Nutritional Values

Serving Size: 1 cup, raw                        Calories: 7

Fat: 0 g

Saturated Fat: 0 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg

Carbohydrate: 1 g

Protein: 1 g

Dietary Fiber: 1 g

Sodium: 24 mg

Vitamin A: 2,813 IU

Folic Acid: 58 mcg

Vitamin C: 16 mg

Iron: 1 mg

Manganese: <1 mg

Potassium: 167 mg

Carotenoids: 5,347 mcg

When you were a kid, your mom told you spinach was good for you. When is Mom ever wrong? Spinach offers twice as much fiber as other greens. So when you want a salad that's going to fill you up, go for the spinach variety.

Spinach is a nutrition superstar, even a fairly good source of iron. It's loaded with vitamins and minerals, some of which are hard to find in other foods.

Health Benefits

Like other dark greens, spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a powerful disease-fighting antioxidant that's been shown, among other things, to reduce the risk of developing cataracts. It fights heart disease and cancer as well.

As a dark, leafy green, spinach possesses several important phytochemicals, including lutein, which helps prevent age-related macular degeneration. Spinach also contains lipoic acid, which helps antioxidant vitamins C and E regenerate. Because of its role in energy production, lipoic acid is being investigated for regulating blood sugar levels.

Served raw, spinach is a good source of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant. Overcook it, however, and you lose most of this important vitamin. Though spinach is rich in calcium, most of it is unavailable, because oxalic acid in spinach binds with calcium, preventing its absorption. The abundant potassium in spinach is available, and it will promote heart health. When you cook spinach, it cooks down tremendously. Because cooking concentrates nutrients and fiber, a serving of cooked spinach gives you even more bang for your buck than a serving of raw.

Selection and Storage

Two basic varieties of spinach are available: curly-leafed and smooth. Smooth is more popular, because curly-leafed is more difficult to rid of dirt that's buried in its folds. Choose spinach with leaves that are crisp and dark green; avoid limp or yellowing leaves, an indication that the spinach is past its prime. Refrigerate unwashed spinach in a loose plastic bag; it'll keep for three to four days. If you wash it before you store it, the leaves have a tendency to deteriorate rapidly.

Preparation and Serving Tips

Wash spinach leaves carefully and thoroughly, repeating the rinsing process two or three times. Even a speck of grit left behind can ruin an otherwise perfect dish.

Spinach is treasured for its versatility; it's tasty whether you serve it fresh or cooked. Either way, it can be included in dishes without adding hardly any calories. Warm spinach salads are a classic, but they are typically high in saturated fat. For a tasty version low in saturated fat, omit the bacon and egg yolks, and use mushrooms and garbanzo beans instead. To cook spinach, simmer the leaves in a small amount of water until the leaves just begin to wilt, about five minutes. Top with lemon juice, seasoned vinegar, sauted garlic, or a dash of nutmeg, and serve.

Salad doesn't have to leave you with that empty feeling. Use spinach in your next salad, and not only can you brag that you are eating healthy and keeping up your weight-loss routine, you won't hear your stomach growling while you boast to your friends.

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