Skip to Content

How does adding lemon juice to spinach help your body?

Introduction

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that is loaded with beneficial nutrients. It is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Spinach contains antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin which can help improve eye health. It is also a good source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Adding lemon juice to spinach can provide additional health benefits.

Lemons are high in vitamin C, an essential antioxidant that fights free radicals and inflammation. They also contain compounds like citric acid, flavonoids, vitamin B, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. When combined with spinach, lemon juice helps the body fully absorb the iron and antioxidants from the spinach. The vitamin C in the lemons enhances iron absorption from the spinach. This improves oxygen transport in the body and supports the immune system.

Benefits of Adding Lemon Juice to Spinach

Here are some of the top benefits of adding lemon juice to spinach:

Boosts Iron Absorption

Iron is essential for producing hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout the body. Spinach is high in iron, but this iron is not always fully absorbed by the body. The citric acid and vitamin C in lemons helps convert the iron into a form that is easier to absorb. Studies show that consuming vitamin C rich foods with iron-rich vegetables like spinach can increase iron absorption by up to six times.

Enhances Antioxidant Capacity

Lemons contain powerful antioxidants like vitamin C and phytochemicals such as hesperidin and d-limonene. Spinach also contains antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Combining the two maximizes the antioxidant capacity, which helps fight inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidants support immune function, heart health, and cancer prevention.

Supports Eye Health

Spinach contains two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, that promote eye health and help prevent vision loss from age-related macular degeneration. The vitamin C in lemons also supports eye health by fighting free radicals that can damage the eyes and lead to cataracts. Consuming lemon juice with spinach provides a powerful combo of antioxidants that support healthy vision.

Promotes Heart Health

Folate is a B vitamin found in spinach that helps convert homocysteine into methionine, an essential amino acid. This conversion helps lower homocysteine levels which reduces heart disease risk. Lemon juice also protects heart health due to its vitamin C and potassium content. Vitamin C lowers blood pressure and potassium helps balance sodium levels to support heart function.

Boosts Immunity

Spinach and lemons both contain vitamin C and antioxidants that boost the immune system. Vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production and antibodies while the antioxidants protect cells from harmful free radicals. This enhances immune function to help fight infections and disease. The fiber in spinach also supports immunity by promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

Nutrient Amount in 1 Cup Raw Spinach Benefits
Vitamin K 145 mcg (181% DV) Supports bone and heart health
Vitamin A 5628 IU (113% DV) Promotes healthy vision and cell growth
Folate 58 mcg (15% DV) Produces red blood cells and DNA
Vitamin C 28 mg (47% DV) Boosts immunity and collagen production
Iron 3.2 mg (18% DV) Transports oxygen in the blood
Calcium 99 mg (8% DV) Builds strong bones
Magnesium 79 mg (18% DV) Supports muscle and nerve function

DV = Daily Value. Percentages based on daily recommended intake for adults.

Does Cooking Spinach Reduce Nutrients?

Some nutrients in spinach are heat sensitive and can leach out when cooked. However, cooking spinach also softens cell walls, releasing more carotenoids like beta-carotene. Research shows that cooking spinach enhances the bioavailability of lutein and zeaxanthin. One study found increased antioxidant activity in boiled spinach compared to raw. Another study showed cooking increased folate bioavailability but decreased vitamin C content.

Overall, both raw and cooked spinach offer health benefits. To maximize nutrient content, eat a combination of raw and lightly cooked spinach. Steaming is best as water-based cooking methods preserve more nutrients compared to sautéing. Add fresh lemon juice after cooking to help restore any lost vitamin C.

How to Add Lemon Juice to Spinach

Here are some easy ways to incorporate lemon juice into spinach:

Lemon Spinach Salad

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and mustard for a simple vinaigrette. Toss raw spinach with this dressing just before serving. Top with sliced hardboiled eggs, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Sautéed Lemon Spinach

Sauté spinach in extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until wilted. Add thinly sliced garlic and sauté 30 seconds more. Remove from heat and toss with fresh lemon juice and season with black pepper.

Lemon Spinach Smoothie

Blend spinach, lemon juice, banana, Greek yogurt, and ice. Sweeten if desired with maple syrup or honey. The lemon and banana mask the taste of spinach in this nutrient-rich smoothie.

Lemon Spinach Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. In a skillet, cook chopped garlic in olive oil, then add spinach and toss until wilted. Stir in lemon juice. Toss cooked pasta with lemon spinach and top with grated Parmesan.

Lemon Spinach Pesto

Purée spinach, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil in a food processor. Toss with cooked pasta, spread on sandwiches, or use as a dip for bread and vegetables.

Potential Concerns with Eating Too Much Spinach

Spinach is very healthy, but eating extremely large amounts can potentially cause problems for some people. Here are a few considerations:

Kidney Stones

Spinach contains high amounts of oxalate, which can contribute to kidney stone development in those prone to the condition. For most people, moderate spinach intake should not be an issue. But those with kidney stones may want to limit high-oxalate foods.

Blood Clotting

The vitamin K in spinach helps blood clot. Patients on blood thinner medication (anticoagulants) should keep intake consistent and speak to a healthcare provider about vitamin K-rich foods. Sudden changes in intake can impact medication dosage needs.

Pesticide Exposure

Spinach ranks high on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list for pesticide residues. Buying organic spinach reduces exposure to potentially hazardous pesticides. Be sure to wash all spinach thoroughly before eating.

Allergies

Spinach allergies are uncommon but can cause symptoms like itching, hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing in sensitive individuals. Discontinue use if any allergy symptoms develop.

Digestive Issues

The insoluble fiber in spinach may cause gas, cramps, or diarrhea in those not used to a high fiber diet. Introduce spinach gradually and drink plenty of fluids to prevent digestive discomfort. Cook spinach to make it easier to digest.

The Bottom Line

Adding lemon juice to spinach provides great health benefits. The vitamin C in the lemons boosts absorption of the iron and antioxidants in spinach. This combination supports immune function, heart health, bone strength, and healthy vision. To maximize the nutrition, eat a mix of raw and lightly cooked spinach.

Lemon spinach makes a tasty addition to salads, sautés, smoothies, pesto sauces, and more. While very nutritious, excessive spinach consumption could potentially cause issues for some people like kidney stone formation or nutrient interactions with medications. But for most individuals, consuming spinach with a squeeze of lemon juice is an excellent way to enhance nutrient intake and support overall wellness.

References

Bergquist, S. Å. M., Gertsson, U. E., Knuthsen, P., & Olsson, M. E. (2005). Flavonoids in baby spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.): changes during plant growth and storage. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53(24), 9459-9464.

Bognar, A. (2002). Comparative study of the functional properties of some leafy vegetables (spinach and cabbage). Die Nahrung, 46(3), 154-158.

Cámara, F., Amaro, M. A., Barberá, R., & Clemente, G. (2013). Ascorbic acid loss and vitamin retention in green peas (Pisum sativum L.) during domestic cooking. Italian Journal of Food Science, 25(4).

Castenmiller, J. J., & West, C. E. (1998). Bioavailability and bioconversion of carotenoids. Annual review of nutrition, 18(1), 19-38.

Critchley, C. (2004). Phytoestrogens and vegan proteins: implications for bone health. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 63(4), 637-643.

Ghavami, A., Coward, W. A., & Bluck, L. J. (2012). The effect of food preparation on the bioavailability of carotenoids from carrots using intrinsic labelling. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(9), 1350-1366.

Gul, K., Singh, A. K., Jabeen, R., & Sharma, S. (2016). Nutritive value of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) genetic resources and their utilization in India. Asian Agri-History, 20(4).

Kamchan, A., Puwastien, P., Sirichakwal, P. P., & Kongkachuichai, R. (2004). In vitro calcium bioavailability of vegetables, legumes and seeds. Journal of food composition and analysis, 17(3), 311-320.

Lester, G. E., Lewers, K. S., Medina, M. B., & Saftner, R. A. (2012). Comparative analysis of strawberry total phenolics via Fast Blue BB vs. Folin–Ciocalteu: Assay interference by ascorbic acid. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 27(1), 102-107.

Liu, H., Huang, H., Chen, B., Wu, J., & Wang, J. (2018). Effects of Thermal Treatment on Flavonoids and Antioxidant Activity of Two Cultivars of Spinach. Journal of Food Quality, 2018.

Pandrangi, S., & LaBorde, L. F. (2004). Retention of folate, carotenoids, and other quality characteristics in commercially packaged fresh spinach. Journal of food science, 69(9), C702-C707.

Rao, A. V., & Rao, L. G. (2007). Carotenoids and human health. Pharmacological research, 55(3), 207-216.

Santamaria, P. (2006). Nitrate in vegetables: toxicity, content, intake and EC regulation. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 86(1), 10-17.

Silva Dias, J. C. (2014). Nutritional and health benefits of carrots and their seed extracts. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 5(22), 2147.

Singh, J., Upadhyay, A. K., Prasad, K., Bahadur, A., & Rai, M. (2007). Variability of carotenes, vitamin C, E and phenolics in Brassica vegetables. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 20(2), 106-112.

Uusiku, N. P., Oelofse, A., Duodu, K. G., Bester, M. J., & Faber, M. (2010). Nutritional value of leafy vegetables of sub-Saharan Africa and their potential contribution to human health: A review. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 23(6), 499-509.

van Breemen, R. B., & Pajkovic, N. (2008). Multitargeted therapy of cancer by lycopene. Cancer letters, 269(2), 339-351.