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Was Popeye Wrong?


When you think of Popeye the Sailor what is the first thing that comes to your mind? It is probably spinach. Popeye used to get extraordinary strength as soon as he munched down a can of spinach. Why was that?

In 1930's, when this cartoon character was invented, people believed that spinach contained amazing amounts of iron, a mineral metal that gives strength and endurance. The problem was that Dr. Wolfe, a German scientist who determined the nutritional value of spinach in 1890's, made a mistake by a factor of ten! All those years people believed that spinach had ten times more iron that it actually does. Ironically, we now know that the iron in spinach is locked up with oxalic acid and can't be used by the body. In addition, spinach contains phytate, a chemical that prevents iron from entering the bloodstream. So, spinach is actually an iron-blocker!

Does this mean that all those wonderful Popeye cartoons are sending the wrong message to kids about the importance of eating spinach? … Not at all! It turns out that the message is truer today than ever. We now know that spinach contains carotenoids, including beta-carotene (which may protect from some types of cancer) and lutein (which is good for healthy eyes). It also contains quercetin, a phytochemical with antioxidant properties; which ensures healthy lung formation in children. Spinach is also rich in vitamins and minerals, folic acid, vitamin K, etc. Just one cup of spinach has about 100% of US recommended daily intake of vitamin A which is great at boosting one's immune system.

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About the Author


Anton SkorucakAnton Skorucak, MS
Anton Skorucak is a founder and publisher of ScienceIQ.com. Anton Skorucak has a Master of Science (MS) degree in physics from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California and a B.Sc. in physics with a minor in material science from the McMaster University, Canada. He is the president and creator of PhysLink.com, a comprehensive physics and astronomy online education, research and reference web site.
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