Monday, April 25, 2011

Ingredient Highlight: Spinach

Ah, the second ingredient highlight.  I hope you've enjoyed eating all those dishes that you made with apples in the past few days...but it's now time to go out and buy the next great ingredient, spinach.  Spinach is low in calories (it's actually a negative calorie food), yet extremely rich with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.  Notably, spinach is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, and selenium. wonder spinach is called a superfood (and no wonder it was Popeye's food of choice).

Health Benefits: Spinach helps to combat or prevent

  • Increased carbohydrate and fat metabolism
  • May reduce hunger and food intake
  • Acidosis
  • Anemia
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Bleeding gums
  • Breast, cervical, prostate, stomach, and skin cancers
  • Migraines
  • Colitis
  • Poor digestion
  • Stomach Ulcers
  • Macular degeneration
  • Night blindness
  • Development of cataracts
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis

Peak Season: March to May

How to Pick: Go for bunches that are green and crisp with no spots or yellowing.  Thin stems are better as thicker stems are a sign of bitterness.  Make sure to clean spinach thoroughly before eating it, as spinach tends to collect sand, soil, and pesticides.

Cooked or Raw?
Spinach can be great on salads (as a main type of lettuce, or even part of a leafy green lettuce mix), or sautéed and put into many different dishes.  Personally, I like to add sauteed spinach to my pasta sauces to give them an extra health kick.  To me, spinach is one of the few foods that tastes great cooked or raw...but which is better for you?  In short, both, and here's why.
  • Cooked - cooking releases beta-carotene and lutein, and it also neutralizes oxalic acid or oxalate, a compound that inhibits the absorption of both calcium and iron.  Therefore, don’t reuse the cooking water from spinach.  It’s recommended that you boil spinach quickly – just for a minute!
  • Raw - vitamin C and folate are heat-sensitive, so have spinach on a salad to get the most of these nutrients
As per my earlier post, spinach does lose nutrients, even when refrigerated well.  Use spinach as soon as possible, because after eight days, most of the nutrients are gone.  And that's not eight days from when you bought it - it's eight days from when it was harvested.  Just remember to eat your

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