According to the Encyclopedia of Food, when Catherine de Medicis left her hometown of Florence, Italy to marry the King of France, she brought with her a love of spinach. She loved spinach so much, she brought her own Italian chefs to prepare it. To this day, dishes prepared on a bed of spinach are referred to as “a la Florentine.”
What’s so great about spinach
Raw spinach is a true superfood. In fact, it’s considered the most nutrient dense of all foods. It’s rich in folic acid, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, magnesium, vitamin C, and iron. It’s also a good source of B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and B6. In addition, and maybe most importantly, spinach contains the carotenoids beta carotene and lutein, as well as 13 different flavonoids.
How can spinach improve eyesight
Spinach contains the carotenoid, lutein. Lutein is found in the macular region of the eye, as well as the entire retina and lens. Lutein acts as an antioxidant, protecting the macula tissue from oxidation by filtering blue light. Blue light, in both indoor lighting and sunlight, can cause oxidative stress and free radical damage to the eyes and can cause macular degeneration. Lutein helps by absorbing this damaging UV light.
How to buy spinach
You can find bagged spinach in the produce section of the grocery store, pre-chopped and ready to eat. You can also buy it in a bunch. Choose spinach with deep green leaves and stems free of yellow or brown spots. Avoid spinach with a slimy coating. Raw spinach can keep fresh for 4-5 days, but does not store well once cooked. To store long term, blanch for two minutes and then freeze.
How to add spinach to meals
Spinach can be prepared a variety of ways. I like it best raw in salads, stuffed into wraps and sandwiches and added to smoothies. Cooked it can be layered in lasagna, folded into soups and stews, or sauteed with olive oil and garlic. Cooked spinach contains oxalic acid, which prevents much of its iron from being absorbed. To help get more iron out of your spinach, add some vitamin C to your meal by adding a squirt of lemon or serve it with foods rich in vitamin C, like red bell peppers. Another tip is to give the spinach a quick 1-minute boil before eating, this will reduce the oxalic acid content, and also results in a sweeter taste.
January is National Eye Care month. Celebrate by scheduling an eye exam and eating your spinach!