Have you ever wondered what type of vegetables you should eat?  Maybe you thought basic lettuce is ok but you would like to have something with a higher amount of nutrients. As a vegan or vegetarian have you ever wondered if you are getting enough iron?  

Spinach is one leafy vegetable that can provide you with many of the vitamins and minerals that you need along with a healthy amount of iron.  

Even if you don’t really care for spinach there are several ways you can prepare it and even sneak it into your food and get the maximum health benefits.

One of the things I really don’t like about spinach is the amount of grit that you get from fully grown spinach. There is a way around this.  Buying baby spinach allows you to enjoy spinach without the grit that mature spinach seems to have.

So let’s get serious about including spinach in your diet.

What are the health benefits of spinach?

Spinach is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Vitamins included in spinach are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K1, folic acid, iron, and calcium. These are not the only vitamins and minerals found in spinach but this is what spinach is known for.

Spinach has been known to improve eye health and blood pressure.  Spinach can also help reduce signs of aging and decrease your risk of cancer and diabetes depression and dementia.   This is a result of antioxidants that are contained in spinach. 

Spinach is good for eye health because it contains zeaxanthin and lutein.  These compounds protect your eyes from damage caused by sunlight and possibly may be able to reverse some of the existing damage. 

Spinach also contains folate which is vitamin B9. This helps with red blood cell formation and is a crucial vitamin during pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects. Folic acid works with other B vitamins to control levels of homocysteine in your blood. Elevated homocysteine levels may increase your risk of diseases of the heart and blood vessels.  

Spinach is a dish best served raw.  Lutein, the carotenoid found in spinach, degrades when cooked.  If you don’t like raw spinach and insist on cooking it, cook it as little as possible.  A spinach smoothie may be an alternative to cooking.  You can add flavors and it’s a great way to obtain the maximum vitamins and minerals.

Growing Your Own Spinach

If you want to know exactly what’s in your food this is one vegetable that is easy to grow and is ready to be picked in 1-2 months.   

Start with equal parts potting mix and compost in your 10-inch flower pot.  Sprinkle the seeds from one packet of seeds evenly over the soil surface.  Move the soil around so the seeds are buried about ¼ inch.  Water lightly, keep warm, and in the light.  Baby spinach is ready in about one month and fully grown spinach is about 2 months.  Check the seed packet for these times.  

You can snip leaves for smoothies or meals from the pot after a month.  It’s important to pick all the spinach before plants start to seed. (about 2 months) This will turn the leaves bitter and unpalatable. 

Basic Green Smoothie Recipe

Many smoothies will oxidize if not used immediately.  Blend this when you’re ready to drink it. This is the basic recipe.  If you like you can have other fruits and vegetables as well.  You can spice it up with a pinch of cinnamon or a small amount of freshly chopped ginger.

1 cup plain soy milk or almond milk

1 cup of fresh,  packed chopped spinach leaves

1 large banana

Start by blending the soy milk and spinach and after thoroughly breaking up and blending the leaves of the spinach add the banana and blend until smooth.

Enjoy

Blueberry Spinach Blue Smoothie

1 ripe banana

1 cup frozen blueberries

3 strawberries

1 cup packed chopped fresh spinach

1 tablespoon of protein powder

½ cup almond milk

Blend the almond milk and chopped spinach until fully blended.  Add the other ingredients and blend until fully incorporated.  If the mixture is too thick add more almond milk a little at a time until you get the desired consistency.

Pineapple Green Smoothie

1 ounce of ground flaxseed

1 cup almond milk

1 cup fresh finely chopped spinach

1 cup frozen pineapple

1 cup frozen mango

1 banana

If you do not have ground flaxseed put it in the blender by itself and blend dry until you are able to break up most of the seeds.  This increases the bioavailability of the nutrients in flaxseed.

Next, add the almond milk and spinach and blend until totally smooth.  

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend

This recipe makes enough for 4 servings.  If it is too much just cut back the ingredients.

Enjoy

Strawberry Spinach Salad

5 cups shredded (torn) spinach or baby spinach

½ half finely sliced red onion

2 cups thinly sliced strawberries

½ cup toasted and chopped pecans

1 cup diced firm tofu

Dressing

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon high-quality balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon dijon mustard

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Use balsamic vinegar that is sweet in flavor.  A drop on your tongue should be delicious and not bitter.

Wisk the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl suitable to add the salad.

Toss in the salad ingredients

Enjoy

Overall spinach is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals and can tase great to boot.  It’s a versatile vegetable that deserves a place in every kitchen.