Why is Spinach Important for Spartans
Popeye was a popular cartoon that debuted in 1929. Popeye’s signature move was to swallow an entire can of spinach every time he needed a burst of muscle power.
And he may have been on to something. Although not a significant source of protein (the macronutrient that first comes to mind for muscle), spinach contains iron.
Iron is a part of the red blood cells and assists in delivering oxygen to working tissue as well as assist with actions within the body for the transfer of energy metabolism.
Inadequate levels of iron in the body can result in: - Decreased blood flow - Less oxygen delivery to the muscles - Decrease in performance - Feelings of fatigue on exertion and reduced muscle power
Learn even more on how iron aides performance here.
Athlete highlight: Spinach is easy for any athlete to add to their daily regimen, check out the best pre, post, and anytime smoothies here: Spartan smoothie guide. Smoothies make a great on-the-go meal. Pair with a Chomps all-natural, non GMO, 100% grass fed snack sticks.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) is widely regarded as a functional food due to its diverse nutritional composition, which includes vitamins and minerals, and to its phytochemicals and bioactives that promote health beyond basic nutrition.
Spinach-derived phytochemicals and bioactives are able to scavenge reactive oxygen species and prevent macromolecular oxidative damage, modulate expression and activity of genes involved in metabolism, proliferation, inflammation, and antioxidant defence, and curb food intake by inducing secretion of satiety hormones.
These biological activities contribute to the anti-cancer, anti-obesity, hypoglycemic, and hypolipidemic properties of spinach.
Source: Functional properties of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) phytochemicals and bioactives. Food & Function Journal; 2016 Aug 10
Spinach is delicious served raw, but also can easily be incorporated into many cooked dishes including sauces, stews, and casseroles. Its mild flavor allows it to easily be blended into smoothies as well as adding small finely chopped handfuls to spaghetti sauce, scrambled eggs, and even blended in hamburgers.
While cooking spinach somewhat degrades its folate and vitamin C content, cooked spinach provides higher levels of vitamin A and iron than raw.
1 cup raw spinach provides approximately:
- Calories: 7
- Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 1 grams
- Fiber: <1 grams
- Natural sugar: 0 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Excellent source of folate, and vitamins K, C, A, E and B-6.
- Good source of iron magnesium, riboflavin and potassium.
Breakfast: One Pot Egg Casserole
- 2 1/2 cups cooked green lentils
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ tsp each dried thyme, oregano, basil, and turmeric (salt and pepper to taste)
- 4 cups coarsely chopped Spinach
- 4 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- Cook lentils according to package directions. Once done, transfer to an oven-safe casserole dish.
- In a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent (~5 minutes).
- Stir in the garlic, spices, and herbs and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often to prevent the spices from burning. Stir in chopped greens and saute just until they are wilted and completely covered in the spices.
- Transfer the onions and greens to the casserole dish, on top of the lentils. Make four small indents in the greens and crack the eggs into each. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft. Makes a great breakfast or dinner.
Lunch: Spinach Bison Salad with Strawberry and Feta
- 1 Bison medallion steak
- 1 Tbsp Coconut oil
- ¼ teaspoon each dried Rosemary and Thyme
- 1 clove minced garlic
- Pinch Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and black pepper to taste
- Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper, rosemary, and thyme. Heat pan over medium high heat, add coconut oil, then add garlic and cook until fragrant (~2 minutes).
- Lay steak in the pan, sear top of the steak for 30 seconds without disturbing. Using tongs, flip and sear the bottom of the steak for another 30 seconds. Turn down heat to medium and cook 3-5 minutes each side.
- 3-4 cups Spinach
- ½ cup sliced strawberries
- 1oz feta cheese
- 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
- 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
- Wash and chop spinach. Toss with strawberries, feta, walnuts, and olive oil.
- Slice bison into thin strips and serve on top of salad.
Dinner: Portobello Pizza
- 2 Large portobello mushroom caps (as large as you can find, they will shrink when cooking)
- 1 Large beefsteak tomato (smaller tomatoes will work too)
- ¼ cup of your favorite cheese (mozzarella, goat, feta)
- ½ cup Spinach
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt, pepper, garlic powder
- Set oven to broil and place oven rack in the middle level. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place the mushroom caps on the lined pan and broil in the oven 5 minutes to remove moisture and pre-cook mushrooms.
- Remove from oven and place gill side down on a paper towel. In the meantime, slice beefsteak tomato into large slices about 1/4 inch thick. These slices will replace the “sauce” on your pizza. Chop your greens fine, and mix with your cheese.
- Brush mushrooms with olive oil on both sides. Place them back on the baking sheet, gill side up.
- Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Top with a slice of tomato, followed by cheese and greens mixture.
- Place back into oven (still set on broil). Keep an eye on them. They are ready when your cheese starts to melt and brown. Serve immediately.
Side: Sweet & Savory Greens & Beans
- 2 cups spinach
- 3/4 cup Cannellini beans
- 1/3 cup red onion, chopped
- 2-3 mandarin oranges, peeled and separated into wedges
- 1/4 cup feta cheese
- 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- Rinse greens, dry, roughly chop and place in a medium-sized serving dish. Drain and rinse kidney beans and add to greens. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well to coat.
Pre Workout Smoothie: Banana Nut Smoothie
- ½ - 1 cup Spinach
- 1 Banana
- 1 Tbsp Yum Butter
- 1 ½ cups Almond milk
- 2 Tbsp Hemp hearts
- Pinch sea salt
- Ice as desired
- Add all ingredients to blender or smoothie maker and blend 60 seconds. Enjoy cold. (Looking for more protein? Add your choice of: 1 scoop vanilla protein powder or Powerful Vanilla Bean Greek yogurt )
Anytime Smoothie: Fat Blast Coco Berry Smoothie
- ½ - 1 cup spinach
- 1 Tbsp Coconut oil
- 1 ½ cup Coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp Hemp hearts
- 1 cup Blueberries
- Ice as desired + Athletic Greens (optional, but recommended)
- Add all ingredients to blender or smoothie maker and blend 60 seconds. Enjoy cold. (Want more Spartan approved smoothies?)
Dessert: Spinach Beet Brownies
- 1 ½ spinach, chopped
- 1 cup raw shredded beet
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 3 Tbsp Yumbutter (or your favorite nut butter)
- ½ cup honey sugar
- ¾ cup cacao powder
- ¾ cup almond milk
- 1 cup soft chopped dates
- ½ cup whole raw walnuts
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 pinch pink Himalayan sea salt
- ½ cup flour of your choice
- Pre oven to 375F. Tip: Before starting recipe, place dates into a small bowl of warm water. This will loosen them up and make them easier to chop and mix.
- Use a food processor if available to make chopping beets and spinach easier.
- Peel and shred the raw beets. Tip: Save the beet greens, wash well, and sauté in a small amount of coconut oil for a nutritious dinner side.
- Chop the raw spinach into small pieces.
- Mix vegetables with oil and nut butter. Add honey and continue mixing.
- Add the remaining ingredients except the flour. Mix well, then add flour and mix until combined.
- Grease a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish with a small amount of coconut oil and pour brownie batter in.
- Use a spatula to spread evenly throughout the pan.
- Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving.