, but it doesn't have to be hard to eat that way! A sprinkling of spinach may look pretty on a plate, but this vegetable also packs a ton of nutritional benefits. Hidden in that pile of greens are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and vitamins that promote vision and bone health . Christensen, L. P. Institute of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Environmental Technology, Faculty of Engineering, University of Southern Denmark, Odense M, Denmark. Recent patents on food, nutrition and agriculture 2009; 1(1): 50-58. . Cohen SY, Mauget-Faysse M, Oubraham H, Algan M, Conrath J, Roquet W. Centre Ophtalmologique d'Imagerie et de Laser, Paris, France. Journal français d'opthalmologie 2010; 33(4): 234-240. . Fujii, H., Noda, T., Sairenchi, T., Muto, T. Department of Public Health, Dokkyo Medical University School of Medicine, Shimotsuga, Tochigi, Japan. The Tohuko Journal of Experimental Medicine 2009; 218(2): 149-54..

Un-be-leaf-able—Why It's Super

Spinach is known for its high levels of , giving every forkful of spinach immunity boosting, vision protecting, powers . Tang, G., Qin, J., Dolnikowski, G.g., Russell, R. M., Grusak, M. A. Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005; 82(4): 821-828. . And move over, milk, because there’s a new player in the bone building game. A cup of cooked spinach packs up to 12% of the recommended daily dose of and enough vitamin K to help prevent . Fujii, H., Noda, T., Sairenchi, T., Muto, T. Department of Public Health, Dokkyo Medical University School of Medicine, Shimotsuga, Tochigi, Japan. The Tohuko Journal of Experimental Medicine 2009; 218(2): 149-54..

In addition to this veggie's vast vitamin boost, studies suggest spinach's may help prevent the development of tumors .   Maeda, N., Kokai, Y., Ohtani, S., Sahara, H., Hada, T., Ishimaru, C., Kuriyama, I., Yonezawa, Y., Ijima, H., Yoshida, H., Sato, N., Mizushina, Y. Laboratory of Food & Nutritional Sciences, Department of Nutritional Science, Kobe-Gakuin University, Nishi-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. Nutrition and Cancer 2007; 57(2): 216-223.. Plus, the (not to be confused with ) in spinach have been linked to the prevention of inflammatory diseases like arthritis . Christensen, L. P. Institute of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Environmental Technology, Faculty of Engineering, University of Southern Denmark, Odense M, Denmark. Recent patents on food, nutrition and agriculture 2009; 1(1): 50-58..

And it turns out Popeye may have been onto something— found that some compounds in spinach may improve muscle efficiency Nair, K.S., Irving, B. A., Lanza, I. R. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. Cell metabolism 2011; 13(2): 117-118.. Spinach is also a good source of —almost the same amount of beef per serving! But don't give up the steak just yet—research suggests the body than from spinach and other plants.

Lean, Green, Nutrition Machine—Your Action Plan

Yet even with its rich nutritional makeup, spinach has been linked in recent years to both and outbreaks. And consumers of raw spinach always run the risk of ingesting and potentially harmful bacteria. The only way to be 100% certain those greens are safe to savor? Cooking. should kill off virtually all bacteria, but a more practical option is cooking for one to two minutes to maintain the texture and nutrition of the greens while still neutralizing 99% of contaminants.

Fresh spinach is available throughout the year. Though most supermarkets feature the kind, spinach also comes in semi-savoy and flat leaf . For those who want the real, deal, make sure to snip the stems and dispose of discolored pieces before washing the spinach thoroughly. Aside from boiling (which can potentially remove nutritional content), spinach is great when lightly steamed or sautéed . Miller, G.D., Jarvis, J.K., McBean, L.D. National Dairy Council, Rosemont, Illinois. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2010; 20(2): 168S-185S.. There are plenty of boil-free ways to enjoy this leafy green, from a to . Or try a twist on the classic basil pesto with Glamourgirlz’s superfood recipe of the week, light spinach pesto. Snag a bag and crunch away!

Superfood Recipe: Light Spinach Pesto

By Tulika Balagopal

What You'll Need:

  • 2 cups spinach (frozen and thawed)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons basil
  • 3 teaspoons parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
What to Do:
  1. Thaw the frozen spinach by placing it in a microwaveable bowl and microwaving it for 2 minutes.
  2. Transfer the spinach into a blender or food processor, and add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. If the pesto is too thick, a small amount of water may be necessary to thin it out.
  4. Enjoy served with pasta, on pizza, or even as a dip!
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