Spinach is arguably the most powerful superfood on earth. You will hardly find arguments to the contrary.
Popeye made a career of sailing and barfights using only canned spinach.
Many nutritionists will tell you to “get more spinach.”
Bodybuilders believe spinach is important for muscle growth and nutritional density.
Grandma thinks you don’t get enough spinach.
We know all of this.
But how much do we really know about spinach? And can spinach really change our lives?
The fact is, we often believe that expensive supplements are the only way to invoke healthy change.
BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE.
A simple, cheap, leafy green, such as spinach, can highly benefit our health and even our looks. Spinach is extremely nutritionally dense. It can make us look younger. It can allow us to jump higher. It can prevent degenerative diseases.
So why is often passed over?
It doesn’t taste great (but it can, I’ll get to that later).
It’s not pretty.
It’s not a big supplement marketed in our Facebook feeds all day.
But can spinach be an affordable health infusion that blows most expensive supplements away?
Let’s have a closer look at the benefits of spinach.
- 1 Spinach Nutrition – The Basics
- 2 Benefits of Spinach
- 3 Kale vs Spinach – A Leafy War
- 4 Prepare Spinach
- 5 Conclusion
Spinach Nutrition – The Basics
Spinach is low in calories, low in carbs, and low in fat. But its high in essential fiber.
One of the core reasons that spinach is a superfood is that it doesn’t offer you any “bad nutrition,” such as transfats. It doesn’t pile on calories or carbs or sugars.
And it keeps your digestion happy and healthy.
Fiber in Spinach
The fiber in spinach is considered healthy insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber essentially isn’t digested, therefore, it pushes through the colon and intestines. This means a cleaner, healthier digestive tract.
Refined carbs have taken the place of healthy fibers in the modern diet for many people. Adding in spinach helps to balance the scales. A healthy digestive system not only lowers risk of colon cancer, but it also is good for the brain. That’s right, healthy fiber may make your brain sharper.
While spinach is a good source of fiber, the better news is that unlike a lot of high fiber foods, spinach is easy to eat (I will get to that in a bit)
Carbs in Spinach
The war on carbs in mind-numbing.
The fact that we even discuss carbs in spinach is blasphemous.
That said, I do get it. Our society is carb loaded. Carbs are addictive.
The good news is, spinach won’t be knocking anyone out of ketosis. Spinach has hardly any measurable carbohydrate content. If spinach is an issue for your ketosis, you should likely visit your doctor and assess the greater whole of your diet.
Protein in Spinach – Legit Goodness or Overhyped?
First and foremost, realize that in order to get the full benefit of spinach’s protein, you’ll need to cook it!
Science is your friend. Check out how astounding the disparity in protein content is between cooked and uncooked spinach.
Per our friends at SFGate, an individual cup of fresh spinach contains less than one gram’s worth of protein.
Not much, huh?
That protein density jumps to 5.35 grams when cooked!
The great protein debate between vegans and carnivores will always rage. If you are considering replacing your chicken breast with spinach, that might not be your best move.
Spinach is still considered lower in protein when compared against traditional, scientifically accepted high protein sources.
Benefits of Spinach
Ok, now we are at the meat and potatoes of our ultimate spinach nutrition and benefits guide.
What can spinach do for us?
A WHOLE LOT – ACTUALLY
Let’s look at some quick points and then take a deeper dive into the power of spinach…
Spinach is loaded with the following vitamins and minerals:
Spinach is absolutely loaded with vitamins.
Spinach’s vitamin profile looks like an expensive multi-vitamin supplement.
But ah, this is just spinach being spinach.
Have you priced a multi-vitamin supplement lately? If so, you have to be considering replacing it with daily spinach. The cost savings is incredible.
The vitamins in spinach benefit your skin (aging), your energy, your immunity, and your sleep.
As you can see, calcium, iron, and magnesium are the staples of spinach.
Because of this, many vegans consider spinach to be an essential part of their dietary needs.
When you combine magnesium with zinc, studies have shown that you can improve your sleep (or break insomnia). Most studies have B6 as one component of the sleep formula as well, but that’s in spinach as well (so you are covered – hopefully, while in your slumbers).
You can see that all of the major essential minerals are not only in spinach, but they are densely present. This is why spinach is a revered superfood.
Spinach Fatty Acids
First and foremost, check out the bottom two fatty acid totals. You will see Omega 3 fatty acids are 41.4 mg, while Omega 6 fatty acids are sitting at 7.8 mg.
This, my friends, is what we refer to as some great fatty acid ratio.
Look, the total amount of fat in spinach isn’t a ton. But the fact that what is there favors the healthier Omega 3 fatty acid is great stuff.
You can’t replace fish with spinach – so slow your roll. However, every little amount adds up over time. Spinach is winning the day in this arena.
Another key point to be made is that many vitamins and nutrients are what are known as “fat soluble.” This means the vitamin or nutrient absorbs into the body using fat. Because spinach has tons of nutrient density (covered earlier) and healthy fats, it can help promote more efficient nutrient absorption.
Kale vs Spinach – A Leafy War
The great debate.
Ali or Tyson? Spinach or Kale?
Here’s the thing, in terms of nutrient density, both spinach and kale are formidable leafy greens. In fact, almost all leafy greens are potent providers of nutritional density. In my ultimate spinach guide, I’m not arguing that spinach is better than kale or even swiss chard.
However, spinach is easier to consume. Spinach cost less. Spinach tastes better. Spinach is more readily available.
In all those ways, the spinach vs. kale debate is relatively settled.
But one is hardly better than the other. One just tastes better and is more accessible.
Kale’s texture is tough. Eating raw kale is like eating soil-drenched cardboard (yep, I said it). Kale is often baked as chips to defeat its raw state. On a personal note, I believe that kale is tough to digest in its raw state (I mean if you can’t even chew it…).
Kale has become a trendy superfood so you are finding more and more people are trying it (and often, hating it).
Here are some digestible points over the spinach vs. kale debate:
- Spinach is lower calorie (neither kale nor spinach will lead to obesity, so this is sort of moot point)
- Spinach provides more fiber (pretty big win, and surprising, considering you’d think kale’s tough texture would mean more fiber?)
- Spinach is higher in folate
- Spinach is higher in magnesium
- Spinach is higher in iron
- Kale wins the protein game
- Kale is superior for calcium
- Kale dominates in vitamin C
You see, both kale and spinach have their own strengths. Both are incredibly healthy. Neither leafy green gets the ultimate knockout punch.
All leafy greens, spinach included, can be a confusing produce to prepare.
I find that there are three core spinach preparation methods
Is that a salad I spy?
Indeed, it is, and that’s not likely a surprise to anyone. Spinach is most popularly used in salads. No matter what grocery store cold bar you go to, spinach is a staple for a salad. Bagged salads often use spinach. Restaurants mostly use spinach as their salad’s base.
A spinach salad is the easiest way to get raw spinach into your diet.
If you want to roll healthy, you can make the following simple spinach salad:
Baby spinach, walnuts, diced chicken breast, dried cranberries, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Himalayan salt, pepper, avocado.
That’s a legit healthy spinach salad if I ever did see one.
Smoothies are one of the easiest and simplest ways to get your spinach on.
There are two ways to approach this:
- Make your own spinach smoothie
- Buy a premade spinach smoothie formula
To be 100% honest, I choose the latter because, well, I’m a bit busy (and lazy, I admit it). You see, making a smoothie with JUST spinach would be some hardcore stuff. I could never endure drinking spinach and water.
I buy my spinach, wash it, toss it in a blender and mix it with Kylea’s Total Living Drink Greens. In this way, I don’t have to deal with tons of produce cleaning and chopping and storage.
I know what you are thinking, why not buy a green drink mix that already has spinach in it?
Most green drink makers don’t really use spinach. I have no idea why that is. Maybe they are involved in some anti-spinach conspiracy. Maybe its difficult to manufacture it into a green drink. All the same, green drinks such as Total Living Drink Greens has loads of other awesome ingredients, so it is no big deal.
Word of advice: Make sure you blend it really good. Otherwise, your spinach will end up chunky in the drink and that’s no good.
The other option is to just buy all of the produce yourself. If you do this, I’d recommend avocado or banana or/and almond milk as your base.
How to Saute Spinach
The saute method is one of my favorite ways to get my spinach on. And it’s easy.
You can saute spinach with other veggies and even meats, but for now, let’s keep things simple.
After cleaning the spinach, I cut the stalks at the halfway mark. I like some stalk, but not the entire thing. The stalk will break down in the heat and turn out pretty good, so don’t fear the spinach stalk!
Next, I put it in my pan. I use a cast iron. Cast irons have better-balanced heating. Additionally, cast irons make things taste awesome. And, cast irons are super affordable.
I like to start off with mid heat and the spinach covered in the pan. The natural waters from the spinach will begin to act as a steamer. Once you see the spinach begin to break down, you can take the lid off and stir. Just put the lid back on if the spinach seems too raw still. Once it is broke down enough, add salts, peppers, and spices. And stir until it’s to a point that looks good for your personal taste.
Remember, cooking spinach brings out some nutrients and proteins.
Steamed spinach is one of the best tasting spinach preparations. And, it’s easy to accomplish.
I prefer using an Instantpot, but if you don’t have one, not to worry…there are tons of ways to accomplish such simple chemistry.
Steaming simply means that hot steam breaks down the spinach, as opposed to the heat from a pan. Steaming is a gentler way to cook spinach. It typically allows more nutrients to pass through. Many believe that steaming spinach is the ultimate way to get the most nutrients possible.
What’s The Difference Between Steamed Spinach And Sauteed Spinach?
I get this question a lot.
Here’s the thing: In my spinach sautee method, I use the spinach’s natural water, plus some of the water shed during my cleaning process, to allow for some steaming. When I cover the pan, the water steams up and breaks down the spinach.
However, eventually, the heat of the pan takes over and the spinach is cooked more aggressively.
When you sautee spinach, the final product will be very similar to sauteed. I notice hardly any differences. I’m sure professional checks will tear me apart, but from my own personal perspective, I notice next to nothing.
Spinach is the ultimate powerhouse superfood. No one argues this fact. Spinach is loaded with nutrients. A little spinach each day is comparable to a multi-vitamin supplement.
Ingesting spinach isn’t as bad as you might think. Eating it raw in salads is really good. But spinach smoothies win the day for me. Both sauteeing and steaming can help your spinach become more rich in protein (chemistry is awesome).
Spinach is affordable and readily available. There is hardly any legit excuse to not get spinach into your diet on a weekly or even daily basis.