Health, Diet & Family

The Wonders of Spinach

by Alexa P. Photography Riz Ainuddin on Thu, November 20, 2008

Spinach can be delicious as well as nutritious. Alexa P. demystifies this slightly intimidating vegetable with delicious recipes and tips to getting the most out of your greens.

Spinach can even be baked in brownies!

We all know that Popeye took his daily dose of spinach to get strong but did you know that he was gaining so much more from it? Spinach has many health benefits and nutritional properties and yet it seems to be one of the most difficult dishes to serve to picky children and adults.

Nutrition and Health Benefits:

Anti-cancer agent
Spinach has at least 13 different flavanoid compounds that function as antioxidants and anti-cancer agents; so much so that researchers have created specialized spinach extracts to use in controlled studies where they have been found to
• slow down cell division in stomach cancer cells
• reduce skin cancers
• reduce the incidence of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer

Daily dose of vitamin K
Spinach contains a high amount of vitamin K which is important in maintaining bone health. One cup of fresh spinach leaves contain almost 200% of the daily value. Apart from vitamin K, spinach also contains other bone building nutrients such as calcium and magnesium.

Good for the heart
For cardiovascular protection, few foods compare to spinach in their number of beneficial nutrients. Vitamin C and A are highly prevalent in spinach. These two nutrients are antioxidants that work to reduce the amount of free radicals in the body. They help to stop cholesterol from oxidizing which prevents it from sticking and building up in the blood vessels. Blocked arteries and vessels can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Spinach is also an excellent source of folate and magnesium, a mineral that aids in lowering blood pressure and protects against heart disease.

Stay smart
While we all know spinach was making Popeye stronger, research now indicates that he was also getting smarter with each bite. Researchers have found that feeding laboratory animals a high spinach diet improved their learning capacity and motor skills. It has been found as helpful in protecting the brain from oxidative stress and it may reduce the effect of age related decline in brain function. A study done by the Chicago Health and Aging Project found that by eating three servings of green leafy vegetables each day you could slow mental decline caused by aging by 40%.

And more!
The list of health benefits from eating spinach could go on and on. It includes strengthening your eyesight with lutein which is a carotenoid protective against eye diseases, giving you a boost of energy with a high dosage of iron, and so much more. The main thing is to make sure that spinach is a regular at your dinner table to help protect you and your family from many of the diseases and health problems we face on a daily basis.

How to Select and Store:

Rules of thumb:
1/ Look for leaves that are deep green and vibrant
2/ Avoid any signs of bruising or yellowing
3/ Leaves should look fresh and tender without a wilt in sight
4/ A slimy coating on the leaves could be an indication of decay and this should be avoided at all costs

Keeping it fresh
Once home, pull off the leaves and wash them nicely. Leaves and stems tend to collect sand and soil
Dry them in a salad spinner or let them sit out on paper towels. You don’t want to pack them with any moisture as this could result in decay
Store the spinach in a Ziploc plastic bag or a Tupperware with a few paper towels and put them in the crisper section of the refrigerator
This will keep fresh for five days and since they’re already washed and cut they make for a quick and easy meal

Foodster Tip: If you’re boiling spinach ahead of time to store do not keep it in the refrigerator as it won’t keep well. Freeze it and just reheat in the microwave or a pan of boiling water when ready to use.

Now you can enjoy your spinach

When figuring out how to enjoy spinach you will have to pick between baby spinach and regular spinach.
Baby spinach leaves are tender and do not have the strong spinach taste which is a result of the oxalic acids found in it. Baby spinach is not as easily found in Malaysia but locating a bag can result in a nutritious refreshing salad. Cold Storage or the Village Grocers in Bangsar carry pre-cut and washed bags of ready to eat baby spinach leaves.
Regular spinach can be found at local markets and all grocery stores and is best enjoyed by quick boiling it which makes it more palatable by coaxing some sweetness from it. You can even buy packages of spinach from the frozen aisle at the grocery store and this makes cooking easier in a busy household.

Feeding your kids their daily greens

Children are more inclined to like food that they cannot distinguish (think hamburger patties, nuggets, hotdogs etc.) If a vegetable is pureed or hidden in a dish they will most likely enjoy it without realising that it’s good for them. Leafy greens are especially hard to conceal which is why the best way to make sure your child is getting his/her daily serving is to hide it in a meal.

Favourite five ideas for kids to enjoy spinach
1/ Bake filo pastries filled with spinach, cheese, and nuts.
2/ Chop up some boiled spinach and add it to hamburger meat.
3/ Make a spinach lasagne so the sauce and cheese hides all that green goodness.
4/ You can even puree spinach and put it in a brownie mix (this actually works!)
5/ Stuff it in dim sums or fishballs, you can even cook spinach in a soup and then take it out. The nutrients will remain in the soup

Get creative and you’ll see that feeding your kid vegetables does not have to be a battle each time!

Go to the next page for two funky recipes using spinach.