Nutrition Face-Off: Raw vs. Cooked Spinach

By Talia Fuhrman November 27, 2013 Categories: Nutrition IQ


Did you know that raw spinach contains oxalic acid, an organic substance that can interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and iron? Oxalic acid binds with calcium, making it unavailable for use by our bodies. It also attaches to quite a few other vital nutrients, and long-term consumption of foods high in oxalic acid can lead to nutrient deficiencies. The good news is that oxalic acid is broken down upon heating, so there is no loss of nutrients in steamed or sautéed spinach.

Should you avoid raw spinach in your green drinks and salads? Is cooked spinach always the superior choice? Both fresh and cooked spinach contain about the same amount of macronutrients in a 100-gram serving (roughly 3 1/3 cups raw or 1/2 cup cooked spinach). Both servings are about 23 calories, 3.8 g of carbohydrates, 3 g of protein, 0.3 g of fat, and a whopping 2.4 g of fiber, which is 10 percent of the daily value.

Raw Spinach Benefits: There is no need to shun raw spinach simply because it contains oxalic 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.

Cooked Spinach Benefits: When you eat spinach that has been heated, you will 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.


Iron 411: Both raw and cooked spinach are excellent sources of iron, containing twice as much as other leafy greens. A 100-gram serving of raw spinach contains 2.71 mg of iron, whereas cooked spinach contains 3.57 mg. Keep in mind that iron absorption is influenced by how much iron you already have in your body and by other nutrients that you eat with your meals. For instance, vitamin C facilitates iron absorption, while other substances like tannins and polyphenols inhibit iron absorption—so the amount of iron we absorb will vary regardless of whether or not spinach is cooked.

As with other vegetables, there are pros and cons to both raw and cooked forms. Eating a wide variety of plant foods is important for good health, and eating plant foods in both raw and cooked form will provide you with the richest array of nutrients.

Remember to look for fresh spinach that is bright green and appears freshly picked; spinach that is older and paler in color has been shown to contain lower concentrations of nutrients.

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Is it advisable to cook the spinach when you want to prepare smoothie with it??

Abigail efia gyamea oppong - 2015-11-10 12:32:49

@stabis Nutrition research is massive. You make some big claims and offer opinions and suggestions based on your own assumptions. Hypocracy! Learn to research medicine. Educate yourself. I leave you with a relevant research article that was conducted by critical thinking and experentation.

WeMustLearnMore - 2015-09-07 22:19:37

Hey, just something that I'm curious about. How do we know what happens to the raw spinach once it enters the system. Is it not possible that it gets broken down into something akin to cooked? How do we trace it's journey? Surely there is no way of tracking it? A lot of food science appears to me to be speculative and based on but a so far small bundle of accepted "facts". But nobody knows, which is why you get foods that are one day miracle foods and the next have been relegated to something less. I don't know, I just think that we're getting but a small picture of how food is processed in the body. Just an opinion mind :) I for one love both raw and cooked spinach and will eat what I fancy at the time and not be overly concerned about numbers and science. I reckon the worrying about it has a more detrimental effect on the body that owt else. Peace :)

stabis - 2015-08-19 07:24:51

I am a doctor and always recommend my patients to eat cooked spinach versus raw spinach.Am I right or wrong. Please let me know.

Dr Lalitha vakkalanka - 2015-08-17 05:54:58

I have iron overload and am eating raw spinach and egg with soya milk and yogurt/skimmed milk to reduce iron intake.Am I on track or is there a better option?t Thanks. Marais

Hendrik Marais - 2015-08-14 19:34:38

Good afternoon, is the spinach in this container of super greens raw or cooked, haven't tried it yet but hoping it's almost I expected and more. Thank you, Patricia

Patricia Ruiz - 2015-07-22 23:30:45

Would eating copious raw spinach in smoothies have a detrimental effect on ones liver? I am trying to track down a cause for a curious liver dysfunction I suffered recently.

Sue - 2015-05-18 00:05:06

Just now cooked up some spinach onions, using just a little water, cooking them separately, with salt, and some italian herbs. It's exquisite combined all together. Way better than raw. Damn straight. I'm human.

Scott - 2015-04-05 04:28:47

To get the full nutty flavour of the vegetable there's nothing better than to eat it raw.

Tom - 2015-03-20 12:46:06