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Spinach Nutrition Facts

In popular folklore, spinach is a rich source of iron. In reality, a 60 gram serving of boiled spinach contains around 1.9 mg of iron (slightly more when eaten raw). A good many green vegetables contain less than 1 mg of iron for an equivalent serving. Hence spinach does contain a relatively high level of iron for a vegetable, but its consumption does not have special health connotations as folklore might suggest.

Ultimately, the bio-availability of iron is dependent on its absorption. This is influenced by a number of factors. Iron enters the body in two forms: nonheme iron and heme iron. All of the iron in grains and vegetables, and about three fifths of the iron in animal food sources (meats), is nonheme iron. The much smaller remaining portion from meats is heme iron.

This larger portion of dietary iron (nonheme) is absorbed slowly in its many food sources, including spinach. This absorption may vary widely depending on the presence of binders such as fiber or enhancers, such as vitamin C. Therefore, the body's absorption of nonheme iron can be improved by consuming foods that are rich in vitamin C. However, spinach contains high levels of oxalate. Oxalates bind to iron to form ferrous oxalate and remove iron from the body. Therefore, a diet high in oxalate (or phosphate or phytate) leads to a decrease in iron absorption.

The myth about spinach and its high iron content may have first been propagated by Dr. E. von Wolf in 1870, because a misplaced decimal point in his publication led to an iron-content figure that was ten times too high. In 1937, German chemists reinvestigated this "miracle vegetable" and corrected the mistake. It was described by T.J. Hamblin in British Medical Journal, December 1981.

There are three basic varieties of spinach: Savory Spinach, which is dark green in color and has curly leaves. It is sold in bunches and is commonly referred to as Bloomsdale. Flat or Smooth Leaf Spinach, has as the name suggests flat, broad and smooth textured leaves. These leaves are easier to clean than savory spinach. It is generally canned or frozen and is commonly used in processed foods. Semi-Savory Spinach has a similar texture to that of savory, however, it is easier to clean.

Other names commonly used for spinach include chard and orache.

Spinach is rich in a chemical known as lutein, and together with carotenoid and zeaxanthin form an oily, yellow substance known as macula. This substance is at the central point of the retina and is responsible for allowing us to see details and colors. Eating a diet rich in lutein, such as spinach increases the pigment of the macula and also helps to slow down the natural degeneration process, according to research by Manchesterís Faculty of Life Sciences.

This food is low in saturated fat, a good source of niacin and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.

Spinach may be boiled, or steamed and may be combined with other foods or eaten on its own. Creamed spinach and lasagna are popular dishes that use sources of spinach.

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