Despite its cute name, baby spinach packs the same nutritional punch as the “adult” varieties. Baby spinach is distinguished by smaller leaves, a more tender texture and a slightly sweeter taste compared to mature spinach leaves. All spinach leaves are very good sources of dietary fiber -- including soluble and insoluble types.
The term “baby spinach” is used to describe spinach leaves that are picked during an earlier stage of growth -- usually between 15 and 35 days after planting. In contrast, regular spinach leaves are harvested between 40 and 65 days after planting. Some people prefer the texture and taste of baby spinach, especially in fresh salads, and are willing to pay the premium price for it. Research is mixed on whether the nutritional value of baby spinach is better than mature leaves, although the most important factors seem to be the quality of the soil and the climate -- not so much the stage of growth.
Dietary Fiber Benefits
Dietary fiber is categorized as two basic types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes gel-like and sticky within your intestines. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, but it tends to attract it within the large intestine. Soluble fiber is partially digested and helpful for making you feel full for longer periods of time after meals. It also helps prevent blood sugar from spiking and keeps blood cholesterol levels in check. In contrast, insoluble fiber is virtually indigestible, but it promotes intestinal health by bulking up stool and stimulating regular bowel movements. Most fruit and veggies contain a combination of the two types of dietary fibers. Daily fiber needs for an average-sized women are about 25 grams.
Fiber in Spinach
The amount of dietary fiber in baby spinach doesn’t seem to differ from that of more mature leaves. The more tender texture of baby spinach suggests that the fiber may be a little more soluble, but no research has confirmed or denied this postulate. The overall amount of fiber in 1 cup of cooked baby spinach is approximately 4.3 grams. About 70 percent of the fiber is insoluble cellulose, whereas the remaining 30 percent is soluble fiber. Cooking spinach is likely to make a little more of the fiber available to your body, but it may also destroy some of the heat-sensitive nutrients such as vitamin C.
There has been some concern over the last decade that spinach is a carrier for E. coli bacteria and increases the risk of food poisoning. The truth is that all produce can carry a variety of microorganisms on their leaves and skin, so it’s important to wash all fruits and veggies before you eat them. Rinsing spinach and lettuce can be difficult and ineffective, so soaking the leaves for a few minutes with a natural antibacterial agent is often recommended. For example, vinegar, lemon juice, vitamin C powder, colloidal silver and hydrogen peroxide are all good antimicrobials.
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 3rd Edition; American Dietetic Association
- The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts; Art Ulene
- Public Health Nutrition: From Principles to Practice; Mark Lawrence and Tony Worsley
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.