Spinach is believed to be of Persian origin. By the 12th century, it spread across Europe and became a desirable leafy green known for good health; a reputation that stands firm to this day. The name Florentine is often used to describe dishes containing spinach (and a creamy sauce). It is thought that this name dates back to the 16th century and the Italian wife of France’s Henry II; Catherine de Medici.
The unverified tale states that Catherine introduced spinach to the Court of France and to honor her Italian heritage, she then decided to call any dish containing spinach Florentine.
Spinach belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family (also known as goosefoot), a family of nutritional powerhouses including beets, chard, and quinoa. It shares a similar taste profile with these two other vegetables; the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of chard. There are three different types of spinach generally available: savoy, semi-savoy, and smooth leaf.
…The Popeye effect
There is much lore regarding spinach, most famously as the source of Popeye’s strength. When faced with the sight of trouble, pipe-smoking sailor-man Popeye would burst open a tin of spinach. Once consumed, his biceps would bulge and his new found strength would see him overcome his enemies.
Although there is definitely lots of goodness in those leaves, the legendary status Popeye bestowed on it is slightly inflated.The dark green color of spinach leaves indicates they contain high levels of chlorophyll and health-promoting carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin). These phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties and are especially important for healthy eye-sight, helping to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.Spinach has good levels of iron, but not quite as much as originally believed as rumor has it researchers placed the decimal point in the wrong place! It is important to note that there are two forms of dietary iron: ‘haem’ iron and ‘nonhaem’ iron. Haem iron is found in animal products and is the most efficiently absorbed form of iron. Non-haem iron is found in plant foods (such as spinach) and is a little harder for the body to absorb in comparison. However, vegetarians, those who experience iron-deficiency anemia and those who are pregnant are encouraged to include green leafy vegetables such as spinach as part of a balanced diet.
Here are some health benefits of spinach
Treats & Prevents Cancer
Spinach is made up of various important constituents that have been found to be promising in the treatment and prevention of various kinds of cancer. These include bladder, prostate, liver and lung cancers. Different constituents in spinach like folate, tocopherol, and chlorophyllin act via different mechanisms to treat and protect patients suffering from cancer.
Different phytonutrients and pigments have been shown to protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun, including UV rays. These not only protect but also repair the damaged genes to some extent, thereby preventing skin cancer in the long run.
Maintains Blood Pressure
Spinach has a very high content of potassium and a low content of sodium. This composition of minerals is very beneficial for high blood pressure patients as potassium lowers and sodium raises the blood pressure. The folate present in spinach also contributes to the reduction of hypertension and relaxes blood vessels, while maintaining proper blood flow. By reducing blood pressure and relaxing the tension of vessels and arteries, you can reduce stress on the cardiovascular system and increase oxygenation to the body’s organ systems for optimal functionality.
Full of nutrients and delicious taste, spinach is a winter superfood. But what’s the best way to eat it? Read the following surprising facts about this leafy green:
It’s wiser to choose tender baby spinach leaves. The larger the leaves, the more mature they are and more likely to be tough or stringy. Also, spinach leaves that are placed under the direct light in the stores have been found to contain more nutrients than those stored in darkness.
Cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits! Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you thrice as much nutrition as one cup of raw spinach. That’s because the body cannot completely break down the nutrients in raw spinach for its use.
As an exception to the advice above, research studies show that taking spinach in juice form is actually the healthiest way to consume it. Blend spinach with other vegetables or fruits to create a delicious glass of juice, or try a
green smoothie.There’s a compound in spinach called oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. An easy way to solve this problem is to pair spinach with a food high in vitamin C. Mandarin oranges and cantaloupes spring to mind here. Another way to reduce the power of oxalic acid is to boil the spinach leaves for at least two minutes.
Freezing spinach diminishes its health benefits. The way to get the best from the leaf is to buy it fresh and eat it the same day.There are many recipes how you can cook spinach but I will show a very easy and delicious recipe.
Easy Sauteed Spinach
- 1 lb. fresh baby spinach
- 1½ Tbsp. olive oil
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- ½ tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
- ¼ tsp. salt (or more to taste)
- 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ⅛ to ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.
- Add onion and sauté 2-3 minutes until onion starts to turn translucent.
- Add garlic and stir a minute longer until garlic is aromatic but not brown.
- Add spinach, salt, and pepper and stir to coat spinach in oil. Continue stirring every 30 seconds until spinach is wilted (about 4-5 mins). Do not continue cooking once spinach is done wilting – immediately remove from heat.
- Add lemon juice and red pepper flakes (if desired) and stir. Adjust saltiness if needed. Transfer to a serving dish with a slotted spoon to drain out the juices.