Monday, February 24, 2014

What's wrong with my spinach?

I am not a very big supporter of spinach, but the main reason is that besides the classical frozen type with eggs, I have no other idea how to eat it. As a kid, I was offered the glorious example of Popeye the sailor as a possible evolution in my adulthood, but I was rather Olive's type.
Lately, we are fighting hard to eat as healthy as possible, and we try at least once the week a new green salad. I noticed that spinach leaves cannot be find easily in Berlin, and the box frozen variant doesn't look too healthy for me. At a Turkish grocery store I spotted a plastic box with fresh spinach leaves, and bought it. I only hesitate if one box will be enough or maybe we will be so in love with the green menu that will want to eat over and over again and we will not find enough spinach in Berlin to feed us.
Happy, with the box of spinach on the top of the kitchen table, we started to worry. How will be eat it? Raw, like the rabbits, or in combination with some other veggies? Would we want to make a smoothie too? 
Creative as usual, I cleaned some leaves, added some pomegranate and some boiled couscous and started to eat. My childhood intuition was not wrong. Raw or boiled, with eggs or pomegranates, spinach is not my type of taste. And left the half eaten salad in the fridge for the next days.
After a couple of days, an unpleasant metallic smell was left in the air every time we were opening the fridge. Tried several times to figure out what it is all about, but failed to identify the cause. Exasperated, I started to smell one by one the bowls and the guilt was exclusively to our spinach leaves. 

How dangerous are the oxalates

Curious to understand what happened, I did some intensive research the days after. The real story goes that spinach is very rich in iron, hence the metallic smell I felt in my fridge. What was subject of debate and scientific consideration in the case of spinach was the oxalic acid, which can be found equally in kale, chard or parsley. In the case of spinach, though, there is the highest concentration, of around 750 milligrams/100 grams. 
One of the most frequent warning I noticed, especially in the dedicated German-speaking literature is to avoid reheating the spinach leftover as it has poisonous compounds and can lead to sickness and even death. Honestly, the warning regards probably industrial quantities of spinach, and not the small portion that we usually have for daily consumption.
The oxalic acid is a common chemical compound in plants and animals, and is regularly consumed in very small quantities in different foods, such as nuts, most berries, seeds or leafy greens. The poisoning danger appears only in the case of the consumption in large amounts - probably more than 1 kg./day. A frequent consumption of such foods can lead to kidney stones.
According to the medical evaluations, oxalates, that are fungal in origin and cannot be destroyed by heat, can inhibit calcium absorption. Another possible dangers are tyroid disease and fybromalgia. 
The conclusion(s): eating 'green' doesn't mean necessarily eating 100% healthy, but if it is with measure, everything cannot be but fine.

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