Is Spinach From the Supermarket Healthier than Home Grown?

Most of us are trying our best to eat more healthfully, locally and naturally – occasional lapses with something aside – and it just seems like common sense that anything grown at home or on display at a farmers’ market is better for you than something that’s been sitting in a fluorescent-lit, highly temperature-controlled big-box supermarket. Well, it turns out that one vegetable might be an exception to that general rule: the almighty spinach. A recent story in the Los Angeles Times (Supermarket spinach may have some advantages by Jeannine Stein) explains how spinach does better, nutrient-wise, in the cool temperatures and artificial lights of supermarkets.

So why is supermarket spinach healthier?

According to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, spinach in simulated supermarket conditions of continuous fluorescent light and about 39 degrees Fahrenheit (versus those kept in darkness) had significantly higher amounts of vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, vitamin E, and carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. (Carotenoids are yellow, red and orange pigments synthesized by plants.) Baby spinach leaves saw the biggest boost in nutrient value versus leaves growing further down on the plant. As for the plants kept in the dark, they either maintained or lost some of their nutrient profile.

What accounts for the results of this study? Researchers aren’t sure, but they think spinach plants might continue to photosynthesize under UV light. So if you’re accustomed to picking up some spinach and then throwing it in the (mostly dark) fridge for days, the author of the story advises that you consider buying your spinach from a supermarket – and eating it that same day.

And if you need a reminder of why you should be getting your fill of spinach, check out the Healthy Foodie’s take on Nutritious Spinach.