This is the healthiest way to eat spinach, study says

Spinach offers a lot nutritional value. But if you want to get the best out of the vegetable, there’s a specific way you should serve it, according to a new report.

» RELATED: Do prepackaged salad greens lose their nutrients?

Researchers from Linköping University in Sweden recently conducted a study, published in the Food Chemistry journal, to determine the healthiest way to eat the food.

They specifically examined the plant’s level of lutein, which is a natural fat-soluble pigment found in in dark green veggies. The antioxidant is important, because it can reduce inflammation in immune cells from patients with coronary artery disease.

For the assessment, the scientists purchased baby spinach at a supermarket and cooked it in variety of ways. They fried it, steamed it and boiled it for up to 90 minutes and measured the level of lutein. They also investigated the level of lutein when the spinach was chopped up for salads and smoothies.

"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," coauthor Lena Jonasson said in a statement.

» RELATED: This common vegetable may help prevent Alzheimer's disease, study says

After analyzing the results, they found blending spinach in a smoothie or juice is this best way to obtain lutein. It’s even more beneficial when a dairy product, such as milk or yogurt, is added.

“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”, coauthor Rosanna Chung explained.

They discovered that heating spinach, by boiling it or steaming it, strips away much of the lutein. In fact, when it is fried at high temperature, a large fraction of the lutein is degraded after only two minutes.

“Best is not to heat the spinach at all,” Chung advised.

Want to learn more about the findings? Take a look at the full assessment here.

» RELATED: How much fruit, veggies to eat to reduce breast cancer risk, study say