Hiya Friends and Neighbors!
This week we’re focusing on an extremely versatile vegetable (meaning it can be used in lots of different kinds of dishes) that gives us a LOT of vitamins and minerals and also happens to grow really nicely here in Vermont….its Spinach! What part of the plant is spinach? (is it the root, stem, leaf, flower, or fruit?)
It’s the leaf! The leaf’s job for it’s plant body is to soak up sunshine, and create energy for the plant to grow. When we eat leaves, we get Vitamin B, which helps us create energy for our bodies and brains to use! When we munch an entire spinach leaf, we are also eating the stem, which helps hold the leaf up, and transports nutrients from the soil into the plant so it can grow (kind of like a straw). When we eat it, it provides fiber and a crunchy texture to the spinach.
For this week’s lesson, we’ll be focusing on systems in your body. Do you recognize these 6 systems that are at work in your body, all with their own important jobs?
Skeletal System, Nervous System, Circulatory System, Pulmonary System, Digestive System, and Muscular
The skeletal system includes all of your bones. It’s job is to provide structure for your body, and to protect the organs underneath your bones. Calcium helps build our bones and keeps them hard and strong. Vitamin D helps us absorb Calcium, so our bones are only strong and hard if we have enough Vitamin D. Vitamin K works to keep our calcium held in our bones throughout our lives.
The nervous system includes your brain and all of your nerves (your central nervous system runs along your spine, and your peripheral nervous system stretches out into your arms and legs, all the way to your fingers and toes.) Your nerves are what allow you to feel the things that you touch. They also allow you to see the things that you look at, taste the things you eat, and hear the things making noise around you. What vitamin is important for seeing? Vitamin A!
The circulatory system includes our heart, our veins, and our arteries. Our heart pumps blood, filled with oxygen and nutrients, out of the heart and through our arteries to our muscles and cells all over our body. Once the oxygen is all used up, the blood gets sent back to our hearts through our veins. Iron is the nutrient that actually holds on to the oxygen, and lets it go at the place that the oxygen is needed. It’s like an oxygen taxi, and the circulatory system is the road! Spinach has a lot of iron, as do other dark green leafy vegetables. After your digestive system breaks down your food, all of the useful parts of the food (vitamins & minerals) use the circulatory system as a road, too, to get to where they are needed. Where might calcium travel to?
The pulmonary system includes your nose, mouth, esophagus (your throat), and your lungs. This system is responsible for pulling air (oxygen) into your body. Your circulatory system picks up the oxygen from your lungs!
The digestive system includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, large intestine, small intestine, rectum, and anus. Lots of fancy words here, but we know that the digestive system is responsible for taking your food and breaking it down into what we can use (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals) and getting rid of what we cannot (our waste). The bacteria that live in your gut are experts at rescuing all of the useful parts of your food and breaking them down enough to pull them into your blood (your circulatory system!). We feed those bacteria with fiber.
The muscular system includes all of the muscles in your body! Muscles are what move you. They need energy to be moved, and that energy is sent along your nerves to contract or relax muscles. Muscles are made up of protein. We need to eat protein to build our muscles, or to rebuild them after they work really hard. Have you ever gotten a cramp in any of your muscles? Cramps are caused by your muscles getting stuck contracted for a little too long… Potassium (a mineral found in potatoes, bananas, and other starchy foods) helps us to easily relax our muscles.
Phew, all this learning is making me hungry… As we get into cooking our spinach, let’s try to think about the systems being fed by our tasty snack or side dish.
In the leaf:
Vitamin B – Helps us make energy!
Calcium- Builds strong bones
(Photo 3: spinach leaf) Potassium- Helps us relax our muscles and avoid cramps.
Iron – Carries oxygen through our body so we can play and run without feeling tired
Vitamin A- Helps our eyes see
Vitamin K – Helps hold the calcium in our bones so they stay strong our whole lives.
In the stem:
Fiber – Feeds the bacteria in our gut that gives us our nutrients from our food.
Here is this week’s recipe!
Wilted Spinach Recipe:
- Spinach (~5 cups)
- Olive Oil (Drizzle)
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- Minced or Crushed Garlic (2 Cloves)
* Note: Cooking spinach reduces the water content in the leaves making them shrink, so you will need more for this recipe than for the salad.
- Heat saucepan on medium-high heat.
- Add a drizzle oil to the pan to coat.
- Add spinach. Stir so spinach coats in oil. Add salt and pepper and garlic.
- Cook until the spinach is wilted.