It's true, Spinach can make you stronger! Research has shown that the inorganic nitrates contained in spinach can benefit muscle function*. That's not all, spinach is a powerhouse of nutrition. It's also highly versatile, adds a lovely green to almost anything and is easy to add to any number of recipes. Now in season (May onwards) spinach is very simple to grow in a pot. I have a perpetual spinach plant which I cut and then it just comes back, time after time (the clue's in the name, I guess!).
Let's start with the health benefits of spinach. Eating spinach everyday can really improve your health. In the US Government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, greens have a top ten entry for every one of its 17 essential nutrients. Spinach has been shown to impact high blood pressure, to research It's rich in iron, antioxidant carotenes (to help ward against degenerative diseases), heart healthy polyphenols and phyto-nutrients (more prevention of diseases like cancer and Alzheimers). It's also packed with potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B6, B9, and E. It also packs high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and calcium.
Some interesting facts about spinach
Convenience is a nutritional winner - hoorah! Washed and ready to eat bags of baby spinach can contain more polyphenols**. Polyphenols may help prevent blood clots, reduce blood sugar levels, and lower heart disease risk. They may also promote brain function, improve digestion. They are picked younger and this protects this nutritional value. In fact, in general, bagged salads do not seem to suffer from a decline in nutrition (except for perhaps a bit of vitamin C).
Lemon juice can improve the iron in spinach by up to three times***. So add a squirt to a simple home-made dressing using extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic and salt & pepper.
You don't have to eat it raw! Research also shows that light cooking can improve the nutritional benefits of spinach by opening the cells and allowing the nutrients to be better absorbed. So anyone who thinks it's all aout hardcore greens, you are fine with some gentle cooking.
Spinach comes in all sorts of forms from soft baby leaves, easy to eat raw, to more mature spinach which needs ripping and wilting in a little water or some butter, to make it more palatable.
There are several easy ways to eat spinach. Here are a few simple ideas:
Add to stir fries with any other veg, protein and your favourite seasonings. Add it at the end to minimize heating and add twice as much as you think - the shrinkage is terrible!
Add baby spinach to every smoothie you make. You will never taste it and you get a handful of goodness every time. I had this smoothie as part of an afternoon tea the other day!
Add to soups and casseroles. Rip it up so it's easier to eat without having to cut up and again, it's easily absorbed into the flavours of your cooking.
Thaw and drain frozen spinach and add to fish pie in a layering between the fish, sauce and potato.
Use thawed and drained frozen spinach to make a spinach and ricotta lasagne or pasta sauce, or creamy chicken lasagne, or pie mixture. (You could add it to my chicken pie here )
Spinach works really well in omelettes and frittatas with any leftover veggies, eggs and lots of seasoning.
It's also a regular component of indian dishes, so add to your curries and Indian vegetable dishes too. Spinach and chickpeas is a particular favourite in our house.
You can rip it up as part of your pizza topping. Put it under the cheese and the bubbly melting makes it soft and really delicious.
Spinach is great in pancakes too! Here's my easy recipe, just rip up some spinach into small pieces and add to the mixture, blend well and then fry.
Hope my nutritional info and the meal ideas encourage you to get into the habit of eating spinach everyday, as part of your rainbow diet.
What's your best way to eat spinach. Do let me know!
For more articles on nutrition click HERE.
* Affourtit C, Bailey SJ, Jones AM, Smallwood MJ, Winyard PG. On the mechanism by which dietary nitrate improves human skeletal muscle function. Front Physiol. 2015 Jul 29;6:211. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2015.00211. PMID: 26283970; PMCID: PMC4518145.
** Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
***American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.