Have you ever heard that spinach is good for you? I bet you have!
Spinach is a vegetable that’s packed with nutrients. And nutrients are almost always good for you.
Spinach comes in three different varieties;
But did you know that if you pick the first leaves of the flat-leaved spinach, you’ll have something called baby spinach?
Some like the baby spinach more than the regular, fully grown spinach. But that’s mostly a matter of personal taste.
When it comes to the health aspect, both varieties contain the same nutrients. There’s no difference in the nutrient content as it’s the same vegetable.
The only difference is that the baby spinach is picked earlier than the regular one.
Spinach is often considered to be one of the healthiest foods there is.
It´s often found at the very top in most super-food lists.
I myself love spinach in all forms, but my family doesn't. This bothers me some because I want them to eat the best food there is. Who wouldn’t want their family to be the healthiest they can be?
So in this article, I’ll lay out all the benefits and also the things to be aware of regarding spinach and the actual differences (not nutritional) between baby spinach and the regular spinach.
With this article, I hope to be able to convince you and the rest of my family to eat more spinach!
Table of Contents
What Is Baby Spinach?
Baby spinach comes from the smallest leaves of the flat-leaf variety. It has all the health benefits of the large-leaf spinach. You usually pick the baby leaves between 15-35 days after planting.
The baby spinach has a more tender texture and sweeter taste than the regular spinach.
Baby spinach that you buy in your regular store is usually sold pre-washed. It requires no preparation before consumed.
Raw spinach is perfect in salads and can be added at the last minute to pasta dishes, stirred into soups, or used in most recipes requiring spinach.
An added benefit of baby spinach compared to the regular one is that you don’t need to remove the stems from the spinach before eating it.
They are almost as tasty and tender as the leaves themselves!
What Is Regular Spinach?
Spinach is a versatile leafy green flowering plant.
The leaves are a common edible vegetable consumed either fresh, or after storage using preservation techniques by canning, freezing, or dehydration.
Spinach can be eaten cooked or raw. The taste differs considerably between the cooked and raw spinach.
Fresh regular spinach has a strong, flavorful taste, a slightly bitter aftertaste, and it can sometimes overpower milder flavors.
Cooked spinach usually has a more well-rounded taste, lacking the bitterness of the raw spinach but can still easily overpower the dish if you’re not careful.
What Type And Where To Buy Spinach
If you have a hard time finding fresh spinach we recommend you to consider alternatives like canned, dried or powdered spinach. They are not only delicious but also versatile and they store well.
Canned spinach are convenient, versatile, and nutritious. It´s perfect to have a few canes in your cupboard for that time when spinach fits with your dish and you cant get a hold on the fresh produce. Spinach is a nutrient powerhouse, even in the canned form.
If you eat this brand of canned spinach available on Amazon, you might get muscles like Popeye? Well... not exactly...but if you continue reading this article, you'll find out that there might be some truth to Popeye and his spinach induced muscles.
Dried spinach is not like using fresh produce. But it´s convenient to use and has a very long shelf life.
We recommend these 100% natural, dried, dehydrated spinach leaves on Amazon because they taste fresh and natural and is super easy to use. You can use it in any spinach recipe.
And it´s supposed to be able to be stored up to 25! years in proper conditions, that’s awesome! Although if you still have the same dried spinach after 25 years I would consider that as proof that I wasn’t able to convince you to add spinach to your regular diet...
Spinach in powdered form
The spinach powder is perfect to spice up your food, or put in a tasty and healthy smoothie. We recommend this powder on Amazon as it has the same nutritional content per serving as that of fresh spinach.
How Healthy Is Spinach?
Spinach is well known for its nutritional qualities and has always been regarded as a plant with remarkable abilities to restore energy, increase vitality and improve the quality of the blood.
There are sound reasons why spinach would produce such results, primarily the fact that it’s rich in iron. Iron plays a central role in the function of red blood cells which help in transporting oxygen around the body, in energy production and DNA synthesis.
Spinach contains a lot of vitamins
Spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2.
Vitamin K is important for maintaining bone health and it’s difficult to find vegetables richer in vitamin K than spinach. (source)
Spinach contains few calories and fats
Spinach is very low in calories and fats, 100 g of raw leaves provide just 23 calories according to USDA. (source)
Spinach and its health promoting antioxidants
The dark green color of spinach leaves indicate they contain high levels of chlorophyll and health-promoting carotenoids, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
These phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties and are especially important for healthy eye-sight, helping to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
There have been studies made of the health benefits of spinach extract. It´s believed that eating spinach or spinach extracts could be a potential source of natural antioxidants and its consumption could improve the antioxidant levels in the body.
This means that you may actually stay healthier just by eating spinach! (source)
Lutein and it’s health benefits
Lutein is a carotenoid with reported anti-inflammatory properties. Lutein qualifies as a powerful antioxidant and many studies support its favorable effects on eye health.
Lutein also has beneficial effects on other tissues, especially the brain, where it’s associated with improved cognitive performance. (source)
Spinach lowers your blood pressure
Eating more spinach could help to reduce your blood pressure readings. Spinach is rich in potassium, which works to balance out the amount of sodium in the body.
It’s also packed with heart-healthy nutrients like folate, and magnesium, which are key ingredients for lowering and maintaining your blood pressure levels. (source)
Anti-stress and anti-depressive effects of spinach
Studies show that carefully chosen fruits, vegetables, and dietary supplements can help improve your mental health. Spinach is one of the most widely consumed vegetables and is known for contributing to both physical and mental health.
There are studies that have focused their research on the mental health aspect of consuming spinach. The results of the research suggest that spinach has anti-stress and anti-depressive properties. (source)
Spinach limits oxidative stress
Spinach can be able to slow down cancerous cell formation because it defends against DNA damage and limits oxidative stress through the it’s antioxidants like neoxanthin and violaxanthin.
Studies show that consuming leafy green vegetables can dramatically protect against the occurrence of various types of cancers, including colon, breast and prostate cancers.
The powerful carotenoids like neoxanthin and violaxanthin, protect cells from mutations that can ultimately lead to cancerous tumor growth. (source)
Should You Eat Spinach Every Day?
Yes, you really should!
The benefits of eating spinach on a daily basis are innumerable.
You can, of course, consume a variety of kale, bok choy, and romaine lettuce, spinach if you want variety.
But even if the other greens are nutritious and provide you with a wealth of health benefits, the spinach is in a whole different league of its own!
The health benefits of baby spinach are the same as the regular spinach, so you can choose the smaller leaves if you prefer bite-sized and a bit sweeter spinach in your dishes. The small leaves are perfect to have in a salad or toss in your pasta sauce in the last minutes of cooking.
To get the health benefits from spinach you should aim to eat at least a cup of fresh spinach or a half a cup of cooked spinach each day for maximum nutritional benefits.
Fresh vs Cooked spinach
Something happens to spinach when it´s cooked. Cooked spinach nutritional profile contains a more concentrated amount of several nutrients. There are more fiber and protein in spinach that has been cooked, plus a higher amount of several vitamins and minerals like vitamin K and vitamin A.
Spinach gives your magnesium, lots of it!
Spinach is one of the best sources of diatary magnesium. It´s preserved when cooked. Magnesium is a vital nutrient. It's needed, among other things, for the production of protein, for the conversion of calcium and for normal nerve and muscle function.
Unfortunately magnesium deficiency is a condition that affects people across the globe, and most people who have it aren't even aware of it. According to the World Health Organization less than 60 percent of adults in the United States meet the adequate intake for magnesium. (source)
Lack of magnesium can cause inhibited growth, behavioral disorders, and cardiac dysfunction. Serious magnesium deficiency can cause cramps.
Was Popeye For Real? Can You Eat Spinach To Gain Muscles?
Do you remember the cartoon character Popeye the sailor-man? I sure do! When he encountered a problem, he needed to munch canned spinach. It immediately made him strong and his muscles grew.
Popeye and the transformation he went through when eating spinach might not be so far fetched from the truth.
Scientists at the Freie Universitat Berlin have recently recommended that ecdysterone, a chemical found in spinach, should be added to the World Anti-Doping Authority's (WADA) list of banned substances because of its potentially steroid-like effects.
The researchers conducted a 10-week study of 46 men, who were each given either a placebo or a daily supplement that contained as much ecdysterone as 8.8 pounds of spinach.
The participants all followed the same strength training program, but the men who received the ecdysterone pills developed more muscle mass and had up to three times the strength gains as the placebo group. (source)
This leads me to believe that there is some truth to Popeye´s story. Spinach actually can make your muscles grow!
You can actually buy Popeye´s spinach on Amazon. I think it could be a fun way to introduce someone to spinach in the form of a gift with added health benefits. If you like canned spinach you should try this one.
Important to know - Side Effects of Spinach
Even though spinach seems to be a super food, there are some side-effects to consider. Some people and especially small children should avoid eating spinach altogether. You need to be aware of the risks before you start your new diet with spinach every day.
Spinach contains a high amount of oxalate. People with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid over-consumption of spinach.
A low oxalate diet is usually defined as containing less than 50 milligrams of oxalate per day. 100g of spinach contains a range of 400mg to 900mg of oxalate acid, depending on the variety. That’s many times above the recommended oxalate intake per day for a low oxalate diet. (source)
All fresh spinach can be eaten raw. But the content of oxalate acid can interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and iron. The oxalate acid binds with calcium, making it unavailable for use by our bodies.
The good news is that oxalate acid is broken down upon heating, so there is no loss of nutrients in steamed or sautéed spinach.
But there is no need to stop eating raw spinach simply because it contains oxalate acid. It is also rich in many essential nutrients, some of which are more available to our bodies when we consume them raw. These nutrients include folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium.
When you eat spinach that’s been heated, you’ll absorb higher levels of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron. Important carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, also become more absorbable.
So the best way of enjoying spinach is to use it both raw and cooked. Use it to spice up your salad and your cooking.
Do not reheat your spinach
You should only heat your spinach once.
Reheating of spinach leftover may cause conversion of nitrates into nitrites and nitrosamines by certain bacteria that thrive on pre-prepared nitrate-rich foods such as spinach and many other green vegetables. These harmful compounds may be bad for health, especially in children.
Do Not Give Spinach To Children Under The Age Of One!
Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are considered oxalate food as well as nitrate food.
Swedish authorities recommend that no child under the age of one should try spinach or any other green leafy vegetables. (source)
Children up to one year of age should not eat spinach or other green leafy vegetables due to the risk of nitrite. Small children cannot break down nitrite in the same way as older children and adults.
In children under one year, nitrite can block the flow of oxygen into the blood. The acute condition in which blood oxygen transport is impaired is called methaemoglobinemia.
Small children are easily affected by methaemoglobinemia. Symptoms of methaemoglobinemia in children are blue-tinged fingers and nipples. Small children with methaemoglobinemia are sometimes called "blue babies". Please contact a health professional if you believe your children might have this condition.
I was looking for differences between baby spinach and regular spinach. I've concluded that the differences are almost non-existent. There are some differences in texture, taste and how you use it. But it´s the same vegetable. And what a healthy vegetable it is!
Spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world. When it comes to nutrient-density, this leafy green vegetable is difficult to beat.
Spinach is a very low-energy food and contains a minimal amount of calories.
Spinach is a rich source of minerals, and it is particularly high in vitamin K1 and carotenoid vitamin A precursors.
Spinach is a rich source of iron, manganese, and magnesium, and it contains a range of other minerals in small to moderate amounts.
The nutritional value and the health benefits of baby spinach are the same as the regular spinach. So to get the best health benefits from your spinach, it doesn't matter which one you eat. All that matters is that you eat it.
Spinach contains many health benefits to those who consume it on a regular basis.
Spinach is an easy food to add to your diet!
Oh, and by the way, We’ve since writing this article, begun to add spinach a lot more to our diet. You can add it to almost every meal after some careful measurements and some experimenting!
Try it out, your future self and your loved ones will be healthier from it!
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