Popeye was wrong : spinach is not as good a source of iron as the health authorities proclaimed, relying on popular cartoons. It is true that they contain this mineral, but in a smaller proportion than previously thought and, in addition, it is absorbed with greater difficulty than that derived from meat. The reason is that it is non-heme iron -the one that is present in vegetables-, whose bioavailability is greatly affected by inhibiting or enhancing factors. Therefore, it is usually recommended to consume foods rich in vitamin C at the same time , such as red pepper , parsley, brussels sprouts, lemon or orange, to improve their absorption.
Spinach contains other very beneficial nutrients. Its composition is as follows:
- 7% water.
- 9% protein.
- 5% fat.
- They provide 31 Kcalfor every 100 grams of edible portion.
- They are a good source of fiber: 2.6 g per 100 g.
- They are rich in various minerals; 100 g contain: 90 mg of calcium , 4 mg of iron, 54 mg of magnesium , 423 mg of potassium .
- They provide the following vitamins for every 100 g: 542 micrograms of vitamin A, 30 mg of vitamin C, 2 mg of vitamin E , 140 micrograms of folic acid .
Estefanía Ramo, nutritionist at IMEO and expert in Food Technology, recalls that the recommendations for folic acid for adults under normal conditions range, according to the Spanish Heart Foundation , between 180-200 micrograms per day, “for which reason it is considered that spinach is a good source of folic acid in our diet . ”
The expert summarizes why this vegetable should be included in a varied and healthy eating pattern: “It is a food full of nutrients with the advantage that it provides very few calories. Its nutritional value is due to its vitamin and mineral content. ”
Beware of spinach detox smoothies
However, as indicated by Laura Girona, spokesperson for the College of Dietitians-Nutritionists of Catalonia (Codinucat) , it is not appropriate to exaggerate its healthy properties. “There is no scientific evidence to recommend especially the consumption of spinach. No single food helps us prevent pathologies . ”
This dietitian-nutritionist warns of a potentially dangerous trend: detox shakes , which are made with a very high amount of green leafy vegetables. “These shakes not only do not produce a beneficial or protective effect for the body, but they pose a very important risk to health, among other things, due to their high content of oxalic acid .” Oxalic acid is a substance that has been associated with reduced absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, or potassium.
Caution in babies and kidney patients
There is no specific quantity recommendation for spinach consumption. “We recommend including them, if you like and there is no pathological contraindication, in a healthy eating pattern based on foods of plant origin, ” says Girona.
In any case, it is worth considering some restrictions and precautions. “In patients with kidney problems and a tendency to stone formation, the habitual consumption of this green leafy vegetable is not recommended,” says Andrea Marqués, dietitian nutritionist specialized in gastronomy at the IMEO. The reason must be sought in the aforementioned oxalic acid that they contain, which “combines with minerals such as magnesium, iron or calcium and encourages the creation of oxalate crystals that favor the formation of kidney stones.”
On the other hand, spinach is an important source of vitamin K, essential in the blood clotting process. For this reason, ” patients who consume oral anticoagulants , such as sintrom, should not abuse their consumption, since the coagulation process could be altered if there are very sudden changes in vitamin K levels,” says Marqués.
Likewise, it is not recommended to include spinach, chard and borage in the diet of babies under 1 year of age , not to offer more than one daily plate of these broad-leaf vegetables to children from 1 to 3 years of age and not to consume them during the gastrointestinal bacterial infections.
Girona explains the reason for these recommendations of the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aesan): “These vegetables contain a high amount of nitrates, which are a substance that the body converts to nitrites, increasing the risk of suffering methemoglobinemia in children. Methemoglobinemia is a disease in which the presence of methemoglobin in the blood is increased. This type of hemoglobin has less capacity to transport oxygen, decreasing its arrival in the tissues, and may cause cyanosis (known as blue baby syndrome ).
How to take better advantage of its nutritional properties
Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. “To preserve its nutritional richness, it is preferable to resort to steaming, microwaving, braising or stir-frying instead of cooking with more water, such as boiling, cooking or stewing,” recommends the Codinucat spokeswoman.
“Because of their vitamin C content, eating them raw (for example, in a salad) would be the best way to preserve this vitamin. Folates also stay better in crude ”, Marqués adds. “If we cook them, minerals such as calcium, iron or magnesium will be better absorbed; however, we will lose much of the vitamins. When we cook them in abundant water we can take advantage of the cooking water as the basis for a vegetable broth ”.
Ramo makes the following culinary proposals to achieve better absorption of iron:
- Grilled spinach burgerwith slices of onion and tomato in broth accompanied by homemade lemonade without sugar.
- Sardine loins (boneless) baked on chives, roasted peppers, spinach with thyme and rosemary accompanied by a small glass of gazpacho with natural cockles.
- Spinachsalad with kiwi, orange and a handful of pistachios accompanied by a York ham omelette.
Here are some tasty recipes to sample spinach:
Cheese and spinach quesadilla
These delicious and healthy quesadillas are made with fresh spinach and two types of cheese: mozzarrella and feta . In a large bowl, put the spinach and mix them with the grated or cut cheese. Once we have the union done, we add a little pepper to taste
Spinach and tuna burger
This hamburger is healthy and rich in protein. Tuna is one of the most consumed blue fish . Its meat has 12 percent fat, which makes it a fatty fish, but it is a fat rich in omega-3 fatty acids , which helps to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.
Timbale of spinach are salmon
For the preparation of this dish, the salmon fillets are taken and cut into sheets. Next, season with salt and go through a pan with very little oil, until golden. On the other hand, in another pan, sauté the minced garlic with little oil. When it begins to turn golden, add spinach and four tablespoons of water.
Warm spinach salad
Spinach is very versatile and, among other possibilities, can be enjoyed raw, as part of many salads or as an accompaniment . In this salad they are combined with pumpkin and almonds, nuts very rich in nutrients that are very beneficial for health such as carbohydrates, amino acids and essential fatty acids.