Low in calories and packed with an impressive array of nutrients and phytonutrients, spinach is routinely cited as one of the top most beneficial foods. It’s especially high in folate, vitamins C and K, magnesium, potassium and potent antioxidant compounds such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Although raw spinach doesn’t qualify as a high-fiber food, cooked spinach can be an excellent source of fiber, depending on the amount you consume.
Fiber in Spinach
A standard 2-cup serving of raw spinach has 14 calories, 1.7 grams of protein, very little fat and 2.2 grams of carbohydrates, of which 1.4 grams are dietary fiber. Relative to its caloric content, spinach contains a significant amount of fiber. However, a food must supply at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving to qualify as a good source of fiber under U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards. Because cooking concentrates spinach, a standard 1-cup serving of plain, boiled spinach has 41 calories, 5.4 grams of protein, just under half a gram of fat and 6.8 grams of carbohydrates, of which 4.3 grams are fiber. Accordingly, a cup of cooked spinach is a good source of dietary fiber.
Daily Fiber Intake
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily intake of 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. Therefore, if you typically eat about 1,800 calories worth of food everyday, you should strive to get about 25 grams of fiber. Similarly, a daily diet of about 2,500 calories requires 35 grams of fiber per day. Because many people don’t know their average daily caloric intake, fiber recommendations are also given in the form of age- and gender-based guidelines. By these standards, women and men through the age of 50 require 25 grams and 38 grams of fiber per day, respectively. Past the age of 50, women and men need just 21 grams and 30 grams of fiber each day, respectively.
Most dark green leafy vegetables are nutritionally comparable to spinach, providing significant amounts of folate, vitamins C and K, potassium and antioxidant compounds. As with spinach, all types of raw leafy greens are lower in fiber than their cooked counterparts. Kale and Swiss chard are lower in fiber than spinach, providing 2.6 grams and 3.7 grams of fiber per cup of boiled greens, respectively. Turnip greens and collards, on the other hand, are slightly better sources of fiber. Turnip greens and collards supply 5 grams and 5.3 grams of fiber, respectively, per cup of plain boiled greens.
Although fresh, raw spinach is higher in vitamin C, cooked spinach is significantly higher in vitamin K and, through its beta-carotene content, vitamin A. Cooked spinach is also a better source of the fat-soluble antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are easier to absorb from spinach that’s been cooked in a small amount of fat. Sauté spinach in a bit of olive oil and top it with toasted pine nuts and sliced mandarin orange segments for a light, flavorful salad that’s rich in nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. Alternatively, puree steamed spinach with fresh basil leaves and plain yogurt for a cold summer soup that’s both low in calories and high in fiber.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Spinach, Raw
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Spinach, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Collards, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Turnip Greens, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Chard, Swiss, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Kale, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- Wellness Foods A to Z; Sheldon Margen, M.D., et al.
- Encyclopedia of Healing Foods; Michael Murray, N.D., et al.
Based just outside Chicago, Meg Campbell has worked in the fitness industry since 1997. She’s been writing health-related articles since 2010, focusing primarily on diet and nutrition. Campbell divides her time between her hometown and Buenos Aires, Argentina.