Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spinach - it is a nutritional power house!


Spinach! This lovely, leafy green is not only flavorful, it is a nutritional power house. Fresh spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, which works in the body to promote healthy skin and vision, and folate, which promotes healthy cells. This tasty vegetable is also a good source of vitamin C, potassium and iron. Researchers have identified at least 13 different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as antioxidants and as anti-cancer agents.
Raw spinach has a mild, slightly sweet taste that can be refreshing in salads, while its flavor becomes more acidic and robust when it is cooked. Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables like spinach provide more nutrients than any other food.
Eat more of this super green to help reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration, cancer, heart disease and neural tube defects.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people 65 years and older. Lutein and zeaxantin are two carotenoids supplied by spinach that may reduce the risk of this type of macular degeneration and help keep your eyes healthy.
Other sources of lutein and zeaxantin are collards, mustard greens, red chili peppers and sweet red peppers.
Carotenoids and the antioxidant vitamins C and E in spinach are also believed to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and cataracts. And the healthy dose of potassium and calcium found in spinach can help regulate your blood pressure. For atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, few foods compare to spinach in their number of helpful nutrients.
The benefits of spinach don't stop there! Spinach and other leafy greens also provide folic acid, which is known to reduce the risk of neural tube defect and heart disease. Some studies have shown that the compounds in spinach may even improve your memory!
Choosing Spinach
Choose spinach that has vibrant deep green leaves no signs of yellowing in the stems. The leaves should look (and be) fresh and tender, not wilted or bruised. Avoid any that have a slimy coating as this is an indication of decay.
Washing Spinach
Spinach, bunched or prepackaged, needs to be washed very well before eating. The leaves and stems collect a lot of sand and soil. Before washing, trim off the roots and separate the leaves. Place the spinach 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 your 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). If you're going to use it in a salad or want its "crunch" on a sandwich, use a salad spinner to dry the spinach. If you're going to be cooking it, you needn't dry it.
Enjoying Spinach:
  • Toss spinach, romaine lettuce and red peppers into your next salad for a nutritional boost.
  • Enjoy spinach steamed or stir-fried, or make a fresh, crunchy spinach salad.
  • Pine nuts are a great addition to cooked spinach.
  • Toss steamed spinach with pressed garlic, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese.
  • Add layers of steamed spinach to your next lasagna recipe.

Notable Nutrients in 1/2-cup Boiled Spinach

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