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Seasonal Recipe: Citrus Quinoa and Spinach Salad
Quinoa is an “ancient grain” and contains all the protein amino acids needed, and spinach has plenty of iron, which needs vitamin C from the citrus to help get absorbed in the body.
1/2 cup quinoa
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of pepper
6 ounces baby spinach
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
2. Whisk together zest, juice, oil, chile flakes, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
3. Add spinach and onions. Mix in warm quinoa and sprinkle top of salad with feta.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from: Sara Forte, Dana Point, CA, Sunset JANUARY 2011
Nutrients in Spinach
One major nutritional benefit of spinach is its vitamin content. The leafy greens boast an impressive nutrient profile that includes the fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K, as well as the eight water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C. Spinach also contains iron, an essential mineral important for healthy circulation. Spinach provides one of the richest sources of vitamins A and K. Just 2 cups of raw spinach leaves — equivalent to a 1-cup serving of vegetables, according to USDA dietary guidelines — contains 5,626 international units of vitamin A, as well as 289.7 micrograms of vitamin K. This represents more than the entire day’s recommended intake of both vitamins for both men and women. A serving of spinach leaves also contains approximately 0.8 milligrams of iron, about 10 percent of the recommended daily intake for men or 4 percent for women.
Fat-Soluble Vitamin Absorption
During digestion, your body relies on the presence of fat to properly absorb fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A and K. Your digestive tract breaks down the spinach, crushing the cells to release the vitamins within. Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat droplets in your digestive system, then get absorbed by your intestines along with those fat droplets. If you have no fat in your digestive tract, the vitamins cannot dissolve properly and do not get absorbed in your small intestine.
Preparation methods also affect iron absorption. Spinach contains nonheme iron — a type of iron not bound to heme proteins. Nonheme iron generally proves more difficult to absorb than heme iron — the form of iron found in meat. Eating spinach along with vitamin C improves your nonheme iron absorption, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Serving your spinach with iron-rich meat, or flavoring your spinach with acids, such as those found in citrus juices or vinegar, also help you absorb iron.