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#12 of 22 Common Nutrition Mistakes

Posted by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 3:27 PM
  • 5 Replies

               Nutrition Mistake: Eating Spinach for Iron

Mindful that many women under 50 are iron-deficient, you’re beefing up on iron-rich spinach.

Result: You may get lots of nutrients—but not much iron.

Iron is important for energy because it helps deliver oxygen to every cell in your body, but it’s tricky to get because it comes in two types. Spinach and other plant sources are rich in what is called non-heme iron. Only about 2% to 20% of non-heme iron is absorbed, versus 15% to 35% of the heme iron found only in animal foods, specifically meat. Chicken liver has the most (13mg), followed by oysters (4.5mg), and beef (about 3mg).

What to do: Vitamin C helps increase your body’s uptake of non-heme iron from foods. Pair iron-fortified breakfast cereal with a glass of OJ, or add grapefruit segments to that spinach salad.

by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 3:27 PM
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Replies (1-5):
jessicasmom1
by Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 10:02 PM

yum! this is great 

darbyakeep45
by Darby on Jan. 19, 2013 at 5:29 AM

Love spinach!

mypbandj
by Jen on Jan. 19, 2013 at 10:07 AM
I know this from when I was anemic with my last pregnancy. I had never had an iron issue before that so it shocked me! I did everything to bring up my iron and by my next blood draw, it was perfect! My midwife was impressed!!
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reneawesley
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 10:28 AM
I love spinach.
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LntLckrsCmQut
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 11:27 AM

I've also read many studies that state that eating cooked spinach is a lot better than eating it raw, because you get more of the iron and a lot more of other nutrients. Sauteing and steaming is preferred over boiling. Spinach isn't that great of a resource for iron, but it does contain a lot of other vital nutrients. Stick to kale and other dark leafy greens for iron.


Low in calories and packed with numerous vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients, spinach ranks at the top of the superfood list. The leafy green is an excellent source of folate and vitamins K, C and A and rich in the important antioxidants lutein and glutathione. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E, B1, B2 and B6 and the minerals manganese, magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper. Although spinach contains twice the amount of iron as most other leafy greens, the amount of iron it provides depends on how it’s prepared.


Iron Content

A 100-gram serving of fresh, raw spinach leaves provides 23 calories and 2.71 milligrams of iron, according to the USDA. The same size serving of fresh spinach that has been boiled without salt and then drained provides an equal number of calories and 3.57 milligrams of iron. Freezing spinach appears to lower its iron content, according to USDA data, which states that a 100-gram serving of frozen chopped or whole-leaf spinach provides 29 calories and 1.89 milligrams of iron. Boiling such a serving of frozen spinach without salt and then draining it minimally increases its iron content to 1.96 milligrams, while also slightly increasing the energy it provides to 35 calories.

Cooked Spinach

Because spinach contains an extensive roster of nutrients, dieticians and health experts often recommend consuming it in both its raw and cooked forms for maximal benefit. Raw spinach is significantly higher in folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin and potassium. Ounce for ounce, cooked spinach provides greater amounts of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium and iron. Heating spinach also helps free up some of its most important carotenoids for absorption, including beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. Lightly sautéing spinach in olive oil helps increase the bioavailability of its lutein, a carotenoid that can’t be absorbed unless accompanied by fat.

Types of Iron

Iron is a mineral your body requires in small amounts to remain healthy. Its primary function is to transport oxygen in the hemoglobin of your red blood cells. Your body uses, recycles and stores iron to help prevent its deficiency. With the exception of egg yolks, most animal-based iron sources, including meat, fish and poultry, provide a type of iron known as heme. Plant sources, such as spinach, mostly contain a different type of iron called nonheme. Heme iron is absorbed more readily by your body than nonheme iron; depending on how much iron your body already has stored, you are likely to absorb 15 to 35 percent of the heme iron you consume, and only 2 to 20 percent of nonheme iron.

Considerations

Not only is iron absorption affected by how much iron you already have in your body, it’s also affected by other nutrients from the same source or meal. Vitamin C, for example, helps facilitate iron absorption, while certain phytonutrients, including oxalic acid, phytic acid, tannins and polyphenols, inhibit the absorption of nonheme iron. Spinach contains high levels of oxalic acid, which binds to iron. Consequently, the bioavailability of the iron in spinach is significantly less than the amount it actually contains, whether consumed raw or cooked. Oxalates also bind to the mineral calcium, making spinach a less important calcium source than it appears to be.

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