The Scientific Reason Your Teeth Feel Strange After Eating Spinach

Some foods become divisive due to how certain groups of people experience them. Ingredients such as cilantro are experienced differently by two camps of people: those who taste the herb and others who taste soap. Similarly, some people avoid asparagus because it can impact the smell of their urine. Another divisive food you might not be aware of is spinach. For some people, spinach causes a strange, chalky feeling on the teeth and feels gritty in the mouth. If you've ever experienced this, you're not crazy, you may just have more sensitive teeth.

Spinach contains high amounts of the antinutrient oxalic acid. Modern Day Smiles explains that oxalic acid is a defense mechanism for spinach plants to avoid predators. When you eat raw spinach, you trigger a reaction in your mouth. As the cells of the spinach break down, oxalic acid is released, which blocks the absorption of calcium. Your saliva contains small amounts of calcium, so when you begin to break down spinach, the oxalic acid and calcium meet and form small calcium oxalate crystals. These tiny crystals are what cause that unpleasant sensation and the gritty texture.

How to avoid chalky texture in spinach

The effects of oxalic acid in spinach have not been widely studied yet, despite the growing accounts of people experiencing the chalky sensation. While you don't have to worry about oxalic acid harming your teeth, the sensation can still pose a problem when you're trying to eat your greens. Brushing your teeth after eating spinach can be a quick way to remove the feeling, but there are some tricks you can try to eliminate the texture before you eat the spinach.

One of the easiest ways to remove the grittiness is by cooking your spinach. Blanching, boiling, or steaming your greens helps break down and remove oxalic acid. It's especially recommended to do this if you plan on including spinach in a creamy dish like creamed spinach. Cooking spinach in substances like butter or cream can cause the reaction to intensify. If you wish to eat spinach raw, you can help eliminate some of the sensation by generously squeezing lemon juice on top of your leaves. The acid in the lemon works to break down the oxalic acid. You can also use lemon juice in sauteed spinach to achieve similar results.