Vitamin filled and extremely versatile, this superfood can be enjoyed year-round.

There’s a reason why you likely heard “eat your greens” as a child. The popular parent-coined term encourages consumption of all the nutrients green vegetables have to offer. Spinach is one of the more popular green veggies and is not shy of health benefits. The vibrant-green-colored produce brings high levels of iron, zinc, and vitamins A and C.

Spinach is a leafy green, meaning the produce derives from a plant, and is edible from the stem to the leaf. The leaves vary in size and are oval- to arrow-shaped. Other greens in the family include kale, collards, cabbage and mustard.

Today, California is the leading source of spinach, producing two-thirds of the U.S. total. With abilities to yield crops year-round, spinach has similar growing conditions to lettuce, but is truly a more versatile crop both in nutrition and in ways it can be prepared.

Unlike many vegetables, spinach can actually increase in nutritional value once cooked due to its high water content and ability to reduce to about a quarter in size when cooked. It can be eaten fresh or prepared cooked, frozen or canned. Cooking and canning the vegetable does not diminish the nutrients and may even enhance particular vitamin contents due to concentration. Eating two cups of raw spinach will provide the recommended daily value of vitamin A and more than enough vitamin K, too. Surprisingly, canned spinach delivers significantly more vitamin A than fresh spinach of the same weight.

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The superfood powers don’t stop there — spinach is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense vegetable that can be incorporated into any meal. The antioxidant compounds act as a natural defense of aging and may help maintain brain function. Not only is spinach rich in vitamins, but it’s also an excellent source of iron, which helped give the fictional character Popeye his reputation for his great strength. The iron levels spinach contains were miscalculated with a misplaced decimal before 1930, and were corrected a few years after Popeye was introduced to America. Although the creator of Popeye overemphasized the strength spinach provided, the vegetable is truly a good source, and the sailor cartoon is credited by spinach growers for helping increase American spinach consumption by one-third.

Need a Superfood recipe? Try one of these:

Spinach smoothie

Sweet potato, feta and spinach muffins

Summer strawberry salad

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