By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
What It Is
Oh, c’mon. It's impossible to write about spinach without conjuring up images of Popeye. While the spinach that the famed cartoon character chugged cold -- straight from a can -- might rightfully gross you out, delicate, tender spinach leaves make a righteous salad and wilt beautifully in a sauté. Spinach is a leaf that likes to grow in cool weather and damp soil. Most of the spinach grown in the U.S. comes from Texas and California and is hand-harvested, leaf by leaf.
The Dirty Deets
I recommend that you eat two cups of dark, leafy greens each day. Two cups of spinach, at only 14 calories, offers more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin A needs, roughly 30 percent of your daily recommended amount of folate and vitamin C, and a whole lot of vitamin K.
- Vitamin K in spinach strengthens your bones by inhibiting osteoclasts (cells that break down bones) and promoting osteocalcin (a protein that stabilizes calcium in bones).
- Every little spinach leaf contains components -- such as chlorophyll and the carotenoids beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin -- that strengthen your eyesight and immune system.
- Spinach, though wonderful in so many ways, can be hard on the kidneys and liver if you're susceptible to stones, gout or disease in those organs. Specifically, the high level of oxalate in spinach can lead to formation of crystals in urine that are hard to clear.
How To Chow Down
I’d argue that you need both fresh and frozen spinach on hand at all times. Use the fresh stuff in green juices, salads and sautéed dishes, and the frozen kind in quiches, dips, soups and smoothies.
- Fresh spinach is best when eaten, well... fresh. But if you store it well, it should last a week.
- Frozen spinach can be thawed in the sink (in a colander, for a few hours) or in the fridge (in a bowl, overnight) and then squeezed to release the extra moisture.
In The Know
Are you one of those people who chokes down veggies if you have to, but avoids them when you can? You can start getting more vegetables in with spinach. The fresh and frozen versions are super easy to eat if you toss them into your soup, meatball mix, burrito filling or stir-fry. Add a little salsa, shoyu or condiment of choice to your spinach and rock the benefits -- without feeling like Bluto after a go-round with Popeye.