Spinach is one of those love-it-or-hate-it vegetables. Some people can’t get enough of the stuff, and others can’t stand it. However, most folks know that it’s very good for you. But what about when you’re pregnant? Is it safe to eat spinach during pregnancy?
Spinach is safe to eat during pregnancy. In fact, it’s a good source of vitamins and minerals like iron, folic acid, and calcium. So, if you’re looking for a way to sneak some extra nutrients into your healthy diet, spinach is a great option. Just be sure to cook and prep it properly before eating it to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Now you know that spinach is safe and healthy to eat, especially while pregnant – but is there a limit on how much spinach you can eat? Is raw spinach better than cooked? What are the benefits of having spinach while pregnant?
Here, we will explore the answers to these questions and more.
Is It Safe to Eat Spinach During Pregnancy?
It is safe to eat spinach during pregnancy. Spinach is a nutrient-rich food that can offer many health benefits to pregnant women. Spinach is packed with essential vitamins and minerals like iron, folic acid, and calcium (Source: Bioactive Foods in Promoting Health)
However, spinach must be prepared and cooked properly before eating it to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Pregnant women should avoid eating raw unwashed spinach or spinach that has not been cleaned properly.
Here are the different kinds of spinach you can find in the grocery store and how to cook and prepare them:
Bagged Fresh Spinach (baby leaf and regular)
Bags of fresh spinach, whether baby leaf or regular, are usually pre-washed, but it is still important to give them a wash at home before using them. It is also important to remove any bruised or wilted leaves and to eat the spinach in advance of any expiration date.
You can also cook spinach, which is also safe when pregnant. It’s a good idea not to overcook spinach if you can. Overcooking it can make the spinach lose some of its vital nutrients. (Source: National Library of Medicine)
Frozen spinach is a great option if you don’t have fresh spinach on hand. Frozen spinach is pre-washed and usually doesn’t need to be cooked for very long.
You can cook frozen spinach in a pan on the stove, in the microwave, or even in a steamer. It’s also good in smoothies if you like spinach as an ingredient. Again, it’s best not to overcook spinach if you can – but frozen spinach is a convenient way to add it to your pregnancy diet.
Canned spinach is already cooked, so you just need to heat it up before eating it. Also, check its expiration date and avoid using canned spinach if it is already expired. As with other canned foods, avoid any dented, bloated or leaking cans.
Spinach Salad (pre-prepared and also homemade):
Pre-prepared spinach salad
Groceries and fast-food chains usually have a pre-pared spinach salad with dressing packets inside. You can find these in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.
However, Listeria has been found in bagged pre-prepared spinach salad. Listeria is a bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Pregnant women are more susceptible to Listeria infection, which can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. (Source: National Library of Medicine).
It’s understandable if you’re tired, busy or don’t have time to prepare your own salad. You can still use Pre-prepared spinach salad – just make sure to wash the spinach again even if it is pre-washed, and choose the freshest possible bags.
In addition, ensure to check the “use-by” date on the package and only buy pre-prepared spinach salads that are within that date. Also, be sure to follow the instructions on the package and refrigerate the salad as soon as you get home.
In a restaurant, you may want to ask if the salads are made fresh, or if they arrive pre-bagged. Pre-prepared salads in restaurants should be avoided, unless you know (or can see) that the spinach leaves are thoroughly washed before use.
Spinach salads at salad bars are best avoided due to the risk of cross-contamination. We cover this more in our salad article.
Homemade Spinach Salad
For the dressing, you can use a store-bought dressing or make your own. Dressings that are high in sugar or fat are best eaten in moderation. A high sugar or high-fat diet can increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes. (Source: Mayo Clinic). However, salads are usually a healthy choice during pregnancy, if prepared safely.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip (store-bought and homemade)
Store-bought Spinach and Artichoke Dip
You can find spinach and artichoke dip in the refrigerated section of some grocery stores. It’s safe to eat during pregnancy, if you follow some basic precautions.
Bear in mind that some store-bought dips can be high in calories, fat, and sodium, so should be eaten in moderation – it’s very easy to go overboard with tasty dips, so bear this in mind.
Also, once opened, keep the dip in the fridge and eat it within a couple of days. Try to avoid dips that have been left sitting out (e.g. at a party) or that may have been cross-contaminated by several people dipping several things into it.
Homemade Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Homemade spinach and artichoke dip is safe during pregnancy if made with pasteurized ingredients. If you haven’t made it yourself, it’s best to check that there’s no unpasteurized dairy or raw egg in the recipe.
You can also easily make your own pregnancy-safe spinach and artichoke dip! Start by sautéing some garlic in a pan. Then add in a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, a bag of frozen spinach, and a jar of artichoke hearts.
Is Spinach Good for Pregnant Women? The Benefits
Consumption of spinach during pregnancy can provide some important benefits:
- Spinach is a rich source of folic acid, which is important for pregnant women. Folic acid helps to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine. A pregnant woman needs to consume 400 micrograms of folate (the natural form of folic acid) daily. (Source: KidsHealth.org)
- Spinach is also a rich source of iron, which is important for pregnant women. Iron helps to prevent the risk of anemia during pregnancy. You will need 27 milligrams of iron each day when you are pregnant. (Source: WebMD)
- Spinach is a natural source of calcium, which is important for pregnant women. Calcium helps to prevent osteoporosis and helps to build strong bones and teeth. If you are pregnant, you’ll need 1000 milligrams of calcium each day. (Source: American Pregnancy Association)
In addition, not all varieties of spinach have an equal amount of essential nutrients. For example, baby spinach has more folate than mature spinach (source: WebMD). So if you’re looking for an extra boost of nutrients, you could choose baby spinach – though all types are nutritious and beneficial when you’re pregnant.
Can I Eat Spinach Raw When Pregnant?
Yes, you can eat spinach raw when pregnant. Just be sure to wash it properly first because, as we said earlier, spinach can sometimes contain bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. (Source: CDC).
Wash spinach in cold running water and then dry it with a clean towel. You can also buy pre-washed spinach at the store but it’s a good idea to wash it again to avoid bacterial contamination.
Can Spinach Help With Pregnancy-Related Constipation?
Spinach can help with pregnancy-related constipation. This is because spinach is an excellent source of fiber (source: National Library of Medicine). Fiber helps to add bulk to your stool and prevents constipation. (Source: Mayo Clinic)
If you are struggling with constipation, try adding spinach or other fiber-rich foods to your daily meals. A great way to add spinach to your pregnancy diet is through smoothies. Try this green smoothie for pregnant women:
Blend all ingredients together until smooth, and enjoy! You can also add a little honey for sweetness.
If you’re struggling with constipation during pregnancy, you might also want to read our list of high fiber foods for pregnancy.
We hope by following these guidelines, you can enjoy spinach while pregnant without any worries.