Meet the Parrot On Our Label:
Rainbow, a male Crimson-winged parrot, and one of our original members of the Healthy Bird Project. Rainbow taught me the truth about feeding raw spinach to parrots.
Until the Healthy Bird Project has its own website, we will make posts here. The Healthy Bird Project uses HUMANE research practices to learn about the essentials of feeding parrots all the nutrients they need.
Rainbow and his hen Sunshine, were my first two parrots. Rainbow and Sunshine taught me about how to be successful when introducing new, healthier foods, to parrots. My experience with them is detailed in my book, Polly Want a Sprout, chapter 13, ‘Teaching Your Flock to Eat Healthier Foods’. These two parrots also taught me the truth about raw spinach.
The ‘Old News’ on Spinach
When I was new in aviculture (1998) one ‘old wives tale’ being proliferated was to NEVER feed spinach to parrots. The false claim was that the oxalic acid in the spinach would bind with the calcium in foods. And that this would prevent the absorption of this essential mineral. So up until Rainbow taught me the truth about raw spinach, my entire flock did without this essential food.
Now let me explain the truth behind the false information to never feed raw spinach to parrots. But before I do this you need to know something important. This essential nutritional information was ONLY made possible because of the Healthy Bird Project.
The Healthy Bird Project Reveals the Truth About Spinach
If you want to receive the benefits of everything we will be learning from our eight Budgies in the first Long-term Health & Longevity Feeding Trial, in the Healthy Bird Project, please donate to our fundraiser at this link:
Spinach, Nutritional Facts
It is true that oxalic acid does bind with calcium, preventing the body from absorbing it. But ‘old school’ aviculturists stopped right there. Until I did some research at the biochemical level no one had ever bothered to check into the details. I compared the amounts of oxalic acid in spinach with the levels of calcium. Understanding the relationship between these two nutrients in spinach is essential. Plus all the other amazingly important nutrients that spinach contains were being entirely ignored.
In the July, 2013, issue 186 of Parrots magazine, my column, ‘The Holistic Parrot’, contained essential information on this widely misunderstood leafy green. Let me explain a few of the facts. In 10 gms of spinach there is about 97 to 99 mgs of calcium and 97 mgs of oxalic acid.
With these amounts being fairly equal I began wondering how calcium binds to the oxalic acid. Edward Garfield Mahin’s book, “Quantitate Analysis,” provided me with the answer. “In biochemical processes one molecule of calcium binds to one molecule of oxalic acid.” This means that the calcium and oxalic acid bind to each other cancelling each other out. No calcium is absorbed, and the oxalic acid does not affect bodily processes.
Oxalic acid may reduce some calcium in foods eaten at the same time. But this only occurs if there is more oxalic acid than calcium in the spinach. Additional research has shown that the oxalic acid in spinach will not leach minerals out of the body.(3)
What Did Rainbow Teach Me About Spinach?
Rainbow taught me that fresh, raw spinach is a ‘must feed’, essential food for every parrot. Because the synergistic essential nutrients in spinach had been eliminated from Rainbow’s diet this bird experienced serious health issues. Symptoms included a serious breakdown of key elements of his neuromuscular-skeletal system resulting in his death.
Sunshine and Spinach
After his death, his hen Sunshine began exhibiting the same symptoms — a lack of coordination and inability to fly. I recognized these symptoms as the same ones Rainbow had before his death. Because of this I immediately began feeding spinach to my entire flock. Sunshine was also aided by a specific homeopathic remedy that supported her healing process. Because of these two changes her symptoms disappeared and she lived a healthy symptom-free life for several more years.
Look for more ‘need to know’ information about the importance of feeding spinach in my upcoming recipe book.
Parrots magazine, July, 2013, issue #186, ‘The Holistic Parrot’, ‘Spinach — an essential food, or nutrient antagonist?’
(3) Oxalic Acid Decreases Calcium Absorption in Rats, Connie
M Weaver, Berdine R Martin, Jacqueline S Ebner, and Catherine A Krueger, Department of Foods and Nutrition, Pudue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, The Journal of Nutrition, 117: 1903-1906, 1987.