Spinach is one green leafy vegetable that is very rich in nutrition. Most people can relate to having been cooreced to eat spinach as a child because of their parents belief that spinach helps to keep the doctor away. The real truth is that spinach contains a variety of components which help maintain good health and build up immunity against diseases. However, one question remains – which is best, cooked or raw spinach?
Eating raw vegetables of any kind is generally encouraged in any weight loss program. And while that is certainly true, cooked spinach has its own unique advantages over raw spinach. Cooking spinach seems to improve your body’s ability to absorb the beneficial nutrients. Whether you boil, steam or fry, cooking spinach changes the iron into a form that is more readily absorbed into the body. Spinach contains iron in the non-heme form which is not as bio-available as heme iron that is found in foods from animal products. Moreover, spinach in its raw form contains a compound known as oxalic acid which inhibits iron absorption by binding onto it. When you cook your spinach the oxalic acid and other inhibitors will be unlocked and iron will be made more bio-available.
Secondly, cooked spinach releases more lutein. Lutein is a type of phytochemical that protects the eyes from the formation of cataracts and other age related complications like macular degeneration. In raw form, spinach has lower levels of lutein.
On the other side of the argument, raw spinach has more antioxidant properties compared to cooked spinach. The antioxidants are found in the form of vitamins like A and C and also flavanoid polyphenolics. Cooked spinach still contains these antioxidants but in reduced quantities.
Another disadvantage to cooking spinach is that there is a tendency towards overcooking it which greatly reduces the nutrient load. When cooking be careful to keep an eye on it and remove it from the heat right at the moment that it wilts. There is no need to cook it any longer than that.
The one method that I would not recommend is to boil spinach in a pot of water – unless you’re making soup and are boiling the spinach in the broth you’ll end up consuming. Boiling in water that you’ll then throw out means you’ll lose the water soluble vitamins such as the B complex vitamins.
So bottom line – cooked spinach is going to give you a more nutrition packed meal, just be careful not to overcook it and not to boil it and toss out the water.
One of my favorite ways to serve spinach is to saute sliced onion in extra-virgin olive oil. Seasone with sea salt and black pepper and a bit of crushed red pepper if you like. Once the onion starts to soften, add some crushed or sliced garlic and continue sauteing until the onion is soft. Add handfuls of fresh spinach. Turn off the heat and allow the spinach to wilt. Season again with salt and pepper and serve with just about any meat dish or add some more extra virgin olive oil and toss with whole grain pasta.
Pick up a prebaked whole wheat pizza crust. Spread with tomato sauce. Top with 1 bag of baby spinach that’s been steamed, squeezed dry and chopped, then mozzerella, Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle with sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Bake until cheeses are melted and slightly browned.
Cheesy Spinach Eggs
And here’s a recipe from our book “The UnDiet: 2 Weeks of Extremely Low Carb Menus & Recipes” which is only 3 carbs for the entire recipe. You can decide if this is one or two servings.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or butter
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
3 large eggs
¼ teaspoon each dried basil and thyme
small pinch each of salt and black pepper
1 – 2 cups fresh spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and chopped
In a medium bowl mix all ingredients except spinach.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add egg mixture and spinach to pan. Stir once to combine and then allow the eggs to cook without stirring. Lift the edge of the eggs every now and then, tilting the pan to allow the uncooked egg to run to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat when the eggs are still slightly runny as they’ll continue cooking for a few minutes. This method keeps the eggs nice and moist, rather than dry and overcooked.