Any day is a good day to add more spinach to your meals.
Spinach is a mild-flavored nutrition powerhouse. As spring approaches, spinach becomes more plentiful in markets and, depending on your location, home gardens.
PLUS! National Spinach Day is March 26th so let’s look at ways you can add more spinach to your meals.
Spinach is a dark green leafy vegetable. Dark green leafy vegetables are loaded with protective nutrients including:
- Pre-vitamin A beta carotene which your body converts to active vitamin A for healthy skin and eyes.
- Folate, a B vitamin important for healthy cell division. Women of child-bearing years are encouraged to have folate-rich diets to help prevent the birth defect spina bifida. Development of the spinal cord occurs early in pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s expecting.
- Lutein shown to help decrease risk of developing macular degenerative disease of the eyes.
- Iron for healthy red blood cells, although to get the most iron from spinach, pair it with a vitamin C rich food like oranges, tomatoes or bell peppers.
One nutrient spinach is not a good source of is calcium.
While there is a significant amount of the mineral calcium in spinach, it also contains a plant compound called oxalates. The oxalates bind the calcium in spinach and make it unavailable for your body to absorb and use.
Research from the ‘blue zones’ of the world, where people live healthy lives into their 80’s, 90’s and 100’s, show that meals that feature “greens and beans” – dark green vegetables and legumes such as black beans or lentils – are associated with lower incident of mental decline and diseases such as dementia.
Eating more vegetables is part of the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which in addition to lower blood pressure, has also been associated with lower risk of cognitive decline diseases.
Adding spinach to your meals is easier than you think.
Fresh spinach leaves are great in salads, substituted for lettuce leaves in sandwiches, smoothies and skillet dishes. Half a package (several handfuls) of fresh spinach “wilts’ down to small amount in a mixed skillet of stir-fry vegetables.
Frozen spinach is often packed in a microwave-ready bag inside the box. You can use half of the package by thawing the bag a minute or so on your microwave’s defrost setting, just enough to be able to cut through the spinach block with a sharp knife. Return one half, wrapped well, to the box and put in the freezer for future use. Use the other half in dinner tonight.
My latest favorite is to add a half block of frozen spinach – already cleaned and chopped, easy peasy! – to a skillet of pepper strips, onions and mushrooms cooked over medium heat in a large skillet with a small amount of vegetable oil. Add some Italian seasoning, garlic and onion powders to taste. I start with a ½ tsp of each and adjust from there if more is needed. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the spinach block has thawed. You will see flavorful bits of green goodness throughout the skillet. Try this delicious side dish with grilled fish or chicken. Or add your favorite marinara sauce (my is homemade – I had a bountiful tomato crop last year!)
Spring is here and spinach is an easy to grow crop that loves the early growing season.
Check your local gardening center for tips on starting spinach in a raised bed or container. You’ll be surprised how mild and fresh home-grown spinach tastes.
You can also read 5 Ways to Eat More Veggies on a Budget for ideas to use a bag of discounted baby spinach.