Spinach shouldn’t be reheated – is that right?

We learned a lot about cooking from mothers and grandmothers. One of the old wisdoms is that  spinach  should not be reheated. Nobody really knows why, but you stick to the recommendation, because there has to be a core of truth to it. Or not?

Nitratgehalt in Spinat

Spinach is one of the vegetables that accumulate plenty of nitrate from the soil during the growth phase. Over time, nitrate is bacterially converted to nitrite and then to toxic nitrosamines. Nitrate itself is not harmful to human health. Only after conversion into nitrite can it endanger human health.

Conversion of nitrate to nitrite

Bacteria convert nitrate into nitrite, for example when food is stored at room temperature for a long time. If, on the other hand, the prepared spinach is kept in the refrigerator, bacterial growth is largely curbed and thus the formation of nitrite. So the recommendation made sense in the days of our grandmothers, because back then many households did not have a refrigerator.

Why is nitrite dangerous?

Nitrite can affect our health in two ways:

  1. Carcinogenic nitrosamines can be formed from nitrite in combination with protein breakdown products (so-called secondary amines), which occur naturally in many foods and are also formed during digestion.
  2. High doses of nitrite can impede the transport of oxygen in the blood of infants and thus cause “methaemoglobinaemia” with blue addiction (cyanosis).

Tips for handling spinach

  • Eat spinach as fresh as possible and remove the stalks and very large leaf veins when cleaning fresh spinach leaves.
  • Thorough washing or blanching can reduce nitrate levels since nitrate is water soluble.
  • Avoid long warm-up times.
  • After the first preparation, let the  vegetables  cool down quickly so that as little nitrite as possible can develop. It is best to transfer the spinach to a clean container and place it immediately, well covered, in the refrigerator for a maximum of 1 day. You can then reheat the vegetables without hesitation.
  • Infants and young children should not eat reheated spinach.
  • The recommendations apply equally to all nitrate-rich vegetables, for example  chardkalebeetroot , lettuce or rocket.


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