Spinach is a healthy source of fiber and contains many nutrients, including vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin C, iron, manganese, potassium, tryptophan and other vitamins and minerals. Cooked spinach might retain many of these nutrients, but it’s often soggy, which can be unappetizing. Raw spinach, on the other hand, can be a crisp and refreshing part of a healthy diet.
Cooked vs. Raw Spinach
Cooking spinach might lower its nutrient content, depending on what heating method you use. For example, cooking spinach on a stove might decrease its folate content by 77 percent, according to a Cornell University study cited by a 2006 article in “The New York Times.” The same study found that microwaving spinach hardly affected its nutrient content because the cooking time was shorter and used less heat. Generally, boiling vegetables in water can leach nutrients and decrease their health benefits, so eating your spinach raw is an effective way to ensure you get the maximum amount of nutrients.
Convenience and Versatility
Raw spinach is a convenient way to add nutrients to your favorite meals. For example, you can use raw spinach for salads instead of iceberg lettuce, which contains fewer nutrients. Raw spinach also works well on sandwiches and in wraps. When you don’t have time to prepare and wash vegetables, many supermarkets sell ready-to-eat raw spinach in bags.
Concerns about the potential for E. coli contamination in raw spinach supplies keep some from including it in their diets. E. coli is a type of bacteria that can contaminate many types of food, including meats and vegetables. Effects of E. coli food poisoning include stomach cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea and, in rare cases, death. A 2006 E. coli outbreak traced to spinach consumption led some suppliers to revamp safety standards and testing, but risk remains because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not made the measures mandatory.
Cooking spinach thoroughly is the most effective way to avoid food poisoning. But washing each leaf separately can lower health risks, making it relatively safe to eat raw, according to a 2009 report by ABC News. If the package of raw spinach you purchase is labeled “pre-washed,” “triple washed” or “ready-to-eat,” don’t wash the spinach, or you risk contaminating the spinach with bacteria from your kitchen or hands, according to the report. Also, don’t buy spinach if it is bruised or damaged.