When is Spinach Low FODMAP Holistic Guide for Navigating Spinach and IBS

When is Spinach Low FODMAP? (Holistic Guide to Navigating Spinach and IBS)

Is butter low FODMAP, and is it IBS-Friendly?” was written by Salisha Sial, B.A. (New York University graduate student in public health and nutritional sciences) and reviewed, edited and updated by Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT.

Spinach can potentially make a wonderful IBS-friendly “superfood” as part of a balanced low FODMAP diet.  Not only is spinach packed with fiber and nutrients; spinach is low FODMAP in significant portions of ~1 ½ to 2 cups fresh – depending on the type. 

Whether you prefer spinach fresh or cooked, in a salad, smoothie, green juice, stir fry, or sauteed in a little butter or olive oil (with or without some salt, pepper, and low FODMAP spices/seasonings)… you’ve got options! 

Read on to find out more about Monash-approved serving sizes for each type of spinach, and other considerations.

Disclaimer: One size never fits all!  Even though Popeye promotes eating spinach to become stronger, we always recommend consulting your physician or a gut health dietitian to determine if spinach is right for you.

What are FODMAPs? (Quick review)

“FODMAP” is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols.

These are short-chained carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in our small intestine.

FODMAPs are easily fermentable in the gut and also highly osmotic.

Higher FODMAP foods are notorious for being more likely to trigger IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating and gas symptoms, especially in larger amounts, among folks with a compromised digestive system.

(Read more about the low FODMAP diet here.)

What is spinach?

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable, often called a “superfood” due to its high levels of vitamins and minerals. It’s also very low in calories, and slightly bitter and earthy in taste.  

There are three types of spinach we’ll focus on for the purposes of this article:

  1. Baby spinach
  2. English spinach
  3. Water spinach

Each of these variations of spinach look and taste very similar.  However, there are just a few slight differences worth knowing about from a FODMAP standpoint.

How much spinach is low FODMAP?

Fresh spinach

According to the Monash FODMAP App, spinach is low FODMAP as long as you’re sticking to the following parameters:

  • Baby spinach:  up to 2.65 ounces (~1 1/2 cups fresh) = low FODMAP
  • English spinach:  up to 2.65 ounces (~2 cups fresh) = low FODMAP
  • Water spinach: up to 2.65 ounces (~ 2 cups fresh) = low FODMAP

Cooked 

(Note that if you’re cooking spinach, you can start with the above amount of fresh spinach and cook it down.)

Frozen and powdered

If you’re dealing with frozen or even powdered spinach, which aren’t included in the Monash app at this time, you can calculate a low FODMAP spinach portion by referring to the number of grams per serving (from the nutrition fact label) to determine how much frozen spinach equals ~2.65 ounces.

How to Calculate FODMAP content of frozen spinach by grams in nutrition fact label

  • For example:3/4 cup of this frozen spinach equals ~85 grams, which converts to ~2.99 ounces.  So ~1/2 cup of this particular frozen spinach would be considered just under 2.65 grams (the low FODMAP cutoff). 

Health benefits of spinach

Nutrient-dense 

In addition to being high in antioxidants, spinach is loaded with vitamins (specifically folate and vitamin K), and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and more. (1)

Antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory

As a dark leafy green veggie, spinach is naturally abundant in phytochemicals and antioxidants such as chlorophyll, as well as beta-carotene (the antioxidant precursor to vitamin A).

Antioxidants are a key component of anti-inflammatory diets since they help protect our cells from “oxidation” (cell damage), aiding in cancer prevention, heart health, and more.

High in fiber, for healthy digestion

Fresh uncooked spinach provides ~0.8 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup, which translates to ~2.4 to 3.2 grams of fiber per low FODMAP serving of 1.5 to 2 cups fresh spinach.

In most cases, fiber-rich veggies are shown to help improve digestion by adding bulk to stool, optimizing our transit time and detoxification. 

  • Note:  Make sure you’re not increasing fiber in your diet by too much too fast, or you can actually experience adverse symptoms like gas, bloating and constipation.
  • Also make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids to help fiber-rich foods through your system properly!

Prebiotic

A 2021 Gut microbes study found that spinach significantly improved diversity in the gut microbiome as a prebiotic food. (2)  

(Prebiotic foods are the fuel which supports and encourages the growth of “good” probiotic bacteria in the gut!)

Recommended reading:

Generally easy to digest

In addition to being high in fiber and prebiotics, spinach is usually also relatively easy to digest in most cases, even if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

This is mostly due to spinach being low FODMAP.

However, some people find that cooked veggies (like spinach) are easier to digest compared to raw veggies.  Always listen to your body!

Are there any FODMAPs in spinach?

While it’s considered a low FODMAP vegetable, spinach technically still contains small amounts of fructans – aka a chain of fructose molecules strung together.

Fructans are also a type of oligosaccharide – aka the “O” in FODMAP. (3)

If you check out the Monash app, you’ll notice that a serving of ~2 ¾ cups of fresh baby spinach contains moderate amounts of fructans and is no longer low FODMAP.

  • Eating large quantities of low FODMAP foods at one time is called “FODMAP stacking” and can trigger IBS symptoms in some cases.

Is spinach IBS-friendly?

Yes, generally spinach is considered an IBS friendly food. 

Adding spinach to your diet may help provide vital nutrients, without irritating your digestive tract.

While both raw and cooked spinach are great options, raw spinach is higher in fiber, while cooked spinach is gentler on the gut.

(Fiber can be good or bad for you, depending on your bio-individuality.)

  • For example, some people with leaky gut and/or inflammatory bowel disease find they have a roughage intolerance, and may feel better eating more cooked versus raw veggies.

Also, be mindful of what you’re cooking spinach in, and how you’re dressing it or seasoning it – as there’s always potential to react to added ingredients (think: Ranch or Caesar salad dressing, garlic, onion powder, large amounts of butter, etc.)

Should I be concerned about the oxalates in spinach?

Spinach is a high oxalate food, which can potentially raise a concern for people with a history of kidney stones. (4

Swapping spinach for a lower-oxalate type of low FODMAP leafy green (like arugula or baby kale) may be beneficial if you have a history of kidney stones, which seem to be potentially linked with IBS in some cases. (5)

(Check out kidney stone nutrition blogger and expert Melanie Betz for more details on how to navigate high oxalate foods for kidney stone prevention!)

Easy ways to add spinach into your diet

  • Add it to eggs and omelets
  • Use it in salad bases and soups
  • Throw a  handful of fresh or frozen spinach into smoothies, for a nutritional boost
  • Incorporate cooked spinach to your favorite low FODMAP pasta dish
  • Include spinach in your next stir-fry or bowl
  • Top sandwiches and burgers with a handful of fresh spinach, for extra vitality
  • Add it to low FODMAP quesadillas or fajitas
  • Sauté it with garlic-infused olive oil as the veggie in your next low FODMAP dinner

11 Low FODMAP spinach recipes to try

Spinach is versatile in that can be enjoyed fresh or cooked, juiced, sauteed, on its own or added into other dishes for extra vitality.

If you’re looking for new and interesting ways to doctor up your low FODMAP diet with spinach, we recommend trying out the following recipes:

More low FODMAP food resources

Final thoughts 

Spinach is low FODMAP, antioxidant-rich, nutrient-dense, high in fiber, easy to digest (especially when cooked), naturally prebiotic, and generally unlikely to cause symptoms in most cases of IBS/SIBO – as long as you’re consuming it in moderation.

On a low FODMAP diet, you can try spinach in reasonable amounts of 1 ½ to 2 cups (fresh) or cooked from this amount of fresh spinach per serving.

It can be enjoyed fresh or cooked, on its own or added into other dishes for extra vitality.

While spinach certainly has many health benefits, we recommend diversifying your diet by alternating spinach with other types of low FODMAP leafy greens such as baby kale or arugula, especially if you’re concerned about its high oxalate content. 

As always, everyone has their own unique bio-individuality. Listen to signals from your body and consult with your doctor if you face changes or discomfort. 

Next steps

We hope this article helped to shed some light on where you stand with spinach on your gut-healing journey.

If you’d like to learn more about how to navigate IBS holistically, we invite you download the complimentary gut health nutrition guide: 5 Common Diet Mistakes to Avoid When Healing Your Gut!

Free Download - 5 Diet Mistakes to Avoid When Healing Your Gut - by Jenna Volpe RDN LD CLT

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