Week 16: Spinach
Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (Iran). Today, the United States and the Netherlands are among the largest commercial producers of spinach. It grows well in temperate climates.
Spinach belongs to the same family as Swiss chard and beets. It shares a similar taste profile with these two vegetables, having the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of Swiss chard.
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, protein, and choline. Additionally, spinach is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, pantothenic acid, and selenium.
Anti-inflammatory and Anti-Cancer Protection: Spinach has a rich supply of flavonoids and carotenoids. Spinach provides significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.
Cardiovascular benefits: The antioxidants in spinach help lower the risk of numerous health problems related to oxidative stress. Our blood vessels, for example, are especially susceptible to damage from oxidative stress, and intake of spinach has been associated with decreased risk of several blood vessel-related problems, including atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
Bone health: Spinach is extremely rich in vitamin K which is important for maintaining bone health.
Selection and Storage:
Choose spinach that has vibrant deep green leaves (not wilted or bruised) and stems with no signs of yellowing. Avoid those that have a slimy coat as this is an indication of decay. Do not wash spinach before storing, as the exposure to water encourages spoilage. Place spinach in a tight plastic storage bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. Place in the refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to 5 days.
Pesticides: According to the Environmental Working Group's 2019 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," conventionally grown spinach is among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of spinach unless it is grown organically.
Oxalates: Spinach is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, (naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings). When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating spinach.
Purines: Spinach contains naturally occurring substances called purines. Purines (commonly found in plants, animals, and humans) can be broken down to form uric acid. Excess accumulation of uric acid can lead to gout and kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.
This recipe for spinach gratin by Ina Garten is decadent yet so delicious! Definitely a crowd pleaser!