You don't have to be Popeye to love spinach. It tastes great raw or cooked and it's packed with important nutrients. Here are some brief facts about why you'll want to add more spinach to your diet, as well as delicious ways to do so.
Spinach is rich in antioxidants and it's a good source of iron, calcium, folate, and many vitamins. Whether in bags or bundles, look for crisp, dark leaves. Be sure to wash it thoroughly to get rid of the dirt you can see and the pesticides you can't. You can also now find spinach in convenient pre-washed bags, although it may cost you more than the unwashed variety.
Even in the crisper of your refrigerator, spinach loses much of its nutritional value after just a few days, but frozen spinach can last for 6 months or more. If you have more fresh spinach than you can use right away, steam it and drain it to make your own frozen spinach.
Tasty Ways to Use Raw Spinach:
1. Toss it into salads. These hearty greens can help you make a balanced meal in minutes. Adding foods rich in vitamin C will help your body to better absorb the iron in spinach. Make a salad of spinach with slices of orange and add some chicken breast for protein.
Use a mix of lettuces for an attractive presentation or enjoy the delicate flavor of baby spinach on its own.
2. Make lighter but more filling sandwiches. Slim down your sandwiches by replacing some of the ingredients with layers of crunchy spinach. It may feel like a big lunch, but you can have a whole cup of spinach for only about 7 calories.
3. Substitute spinach in your wraps. For wraps with fewer calories and more nutrients, use a large leaf of spinach in place of the bread. Almost anything you can put in a tortilla will also work in a big, sturdy leaf.
4. Whip up a fast dip. With frozen chopped spinach, you can make a dip quickly with just a few additional ingredients. Thaw and drain the spinach, then add some vegan sour cream, breadcrumbs, and the seasonings of your choice.
Delicious Ways to Use Cooked Spinach:
1. Add spinach to your pasta dishes. Spinach lasagna is a great way to feed a large gathering. Alternately, you can easily make a large batch just for you and your family and then freeze the leftovers in small portions so you have a convenient meal anytime. Ravioli and other pastas also work well with spinach fillings.
2. Put spinach on your pizza. Whether you make it at home or order it from a pizzeria, get spinach and other vegetable toppings for your pie.
3. Cook up a batch of creamed spinach. Traditional creamed spinach is very high in fat but you can enjoy this favorite without breaking your diet. Help yourself to a smaller portion size or just adjust the recipe. Try substituting butter and milk for olive oil and non-dairy milk.
4. Try this leafy green in soups. Fresh or frozen spinach is perfect for soup. If you use fresh leaves, add them at the last minute because they quickly wilt and lose nutrients if cooked too long. You can also add thawed and drained frozen spinach to many soup recipes.
5. Throw some spinach into your stir-fries. Spinach adapts well to stir fries as the main ingredient or a complement to other vegetables and tofu. It's at its best when cooked for about 1 to 2 minutes so add it when you're almost done. Ensure the leaves are dry to minimize splatter.
Eating more spinach is an easy and delicious way to keep to a healthy diet year round. You can enjoy these greens in familiar classics and simple casseroles or experiment with new uses for a healthy change of pace.
By Cristina Macena, Certified Integrative Nutritionist