With most greens like spinach or kale, when eaten raw it is loaded with a high vitamin and mineral content, but when cooked it releases many phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural plant organic compounds often called phytonutrients that are well known for potential health benefits including anti-inflammatory properties that help to protect against heart disease, while other phytochemicals are essential for eye health.
For this reason I always recommend consuming some of your greens raw in salads for the vitamin and mineral content, and then set some aside to chop and sauté or cook to release the phytochemicals. Spinach can easily be sautéed and tossed into your pasta, rice, soup, or eat plain with a little olive oil and pine nuts mixed in.
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals that include vitamins A, C, K, and folic acid, and it is a good source of magnesium, manganese, calcium, and iron. One cup of spinach gives us over 55 percent of our daily vitamin A requirements that is necessary for vision, bone development, and the immune system, and one cup of spinach provides us with 15 percent of our vitamin C requirements. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is important for collagen formation that maintains healthy skin and bones, while calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K as well are essential for good bone health.
There is a certain group of phytochemicals in spinach and dark greens known as flavonoids and carotenoids that include lutein and zeazanthin that has been found beneficial for eye health. Studies indicate high amounts of dietary intake of both lutein and zeazanthin have shown a reduction in age related macular degeneration. Age related macular degeneration is an eye disease that affects vision in older adults.
The recipe below for spinach salad combined with dried cranberries, walnuts, and topped with raspberry salad dressing is something simple yet loaded with multiple nutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Nutrition benefits are increased by adding walnuts known for containing high amounts of vitamin E, both in the alpha-tocopherol form and in the gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E that may help protect against heart disease. Most of the health benefits of walnuts are found to be in the skin of the walnut having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cranberries are known for proanthocyanidins that may be beneficial in protecting against urinary tract infections. Cranberries also have high amounts of vitamin C, and they have multiple phytochemicals and antioxidants that help to support the immune system.