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Spinach - A "Strong to the Finish" Super Food

Spinach used to be hard to swallow, since the canned and frozen varieties were bitter and uninteresting, especially for kids. Today, fresh spinach presents a world of healthy possibilities, and this leafy green has become a super food worthy of great respect for better nutrition.

Spinach Has the Super Food Power You Want in Your Diet

Spinach was a super food for Popeye, so why shouldn't it be for you? You may not assume super powers by eating this green leafy vegetable, but spinach is packed with enough nutrients to give sensible diets a healthy boost. Spinach is part of a family of chenopod super-foods that includes chard, beets, and quinoa. Here's why spinach has gained super food status.

Today's Better Choices

Spinach has a history of not being popular with kids, and the ways it used to be served, you can see why. Canned and frozen spinach was the norm a while back, and the processed spinach often had a bitter taste and a mushy texture. To be blunt, it just wasn't tasty.

Today, fresh spinach is more readily available, and its popularity has increased considerably. When cooked properly or served raw in salads, fresh spinach maintains its flavor and texture well, making it much more palatable. These improved methods of serving spinach have made it a 'new' favorite among super foods.

A Handful of Power-Packed Healthy Benefits

Our vision of Popeye becoming super strong on just one can of spinach only hints at the real benefits spinach provides. The list of health benefits this type of green is very long. It has plentiful amounts of vitamins K, A, B6, and C, as well as folate, magnesium, iron, manganese, calcium, potassium, riboflavin. Add in an omega rich protein, and you've got a complete meal worthy of cartoon heroes.

What are the benefits associated with these nutrients? Vitamins A helps prevent oxidation of cholesterol inside our bodies. Vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, beta-carotene, and selenium all contribute good levels of antioxidants. These antioxidants lower the risk for blood vessel problems like atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Antioxidants also defend against free-radicals that try to damage healthy cells in your body.

Just one cup of fresh spinach leaves contribute almost 200% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K. This double dose of vitamin K ensures you the ultimate nutritional supplement for healthy bones.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body, so it's obviously important to maintain adequate levels. Magnesium helps lower blood pressure and protects against heart disease. Another important mineral in spinach is potassium, which regulates our kidneys, heart, and adrenal glands and maintains proper pH levels in our body fluids.

Spinach has been listed as helping fight cancer and lowering the risk for diabetes. In helping build strong bones, spinach also helps minimize the potential for osteoporosis. Even skin conditions like psoriasis, acne, and cancer benefit from healthy doses of spinach in your diet. Spinach is also being credited with reducing the incidence of cataracts, memory loss, and migraines.

Cooked spinach offers the most benefit from its beta-carotene and lutein values. Cooking spinach also neutralizes oxalic acid, which adds to the risk for developing kidney stones and inhibits our body's absorption of calcium and iron. These factors can help you decide on your preferred method of enjoying spinach.

Making Good Choices

Canned spinach worked for Popeye, but the taste is something completely different from fresh. If canned spinach was our only option, its status as a super food would surely suffer. Frozen spinach can be a tasty alternative, however.

There is no difference in nutritional value between fresh baby spinach and regular-size spinach. Spinach should be a rich, dark green at the time of purchase, not yellow. Also, avoid spinach that is moist or looks slimy, a sure sign of spoilage.

In the same vein, you'll want to store spinach without washing the leaves first, since the moisture will cause the leaves to decay quickly. It won't last much more than 4 or 5 days, so buy your spinach as close to serving as possible. If necessary, wash and dry the leaves thoroughly (some packages have now been pre-washed before being sold).

The Many Ways to Enjoy Spinach

Spinach dishes are plentiful, and you can start by finding classic menu fare like a Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing. This traditional dish is made with a plate of cold spinach topped with red onions, crispy bacon, slices of hardboiled eggs, and a hot sweet-sour dressing.

Another traditional favorite is Creamed Spinach, a standard on many steak house menus. This is a simple, attractive classic made simply by cooking the spinach until tender, then adding heavy cream, a pinch of nutmeg, garlic, and sometimes a little Parmesan cheese.

Spinach also goes well in salads, hot and cold pasta dishes, and casseroles. Spinach can take center stage in things like quiche, soup, salads, and lasagna, or as a colorful finishing touch for ham and cheese omelets, fish wraps, pizza, or shrimp stir fry.

Spinach is one of several leafy greens like kale, chard, and collards that deserve our attention. It is one super food you don't want to miss out on. Childhood memories aside, now is the time to renew your appreciation for spinach. Fortify your nerves, gather a pile of great recipes, and go ahead and eat your spinach!

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