Friday, March 15, 2013

Food Focus Friday: Spinach



"Spinacia Oleracea"... It's bright, leafy, full of color and nutrients... what's not to love?? While green may not be my favorite color to wear, it's most definitely my favorite to eat! In honor of St. Patrick's Day this weekend, I wanted to dedicate this week's food focus friday on my favorite leafy green: Spinach.

The peak season for spinach is March through May and September to October. Here are some shopping tips to get the most nutrients out of your spinach selection:
  • Fresh > Frozen > Canned (be weary of creamed spinach which is not as healthy)
  • Store spinach unwashed in an air-tight container for up to 4-5 days. Wash immediately before consumption as exposure to water will cause it to spoil faster.
  • There are a few variety to choose from: Baby spinach is considered best for salads.
Here's the nutritional breakdown for 1 cup cooked (or ~6 cups fresh) spinach:

42 calories
6g carbohydrate
6g fiber
6g protein
No fat

1000+% Vitamin K
377% daily value of Vitamin A
66% daily value of folate
84% daily value of manganese
39% daily value of magnesium
36% daily value of iron
30% daily value Vitamin C
24% daily value B2, Calcium and Potassium

Pretty impressive, huh??

And the list goes on! Spinach is also a rich source of fiber, Vitamin E, Zinc, Choline and Omega-3 fatty acids while contributing very few calories to your overall daily allowance. All these nutrients are why spinach is known to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, prevent cardiovascular disease, bone issues and cancer.

Much of the anti-inflammatory benefits of spinach can be attributed to the fact that it contains a wide variety of phytonutrients (including carotenoids and flavonoids). These anti-inflammatory benefits are going to play a large role in the prevention or progression of cancer, reducing risk of heart disease and helping athletes in recovery. Finally, Vitamin K, Calcium and Magnesium in spinach all contribute towards bone health.

While spinach is more commonly consumed in the form of a salad or in addition to sandwiches, let's take a look at some other creative uses!

Spinach & Artichoke Quiche

This was my first take at vegan quiche and I used vegan shredded cheese instead of normal cheese. The response? "Hey darling, this is sorta kinda amazing. Can you make some more like RIGHT now??" I made it last night and it's just about gone already.

Recipe from About.com.

Simple Sauteed Spinach

Those "beef medallions" are soy based and were delicious! Sure bet you were fooled.

Recipe from Eating Well

Spring Berry Salad

Because what better way to celebrate spring than a bright salad filled with fresh berries?!
Fresh baby spinach, sliced strawberries, delicious blueberries and walnuts provide a healthy dose of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. I would suggest pairing this with lemon poppyseed dressing or simply a squeeze of lemon!

Other suggested toppings include: Feta cheese, avocado slices, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, mandarin oranges or other fruit of your choice and edamame.

The Green Smoothie

Need a powerhouse breakfast on the run? Blend up a healthy dose of greens first thing in the morning. I've been making these regularly now and love the morning veggie boost.


Ingredients:
8oz soy or almond milk (vanilla)
2-3 handfuls baby spinach
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 scoop wheatgrass powder (optional)

Start by blending your milk and spinach until smooth. Then add the rest of your ingredients and blend well. A few ice cubes will make this more frothy and increase the volume as well. Enjoy!!

Other suggested recipes:

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms by The Rebel Chick


Spinach "Burgers" by The Village Cook

Spinach Pesto by Miss In the Kitchen

These recipes barely scratch the surface in terms of possibilities. I've even seen spinach pancakes, spinach muffins, spinach muffins and spinach soup! Do you have any other favorite use for spinach?? Please share!


Sources:
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=43
http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442471669
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2

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