10 Easy Ways to Eat More Spinach
The concept of “superfoods” isnʼt new. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the idea ﬁrst appeared in 1915 (in reference to wine!); our modern notion of superfood has been around since the turn of this century. Very simply, superfoods are foods whose nutrient density and nutritional value make them a beneﬁcial part of a healthy diet. Most importantly, superfoods ﬁght inﬂammation by creating a slightly alkaline state within our bodies–which for runners means happier joints and faster recovery times.
Of course, anyone whoʼs picked up a magazine at the doctorʼs ofﬁce (or the large print edition of Readerʼs Digest from the back of grandmaʼs toilet) is aware of the list: leafy greens, berries, whole grains, fatty ﬁsh, rich vegetable oils. But integrating these foods into our diets (and more accurately, our schedules) is another matter altogether.
Iʼve collected some of my favorite strategies for supercharging your diet. In the next few weeks, Iʼll highlight these nutritional multi-taskers with ten fast, tasty ways to get more of them in your belly. While swapping in spinach for shredded lettuce on your Subway is a good start, there are more ways.
Benefits of Spinach
We’ll start the series with spinach. I know I shouldnʼt pick favorites, but spinach might be my favorite superfood. Itʼs loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, including iron. As triathlete Brendan Brazier explains in Thrive Fitness,
“Iron is lost in sweat and is consumed during muscle contraction. The pounding impact of our feet on the ground during running can cause red blood cells to break down and thus lower their iron levels.”
Spinach has almost no calories, and is not bitter like some of its green, leafy cousins. As is true with all green leaﬁes, choose organic. I buy a large tub of organic baby spinach at Costco at least twice a week. At $4.49 for a pound, it is a nutritional bargain.
Ten Simple Strategies to Eat More Spinach
- Green smoothies: Almost every morning, I make a green smoothie with spinach as a base. A couple of handfuls of baby spinach and a banana make the base–I then add fruit, a liquid, and supplements. My daughter loves spinach, strawberries, mango, and orange juice. My current favorite is spinach, banana, sweet dark cherries, raw cacao powder, and soy milk.
- Wilted: My chef friend Shadia taught me this about cooking leafy greens–they do not like to be disturbed. In a hot pan, warm olive or coconut oil. Add several handfuls of spinach. Leave it be until the spinach wilts. With a pair of tongs, turn over. Stir in some minced fresh garlic. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice or a bit of apple cider vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
- Quesadillas: Finely chop spinach. Add half a cup to each quesadilla before cooking. (This technique works well for other green vegetables, too).
- Soup: Spinach is a great way to up the nutritional value of canned soup. Just put a couple of handfuls in the bowl or pan before adding soup (I love lentil or split pea) and heating on stovetop or in microwave.
- Spaghetti sauce: roughly chop and stir into warmed sauce.
- Chili: roughly chop and stir in right before serving.
- Pesto: With ﬁve minutes and a food processor, you can whip up this fresh, green pesto. To make the sauce vegan, sub 1/4 cup pine nuts and 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast for the parmesan cheese.
- Mac and cheese: I toss chopped spinach into my sonʼs blue box Saturday lunch. (Ok, so itʼs the kind in the purple box. Still. Itʼs from a box.)
- Scramble: with eggs or tofu.
- Salad: Obviously. Top with mandarin oranges, red onions, toasted pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette. Try our runner’s power salad. Or make deconstructed veggie burger–a bed of spinach topped with your favorite veggie burger and all the ﬁxings.