption.
Oxalic acids are antinutrient compounds that inhibit the absorption of some essential nutrients like iron, calcium, and more.
Cooking may also increase some nutrients in spinach, such as vitamin A, vitamin K, and antioxidants.
In this article, you’ll discover more about cooked spinach nutrition and the best cooking method to use for optimum benefits.
What is spinach?
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable and one of the most nutritious to consume.
It belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, together with other nutrient-rich leafy greens, such as beets and Swiss chard.
These vegetables are highly valued for their high nutrient content, including vitamins A, C, E, and K, potassium, folate, calcium, manganese, and iron. They are also a good source of antioxidants like carotenoids. How To Grow Spinach.
Regular consumption of spinach can fight inflammation, prevent sun damage, boost immunity, treat hypertension, improve eyesight, reduce asthma, and prevent damage to the brain and the nervous system.
Spinach can be consumed raw, especially in smoothies, salads, and juices. It can also be cooked and added to various dishes.
Both cooking methods come with unique tastes and health benefits, with each method providing more or less certain nutrients.
Nonetheless, the secret is in balancing your raw and cooked servings. But generally, cooked spinach can offer a wide range of nutrients.
Nutrition in Cooked Spinach
One cup, about 180 grams of cooked spinach, can provide up to
- Calories: 41.4
- Carbohydrates: 6.7 grams
- Protein: 5.3 grams
- Fat: 0.5 gram
- dietary fiber: 4.3 grams
- vitamin K: 889 micrograms, or 111 percent of the daily value (DV)
- vitamin A: 18,867 international units, or 377 percent DV
- manganese: 1.7 milligrams, or 84 percent DV
- folate: 263 micrograms, or 66 percent DV
- magnesium: 157 milligrams, or 39 percent DV
- iron: 6.4 milligrams, or 36 percent DV
- vitamin C: 17.6 milligrams, or 29 percent DV
- riboflavin: 0.4 milligrams, or 25 percent DV
- calcium: 245 milligrams, or 24 percent DV
- potassium: 839 milligrams, or 24 percent DV
- vitamin B6: 0.4 milligrams, or 22 percent DV
- vitamin E: 3.7 milligrams, or 19 percent DV
- copper: 0.3 milligrams, or 16 percent DV
- thiamine: 0.2 milligrams, or 11 percent DV
- phosphorus: 101 milligrams, or 10 percent DV
Health benefits of cooked spinach
1. It’s high in iron
Iron is an essential mineral that the body needs for many functions.
For example, the body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is essential for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Iron also helps the body produce myoglobin, a different protein that carries oxygen to the muscles.
Iron is also needed for growth, development, and for the production of hormones.
The only way to obtain iron is by consuming iron-rich foods like spinach. However, cooked spinach may contain more iron than raw one.
One cup of cooked spinach (180mg) contains 6.4mg or 36% of your daily requirement, while a cup of raw spinach can only offer 0.8mg or 5% of your needs.
So if you have iron deficiency anemia and looking for a healthy way to boost your iron, include cooked spinach in most of your meals.
This may also benefit women, especially after childbirth or during menstruation when there’s blood loss.
Moreover, with cooked spinach, you don’t need an external source of vitamin C to boost its absorption. Although some vitamin C may be lost while cooking, a cup of cooked spinach may still provide up to 29% of your daily requirement. This is sufficient.
2. Cooked spinach can provide sufficient amounts of folate
Folate, or vitamin B9, is an essential B vitamin necessary for producing your cell DNA and RNA, red blood cells and white blood cells, and for protein metabolism.
It’s also essential for breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid that can cause damage to the body if left to accumulate.
Additionally, folate is essential for pregnant women as it helps prevent congenital abnormalities of the brain and spine.
Dark green leafy vegetables, including kale, arugula, and spinach, are the highest sources.
While raw spinach is high in folate, with 100 grams providing 194 mcg, or 49% of your daily needs, the same amount of cooked spinach will provide 146mcg or 37%of your daily requirement, which is still a good amount
Besides spinach, you can easily obtain folate from various foods, including leafy greens like kale, collard greens, beets, brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, and legumes like beans.
3. Cooked spinach is high in flavonoids
Flavonoids are natural plant compounds with numerous health benefits.
These phytonutrients mainly contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and can protect the body against free radical damage.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage leading to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and cancer.
Flavonoids can also fight chronic inflammation in the body And relieve pain.
Kaempferol, quercetin, and carotenoids are some of the common flavonoids in spinach. The carotenoids include beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Research shows that these carotenoids are more readily absorbed when the spinach is heated up than when consumed raw.
4. Cooked spinach is low in oxalates
Oxalates are compounds found in many plant foods, including vegetables, beans, and grains. They are also made in the body. Unfortunately, these compounds can be harmful, especially if the levels are too high.
For one, the oxalates in spinach have been shown to bind to calcium, thus preventing its absorption in the body.
They have also been shown to slow the absorption of iron, zinc, and magnesium.
Too many oxalates in the body can also combine with calcium in the urine, causing crystals to form. These crystals can then stick together to form kidney stones. This is why people with a history of kidney stones or those at risk should avoid foods high in oxalates.
The good thing is that oxalates are water soluble and can be reduced by cooking the spinach in water and discarding the water.
You can also blanch or steam your spinach. Boiling may, however, be the most effective method to keep the oxalate levels low.
One study found that boiling reduced 30-87% of the oxalates, while steaming did the same job by up to 5-53%.
5. Cooked spinach is high in protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient that can provide numerous benefits, including;
- Speeding recovery after an injury or exercise
- Building lean mass
- Reducing muscle loss
- Maintaining healthy weight
- Curbing hunger and reducing appetite
- Promoting bone metabolism
- Boosting the immune system
- Controlling blood sugar levels
- Maintaining healthy hair
- Balancing hormones
- Maintaining healthy skin
- Preventing heart-related conditions
While spinach may not provide too much of it, the little it contains can come a long way in boosting your intake.
One cup of cooked spinach can provide up to 11 percent of your daily requirement, while raw spinach can offer up to 2 percent in the same serving.
6. Higher vitamin A levels
Vitamin A is another essential nutrient cooked spinach can provide in huge amounts compared to its raw counterpart.
One benefit of consuming vitamin A-rich foods is that they can support healthy vision.
This is because vitamin A helps maintain a clear cornea, the outer covering of your eye that covers the pupil and the iris and allows light to enter the eye.
Vitamin A is also part of the rhodopsin pigment of the eye, which allows you to see in a low-light environment.
Vitamin A also helps strengthen the immune system by maintaining the body’s natural defenses. These may include the mucous membranes in the lungs, eyes, and gut, which trap bacteria and outer pathogens, preventing their invasion into the body.
That’s why low vitamin A levels can increase your risk of infections and lengthen your recovery period.
For example, a study found that children with pre-existing vitamin A deficiency were more prone to diarrhea and respiratory conditions.
7. Cooked spinach is high in vitamin K
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for forming certain proteins needed for blood clotting processes and building strong bones.
Half a cup of cooked spinach can offer about three times the vitamin K in a cup of raw spinach. Nonetheless, even a cup of raw spinach can still provide more than 100 percent of your daily requirement.
The downsides of cooking spinach
1. Cooking spinach lowers its vitamin C levels
Vitamin C is a water-soluble and heat-sensitive vitamin, and a considerable amount can leach into the water when cooking, especially during boiling.
One study found that boiling can lower vitamin C in spinach by up to 50 percent.
Other water-soluble vitamins that may be lost during this period are the B vitamins.
However, consuming the water used to cook the spinach can retain 70-80 percent of the B vitamins. But don’t forget, the resulting juices also contain oxalates.
2. It may be high in added fats
While raw spinach has no fat added to it, cooked spinach may sometimes contain too much-added fat, including saturated fats and trans fats. These can increase your calorie intake and increase the risk of inflammation.
So if you decide to cook your spinach, ensure you’re using healthy fats like olive oil to ensure you don’t turn a healthy food ingredient into something damaging.
Which is Healthier
At this point, your biggest question could be, which one is healthier and better? Well, both raw and cooked spinach is beneficial. So relying on one form over the other can only limit the number of certain nutrients you receive.
The best practice is to incorporate both raw and cooked spinach into your diet. And to boost some of the vitamins lost with cooking, for example, vitamin C, try pairing your cooked spinach with other vitamin C-rich foods like tomatoes.
Also, consider blanching the vegetables instead of prolonged cooking. This way, you won’t lose too much vitamin C.
How to Cook Spinach
There are different ways to cook spinach. Here are some methods to try
This is one of the easiest and quickest methods to cook your spinach.
You only need to bring your water to a boil, add a little salt, spinach, and cover.
Once the steam starts to form, set your timer. 3-5 minutes of boiling is sufficient to cook your spinach and retain the nutrients.
Drain and adjust your seasoning before serving. If using it in different dishes, run it under cold water to stop the cooking process.
The downside to boiling is that the spinach can feel too bland.
This is another easy and quick method that can also help preserve most nutrients compared to boiling. If worried about the oxalate levels steaming can also reduce them by 5-53 percent. And like boiling, steamed spinach is usually bland.
This can result in a tastier dish as you can easily throw in some onions and garlic for an additional favor. However, it’s also important to ensure you’re not overcooking it when sautéing.
The downside to this method is that it can make the spinach calorie-dense. See Sauteed Frozen Spinach.
Which method should your choose
The method you settle for depends on your preference and recipe.
However, steaming may be the way to go when it comes to the most nutritious. While it’s not perfect, it can help retain most of the vitamin C while eliminating about 50% of the antinutrients in the spinach.
Spinach is a healthy leafy green vegetable that you can easily add to your diet. However, the nutrition in raw and cooked spinach may vary.
For example, cooked spinach may be rich in several nutrients like iron, folate, antioxidants, and vitamin A, while being low in others such as vitamins C and B vitamins.
Instead of relying on one method to consume the vegetable, it’s good to incorporate both raw and cooked varieties into the diet.
However, remember that raw spinach is high in oxalates which may inhibit the absorption of some nutrients and increase the risk of kidney stones in some individuals. So a moderate intake is the best way to go.
Other Related Articles
Get discounted copies of my cookbook here.
Fortunately, because of the ads on our website, readers and subscribers of Healthier Steps are sponsoring many underprivileged families.