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Eat Your Spinach

Eat Your Spinach

I think of spinach as the trainer vegetable for dark leafy greens. It’s dark, it’s leafy, it’s green–but it’s far less dark-leafy-greenish than, say, kale or chicory. Once someone has spinach mastered, anything’s possible.

I’ve long been from the must-have-spinach-this-minute camp of spinach-eaters. I always assumed that was because of the lack of red meat in my diet and spinach’s through-the-roof iron levels. But then I found out that spinach’s superman iron content is a myth. A myth! (The kind of myth that puts marketing departments over the moon.) A 19th-century German study on spinach misplaced a decimal point and endowed it with ten times the iron it actually has. The mistake was discovered in 1937, but not before Popeye had already started promoting the he-man, muscle-popping strength of the vegetable.

Spinach does contain iron, but no more than other leafy vegetables–and the ironic (haha) part is that general literature suggests that the iron in spinach is not easily absorbed by the body because of the oxalic acid content in the vegetable. (Although I found this study which suggests that oxalic acid in fruits and vegetables is of minor relevance in iron nutrition.) Including a source of vitamin C with spinach is recommended to increase the iron absorption.

So if it’s not the supersonic iron levels that make me nuts for spinach, as I always thought–what is it? I think it tastes good, but the smell of it cooking clearly can’t wake me from sleep the way brewing coffee or baking cookies can. I go absolutely cuckoo to eat it, but I don’t dream of the flavor in the same way I crave pumpkin or black truffles. I don’t know what it is, I just have to have spinach; there’s definitely an invisible attraction there. So, I’m thinking it has something to do with this: flavonoids, vitamin K (1,000 percent of the daily recommended value in 1 cup of cooked spinach!), vitamins A and C, manganese, folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamins B2 and B6, tryptophan and dietary fiber. See? Doesn’t that make you want to eat spinach this very minute?

So go get some spinach! You’ll generally find spinach in one of two major categories: smooth and savoy (which is thicker, and curly or crinkled). There has been a lot of cross-breeding, so sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. Regardless, wash spinach well, especially savoy types–and dry in a salad spinner or a pillowcase.

I like spinach just about anyway, except over-cooked and super mushy. I am particularly enamored by No Cream Creamed Spinach from White House chef, Cristeta Comerford. I can’t recommend it enough.

More Farm to Table:
Asparagus
Kale
Parsnips
Ramps and Wild Leeks

Read more: Basics, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Health, , , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

99 comments

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8:54AM PDT on Apr 13, 2013

Thank you! I love spinach!

8:57PM PST on Mar 5, 2013

Cooked quite a bit of spinach along with other veggies this evening. Very tasty.

11:04AM PST on Jan 4, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

4:35PM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Thank you Melissa, for Sharing this!

10:10AM PST on Nov 24, 2012

Thanks.

8:01AM PDT on Sep 16, 2012

good to know

2:51AM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

Spinach makes a great QUICK and nourishing meal. Just gently toss in a hot skillet with some olive oil, lemon salt and a dash of lemon juice and add just enough water to make a sauce. It's ready to put over rice. Very, very nice.

1:52AM PDT on Oct 1, 2011

I really do feel better when I eat alot of this and the easiest way is the lovely baby salad spinach leaves they sell. They are so good for the liver, the blood and digestion, and a lovely salad dressing, home made, can really help fussy eaters to get them down :-)

5:33PM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

I love Spinach. Thanks for this great article.

10:49AM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

Thank you

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