The scoop on lutein-rich spinach
If you’re not adding spinach to your meals, you're missing out on a dark green leafy vegetable that’s chock full of vitamins, minerals and plant compounds (phytochemicals). It’s one of those vegetables that is always recommended for peak health. The trick is to find ways to incorporate it into your cooking.
What’s in it? It’s an excellent source of vitamin C, folate, beta carotene (which is converted into vitamin A in the body) along with some vitamin E. An average serve (35g) provides 5 mg of vitamin C, one-eighth of the recommended daily intake.
Long famous, thanks to Popeye, for its high iron content, spinach’s iron is actually not well absorbed. It’s present but doesn’t get into the body in great amounts. Red meat, chicken and fish are better for absorbable iron.
It also offers many antioxidants and, along with other leafy greens like kale and silverbeet (Swiss chard), is one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. These two antioxidants can help protect our eyes as we age, so keeping macular degeneration at bay. I suggest eating spinach in some form – raw or cooked – at least three times a week if you have a family history of this form of blindness.
And it’s one food you can happily eat MORE of! It contains dietary fibre, virtually no fat and so few kilojoules/calories, you could eat as much as you wanted and not put on any weight.
Easy ways to enjoy spinach
- Make a salad of baby spinach leaves and toss through toasted pine nuts and crumbled goats cheese. Drizzle over a good dressing with wine vinegar and olive oil.
- Add 1 cup of well-drained frozen chopped spinach to your meat loaf or meat balls. It’s a great way of sneaking in vegetables to kids who won't eat any!
- Toss a handful of baby spinach leaves into a curry or stir fry at the end of cooking. They will wilt in the heat of the dish, adding colour and nutrition.
- Use cooked spinach as a base for eggs or fish. Think of Eggs Florentine.
- Eat a baby spinach leaf salad every day or every second day.
- Add chopped cooked spinach to lasagna and meatloaf.
Or try Anneka Manning’s Eggs in Nests with spinach from The Low GI Family Cookbook. You can find the recipe HERE.
Catherine Saxelby is an accredited dietitian and nutritionist and runs the Foodwatch Nutrition Centre at foodwatch.com.au.