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When I was a kid, my favorite foods were grapefruit and spinach. I guess I was born to be a dietitian, huh? My dad and I used to plant four rows of spinach in the garden every summer. I would go out and clip a whole big bowl full and bring it inside, wash it, and microwave it for a minute to wilt it and eat the entire thing. I love spinach salads, spanakopita (Greek spinach pie), spinach and feta omelets, palak paneer (Indian dish), spinach dip, spinach lasagna, and just about anything else I can put spinach into.
You can imagine my disappointment when I hear about spinach leaving our shelves. Spinach recalls are once again creating all kinds of hysteria around the country. I guess it is well founded—it is scary to think about getting sick and it is ironic that it can happen from one of the nutritional powerhouse foods!
Spinach has been recalled because of contamination of E. Coli and Salmonella. Both of these are microscopic bacteria, and therefore you cannot “see” whether the spinach looks bad or harmful. Both can also make you sick—fever, diarrhea, vomiting are the most common symptoms of contamination.
Spinach is grown in fields--fields irrigated with water that is collected near farms that have animals. Many crops are also fertilized with manure. Animal waste can easily contain salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria that can be very harmful when ingested by humans.
Does this mean you should avoid all spinach or leafy greens? Absolutely not! When you think about the amount of spinach in our food supply and the small number of people who get sick, it is riskier getting in your car and driving to the grocery store to pick up that spinach. People at highest risk of getting sick are children, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Those people may want to avoid it for now. But everyone else is fine to eat spinach, but see below for prevention guidelines.
The best way to prevent any food borne illness is to wash your produce! You don’t need soap, but you do need water and your hands. Manual handling of produce is actually the best way to get rid of bacteria. Use your hands to rinse all produce, not just spinach. Even if the bag says that it was already washed, wash it again. You cannot be too cautious when it comes to food safety.
Benefits of spinach
Spinach is loaded in:
- Vit C
- Folic Acid
- Beta Carotene
- Some calcium, magnesium, zinc, and fiber