It's no wonder Popeye loved spinach - this green leafy vegetable is packed full of nutrients.  Its versatility means it can be enjoyed both raw and cooked.  Read this month's featured food to learn why you should choose spinach more often.


Nutrition Notes

Spinach is a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  It's a rich source of iron, vitamins A, C and K, potassium, calcium and magnesium.  As well as being packed with nutrients, spinach is low in calories and fat.  In fact a serving of spinach (1/2 cup cup cooked) contains only 21 calories and less than 1 gram of fat!

Spinach is also an excellent source of lutein, an antioxidant linked to a lower risk of age related macular degeneration.  Research suggests that 6 and 10 milligrams (mg) of lutein per day is needed per day for opttimal eye health (1/2 cup of cooked spinach contains 10 mg!).

Spinach is also an exceptional source of folate, a B vitamin used to make DNA and other genetic material and to help cells divide. One-half cup of cooked spinach provides 146 micrograms (mcg) of folate, one-third of a day's worth.

A Canada Food Guide serving of spinach is 1/2 cup cooked. Here's how spinach stacks up in terms of its nutrient content:

Per 1/2 cup cooked spinach:

Calories (kcal)


Fat (g)


Fibre (g)


Vitamin A (from beta-carotene) (mcg)


Vitamin C (mg)


Vitamin K (mcg)


Calcium (mg)


Iron (mg)


Magnesium (mg)


Potassium (mg)


Folate (ug)


Lutein (mg)  10.2

Source: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27.


There are three widely available types of spinach: smooth leaf, savoyed leaf and semi-savoyed leaf. 

Smooth leaf spinach has broad, flat leaves.  This type of spinach is often canned or frozen.

Savoy leaf spinach has dark green, slightly curly leaves.  Savoy spinach is the variety most likely to be sold fresh in stores and markets.

Semi-savoy spinach has slightly crinkled leaves and is very similar to the savoy, although not as difficult to clean.  Semi-savoy spinach is grown for both fresh markets and processing.


Spinach is available fresh, frozen, and of course how Popeye enjoyed it - from a can. 

Choose fresh spinach that has a vibrant deep green colour.  Turn the leaves over; choose spinach that has no signs of yellowing or bruising.  Leaves should be fresh and tender and not wilting.


To store fresh spinach, loosely wrap it in a plastic bag and store in the crisper section of the fridge for up to five days.  Avoid washing the spinach prior to storing, as any excess moisture will cause the spinach to spoil more quickly.


Unless you purchase pre-washed spinach, spinach must be rinsed well before eating.

To wash spinach, remove course stems and place the leaves in a bowl of water.  Gently remove the spinach from the water, before dumping the water and refilling the bowl with clean water to repeat the process.  Continue to rinse the spinach until no more sand or soil is left in the bottom of the bowl of water.

If you are eating the spinach raw, the best way to dry spinach after washing it is to shake off excess moisture in a colander, or drying in a salad spinner.

If you are cooking the spinach, there is no need to shake off the excess moisture.

Spinach is about 91 percent water, which means it shrinks a lot when cooked.  In fact, spinach reduces in volumne by three-quarters when cooked. For every cup of coooked spinach, you'll need one pound of raw.


There are plenty of ways to enjoy spinach at breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Healthy Ways to Enjoy

  • Add chopped spinach o baby spinach to an omelet at breakfast.
  • Add layers of spinach, raw or steamed to your next homemade lasagna.
  • Enjoy a spinach salad by topping fresh baby spinach with toasted walnuts, sliced apple and thinly sliced red onion for a quick lunch.
  • Make a warm spinach salad: top spinach leaves with sautéd onions and mushrooms and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Spinkel with toasted pine nuts.
  • Sauté spinach and top with peanut sauce and crushed peanuts.
  • At dinner, serve steamed spinach with a splash or raspberry vinegar.
  • Make spinach pesto recipe by using equal amounts spinach and basil.
  • Use baby spinach leaves instead of lettuce in sandwiches and burgers.
  • Add spinach to pizza. Before baking, top pizza with wilted spinach (be sure to drain any excess moisture from the spinach to avoid a soggy crust).
  • Infuse pasta dishes with spinach. Add spinach leaves to pasta sauce at the end of cooking.

Did you know?

  • Popeye the Sailor loved his spinach and always became much stronger after eating it.  While it is a source of iron, spinach doesn't contain as much as was once reported in the 1930's (a value that was corrected decades later).
  •  Spinach originated in the Middle East and was brought to North America by the Spanish.
  • Many dishes that have spinach as a main ingredient will appear with "a la Florentine" in their name.

More Information


The World's Healthiest Foods

University of Georgia