Putting raw spinach in a smoothie is the healthiest way to eat it

Putting raw spinach in a smoothie is the healthiest way to eat the vegetable because heat destroys its antioxidants, scientists discover

  • Cooking spinach can destroy the vitamin lutein – good for heart and eye health 
  • Scientists say adding dairy fat, like yoghurt, helps to release the antioxidant
  • Cooking spinach on a high heat is the quickest way to destroy lutein

Chopping up spinach and putting it in a smoothie is the healthiest way to eat it, research suggests.

Cooking the leafy vegetable breaks down its antioxidants, while mixing it raw with yoghurt or milk helps to release the powerful nutrient lutein.

Boiling or frying spinach are sure-fire ways of destroying lutein, a study found.

Lutein helps lower the risk of heart attacks and prevents eye damage, previous research suggests.

Keeping spinach raw, chopping it up and putting it in a smoothie with dairy is the healthiest way to eat it. Cooking the green vegetable destroys its antioxidants, such as lutein, Swedish researchers found. Lutein can reduce the risk of heart disease and eye damage 

Reseachers from Linköping University in Sweden tested different ways of cooking supermarket-bought baby spinach to see how its nutritional content changed.

They measured the lutein levels regularly and concluded the leaves are best chopped up and consumed raw alongside dairy.

‘Best is not to heat the spinach at all,’ PhD researcher and study author Rosanna Chung said.

‘And even better is to make a smoothie and add fat from dairy products, such as cream, milk or yoghurt.’

She explained: ‘When the spinach is chopped into small pieces, more lutein is released from the leaves and the fat increases the solubility of the lutein in the fluid.’

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The more lutein dissolved into a smoothie, the more it can be absorbed by the body, the scientists suggested.

Whereas cooking spinach for a long time at a high heat – such as in a lasagne or frying it – is the most damaging way to prepare the green vegetable.

A meal cooked at a lower heat, like a stew, retains more of the vitamin, with heating spinach in a microwave also potentially being a healthier option, the study suggests.

Study author Professor Lena Jonasson, from the department of medical and health sciences, said: ‘What is unique about this study is that we have used preparation methods that are often used when cooking food at home.

‘And we have compared several temperatures and heating times.

‘We have also investigated methods of preparation in which the spinach is eaten cold, such as in salads and smoothies.’

The research was published in the journal Food Chemistry.

Lutein has been shown to help reduce chronic swelling in the blood vessels of people with coronary artery disease, which can lower their risk of a heart attack.

It is also referred to as the ‘eye vitamin’ because lutein it is thought to protect against damage from sunlight.

Many also take lutein supplements in a bid to reduce their risk of heart disease, colon or breast cancers, and type 2 diabetes, according to WebMD. 


Vitamin A

Protects against: Blindness, certain cancers, acne and osteoporosis

Found in: Liver, fish oils, milk, eggs, and orange vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and carrots

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Protects against: Nerve, muscle and heart damage

Found in: Beef, liver, nuts, oats, oranges, pork, eggs, seeds and peas 

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Protects against: Cataracts, heart disease and migraines

Found in: Red meat, almonds, dairy, eggs, fish and green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach 

Vitamin B6

Protects against: Heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s

Found in: Pork, poultry, fish, bread, eggs and vegetables  

Vitamin B12

Protects against: Anaemia 

Found in: Animals products, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy; as well as fortified cereals 


Protects against: Multiple sclerosis

Found in: Egg yolks, almonds, cauliflower, cheese, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and spinach 

Vitamin C

Protects against: Heart disease, osteoporosis, anameia and scurvy

Found in: All fruit and vegetables, particularly broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower


Protects against: Liver, brain, muscle and nervous system damage

Found in: Liver, salmon, chickpeas, eggs and turkey 

Vitamin E

Protects against: Skin, heart and eye damage 

Found in: Vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables 

Folic acid

Protects against: Spina bifida in newborns when taken in early pregnancy, certain cancers and anaemia

Found in: Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and fortified breads and cereals


Protects against: Heart disease, brain damage and arthritis 

Found in: Liver, chicken, tuna, turkey, salmon, anchovies, pork and beef 

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenate)

Protects against: ADHD, arthritis, allergies, hair loss, asthma and colitis 

Found in: Mushrooms, fish, avocados, eggs, chicken, beef, pork and sunflower seeds 


Protects against: Bone damage, certain cancers and diabetes

Found in: Dairy, green leafy vegetables, soya beans, tofu, fish where you eat the bones; such as sardines, and fortified products; like bread and soya drinks 


Protects against: Dangerous blood pressure levels and poor nerve signalling

Found in: Salt, seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery and olives 


Protects against: Diabetes

Found in: Vegetables, whole grains, beef, poultry and dairy


Protects against: Nerve damage

Found in: Fish, nuts, cereals and green leafy vegetables 


Protects against: Nerve cell damage 

Found in: Shellfish, whole grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, kidneys and liver 


Protects against: Bone damage and immune dysfunction

Found in: Seaweed, cod, dairy, shrimp, tuna, eggs and prunes 


Protects against: Low levels of oxygen in the body

Found in: Red meat, shellfish, spinach, liver, lentils, pumpkin seeds, quinoa and turkey  


Protects against: Oesophageal cancer, liver disease, yeast infections and allergies

Found in: Peas, lentils, kidney beans, nuts, soy, dairy, eggs and whole grains 


Protects against: Arthritis, osteoporosis and cognitive decline 

Found in: Milk, meat, beans, lentils and nuts 


Protects against: Stroke, osteoporosis and kidney stones

Found in: Squash, sweet potato, yoghurt and halibut 


Protects against: Muscle and nerve damage

Found in: Salt, and smoked and cured meats 


Protects against: Bacterial infections and acne 

Found in: Seafood, eggs, liver, kidneys, nuts and dairy  


Protects against: Bleeding, immune dysfunction and thyroid problems

Found in: Seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds

Vitamin K

Protects against: Heart disease, osteoporosis and cognitive decline 

Found in: Parsley, spinach, grapes and eggs 


Protects against: Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke and certain cancers

Found in: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, chicken, eggs and sardines 

Vitamin D 

Protects against: Rickets (known as osteomalacia in adults), certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes and cognitive decline

Found in: Sunlight and oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel  

Omega-3 fatty acids

Protect against: Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, bipolar and depression 

Found in: Oily fish 


Protects against: Cancer, particularly lung; heart disease and stroke 

Found in: Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds 


Protects against: Cognitive decline

Found in: Liver, peanuts, red meat, poultry, fish, pasta, noodles and rice 


Protects against: Heart disease, cognitive decline, diabetes and mitochondrial diseases, which can cause brain damage. 

Mitochondria are the ‘energy powerhouses’ of cells

Found in: Fish and other seafood, seaweed, eggs and the dark meat of poultry 


Protects against: Heart disease, and brain and eye damage

Found in: Mushrooms, meat, poultry and red kidney beans

Pyrroloquinoline Quinone 

Protects against: Diabetes, cognitive decline and general inflammation

Found in: Fruit and vegetables


Protects against: Multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, ADHD, autism and bipolar

Found in: Tomatoes, wheat, coconut water and dairy 


Carotenoids are antioxidants produced by plants. The following make up 95 per cent of those in the human body: 

  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Lycopene
  • Alpha and beta carotene
  • Beta cryptoxanthin

Protect against: Blindness, cognitive decline, heart disease, various cancers, high blood pressure, hearing loss, inflammation and immune system damage 

Found in: Fruit and vegetables  

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