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All about “Spinach”

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Nutritional value of spinach

  Raw spinach, 1 cup (250 mL) / 32 g Boiled spinach, drained, ½ cup (125 mL) / 95 g
Calories 7 22
Protein 0.9 g 2.8g
Carbohydrates 1.2g 3.6g
Fat 0.1g 0.3 g
Dietary fiber 0.7 g 2.3 g
Glycemic load  : No data available
Antioxidant power  : High

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2010.

Spinach: understand everything in 2 min

Health profile of spinach

Well known for its high iron content , spinach also provides an exceptional amount of other vitamins and minerals . Some of its antioxidants would be particularly beneficial for the eyes . And you can prepare it in a thousand and one ways. 

The benefits of spinach

  • Cancer. Researchers have observed that regular consumption of spinach (at least a ½ cup serving per week) was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer 3 . A prospective study also indicated that the consumption of spinach was linked to a low risk of esophageal cancer 19 . Two studies, in vitro and in animals , have shown that, among several plants, spinach has the strongest capacity to inactivate certain enzymes associated with the appearance of cancer as well as to prevent the growth of cancer cells 13- 14 .
  • Eye health. A regular intake of carotenoids , which may come from regular consumption of spinach, would be associated with a lower risk of macular degeneration 7 , cataracts 7 and retinitis pigmentosa 20 . The main carotenoids of spinach (lutein and zeaxanthin) have the ability to accumulate in the macula and retina of the eye , 8 , thus protecting it from oxidative stress 23 which could be harmful to it.
  • Oxidative stress. A clinical study in humans has concluded that the daily consumption of cooked spinach (about ¾ cup) leads to better resistance of white blood cells to oxidative stress, thus demonstrating antioxidant potential 4 .

Several epidemiological studies have shown that a high consumption of vegetables and fruits decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases 16 , certain cancers 17 and other chronic diseases , 2,18 . The presence of antioxidants in vegetables and fruits could play a role in these protective effects.

What does spinach contain?

Cooked spinach is more nutritious
For equivalent portions, cooked spinach contains almost 6 times more lutein , zeaxanthin 15 and betaine 11 than raw spinach. In addition, boiled spinach generally provides more vitamins and minerals per serving than raw spinach.

The spinach contains different antioxidants , including large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin , compounds of the carotenoid family , 7.21 . Antioxidants, in general, help neutralize free radicals in the body and thus prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and various chronic diseases 5,22 .

Lutein and zeaxanthin are said to have beneficial effects on eye health , 8,20 and may help prevent certain cancers , including breast and lung cancer 7 . However, more research is needed to confirm the specific contribution of lutein and zeaxanthin to the prevention of these diseases.

The spinach also contains the ferulic acid , an antioxidant compound which protect human cells against oxidative stress and possibly the formation of certain cancers 9 . According to the researchers, a large proportion of the ferulic acid (or other antioxidants of the same family) present in food reaches the large intestine, which would protect the cells of the colon against cancer.

Betaine is a nitrogenous compound naturally present in several species of the vegetable and animal kingdom. The consumption of betaine could notably help treat certain liver diseases , such as fatty liver (“fatty liver”). It would also reduce the blood level of homocysteine , an amino acid which, when it is too high in the blood, is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease . Betaine consumption could also improve athletic performance , particularly through improved exercise endurance 12 . Spinach is one of the foods that contain the most betaine.

About 1% of the dry matter of spinach is made up of chlorophyll 10 , a green pigment found in many leafy vegetables. According to one study, chlorophyll has the ability to inhibit the growth of human cancer cells 10 . However, little is known about the potential effect of spinach chlorophyll in humans.

Spinach is one of the plants that contain the most glycolipids (after green tea and parsley 27 , 28 ). These compounds have a certain anticancer potential 13 , 14,24-26 , but also properties against inflammation 25 , 26 . Most research to date has been in vivo and animal studies, rather than clinical studies, so it is difficult to say whether these properties can be applied to humans through food consumption of spinach. .

Popeye legend: does eating spinach make you stronger?
We remember this sailor who became exceptionally strong after swallowing a box of spinach.
Even today, many associate this food with a boost of energy . This idea could come from its iron content, a mineral that helps protect against certain forms of anemia and the symptoms of fatigue that follow.
However, even if there is a good amount of spinach in it, iron from plant foods is less well absorbed than iron from animal sources .
However, the assimilation of iron from plants can be increased by consuming foods rich in vitamin C at the same time. (citrus, peppers, etc.) or proteins (see the Iron sheet).

Main vitamins and minerals

Excellent source Vitamin A Boiled spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A while raw spinach is a good source .
Excellent source Vitamin B9 (folate) Boiled spinach is an excellent source of vitamin B9 while raw spinach is a good source .
Excellent source Vitamin K Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K.
Excellent source Iron Boiled spinach is an excellent source of iron for men and a good source for women . Raw spinach is a source for humans only.
Excellent source Magnesium Boiled spinach is an excellent source of magnesium for women and a good source for men . Raw spinach is a source .
Excellent source Manganese Boiled spinach is an excellent source of manganese while raw spinach is a good source for women and a source for men .
Good source Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) Boiled spinach is a good source of vitamin B2 while raw spinach is a source for women only.
Good source Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) Boiled spinach is a good source of vitamin B6.
Good source Copper Boiled spinach is a good source of copper .
Source Vitamin B1 (thiamine) Boiled spinach is a source of vitamin B1 .
Source Vitamin C Spinach is a source of vitamin C.
Source Vitamin E Boiled spinach is a source of vitamin E.
Source Calcium Boiled spinach is a source of calcium.
Source Phosphorus Boiled spinach is a source of phosphorus
Source Potassium Boiled spinach is a source of potassium.
Source Zinc Boiled spinach is a source of zinc.


Kidney stones
People at risk for urolithiasis (kidney stones made up of oxalate and calcium, also called kidney stones ) should limit their consumption of foods rich in oxalate . Oxalates are compounds found naturally in several foods, including spinach . In some cases, it is recommended that these people avoid consuming spinach.

Vitamin K and anticoagulants
Spinach contains a high amount of vitamin K. This vitamin, necessary among other things for blood clotting, can be manufactured by the body in addition to being found in certain foods. People taking anticoagulant drugs (Coumadin®, Warfilone® and Sintrom® for example) should eat a diet whose vitamin K content is relatively stable from day to day. Spinach is part of a list of foods that should be eaten at most 1 time per day and each time in a maximum amount of 250 ml (1 cup) if raw , or about 60 ml (¼ cup) s ‘it’s cooked. People on anticoagulant therapy are strongly advised to consult a dietitian-nutritionist or a doctor in order to know the food sources of vitamin K and to ensure a daily intake as stable as possible.

Recipe ideas


Make cook slightly spinach. The ideal is to simply blanch them by steaming them for 1 or 2 minutes so that they retain a certain firmness. We spin them quickly and voila. To put them in soups or gravy dishes, you don’t need to cook them in advance.

  • Serve the raw young leaves in a salad with a simple olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette. The older and larger leaves will be pan-fried in olive oil for 1 minute before being made into a salad.
  • Serve baby spinach, mandarin supremes and chopped green onion with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.
with spinach
  • Simple soups. Cook spinach in broth. If desired, add a few shrimp and garnish with lemon zest. Or cook them in milk and put them in a blender.
  • Lentil and spinach soup . Sauté minced garlic and onion in olive oil, add spices of your choice (cumin, coriander, paprika). Cook for 1 or 2 minutes and add coarsely chopped spinach, vegetable or chicken broth, and lentils. Cook for 1 hour, season with lemon juice and a little tomato puree, salt, pepper and serve.
  • Simple and original support. Make melt spinach in the pan with raisins soaked in water, and almonds. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper and serve.
  • Brown diced potatoes (previously cooked) in oil with paprika, onion, a clove of garlic and, if desired, cayenne pepper. When the potatoes are golden brown, add the just blanched spinach and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. When ready to serve, add a spoonful of wine vinegar and salt.

In Florentine
In the kitchen, the word “  Florentine  ” designates a dish in which spinach comes to decorate the main food. We owe this appellation to Catherine de Medici, born in Florence in Italy, who was Queen of France from 1547 to 1559. It is said that she loved spinach so much that she insisted that her cooks follow her everywhere to reproduce her favorite dishes.
  • Florentine poached eggs . Make poach eggs , place them on a bed of blanched spinach and top with béchamel or hollandaise sauce.
  • Florentine cod . Cook the cod on both sides in the pan. In a gratin dish, put the blanched and chopped spinach. Add the fish and cover with a layer of spinach mixed with bechamel sauce. Cover with grated cheese and spend ten minutes in the oven.
  • Incorporate them into the soufflé , the terrines and mousses vegetables.
  • Instant spinach bread. Quickly steam the spinach, then pass them through the blender with milk, butter and a little Parmesan cheese. Line a flat browned breadcrumbs, pour the vegetables, add a little cheese and bake.
  • Cover a pizza dough with tomato sauce, then chopped spinach, onion rings and tomato slices. Break an egg in the center of the pizza and bake for about fifteen minutes.
  • The Japanese make great use of spinach in their fondues . These dishes that are prepared at the table consist of cooking meat, fish, vegetables and udon noodles in a dashi broth or chicken broth.
  • Steam spinach, coarsely chop, and soak in dashi broth seasoned with a little soy sauce. After a few minutes, drain and serve with a sauce of dashi , soy sauce, sugar and dry roasted sesame seeds in a pan.
  • Stuffed mushrooms . Place the caps of large mushrooms, bottom side up, in a mixture of water and wine, seasoned with chopped shallots and thyme. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice. Cook for ten minutes. Drain them on paper towels. Cook the feet of chopped mushrooms in the liquid. Saute finely chopped shallots and spinach in oil until all the liquid has evaporated. Mix with the mushroom stems, add crumbled goat cheese and stuff the caps with this preparation before putting in the oven for ten minutes.
  • Indian style . Sauté a minced onion in oil, add cumin and cardamom seeds, cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves, tomato, and finely chopped garlic and ginger. Sauté 1 minute and add chopped spinach. Cook until they turn dark green, add turmeric powder, garam masala (a mixture of Indian spices), a little tomato puree, cream, white cheese cut into cubes (bocconcini or other) and fresh coriander leaves. Cook for a few minutes and serve.
  • Japanese style . Steam spinach, drain and lay a few leaves on a bamboo mat (the kind used to prepare sushi). Roll the carpet tight so as to wring it out well and form rolls which you will place standing on the plate after having equalized the ends with a knife.
  • Turkish style . Steam them and squeeze them well to remove the liquid. Brown onion in olive oil, add spinach and cook for about ten minutes. Mix minced garlic and yogurt, add to the spinach and serve.
  • Greek style . The spinakopita is prepared simply by enclosing between layers of phyllo dough , brushed with olive oil or butter, spinach, blanched and drained. If desired, add feta or another cheese, season with coriander powder, cumin, nutmeg. Salt and pepper, then bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Choice and conservation

To choose

The spinach is offered year-round in most grocery stores, usually plastic bag, occasionally fresh bouquets. Choose crisp, dark green and shiny leaves , smooth or not (it depends on the variety). Avoid faded, damaged, black or yellow stained leaves.

One can also find commercially spinach frozen or box keeps . Preferably choose the first to the second, which are often overcooked and take on a metallic taste.


Refrigerator . A few days in a perforated plastic bag.

Freezer . Steam blanch for 1 to 2 minutes, wring out and put in freezer bags where they will keep for a few months.

The little spinach story

Common name: spinach.
Scientific name: Spinacia oleracea .
Family: chenopodiaceae.

Appearing in the French language in 1256 in the form of ”  espinarde”, the term “épinard” is an adaptation of the Spanish espinaca , alteration de espina , “épine”, which is derived from Spanish Arabic isbinâkh. The reference to the thorn comes from the shape of the fruit which contains the seeds: those of the first varieties to be known were all thorny. It was only later in history that varieties with smooth and round fruits were discovered.

Originally from Central Asia, spinach did not escape its growth area until the beginning of the Christian era. Unlike many other edible plants, it was not known to either the Greeks or the Romans, or only marginally. No mention is made before the VII th  century, and this in a Chinese work.

It was introduced in Sicily after the Saracen invasion of North Africa in the VIII th  century. However, it was not until the XV th  century before cooking books do not mention, either because it will put all this time to spread throughout the rest of Europe, either because he had so there hardly any culinary importance. We do know that it was grown in the gardens of monasteries in the XIV th  century.

It is not known exactly when it was introduced in America, but we think it was before the XIX th  century. A century will pass before it gains popularity.

A few words about spinach
Spinach belongs to the family of chenopodiaceae, which includes other edible plants such as beet, chard, goosefoot (or fat cabbage), arroche, quinoa and samphire. Depending on the variety, its leaves are curly or flat, the former often being sold fresh, the latter canned or frozen.In popular parlance , various other plants with edible green leaves take the name of “spinach”, which causes some confusion: Malabar spinach ( baselle ), New Zealand spinach ( tetragone ), southern water spinach -Eastern Asia ( ipomea ), Chinese spinach ( amaranth ), etc. In principle, only the plant belonging to the genus Spinacia, which is discussed in this fact sheet, should bear this name.

Organic gardening

Spinach prefers sandy soils rich in organic matter.

pH: 6.4 to 6.8. Particularly intolerant to the acidity of the soil, it will grow poorly if the pH is below 6.0.

Fertilizers: its nitrogen requirements are high. Bury a good amount of decomposed manure before sowing or, better still, cultivate a green manure rich in nitrogen (peas, faba beans, alfalfa, etc.) the year before growing spinach. In addition, spinach must not lack boron . Remember, however, that this is a trace element and that the quantities required are minimal.

Spinach prefers cool climates (10 ° C to 17 ° C) and short days (less than 14 hours of light per day, that is to say before mid-May or after July in our climates) . It should therefore be sown as early as possible in spring and around mid-August for the fall harvest. There are a few varieties with a certain tolerance for heat, but it is better to protect them with a shade house that lets in only 50% of the light.

Spacing: 1 cm or 2 cm in the row and 25 cm to 30 cm between the rows.

Spinach requires regular and abundant irrigation . In case of dryness, give it about 2.5 cm of water every 7-10 days.

To protect the plant against the fly beet , the flea beetle spinach and aphid spinach , cover it with a geotextile at planting.

In the home garden, spinach should be relatively safe from diseases like downy mildew . However, if they do appear, choose resistant varieties.

Harvest by cutting the stem about ten centimeters above the crown. The plant will form new leaves that can be harvested 3 or 4 weeks later.

In our climates, we can sow spinach between late August and mid-September to obtain a harvest the following spring . There is a risk that plants will not survive the cold, especially in the case of warmth followed by large gels. But, in good years, when the snow cover stays all winter, they will be among the first plants to emerge from the ground in the spring.

Ecology and environment

The spinach is one of the fruits and vegetables that display the greatest concentrations of pesticide residues (see our Bio record in practice). If we cannot fully feed on products from organic farming, we would at least benefit from consuming organic foods which, in industrial agriculture, are the most contaminated by chemicals.

In addition, it was discovered that, like cauliflower, table grapes, peas and lettuce, spinach traveled very long distances between its places of production and sale, which is necessarily a source of pollution . Studies in Iowa have determined that, to be sold in Iowa, it must travel an average of over 3,200 km. In North America, this vegetable is produced on a very large scale in only a few places on the continent (particularly in California). In season, it is therefore preferable to choose local products.

The concepts of ”  food miles  ” and “food odometer” have been put forward to make consumers aware of the environmental costs of buying foods that are not produced locally (which they whether organically grown or not).

A scholarly calculation makes it possible to establish the “weighted average distance” that any food (or other product) makes between its point of production and its point of sale. In ecological circles, it is increasingly believed that this average should be part of the criteria retained by organic food certification bodies . Transport by air or by land is one of the major causes of pollution by carbon monoxide. Note also that the greater this distance, the less the product is fresh, tasty and nutritious.

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