Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Super Spinach

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
I'm strong to the "Finich"
'Cause I eats me spinach
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man

(I hope you sang this out of the side of your mouth)

Spinach is one of those foods as a child I always detested. I do not know if I tried it (although knowing my mom I did try it), or if it was one of those foods you just don't like - lima beans, brussels sprouts, spinach. But somewhere through the years, I have learned to love it. It is a great vegetable either raw or cooked. Spinach salads are very much common place in restaurants today. It is great to eat on pizza, in pasta, or wilted with garlic and olive oil.

Spinach is a super food. Super foods are readily available whole foods that are nutritionally dense. Spinach is packed with at least 13 different types of flavonoid compounds, which act as antioxidants and in studies have reduced cancer cell growth in several types of cancer (stomach, breast, skin and prostate). Spinach has more than 100% of the daily recommended allowance for Vitamin K (bone health) and vitamin A (helps vision and helps the body absorb calcium). Spinach is great source for folate, magnesium, vitamin E and iron. And probably some of the best news, spinach has been shown in studies to reduce the effects of age-related decline in brain function. A study in the journal Neurology found that eating just three servings of green leafy, yellow and cruciferous vegetables each day can slow the decline in age-related brain function by 40%.

Thought to have originated in ancient Persia (Iran today) and was called aspanakh, Spinach only made its way to Europe in the 11th century. It grew well in Europe, since it is not grown well in hot, arid climates and flourished in Spain and Italy and has been incorporated into what we now know as the Mediterranean diet.

There are three types of spinach: flat (or smooth) leaf, savory and semi-savory. The flat leaf has an unwrinkled, spade shaped leaf. This is most commonly found in processed spinach (canned, soups, baby food, etc), frozen spinach and as baby spinach. Savory spinach has a wrinkled leaf and is often found tied in bunches in the produce section. Semi-savory spinach has slightly curly leaves and has gained popularity recently. All three varieties taste the same.

Fun spinach facts:
* Spinach was the first frozen vegetable to be sold.
* Three towns in the U.S. claim to be the spinach capital of the world and hold Spinach Festivals. They are Lenexa, Kansas (Saturday, September 7, 2007); Crystal City, Texas (November 10, 2007); and Alma, Arkansas (April 19, 2008).
* Scientists are using the way spinach converts sunlight into energy to possibly power laptops and cell phones. Read more

Spinach grows best in sandy soil, so it should always be well washed before using it. Flavors that compliment spinach include bacon, butter, lemon, nutmeg, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and red wine vinegar.

527 Recipes at Epicurious.com
82 Recipes at LoveToKnow.com
10 Recipes at SpinachRecipes.org

Bon app├ętit!

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