Spinach green curry
Green Goodness - Spinach
Some of the gravest health problems can be caused by food and yet, food can also be a cure for many an ailment. This column is all about food that will work towards your good health. Each week I’ll take a common food item from your kitchen, and show you the wonders it can do for you.
As a child, spinach was never on my 'favorite foods' list. I don't know if that was because Popeye didn't get a chance to influence me.
But then again, I was never allowed to play favorites’. Even if I didn't like something, one serving was compulsory. Yes, spinach too.
Today, when I know the health benefits of this green leafy vegetable, I'm thankful for that kind of upbringing.
Indian markets have a wide variety of spinach and most of them have common health benefits.
Spinach was first grown in ancient Persia. It was introduced to China only when the King of Nepal gifted it to the country in the 7th century. Temperate climate favours the growth of spinach. USA and Netherlands are the largest commercial producers.
Spinach is one of the most power packed foods around. It is a nutrition giant when it comes to vitamin K, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin C and iron. 10 reasons to eat spinach.
1. Macular degeneration and cataracts - Spinach is rich in two magical antioxidants (phytochemicals) - lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds are known to protect the eyes from age-related damage, including cataracts and macular degeneration. These compounds are also known to fight the harmful free radicals generated in the eye due to exposure to sun.
In a study done in USA, people who had 5-6 servings of spinach in a week had 86 per cent lower risk of having advanced macular degeneration.
2. Pregnancy - Spinach is a rich source of folic acid and iron, therefore is useful during pregnancy and lactation. Regular use of spinach during pregnancy helps prevent deficiency of folic acid. This deficiency causes spina bifida in the child which is a non-closure of the spinal column. Spinach also increases production of milk during lactation.
3. Stroke - A study published in the May 2005 issue of the Journal of Experimental Neurology suggested that eating plenty of spinach lessened brain damage from strokes and other neurological disorders.
4. Iron source - Spinach is rich in iron which is the main ingredient required to build haemoglobin. Women, especially during menstruation and pregnancy, often have depleted iron stores and low haemoglobin levels. They can benefit from eating plenty of spinach in a variety of dishes.
5. Colon and prostate cancer - Spinach contains 13 types of flavonoids that are anti-oxidant, cancer-fighting agents. It has been proven that the risk of colon cancer is less in people whose diet is rich in vitamin C, beta carotene and folic acid and spinach is rich in all of the above. A carotenoid present in spinach causes the self-destruction of prostate cancer cells and also prevents their replication.
6. Heart disease - Spinach offers protection in conditions like atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Beta carotene and vitamin C are antioxidants that prevent plaque from sticking to the walls of the arteries. Folic acid in spinach helps inactivate a toxic chemical called homocysteine that is responsible for most strokes and heart attacks. Magnesium helps reduce the blood pressure.
7. Osteoporosis - Vitamin K is important for bone building and maintaining bone health. One cup of fresh spinach leaves provides over 200 per cent of the daily requirement of vitamin K.
8. Brain food - Spinach may reduce the effects of age-related related declines in brain function.
9. Healthy gums - Spinach juice improves gum strength and helps in preventing and curing dental cavities. A mix of spinach and carrot juice, 1/2 cup each, taken daily, is an excellent home remedy for curing gum infections.
10. Dieter's food - Researchers believe that spinach has a compound that slows down the digestion of fat, tricking our half-full stomachs into believing that it is filled up. This compound, added to fatty foods, can actually stop dieters from suffering hunger pangs and might help combat obesity.
A note of caution:
Spinach is rich in a substance called oxalates. These remain undissolved in the stomach and cause crystal formation when spinach is had in large quantities. People who are susceptible to gall stones and kidney stones should not eat spinach more than twice a week or must consult their doctor beforehand.
Tips to cook spinach
- Fresh spinach may have soil sticking to its stems and leaves. Make sure you wash it thoroughly in plenty of water 3-4 times and pat dry before using.
- The anti-oxidants in spinach are better absorbed from spinach that is cooked in a little added fat like oil.
- In some regions of India, spinach was always mashed in an iron wok. It was believed that this increased its iron content.
- 1 serving of spinach is one cup of raw spinach leaves or half cup of cooked spinach leaves.
Ways to use spinach in your food
1. Add chopped spinach to your breakfast omelette.
2. Have a glass of juice made with spinach, cucumber and tomatoes for a powerful kickstart to your day.
3. A paste made with spinach and green chillies can be spread on a dosa to make it a 'green' Mysore masala dosa.
4. Finely chopped spinach can be added to most batters and dough. For example: idli and dosa batter, dhoklas, rotis, savoury muffins to get a fortified version of the food.
5. Chopped and sauteed spinach can be mixed into yogurt to make a green raita or a dip for crudites.
6. Spinach can be mixed into any of the lentils to make a delicious dal palak.
7. Make a spinach-based curry at least once a week. Check the recipe below.
8. Spinach blends in with almost all vegetables like potatoes, carrots and peas.
Recipe for your health-food file
Vibrant green curry