Spinach is one of the top superfoods we should all strive to eat more of. Raw or cooked, this dark green leafy vegetable supplies ample heart-healthy nutrition, including some plant compounds linked to better eye health, and nitrates, which are linked to better cardiovascular health. Spinach is in the amaranth family. Its close relatives include some other superfood superstars, such as quinoa and beets.
Here are a few ways to incorporate spinach into your diet that go beyond ordinary spinach salad (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or your mother’s boring old stewed, thawed frozen spinach.
The first recipe makes good use of three heart-health superfoods: spinach, walnuts, and arugula. Spinach is loaded with iron, fiber, and natural antioxidant phytonutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Walnuts are among the healthiest of heart-healthy foods. Tree nuts in general are linked to better cardiovascular health, perhaps due to their combination of healthful monounsaturated fats, minerals, and antioxidants. Nuts are also dieter’s secret weapon: research shows that people who snack on nuts experience better appetite control than dieters who do not.
Walnuts are also one of the few vegetarian sources of the key essential nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids. By definition, we must have these nutrients to thrive and survive. We cannot make them in the body; they must come from the diet. The omega-3 fatty acids exert anti-inflammatory activity in the body. Consuming a diet that features omega-6 fatty acids (common in corn oil and other cooking oils) in rough balance with omega-3s is one way to slash inflammation in the body and foster good health from the inside out.
Cooked Spinach and Walnut Salad
- 2 bags washed baby spinach (about 1 lb.)
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (Choose California brands if uncertain of provenance; imported fake olive oils are evidently common)
- 1.5 C. walnuts, toasted
- 1/2 C. chopped arugula
- 1/2 C. chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (or 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar de Modena)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 small yellow or white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- Fresh pomegranate arils (if in season)
- 3-4 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Boil salted water in a large pot. Add spinach and cook for one minute. Remove pot and pour spinach through a strainer. Add ice water to cooking pot, and immerse strainer with spinach back into this cold water, to stop cooking. Remove strainer, drain again, and squeeze out as much water as possible, pressing with dry paper towels. Add spinach back into pot, add remaining ingredients, through onion, and puree mixture with a handheld blender. Alternatively, process all ingredients in a food processor. Transfer mixture to a platter. Sprinkle with parmesan, and grind fresh ground black pepper and salt. Scatter pomegranate seeds over top (if available) and serve. Serves 4-6.
Classic Creamed Spinach
- 2 lbs. fresh, washed spinach leaves
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced in half
- 2 Tbsp organic butter
- 1 Tbsp unbleached flour
- 1 C. milk
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- freshly ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- fresh lemon wedge
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, bring about a quart of water to a boil. Add spinach, and press down to cover. Cook one to two minutes, then drain spinach into a colander and run cold water over leaves to stop cooking. Drain thoroughly, and press with clean paper towels to extract more water. Chop leaves fine, or add to a food processor and chop.
Thoroughly rub the bottom of original pot with the cut halves of garlic, then discard remaining solids. Add butter and return to medium-low heat until melted and bubbling. Stir in flour with a wire whisk. Allow flour/butter mixture to cook a few minutes, until it takes on a slightly toasty scent.
Begin stirring in milk, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth, about five minutes, then add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from heat, add spinach, and squeeze fresh lemon juice over pot. Stir and serve. Serves 4.
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