When it comes to reducing inflammation and the risk for chronic diseases, switching to plant-based foods is an excellent choice. Eating more plant-based foods such as tofu, beans, soy, and lentils and using substitutes for dairy and meat, helps to reduce inflammation in the body and increase phytochemicals and antioxidants in our daily meals. For those with prediabetes or diabetes, consuming more plant-based foods can also help reduce the risk of other chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Including more protein at meals also helps to reduce how high blood glucose (blood sugar) rises after you eat.
Considered a superstar food, spinach is one of the healthiest and most versatile vegetables. It’s so dense in nutrients and antioxidants, that spinach can help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. If that’s not enough to convince you to add a Popeye-sized serving of spinach to your diabetes-friendly diet, keep reading to learn more about the benefits of this leafy green veggie.
Why You Should Be Eating Spinach
Spinach is full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But it’s also rich in oxalate, which can cause kidney stones in people who are at risk, so consult your doctor about including spinach in your diet.
Dark, leafy greens, like spinach, are beneficial for our hair, skin, and bone health. Spinach can also help with blood glucose (blood sugar) management in those with diabetes. It’s a good source of vitamin C, plant-based iron, potassium, and magnesium.
To better absorb the iron from spinach, pair it with a food high in vitamin C, such as strawberries or bell peppers. The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, which can help with blood glucose management and reduce oxidative stress in the body, is abundant in spinach. The chlorophyll that also gives spinach its vibrant green color is known to have anti-cancer properties.
When is the Best Time of Year to Eat Spinach?
The leafy green grows year-round, but does best in cooler fall temperatures—around 60 degrees F. Spinach grows abundantly in California, Arizona, New Jersey, and Texas and comes in two main varieties—savoy and flat leaf. Savoy spinach is darker, less fragile, with wrinkled, curly leaves. When you buy a bunch of spinach at the grocery store, this is typically what you’re getting. Flat leaf spinach is often sold bagged or frozen. When you buy baby spinach, you’re likely getting baby flat leaf spinach.
How to Pick the Best Spinach
When choosing fresh flat leaf spinach, look for bunches with crisp, bright green leaves. Avoid bunches with yellowing or slimy stems or leaves. Store your fresh spinach wrapped in paper towels in an air-tight bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Choose baby spinach that also has bright green leaves and no slimy or dark stems or leaves. Baby spinach can last seven to ten days in the fridge.
How to Enjoy Spinach
Frozen spinach can last about a year in the freezer. Once thawed, use it within a day or two. If you’re using frozen spinach in baked dishes such as enchiladas, casseroles, or pasta, be sure to squeeze out all the excess water so the final dish doesn’t become watery. If you’re adding frozen spinach to soups, you can skip the squeezing.
Baby spinach has a more delicate texture and flavor, which is ideal for salads. Savoy or flat-leaf spinach is great for cooking into dishes such as pasta, casseroles, enchiladas, and more. You can find spinach year-round at grocery stores, either in the produce aisle, the canned vegetable aisle, or in the freezer section. Fresh spinach will taste it’s best in the fall months when it’s in season.
Sautéed spinach is an easy and delicious way to enjoy it—simply sauté in olive oil with garlic and a splash of lemon juice. Add raw spinach to smoothies for an extra nutrient kick. Fresh baby spinach tastes great added to sandwiches or stirred into soups. Spinach salads are a classic—pair with goat cheese, almonds, and fresh fruit such as strawberries or mandarin oranges.
Ready to start adding more spinach to your diet? Check out these recipes!
Easy Spinach Ricotta Enchiladas