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Is spinach an acidic food?

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that is packed with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It has become a popular addition to salads, smoothies, and dishes like spinach artichoke dip. Some people wonder if spinach is acidic or alkaline. Understanding the acidity level of foods can help guide dietary choices, especially for those with certain health conditions. In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at the acidity of spinach and what that means for your health.

The pH of Spinach

The acidity or alkalinity of a food is measured by its pH value. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. Values below 7 are acidic, while values above 7 are alkaline or basic.

The pH value of a food can be influenced by different factors like soil pH, stage of ripeness, length of storage, and preparation method. Published sources provide varying pH values for spinach ranging from 5.5 to 7.7. Most state that spinach is mildly acidic with a pH around 6.0-6.8.

Here is a look at some reported pH values for spinach:

Source Spinach pH
USDA National Nutrient Database 6.8
Self Nutrition Data 6.0
Food Chemistry Journal 5.5-7.7

The variation can be attributed to factors like the cultivar, growing conditions, age of leaves sampled, and testing methodology. Regardless of the precise pH, spinach appears to be mildly acidic but not far from a neutral pH.

What Makes Spinach Acidic?

Several compounds likely contribute to the mildly acidic pH of spinach leaves. These include:

  • Oxalic acid – This organic acid is found in many plants and vegetables. Spinach is a high oxalate food.
  • Malic acid – Another organic acid present in spinach leaves.
  • Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) – Spinach contains a good amount of antioxidant vitamin C which acts as an acid.
  • Minerals – Spinach provides minerals like iron, calcium, and phosphorus that can play a role in acidity when dissolved in water.

These acidic compounds give spinach a pH below 7. However, spinach also contains alkalizing minerals like magnesium and potassium which help offset some of the acidity.

Is Spinach Alkaline or Acidic?

Despite having some acidic qualities, spinach is not considered strongly acidic. With a pH around 6.0-6.8, it is mildly acidic but close to neutral. Spinach is not among the most acidic foods, which include things like lemons, vinegar, and soda.

However, spinach is also not one of the most alkaline foods. Very alkaline foods, with pH levels above 7.5, include fruits like lemons and watermelons or vegetables like artichokes and asparagus. So while spinach is not highly acidic, it is also not highly alkaline.

This means that spinach has a moderately balanced acid-alkaline effect in the diet. It provides both acidic and alkalizing nutrients without strongly shifting the body’s acid-base balance in either direction.

Acidic vs. Alkaline Diet

Some diets emphasize eating primarily acidic or alkaline foods to influence your body’s pH for proposed health benefits. The acidic and alkaline content of foods can be estimated by burning them and testing the pH of the resulting ash.

An alkaline diet limits acidic foods in favor of more alkaline ones. It is promoted to reduce acid load and lower risk of issues like kidney stones. An acidic diet does the opposite, restricting alkaline foods and emphasizing acidic ones. This is an unconventional approach and alleged to provide benefits like promoting weight loss in some proponents.

However, the human body carefully regulates its pH balance regardless of diet. Your blood pH hovers around a slightly alkaline 7.4. Eating acidic or alkaline foods may shift pH slightly but the body has effective systems to stabilize it.

For most people, focusing on eating plenty of nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains should take precedence over trying to manipulate overall dietary acidity.

Acidic Foods vs. Body Acidity

Keep in mind that the acidity level of a food does not always equate to its effect on your body’s acidity. The nutrients in spinach may give it a mildly acidic pH, but spinach can actually have an alkalizing effect on the body after digestion.

How a food impacts the body’s acid-base balance depends on various factors like:

  • Digestibility of the food.
  • Absorption and metabolism of nutrients.
  • Acidity and acid load delivered after digestion.
  • Ability of the food to influence pH regulating systems.

Testing the pH of the ash after burning a food does not account for these factors. So a food’s pH alone is not a perfect indicator of its effect on your body’s acidity. The actual impact will vary based on the specific nutrient composition.

For example, lemons have a very low pH around 2. But once metabolized they can help alkalize the body by providing alkaline minerals like potassium. So some acidic foods can be considered alkalizing foods once digested.

Health Benefits of Spinach

Spinach is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. This leafy green is low in calories but delivers a concentrated amount of nutrients. Spinach provides many potential health benefits including:

  • Antioxidants – Spinach is high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. It also provides vitamin C and flavonoids, antioxidants that protect cells from damage.
  • Vitamins and Minerals – Spinach is an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin A, bone-supporting vitamin K, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium, and more.
  • Anti-Inflammatory – Spinach contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds like quercetin that may lower risk of chronic diseases.
  • Heart Health – The nutrients in spinach promote heart health by improving blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and circulation.
  • Eye Health – Lutein and zeaxanthin in spinach reduce risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Cancer Prevention – Spinach provides protective compounds shown to decrease risk of cancers like breast, prostate, stomach, and lung cancer.

Keep in mind that these benefits depend on eating spinach regularly as part of an overall healthy diet.

Concerns About Oxalates in Spinach

Spinach does contain moderately high amounts of oxalic acid and oxalates. For most people, this is not a major concern.

However, people prone to kidney stones may want to eat spinach in moderation since oxalates can contribute to stone formation in susceptible individuals. Those with gout may also want to limit intake.

For everyone else, the health benefits of spinach far outweigh concerns about oxalates. Spinach can be part of a kidney-friendly diet as long as your overall intake of oxalate-rich foods is balanced and adequate fluids are consumed.

Is Spinach Safe for Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux involves stomach acid rising up into the esophagus and causing symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, and difficulty swallowing. Some acidic foods and beverages can aggravate these symptoms.

Despite having mildly acidic qualities, spinach is generally considered safe for people with acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). According to many experts, the impact of individual foods on reflux is not closely tied to pH values.

In fact, spinach is often part of recommended anti-reflux diets like the Dropping Acid diet. The nutrients in spinach help reduce inflammation and provide protection from oxidative damage caused by excess stomach acid.

However, everyone is different. If you experience reflux symptoms after eating spinach, you may want to avoid it or cook it to make it easier to digest.

Cooking Spinach Lowers Oxalates

Cooking spinach can help reduce any concerns about the oxalic acid content. Oxalates are water-soluble compounds that leach out into the cooking water when spinach is boiled, sauteed, or steamed.

According to one study, boiling decreased oxalate content by 30-87% compared to raw spinach leaves. Steaming led to losses of 41-50% of oxalates.

Based on this, lightly cooking fresh spinach can maximize nutrition while reducing any risks posed by oxalates. That said, even raw spinach is unlikely to cause problems for most healthy people.

How to Include Spinach in Your Diet

There are many ways to enjoy spinach and take advantage of its excellent nutrient profile:

  • Add spinach to omelets, scrambled eggs, and quiches.
  • Saute spinach lightly in olive oil with garlic.
  • Blend raw spinach into smoothies for added nutrients.
  • Add fresh baby spinach leaves to salads and sandwiches.
  • Mix chopped spinach into pasta dishes, risottos, and soups.
  • Saute and mix spinach with chickpeas, onions, and spices to make palak chana.
  • Make spinach dip from chopped spinach, artichoke hearts, Greek yogurt, and seasonings.

Canned and frozen spinach are quick and convenient options. Opt for low-sodium canned varieties and frozen spinach without added sauce or seasonings.


Spinach has a mildly acidic pH around 6.0-6.8. However, it provides nutrients that can have an alkalizing effect in the body. So spinach is neither strongly acidic nor highly alkaline but provides a good balance of nutrients.

The mild acidity of spinach is not a major concern for health. Any risks related to oxalates and acid load are far outweighed by the many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health benefits spinach provides.

Enjoy spinach cooked or raw as part of a healthy, balanced diet without worrying about any acidic effects. Focus on getting a variety of vegetables, combining spinach with other alkaline foods like carrots, broccoli, and squash.