Monday, August 4, 2008

Spinach: not like on Popeye

Two of my coworkers have commented on being beaten up as children due to Popeye: they experimentally proved that eating spinach does not enable one to win fistfights. They both have pretty low opinions of spinach as a food.

Which is a shame, because spinach is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and healthful phytochemicals. Since I became vegetarian, I have struggled with low iron levels. If I eat spinach every day (say, on a salad, amounting to 5-10% of the USDA recommendation for iron intake), I never get rejected from donating blood.

I don't like spinach enough to eat it most days. So I take an iron pill (150% of the USDA recommendation for iron intake) five days a week. However, if I don't supplement that with spinach or other leafy greens a few times a week, I still get rejected from donating blood.

Pills just can't compare to food as a nutrition source. That seems to be part of the message Popeye's creators intended to send. But by exaggerating the effect, their strategy may have backfired, turning off a large number of people from appreciating what food does for us.

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