Forget being your favorite sailor, he was right on the money when it comes to nutrition!
We all know that Popeye made himself super strong by eating spinach, but you may be surprised to learn that he may also have been protecting himself against osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, arthritis, and other diseases at the same time.
Food of the week? SPINACH!
Did you know that spinach is not only a rich source of vitamins and minerals, but researchers have identified carotenoids and at least 13 different flavonoid phytonutrients in spinach that act as powerful antioxidants? Antioxidants combat the free radicals that cause oxidative damage to our cells, including their DNA. When the researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University tested various fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capabilities, spinach ranked second only to kale among the vegetables tested. The various flavonoids in spinach have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, and anti-carcinogenic properties, while its carotenoids, such as zeaxanthin and lutein, help fight prostate cancer and protect against eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Since carotenoids are fat-soluble, they are not well absorbed unless consumed with a little fat — one more good reason to add extra flavor and nutrition to spinach by dressing it with antioxidant and phenol-rich extra virgin olive oil. When looking at spinach's impressive nutritional profile, remember that it also contains many other health-promoting phytonutrients for which daily recommended intakes have not yet been provided, so they are not included in the chart.
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Spinach provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Spinach can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Spinach, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.
Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (Iran). Spinach made its way to China in the 7th century when the king of Nepal sent it as a gift to this country. Spinach has a much more recent history in Europe than many other vegetables. It was only brought to that continent in the 11th century, when the Moors introduced it into Spain. In fact, for a while, spinach was known as "the Spanish vegetable" in England.Spinach was the favorite vegetable of Catherine de Medici, a historical figure in the 16th century. When she left her home of Florence, Italy, to marry the king of France, she brought along her own cooks, who could prepare spinach the ways that she especially liked. Since this time, dishes prepared on a bed of spinach are referred to as "a la Florentine."
Spinach grows well in temperate climates. Today, the United States and the Netherlands are among the largest commercial producers of spinach.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
Choose spinach that has vibrant deep green leaves and stems with no signs of yellowing. The leaves should look fresh and tender, and not be wilted or bruised. Avoid those that have a slimy coating as this is an indication of decay.
Store fresh spinach loosely packed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep fresh for about five days. Do not wash it before storing as the moisture will cause it to spoil. Avoid storing cooked spinach as it will not keep very well.
Tips for Preparing Spinach:
Spinach, whether bunched or prepackaged, should be washed very well since the leaves and stems tend to collect sand and soil. Before washing, trim off the roots and separate the leaves. Place the spinach in a large bowl of tepid water and swish the leaves around with your hands as this will allow any dirt to become dislodged. Remove the leaves from the water, empty the bowl, refill with clean water and repeat this process until no dirt remains in the water (usually two to three times will do the trick). Cut away any overly thick stems to ensure for more even cooking. If you are going to use the spinach in a salad, you can dry it in either a salad spinner or by shaking it in a colander. If you are going to cook it, you do not need to worry about drying it well as the remaining water will serve to help it cook. Spinach is one of the few vegetables we suggest quick boiling (for one minute). That's because boiling will help to reduce the amount of oxalic acids found in spinach, resulting in a sweeter taste.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Add layers of steamed spinach to your next lasagna recipe.
Toss steamed spinach with pressed garlic, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese.
Pine nuts are a great addition to cooked spinach.
Spinach salads are a classic easy and delicious meal or side dish.