Have you ever wondered why so many recipes suggest mixing in milk, cheese, or other dairy products when you’re preparing spinach? It’s a pairing that’s not only tasty, but also healthy. Very healthy, in fact.
What’s wrong with spinach?
Spinach contains oxalate (oxalic acid) which is the antinutrient compound present in different green leaves (amaranth, beet, chard), vegetables (cassava, parsley, chives, endive), fruit (rhubarb), seeds, nuts (almonds, cashews), cocoa, tea, and coffee. When consumed, it binds to minerals such as calcium and iron, forming compounds which are normally eliminated in the urine or stool. For some people, this can increase the risk of creating kidney stones and other health problems. Since the minerals have been turned into a waste byproduct, they are no longer available to be absorbed by the digestive system.
However, the absorption of calcium from milk and other rich-in-calcium ingredients won’t be impaired by spinach’s oxalic acid, which is why pairing spinach with dairy products helps ensure you gain all the nutrients you need. Oxalate may also be produced by body or converted from vitamin C during its metabolism.
How to reduce oxalate?
You can always eliminate foods with high amounts of oxalate from your diet, or limit them to small servings (50 mg per day), but they are still the source of many other nutrients. There are other ways to manage, like getting enough calcium to compensate for the oxalate’s theft. Good alternatives are dairy products or vegetables like pak choi or broccoli. You can also boil spinach and reduce the oxalic acid level by 30% to 90%. Baby spinach is supposed to possess a lower amount of oxalate. If you drink a lot of water, it helps in producing enough urine to remove this harmful compound.
The aroma profile
Raw spinach is mostly characterized by green notes that are lost by cooking. Faint grassy undertones can also be found. Higher temperatures bring an additional potato flavor that is prone to degradation into ** sulfurous** compounds with more onion-like nuances. Feeble hues of popcorn appear as well.
Spinach is typically used in savory dishes, but you can try it in sweets as well. Make ice cream or a sorbet from these healthy leaves. Combine young spinach leaves with banana or chocolate (dark or white), almond milk, and vanilla to create a delicious smoothie. Beef up your regular brownies or blondies with those green leaves. But there’s also nothing wrong with sticking to classic dishes such as pasta, or ravioli. However, you can enrich spinach with huacatay, perilla, sweet grass, or watercress. Don’t forget to add a source of calcium, like Parmigiano Reggiano, Gorgonzola, Chaumes, Vieux Chimay, Fourme d’Ambert, or Brugge Dantelle.
Spinach is often used to intensify the exhilarating green colour in dishes or sauces: eg Belgium eel in green sauce, or sauce Vincent, a mayonnaise-based sauce with herb puree), green pasta, pancakes, and pastry (sponge, cupcakes).