Baby spinach is fashionable. But don't let that scare you away from it. It can be the basis of an easy, delicious, healthful side dish or main course. And it's a lot easier to clean than its gnarled, grittier adult relative.

This delicate green is often sold bagged and pre-washed. (When buying unpackaged baby or regular spinach, leaves should be washed carefully.)

When buying baby spinach, look for bags with fresh-looking leaves. Avoid those with wet spots or browning leaves. To store, place the clean leaves in a plastic bag with a paper towel that will absorb leftover moisture. While the refrigerated spinach will hold for a few days, it�s best to use it as quickly as possible.

The Spanish � who have been growing spinach since the 8th century � brought the green to the United States. In addition to its tart taste and pretty color, spinach has become prized for its nutritional riches. Popeye was right: you should eat your spinach. It�s full of iron and vitamins A and C.

Spinach also is high in cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Two, lutein and zeaxanthin, are believed to promote eye health as well. Lutein concentrates in the retina and the lens where it helps reduce the risk for cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading preventable cause of blindness in America, which affects 13 million people. Lutein has also been shown to slow prostate cancer cell growth.

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Spinach is also a good source of folate, a B vitamin that seems to lower the risk of some forms of cancer. Research has identified spinach as among the foods highest in antioxidant activity and the ability to block cancer cell growth.

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A bag of baby spinach, a red bell pepper and feta cheese in a yogurt dressing make a colorful, healthful salad that can be a good � and fashionable � lunch or an easy light dinner.

Spinach, Red Bell Pepper, and Feta Cheese Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped dill
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bag (5 oz.) baby spinach, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, trimmed and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup thinly-sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1 oz. feta cheese, drained and rinsed, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
  1. In large bowl, combine yogurt, honey, dill, and black pepper; stir to blend. Add spinach, red pepper, celery and green onions; toss to coat. Sprinkle with feta and serve.

Nutrients Per Serving:
40 calories,
1 g. total fat (<1 g. saturated fat),
6 g. carbohydrate,
2 g. protein,
1 g. dietary fiber,
89 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Vegetable