As we watch whatever semblance of democracy we once enjoyed evaporate into the polluted atmosphere, we still need to make sure we our bodies are properly supported and nourished. So, let’s shift the heat from the politicos in Washington back into the kitchen by putting a spotlight on spinach – a vegetable with a storied history.

Immortalized in animation by Popeye, the sailor who loved to eat cans of the stuff in order to beat up rival suitors of his peripatetic sweetheart Olive Oyl, spinach has come a long way since then. Overcooked, slimy and gross, canned spinach, which I was allergic to, has now been replaced by fresh spinach which can be found in virtually every major and minor grocery store across the nation.

I have been accused by friends and family members of being too focused on making sure everything that I eat is organic, however I do make a few notable exceptions. The Environmental Working Group empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, they drive consumer choice and civic action. For a few years the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled an annual list of the fruits and vegetables that absorb so much pesticide during the growing process that the residual effects could be harmful to anyone that might consume them. Known as the Dirty Dozen, these fruits and vegetables are the produce you should always opt to purchase organic. Porous fruits like strawberries always make the list. But another vegetable that is omnipresent each and every year is spinach. I recommend being safe and ensuring your spinach is always organic. You can also go to the website to download a handy pocket guide.

From their website: EWG’s groundbreaking research has changed the debate over environmental health. From households to Capitol Hill, EWG’s team of scientists, policy experts, lawyers, communication experts and programmers has worked tirelessly to make sure someone is standing up for public health when government and industry won’t. Through their reports, online databases, mobile apps and communications campaigns, EWG is educating and empowering consumers to make safer and more informed decisions about the products they buy and the companies they support. In response to consumer pressure, companies are giving up potentially dangerous chemical ingredients in their products and improving their practices. Thank you!

Now, while you may make the choice to buy organic spinach, that does not mean you will necessarily be spending more. I facilitate a workshop sponsored by Consumer Reports which proves that organic and GMO free foods are not always more expensive than conventionally grown food items. Spinach was, in fact, one of the examples I used to demonstrate that the organic version does not cost more. Trader Joe’s sells bags of conventionally grown spinach for the same price as its’ organically grown spinach – $1.99. I also recommend shopping at farmer’s markets or sharing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box with another person or family in order to make your dollars work harder for you. A CSA box is an arrangement with a local farmer where consumers purchase a share, or a membership or a subscription, and in return receive a box, bag or basket of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. What a terrific way to stay healthy, help save the environment and support your local economy all at once.

Finally, you may be surprised to learn that cooked spinach is healthier for you than raw. I know it is counter intuitive to what we have been taught about fruits and vegetables, but in this particular instance cooked spinach is the superior choice. Apparently, when you eat spinach that has been heated you will absorb higher levels of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamine, calcium, and iron. Raw spinach also contains oxalic acid, an organic substance that can interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and iron. Eating cooked spinach also results in higher levels of beta-carotene in our blood system so I guess I am finally convinced which is superior.

I came up with this recipe many years ago, when I was a still a vegetarian, after having some wonderful spinach at Romano’s Macaroni Grill. 

One Minute Organic Spinach

  • 4 Tablespoons Organic Salted Butter or Organic Earth Balance for Vegans
  • 2 Large Cloves Sliced Garlic
  • 3 1/2 Cups Organic Spinach
  • 3 Dashes Real Salt
  • 1 Squeeze of Half an Organic Lemon
  • 1 Dash Harissa Seasoning
  • Parmesan to Garnish (Optional)
  • Chopped Hard Boiled Egg as Garnish (Optional)

Melt the butter in a large saute pan on medium high heat. Add garlic and then spinach immediately after. Stirring constantly, add salt, lemon juice and promptly remove from heat and serve. Serves 1-2.

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