Spinach

Spinach ~ Super Vegetables

Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables like like this one with its delicate texture and jade green color provide more nutrients than any other food.

Although this super vegetable is available throughout the year, its season runs from March through May and from September through October when its the freshest, has the best flavor and is most readily available.

Description;

This super vegetable belongs to the same family (Amaranthaceae-Chenopodiaceae) as chard and beets.

It shares a similar taste profile with these two other vegetables, it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of chard.

The fresh variety retains the delicacy of texture and jade green color that's lost when it's processed.

Raw, it has a mild, slightly sweet taste that can be refreshing in salads, while its flavor becomes more acidic and robust when cooked.

There are three different types generally available.

Savoy has crisp, creased curly leaves that have a springy texture.

Smooth-leaf has flat, unwrinkled, spade-shaped leaves, while semi-savoy is similar in texture to savoy but is not as crinkled in appearance.

Baby spinach is great for use in salads owing to its taste and delicate texture.

Health Benefits

We all know that Popeye made himself super strong by eating this super vegetable, but you may be surprised to learn that he may also have been protecting himself against osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, arthritis and other diseases at the same time.

Phytonutrient Flavonoids for Optimal Health

Researchers have identified at least 13 different flavonoid compounds in this super vegetable that function as antioxidants and as anti-cancer agents.

Carotenoid Combats Prostate Cancer

A carotenoid found in this and other green leaf vegetables fights human prostate cancer two different ways.

The carotenoid, called neoxanthin, not only induces prostate cancer cells to self-destruct, but is converted in the intestines into additional compounds, called neochromes, which put prostate cancer cells into a state of stasis, thus preventing their replication.

Flavonoid Combats Ovarian Cancer

Research calculating flavonoid intake in 66,940 women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study between 1984 and 2002 revealed that women whose diets provided the most kaempferol had a 40% reduction in risk of ovarian cancer, compared to women eating the least kaempferol-rich foods.

In addition to spinach, foods richest in kaempferol include tea (nonherbal), onions, curly kale, leeks, broccoli, and blueberries.

Helping You Bone Up

The vitamin-K provided by this green leafed super food, almost 200% of the Daily Value in one cup of fresh leaves and over 1000% of the DV in one cup of boiled spinach (which contains about 6 times as much by volume), is important for maintaining bone health.

Vitamin-K1 helps prevent excessive activation of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bones.

Additionally, friendly bacteria in our intestines convert vitamin-K1 into vitamin-K2, which activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone.

Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone.

This green leaf vegetable is also an excellent source of other bone-building nutrients including calcium and magnesium.

Cardiovascular Protection

For atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, few foods compare to spinach in their number of helpful nutrients.

This green leaf vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin-C and vitamin-A.

These two nutrients are important antioxidants that work to reduce the amounts of free radicals in the body; vitamin-C works as a water-soluble antioxidant and beta-carotene as a fat-soluble one.

This water and fat-soluble antioxidant team helps to prevent cholesterol from becoming oxidized.

Oxidized cholesterol is able to stick to and build up in blood vessel walls, where it can cause blocked arteries, heart attack or stroke.

Getting plenty of vitamin-C and beta-carotene can help prevent these complications, and a cup boiled, can provide you with 294.8% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin-A along with 29.4% of the DV for vitamin-C.

It's also an excellent source of folate.

Folate is needed by the body to help convert a potentially dangerous chemical called homocysteine that can lead to heart attack or stroke if levels get too high, into other benign molecules.

In addition, this super vegetable is an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that can help to lower high blood pressure and protect against heart disease as well.

A cup of boiled spinach contains 65.6% of the daily value for folate and 39.1% of the daily value for magnesium.

Promotes Gastrointestinal Health

The vitamin-C and beta-carotene in this green leaf vegetable help to protect the colon cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.

And the folate helps to prevent DNA damage and mutations in colon cells, even when they're exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.

Studies show that people who eat foods high in vitamin-C, beta-carotene, and/or folate are at a much lower risk of getting colon cancer than those who don't.

Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients

The nutrients in this super vegetable can also help with conditions in which inflammation plays a role.

For example, asthma, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis are all conditions that involve inflammation.

Since beta-carotene, vitamin-C and vitamin-K all have anti-inflammatory properties, they can be helpful for reducing symptoms in some patients.

In addition, the magnesium and riboflavin, two nutrients of which it's an excellent source, may help to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks in people who suffer from them.

Better Eyesight

Lutein, a carotenoid protective against eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataract, is found in green vegetables, especially spinach, as well as kale and broccoli.

Iron for Energy

Cooked spinach is an excellent source of iron, a mineral that it particularly important for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency.

Boosting iron stores is a good idea, especially because, in comparison to red meat, a well-known source of iron, spinach provides iron for a lot less calories and is totally fat-free.

Nutritional Profile

This super vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin-K, vitamin-A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin-C, vitamin-B2, calcium, potassium and vitamin-B6.

It's a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin-E.

In addition, it's a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, niacin and selenium.

History

Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (Iran).

It made its way to China in the 7th century when the king of Nepal sent it as a gift to this country.

It has a much more recent history in Europe than many other vegetables.

It was only brought to that continent in the 11th century, when the Moors introduced it into Spain.

In fact, for a while, spinach was known as "the Spanish vegetable" in England.

This super vegetable grows well in temperate climates.

Today, the United States and the Netherlands are among the largest commercial producers.

How to Select & Store

Choose that which has vibrant deep green leaves and stems with no signs of yellowing.

The leaves should look fresh and tender, and not be wilted or bruised.

Avoid those that have a slimy coating as this is an indication of decay.

Store fresh bought loosely packed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper where it'll keep fresh for about five days.

Do not wash it before storing as the moisture will cause it to spoil.

Avoid storing cooked spinach as it will not keep very well.

Tips for Preparation:

Whether bunched or pre-packaged, these green leaf vegetables should be washed very well since the leaves and stems tend to collect sand and soil.

Before washing, trim off the roots and separate the leaves.

Place in a large bowl of tepid water and swish the leaves around with your hands as this will allow any dirt to become dislodged.

Remove the leaves from the water, empty the bowl, refill with clean water and repeat this process until no dirt remains in the water (usually two to three times will do the trick).

Cut away any overly thick stems to ensure for more even cooking.

If you're going to use in a salad, you can dry it in either a salad spinner or by shaking it in a colander.

If you're going to cook it, you don't need to worry about drying it well, as the remaining water will serve to help it cook.

Spinach is one of the few vegetables we suggest quick boiling (for one minute).

That's because boiling will help to reduce the amount of oxalic acids found in it, resulting in a sweeter taste.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Add layers of steamed spinach to your next lasagna recipe.

Toss steamed spinach with pressed garlic, fresh lemon juice and olive oil.

Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese.

Pine nuts are a great addition to cooked spinach.

Salads are a classic easy and delicious meal or side dish.

And speaking of salads, if you're wondering what to have for dinner this evening, the following is an absolutely awesome recipe;

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

This salad is one of my favorites as the warm dressing makes my taste buds come alive with soooooooo much flavor.

For myself, I can't extoll enough how much I enjoy this excellent recipe!

Ingredients;

3/4 to 1 lb. chopped fresh cooked lean bacon.

1 Tbs. mild mustard.

2 Tbs. red wine or balsamic vinegar.

3 tsp. honey.

Sea salt to taste.

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

1 lb. fresh baby spinach, washed and chilled.

1/2 to 1 c. peeled and thinly sliced Vidalia or sweet red onions are optional.

3 eggs, boiled, chopped ~ optional.

Preparation;

In a heavy frying pan, stir and fry bacon over medium low heat until fat is rendered.

Remove bacon to un-coated paper plate or paper towels to drain.

Set aside reserve bacon drippings and with a wire whip, combine them with the mustard, vinegar and honey.

Blend until smooth, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss leaves with warm dressing* and garnish with diced eggs and onions (optional).

* Note: Some people like to toss in with the dressing just long enough to wilt the greens.

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