It turns out that Popeye was onto something: Besides providing the body with protein, iron, powerful antioxidants, and a natural glow, spinach may also benefit muscle building. So much for the puny-vegetarian stereotype!
And since it’s such a health superstar, we’re going to tell you how to incorporate it into your diet without having to think too much about it. Here’s why.
The Daily is reporting on a new(ish) study published in Cell Metabolism which showed that eating spinach may help muscles work more efficiently during exercise. Apparently the inorganic nitrate found in spinach does this by fueling mitochondria—the little engines in our cells that could—with more energy on less oxygen. The lead scientist on the study, Dr. Eddie Weitzberg, compared it to being able to run a car on less fuel but at the same speed.
Whether or not you’re taking the GOOD 30-day challenge or did our own Vegan For a Week Challenge (and have been following our Meatless Monday recipe series), eating more spinach is a great idea. Its mild flavor makes it one of the most versatile super foods, and it pairs easilt with (or hidden in) just about anything. Because you can buy it frozen it’s also convenient and affordable.
Here are a few no-brainer ways to add it to a meal:
Hidden in smoothies: You can load a smoothie with spinach and still have it taste like vanilla ice cream—it’s truly an incredible trick for anyone who thinks they hate veggies (if you’re dealing with a finicky kid—or as I was, a finicky man—just add blueberries to hide the color). Smoothies are also a happy home for spinach because the iron is more readily absorbed with vitamin C, which is found abundantly in fruits. Go for strawberries right now—they have a ton of C and they’re in season (at least in California).
In omelettes: Whether you want to power up at breakfast, or make a lazy dinner, adding spinach to an omelette will take it to the next level. I like doing a Greek-inspired fast frittata with olive oil, onion and feta. Just saute the onions in a pan that can go in the oven, then add the spinach and let it cook down for a minute. Then pour in your eggs and let that sit until it looks like the bottom half is cooked; then sprinkle it with feta, salt and pepper and throw it in the oven under the broiler. When the eggs brown at the edges and the feta bubbles you’re done. Takes ten minutes, tastes gourmet.
With pasta or on pizza: It really doesn’t matter whether you like a red sauce, a cream sauce, or a simple olive oil drizzle on your pasta or pizza—spinach pairs with all. You can easily add it to something store bought but a recent taste triumph at my house involved frozen peas and spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic in a pan. To that I added the brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s (cooked of course), some red chili flakes, lemon juice and lots of salt and pepper. If you’re vegan you’re done (or you can add some nutritional yeast to taste). If you like cheese, throw in some parmesan. If you want meat in there, prosciutto works great.
As a side: This is basically the same as above but without the pasta. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan with some chopped garlic and saute your spinach for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste along with a squeeze of lemon juice (for both flavor and some vitamin C).
In a salad: Spinach can be added to just about any salad—from a caesar to a chopped to a simple olive oil and vinegar variety. I like making a good vegan caesar dressing with the following: 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs vegenaise, 1 tsp dijon, juice of a lemon, 1 tbs of capers (if you like them), 1 tsp of nutritional yeast (if you have it/like it), and salt and pepper to taste. (Note: if you use the capers you may not need the salt, taste it first.) Do a romaine and fresh spinach mix and add anything you like to it: You can go traditional with croutons and parmesan, or make it more of a mixed vegetable salad with artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Ok, your turn! What’s your favorite way to use this muscle-building age-fighter?
Our friends at GOOD (meet them above—we dare you to not be charmed!) have launched a new 30-day challenge for the month of June: go vegetarian, vegan, or just cut back on meat in a way that feels right to you. From their post:
It’s fast becoming a well-known fact that eating less meat is good for the earth. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has said that “in terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, [people eating less meat] clearly is the most attractive” way to fight climate change.
He makes a strong point. And if our vegan challenge was a tad too hardcore for your tastes, we encourage you to get with the GOOD program instead.
What does your version of vegetarian look like? Could you cut out a few meat meals a week? Go vegan until six, as Mark Bittman does? Or maybe you’re ready to go all the way…