We’re kicking off June with a healthy cooking staple: spinach. High in essential vitamins and minerals while low in calories, keep reading to find out all about selecting, storing and cooking with this leafy green.
Originating in ancient Persia, it made its way east into China and India and west, across the Middle East and into Spain.
Fresh, raw spinach is vibrant green with a light, green taste. For those sensitive to the bitterness of kale or arugula, spinach salads can be a better option as it has barely any bitter flavor.
However, once cooked, it can take on a more bitter, strong flavor that benefits from the addition of spices, fresh herbs, and other flavors.
As we’ll touch on more later, spinach is an incredibly versatile ingredient that comes in many forms, including raw, steamed, boiled, canned and frozen.
Being mostly water, spinach is a low calorie option. A 3.5-ounce serving provides:
As you can see, in addition to being low calorie, it’s also very low in fat, carb, and sugar while still providing a good amount of fiber.
But what’s most impressive is it’s composition of micronutrients. Specifically, spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, iron, and calcium. It also contains smaller amounts of potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B6, B9 and E.
And we’re still not done.
Spinach is also high in several important plant compounds:
However, spinach is also high in oxalates. As a result, if you’re at high risk of developing kidney stones, you may want to choose another green instead, such as kale.
While many of us think of bags of baby spinach, there are actually three main types of spinach to choose from.
If buying spinach in a bunch, look for leaves that are crisp with a deep green color, and avoid any that are wilted or turning yellow.
For pre-packaged varieties, inspect the bag for any signs of slime or yellow leaves inside. I always check the “use by date” as well, as I’ve found many grocery stores sell bags that go bad within a day or two of purchasing.
Of course, you can also buy canned or frozen spinach. While I avoid canned as I don’t like the texture, frozen spinach can be a great option for adding it to dips, sauces, and soups.
As spinach usually makes the list of the Dirty Dozen, I recommend spending a little extra and buying organic spinach. In case you aren’t familiar, the Dirty Dozen is a list of the 12 conventionally grown fruits or vegetables highest in pesticide residue.
Keep spinach leaves stored in a paper towel-lined container in one of the colder spots in your fridge (usually towards the back on the top or bottom shelves). It should keep for 5-7 days.
Rinse spinach just before using.
Raw spinach is the most nutrient-dense, cooking methods that don’t include water are your next best bets for preserving more of the water-soluble vitamins. These methods include sauteing, stir-frying and blanching.
Boiling and steaming, on the other hand, are most likely to result in nutrient losses.
To eat raw, add spinach to salads, wraps, sandwiches, and even smoothies.
Have picky eaters at home? Spinach can easily be blended in a food processor and added to sauces, meatballs, muffins, pancakes, and even brownies.
What’s your favorite way to eat more of this leafy green? Share in the comments below!
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