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Spinach - bad mouth feel?

Sometimes, when you order something containing spinach - like an omelet for instance - the spinach will leave a gritty, sandpapery feel to your mouth. This can last for a couple of hours.

Anyone know what I'm talking about? Why does this happen?

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  1. I'm guessing that the spinach wasn't washed thoroughly enough, especially if the spinach used was fresh, not frozen. Perhaps others will have better ideas. But that is what popped into my mind when I read your question.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      I'm not talking about sandy dust from lack of washing. What I've experienced is more of a chemical thing.

      1. re: Sharuf

        Yes, little crystals arising on the leaves. I have no idea what they are, if I could guess it would be oxalaic acid. But i don't know.

    2. If you mean the dry feeling on your palate, it's from the tannins in the spinach, just like tea or red wine.

      Or it could be it wasn't washed properly -- spinach can actually be pretty sandy. (oops, composing the same time as Sue).

      1 Reply
      1. re: acgold7

        Um, yes, right, oxalic acid. Who said tannins? Certainly not me.

      2. There is a compound called oxalic acid in spinach leaves. When it comes in contact with calcium ions in your saliva, it forms an insoluble crystal that deposits on your teeth. It's not harmful or toxic, just annoying.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chococat

          I don't notice this at all. Is oxalic acid neutralized or ousted by freezing? Or by cooking in a pot of soup or beans? Or creaming? I don't notice it in raw baby spinach, either.

          1. re: sueatmo

            I have heard that younger spinach does not have as much oxalic acid, so you might be on to something with your baby spinach observations. I think that cooking spinach in a pot of soup or with a lot of other ingredients would dilute the oxalic acid to the point that it would not be a problem. I haven't thought much about the properties of calcium oxalate by I would guess that alcohol or acidic liquids might help to dissolve the crystals once they are on your teeth. Just a guess though.

          2. re: chococat

            However, if you're susceptible to kidney stones, oxalic acid is the culprit.

          3. I know exactly what you are talking about. It is caused by the oxalic acid in spinach. I also used to experience the same dry mouth from a few Entenmann's' baked products, but I haven't had any in quite a while.

            1. I know exactly what you're talking about. I hate that tooth feel.

              I wonder if blanching the spinach (fresh, obvy) helps -- I always blanch before I sauté, and it seems to me like it cuts down on the oxalic acid.

              1. I don't like the dry teeth feeling either - anyone else notice that sometimes after eating spinach that your tongue swells just a little?

                1. I actually read somewhere that the reason spinach feels like this is it's a protective mechanism within the plant, to prevent animals from eating it. I don't know where I read it or even if that's correct, but it always made sense to me.

                  1. I know all about that feeling, I always get it when I eat raw spinach - like in a salad. I find a glass of wine helps get rid of it. Seriously. I don't know why it works, but it does. Probably not a great idea with your breakfast omelet though.

                    1. It is much more obvious in sauteed spinach, and I've found that a quick splash of lemon juice on the spinach just before serving does something to counteract the oxalic acid dryness. Feels and tastes great.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jmcarthur8

                        Good advice. And a quick splash of lemon juice is pretty good on almost anything!

                        1. re: jmcarthur8

                          Butter, olive oil, bacon drippings, or rendered chicken, duck or goose fat are all good in counteracting the oxalic acid parched mouth feel.

                        2. Thanks for the post. Maybe there's a genetic component, as when some folks say cilantro tastes like soap. I've mentioned this gritty feeling to several friends and they (like some of the posters) had no idea what I was talking about.

                          1. I experience a dryish chalky sensation on my teeth when eating sauteed fresh spinach; less when it's sauteed in olive oil, as opposed to steamed, never when it's creamed or in soups, frozen or raw. it's the oxalic acid in the spinach, adding acid or fat tends to reduce the sensation.

                            One of the worst cases of chalky mouth I experienced was when I was using a popular brand of baking soda toothpaste on a regular basis, and had some sauteed spinach for dinner, as part of a vegetable plate; my mouth became so dry that I could barely speak. It was a sort of chemical double whammy, obviously the toothpaste ingredient enhanced the chalky effect, maybe by increasing calcium ions in my mouth; note that I had eaten the spinach before at this particular restaurant and not experienced the degree of dry mouth I did that night.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              You poor thing! It makes my mouth pinch up just thinking of it! ;-}

                            2. From my research, spinach contains oxalic acid which corrodes the tooth. Tests were run along with rhubarb leaves which left large cavities in the simulated teeth. The oxalic acid does not result in any meaningful deposits onto the tooth, and any calcium deposits are from the oxalic acid binding with pure calcium are quickly removed through brushing. This effectively means you are converting your tooth to oxalates and removing it through brushing.