Spinach used to get a bad rap with children, but back then, moms often cooked it to death and then served it with bitter vinegar. Today, spinach appears in homes more often as fresh, tender leaves served raw in salads or briefly sautéed with other veggies in stir-fries. A salad of about three cups of young spinach is a treasure of nutrition, with six times your required vitamin K for the day, to help build strong bones and healthy blood. Spinach additionally has twice your vitamin A and almost half of your vitamin C and folate, a powerful B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects, heart disease, colon cancer, and dementia.
Lutein is a compound that fights cataracts and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness as people age, and that spinach salad is packed with over 12,000 micrograms of it, as well as a bit of protein and 3 grams of fiber. In fact, the attributes of spinach sound like a laundry list of nutrients: spinach is a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese. Popeye knew what he was talking about!
Like most other vegetables, spinach has virtually no fat or cholesterol, and the price you pay for enjoying this superfood is just 23 calories. With a nod to those who prefer cooked spinach, while raw spinach has more vitamin C and folate, cooked spinach has more calcium and zinc. Some new ways to increase the spinach in your diet is to coarsely chop it to toss into omelets or frittatas, fold it into enchiladas or quesadillas, or add it to pasta. Cook the pasta normally, and during the last minute or two, add a couple generous handfuls of baby spinach to the pot. It cooks in nothing flat, retaining its rich green color. Drain the pasta and spinach together, then return them to the pot and stir in a couple spoons of pesto, some sundried tomatoes, and a dollop of feta or goat cheese. Yum!