Healthy Ingredients

Health and beauty benefits of spinach

The more we pick, the happier the plants seem to be, giving you endless succulent shoots to enjoy all season. It’s such a versatile cooking ingredient too, so it’s easy to squeeze a little baby spinachy goodness into all manner of cooked dishes, be it stir-fries, soups, gratins and quiches.

The health benefits of spinach

Spinach is famously rich in iron, an essential mineral that plays a central role in the function of our red blood cells, although not as rich in iron as is often portrayed.

The dietary guidelines got the iron levels of spinach wrong back in the 1940’s, one reason why Popeye was seen as such a fan!  But there are plenty of other benefits of spinach to enjoy. It’s also a great source of potassium, magnesium and manganese as well as being rich in vitamin K (vital for good bone health), vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene (essential for healthy skin and hair), and vitamin C.

However, spinach is also rich in oxalates, anti-nutrients that bind with calcium to leach it our of our system (especially our bones). Older, larger  spinach leaves are higher in oxalic acid, so are best avoided.

If you like eating spinach, choose young, baby leaf spinach and avoid eating raw too  often. Cooking helps to break down oxalic acid, so the best way to enjoy this leafy green is by lightly cooking it.

How to prepare your spinach

Always wash your spinach leaves before you cook with them – the leaves seem to be a natural magnet for mud and grit. The easiest way is to fill a sink or bowl with ice-cold water and let the leaves soak for ten minutes before giving them good swish around underwater. Then lift the leaves from the bowl and tip the dirt away. For really grubby leaves, repeat this whole process in clean water.

Cooking time doesn’t take long – wilting a large pan of spinach should only take a minute or two at most, with only a little extra water needs to be added. Discard the cooking water as some of the oxalates will have leached into this.

What to serve your spinach with

Natural partners for the strong mineral flavour of spinach are salty anchovies or bacon, or softer, creamier dairy products, avocados and eggs. Citrus fruits also work well – try a delicious blood orange, feta cheese and baby spinach warm wilted salad for a summer taste sensation – and a squeeze of lemon juice on cooked spinach not only brings it alive, but can actually help reduce the ‘furry-teeth’ effect that some find unpleasant. Adding a dash of extra virgin olive oil not only enhances its flavour, but also increased the bio-availability of its vitamin K content too.

Discover delicious spinach recipes