A New, Old Leaf
By Alysia Santos
Just ask Popeye. When it comes to the dark leafy vegetables, spinach is one of the easiest, most versatile, and goodness packed. Its mild flavored leaves can be prepared and served in a variety of ways, and for cancer patients looking for a way to add more nutrition into their meals, spinach offers an easy way to do that.
Stuff a few raw leaves into a sandwich, or fold them into an omelet. If you are on chemo, add spinach to a soup, or quickly steam some to add to a cooked veggie salad. Popeye never had to contend with the rigors of chemo or radiation – which make his archenemy Bluto look like a real pussy cat – but he always seemed to be ready to take on tough tasks after his emergency helping of spinach.
This grand green is high in folate, a complex B vitamin that helps protect against anemia. It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that some research has shown may inhibit cancer cell growth. It is also immune system-friendly with its high levels of vitamin C, and is a great non-dairy source of calcium. On top of all that, it has substantial levels of vitamin A, iron, fiber, and magnesium. No wonder the heroic sailor man said: “I’m strong to the finish ‘cause I eats me spinach!”
Spinach is more delicious and beneficial when bought fresh. Select leaves from the loose spinach bin, if possible, over the packaged varieties, which cost more and may not be as fresh. Look for thin stems, since this is a sign of younger leaves, and look for a crisp, springy texture, rich color, and a fresh, slightly sweet scent. Store it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Before cooking or eating, wash thoroughly to be sure to remove any grit, especially with curly-leaf varieties.
Replace less nutritious greens, such as iceberg lettuce, with raw spinach in salads. For a side dish, sauté in some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and finish with a little salt and pepper. Cooked spinach is an easy vegetable to add to dishes – for example, it’s a delicious topping on a pizza. Or try it as a main ingredient like Cook For Your Life’s Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts. Pureed spinach can be added to soups, stuffed into pasta shells, or added as an ingredient of a pesto.