Put down those Dorritos and save shed-loads of carbs and calories with my recipe for super-tasty, low-carb spinach crisps! They’re a healthy snack with potential to help lower blood pressure, prevent asthma & cancer, & improve blood sugar control & bone health. Good for a keto diet, they’re also gluten-free & vegan.
This week’s low-carb swap recipe is an easy-peasy one that doesn’t need much introduction. If you’re on a low-carb/keto regime, then obviously you can’t eat potato crisps (US friends – read potato chips). So this is the first of a few posts I’ll be adding over the coming weeks about what to eat when you’re sticking to a low-carb way of eating and you want a snack.
These spinach crisps are a great way to remove from your diet something with very few redeeming health-features (i.e. potato or corn crisps), and substitute instead a snack that gives you both a bonus portion of a particularly healthy vegetable, and something to satisfy your craving for crispy crispness.
Pep these up by adding your favourite seasonings/spices before baking, and you’ve got something super-tasty that’s custom-made to your requirements. I prefer salt, pepper, garlic granules and chilli powder, but it’s up to you.
Nutrition Count: Low-Carb Spinach Crisps vs. Regular Crisps vs. Shop-Bought Veg Crisps
You’re swapping potatoes and deep-frying for a green vegetable and baking. So it’s a no-brainer that these spinach crisps are going to be tons fewer carbs and calories than normal crisps.
In fact, these spinach crisps save you 16g of carbs and 138 kcal over potato crisps, and 13g carbs and 136 kcal over shop-bought vegetable crisps (made with parsnip, beetroot and sweet potato).
|Per 32.5g of Crisps||Walkers Salt & Vinegar Crisps||Kettle Veg Chips Lightly Salted||Low-Carb Spinach Crisps∗|
|Net Carbs (i.e. minus fibre, counted separately)||17.1||14.3||1|
∗ Figures calculated for crisps made with garlic granules and chilli powder, using verified nutritional info on the MyFitnessPal database.
Health Impact of the Ingredients
I’m not going to dwell on the health implications of the small amount of oil in this recipe – I’ve got planned for another time a post looking in-depth at healthy fats. The main thing to say is to avoid using olive oil, as the high oven temperature for these spinach crisps can convert it into dangerous trans fats. Whereas the rapeseed oil I’ve used has a higher smoke point.
So let’s get straight into the health benefits of lovely spinach (and it’d be a cliché to make a droll comment about Popeye at this point, so let’s not).
There are very many reasons why spinach is extremely good for you indeed. It’s massively low-carb and low calorie, at only 1.5 g of carbs and 30 kcal per 100g. It’s also a good source of loads of essential nutrients with potentially major health benefits, including:
- Lowering blood pressure as spinach is a good source of potassium, which acts to counter-balance the effects in the body of too much sodium (salt). And low potassium intake can be just as big a risk for developing high blood pressure as a high salt intake.
- Avoiding asthma because of spinach’s high levels of betacarotene (a precursor to vitamin A). An oft-quoted scientific study from 2006, which examined the diets of 638,535 women, made a direct correlation between eating increased amounts of vegetables – like spinach – which include high amounts of carotenoids, and avoiding asthma.
- Prevent anaemia and hair loss because spinach is a rich source of iron. Including something else in your meal that also contains vitamin C – such as another vegetable or fruit – will help your body absorb iron from plants like spinach. The folic acid in spinach will help prevent anaemia too, as it’s essential for producing red blood cells. It’s also essential for the formation of DNA in your own body, and that of the growing foetus if you are pregnant.
- Promote heart health and decrease inflammation, as omega 3 fatty acids are present in most green leafy vegetables, including spinach. Spinach is certainly not as excellent a source of omega 3 as oily fish. But it’s especially important to find plant sources of omega 3 if you do not regularly eat oily fish, or are vegetarian/vegan.
- Promote good mood and support staving off anxiety and depression, because spinach contains a plant source of tryptophan. That is, an amino acid (protein building block) which is a precursor to the good mood hormone serotonin, and for which meat-eaters can turn to e.g. poultry.
- Support over 300 key metabolic reactions for healthy body function and disease prevention because of spinach’s significant magnesium content. Magnesium plays a key role in disease prevention and overall health as a cofactor for e.g. production of DNA and protein; energy production in the cells; reproduction; a healthy nervous system; and glucose and insulin metabolism. Low magnesium has been associated with many chronic diseases including migraine, Alzheimer’s, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
- Healthy hair and skin from significant amounts of vitamins A and C. Both vitamins also have antioxidant activity and vitamin C is also an essential co-factor for many enzymatic reactions which promote healthy body function, such as energy production.
- Blocking the carcinogenic effects of BBQ foods. Heterocyclic amines can be produced when food is cooked on the BBQ or grilled at high temperatures. Chlorophyll, present in significant amounts in spinach, has been shown to block their effects.
- Reducing risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture through spinach’s significant vitamin K content. Vitamin K modifies bone matrix proteins, improves calcium absorption, and may also reduce calcium excretion.
NB: Contrary to popular belief, spinach is NOT a good dietary source of calcium. It’s completely true that it contains a lot of it. But in spinach it’s bound to a compound called oxalate which significantly reduces calcium’s absorption. So spinach is actually a poor source of usable calcium in the diet. Despite the old saying, you are not what you eat – you are what you absorb!
Risks from eating too much spinach
There is some risk associated with eating spinach for groups of people with two specific health conditions:
- People taking warfarin or other blood thinners, as vitamin K promotes blood-clotting; and
- People with low kidney function, as it can be fatal if the kidneys cannot process an excess of potassium in the body.
Recipe for Low-Carb Spinach Crisps
Prep time: 2 mins
Cooking time: 6-8 mins
- 70 g baby spinach leaves
- ½ tsp rapeseed oil (don’t use olive oil, which has a lower smoking point)
- Powdered seasonings of your choice (I use a light sprinkle – maybe max 1/8 tsp each – of salt, ground black pepper, chilli powder or smoked paprika, and dried garlic granules).
- Preheat the oven to hot (200°C/Fan 180°C/400°F/Gas 6).
- Wash your hands and put the spinach in a bowl big enough to toss it around in.
- Add the ½ tsp oil and toss the spinach and oil together with your hands until every leaf has a thin coating of oil.
- Sprinkle in powdered seasonings of your choice, and stir through lightly with a large spoon to ensure that they’re evenly distributed.
- On a silicon baking tray, or on a metal baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, spread out the spinach leaves in a single layer. They can touch a little at the edges, but avoid overlapping if you want to ensure maximum crispiness. To fit on all the leaves, you will probably need to use two baking trays, or cook the leaves in two batches.
- Bake for between 6 and 8 minutes until crisp enough for your liking and lightly brown. After 6 minutes in my fan oven the leaves come out crisp, but with a slight yield on the bite. At 7-8 minutes they are much more crisp after the removal of more moisture. If you do put them back in the oven after the 6 minute mark, then keep a very careful eye on them to ensure that they are crisp enough, but that they don’t suddenly burn.
- Once out of the oven, leave the crisps on the baking tray to settle for a minute or two. Then peel off carefully, put on a plate, and serve immediately to enjoy them at maximum crispness.