If you’re looking to nourish your body with the foods you eat, you need to plan your diet to include a range of healthy foods from each food group: vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein foods and grains. Additionally, in some instances the way you combine foods can have a powerful affect on how readily your body is able to absorb the nutrients.
NUTRIENTS IN SPINACH
One major nutritional benefit of spinach is its vitamin content. The leafy greens boast an impressive nutrient profile that includes the fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K, as well as the eight water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C. Spinach also contains iron, an essential mineral important for healthy circulation. Spinach provides one of the richest sources of vitamins A and K. Just 2 cups of raw spinach leaves -- equivalent to a 1-cup serving of vegetables, -- contains 5,626 international units of vitamin A, as well as 289.7 micrograms of vitamin K. This represents more than the entire day's recommended intake of both vitamins for both men and women. A serving of spinach leaves also contains approximately 0.8 milligrams of iron, about 10 percent of the recommended daily intake for men or 4 percent for women.
FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMIN ABSORPTION
During digestion, your body relies on the presence of fat to properly absorb fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A and K. Your digestive tract breaks down the spinach, crushing the cells to release the vitamins within. Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat droplets in your digestive system, then get absorbed by your intestines along with those fat droplets. If you have no fat in your digestive tract, the vitamins cannot dissolve properly and do not get absorbed in your small intestine. I remember when I was active in Weight Watchers they had a requirement to partake of a minimum amount of oil each day. I hated that requirement but do see the importance to our overall health.
Preparation methods also affect iron absorption. Spinach contains nonheme iron -- a type of iron not bound to heme proteins. Nonheme iron generally proves more difficult to absorb than heme iron -- the form of iron found in meat. Eating spinach along with vitamin C improves your nonheme iron absorption, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Serving your spinach with iron-rich meat, or flavoring your spinach with acids, such as those found in citrus fruits or juices or vinegar, also help you absorb iron.
If you don’t want to eat your spinach raw try steaming it. Steaming is an ideal cooking method for nutrient absorption, and helps retain the water-soluble vitamin content of spinach. Since steaming doesn't require immersing the spinach in water, the water-soluble vitamins don't leach out of the spinach while it cooks. Cooked spinach can be tossed with a bit of virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper.
If you prefer raw spinach, maximize nutrient absorption by topping spinach salads with a salad dressing containing healthy oil. My favorite salad dressing is 1 T. olive oil whisked with 2 T. of balsamic vinegar. (I use that to dress a HUGE spinach salad for my husband and myself). I am a frequent visitor to my local olive oil and balsamic vinegar store. Yummmm one of my favorite treats!!
So what is our challenge for the week? You guessed it-For every day that you eat at least one serving (2 cups) of spinach paired with either a healthy oil or Vitamin C containing fruit (or better yet with both) you can claim 5 daily challenge points.
And if you want the easy way here is my favorite green smoothie recipe. I am going to experiment with adding some healthy oils and or citrus to my concoction!
Sandee’s Green Smoothie Recipe
Fill blender 7/8 full of greens (we like Costco Powerhouse greens which is mostly spinach with a bit of Kale and other greens)
1 frozen banana
2 T. organic cocoa powder
2 T. Peanut butter powder (Now available at super Walmart)
1 scoop protein powder (I prefer Warrior Blend Raw Vegan Powder)
1 cup milk (I use coconut but you can use cow, almond, soy)
1 cup water
1 cup ice