Do you remember watching reruns of Popeye the Sailorman at a young age? Did you ever wish your muscles would grow like his after you ate a can of spinach? Unfortunately, spinach does not cause your muscles to grow like that. But, spinach does keep you healthy and provide your body with many essential nutrients, which can lead to you feeling as strong and healthy as Popeye did!
Luckily this Sunday, March 26th is National Spinach Day. You can use this day as a way to feel like Popeye and proudly show your love for this green vegetable.
Spinach gained its popularity after Catherine De’Medici became the queen of France in 1522. She loved spinach so much that she demanded it be served at every meal. Even today all dishes made with spinach are called “Florentine”, which reflects Catherine’s birth in Florence.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach is one of those vegetables that has an impressive list of essential nutrients. I’ve highlighted my top 5 picks below. One cup of cooked spinach provides you with:
- Vitamin K. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, which plays an important role in your body’s ability to form blood clots.
- Vitamin A. Along with vitamin K, spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in your eye health and keeping your immune system strong.
- Manganese. This mineral is also found in abundance in spinach and aids in the production and maintenance of your bones and keeps your skin healthy.
- Folate. Folate is an essential nutrient mostly known for its role during pregnancy. However, it is necessary during all stages of life because of its role in keeping your nervous system functioning properly.
- Iron. Spinach and iron go hand-in-hand since iron is the first mineral most people think of when they think of spinach. Iron is an essential part of your red blood cells and plays a role in your body’s ability to transport oxygen.
Along with the above nutrients, spinach is also high in antioxidants. Spinach is the #2 highest source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxthanin, which have anti-inflammatory properties. (Fun fact: kale is the #1 source.)
Shopping and Preparing Spinach
Spinach can be found fresh, canned, or frozen, which makes it an easy vegetable to incorporate into meals. When choosing fresh spinach, make sure the leaves are green and crisp with a fresh aroma for best quality. If you choose canned spinach, check the label to make sure it is low-sodium. If you buy frozen spinach, avoid buying packages that have it covered in butter. Opt for plain spinach!
It is best to buy organic spinach because non-organic spinach can actually have a large number of pesticides on it. This is why the Environmental Working Group has spinach #8 on the Dirty Dozen list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables.
If you choose to not buy organic, it is important to wash spinach thoroughly before using it to remove some of the pesticides.
Spinach can be enjoyed raw as a salad or on a sandwich, or cooked as a side to any meal. I personally love a spinach salad. If you are going to sauté your spinach, be sure to cook a lot because as spinach cooks it shrinks!
If you need new and exciting ideas to spruce up your spinach, check out 4 of my favorite recipes:
Your turn to take action: What dishes will you make with spinach on National Spinach Day? Let me know in the comments below.