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Spinach: Humble Leaf and Super Food

Certainly spinach is one of those foods that has a rich cultural and historical story. We are all familiar with Popeye eating spinach to make him strong, but spinach has some other interesting facts about it, such as it’s been cultivated for over 2,000 years and actually originated in Persia.

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods around, meaning that it packs a big nutritional punch for the amount of calories it contains. One cup of spinach has about forty calories, has twice the amount of iron as other greens, is an excellent source of vitamin K, Vitamin C, folic acid, flavonoids and carotenes. Additionally, it has magnesium, Vitamin B1, B2 and B6, and Vitamin E. It is one of the richest food sources of lutein. Several studies demonstrate compounds in spinach to protect against cancer, most notably against breast cancer.

Spinach is also a very convenient food these days. You can buy large containers (small ones, too) of pre-washed, ready-to-go spinach. Because conventionally-farmed spinach is heavily sprayed with pesticides, we recommend using organic spinach.

For these reasons, I think spinach should be a star player in your clean-eating, fat-burning lifestyle. This food will nourish you, help you shed water and help to keep you slim and trim.

Spinach is also versatile and can be used in many ways in the kitchen. Basically, you can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Here are some recipes and suggestions for incorporating spinach into your diet:

For Breakfast:

Spinach Scramble

4-6 egg whites (1 yolk optional)

1-2 handfuls of spinach

olive oil or olive oil cooking spray

black pepper and garlic powder to taste

Bring a small frying pan up to medium high heat and coat with oil or oil spray. Add spinach and saute’ until it begins to wilt, just about one minute. Add egg whites and cook, stirring occasionally, until egg whites are opaque, about 2-3 more minutes. Sprinkle pepper and garlic powder over your scramble to taste, you may also add 1-2oz of feta or goat or Parmesan cheese. Have with some oat bran and you’re off to a great start!


Spinach salad

2 cups raw spinach

1/2 sliced tomato or 6-8 grape tomatoes

1/4 red onion, sliced into thin half moons

2Tb pine nuts or walnuts (optional)

Assemble ingredients and top with 1-2 TB vinaigrette dressing or olive oil mixed with lemon juice. Top with 4-6oz chicken breast, grilled salmon, or my favorite, grass-fed beef tenderloin! For a twist, you can lightly saute’ the spinach to create a warm spinach salad.


Spinach and Garlic

Bring a medium sized frying pan to medium-high heat and coat with olive oil spray. Add 1-2TB diced garlic (equal to 1-3 cloves) and saute’ until the garlic just begins to brown and is fragrant. Add spinach and cook until done, stirring frequently, about 3-4 minutes. Serve as a side dish. Add any spices you enjoy.


Spinach-Artichoke Dip (contains dairy, so if dairy doesn’t work for you, skip this one!)

3 handfuls fresh, raw spinach

12 oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed or 12 oz water-packed artichoke hearts

1 small onion, sliced into thin half moons

3 gloves garlic, minced

1 cup Greek yogurt, low fat plain

1/2 cup low fat sour cream

3TB grated Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 350. Bring medium sized frying pan to medium-high heat and coat with olive oil cooking spray. Add onion and cook until the onion begins to turn translucent, then add garlic. Saute’ until golden brown. Add spinach and cook until wilted, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Put artichoke hearts and spinach mixture in a food processor and chop for about a minute. Add yogurt and sour cream and blend for 1-2 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese and black pepper to taste. Blend until very well mixed and veggies are finely chopped. Scrape the mixture into a ceramic baking dish, or, if you don’t have one, a loaf pan. Make sure you spray the dish or pan with olive oil cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is browned. Serve with crudites!

Other Spinach Options:

Add a handful to your blueberry smoothie

Use in place of lettuce or other greens in wraps

Place a small handful in a bowl and pour your hot soup over it

Add to any salad for added flavor and texture


One note of caution: people who have a history of gout will want to avoid eating more than 3 cups of spinach daily, as it contains purines. Also, spinach contains oxalate and should not be over consumed by people with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones.

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