We’ve all seen the cartoons, Popeye coming to the rescue of Olive after popping open a can of spinach and developing what appears to be superhuman strength. While it’s unlikely that anyone believes they would be able to lift up an articulated lorry or take on the world heavyweight boxing champion after a meal of spinach and ricotta pasta parcels, can this vegetable really make you even a little bit strong? Is it even really that good for you?
Iron is a mineral that we all need to have in our diet, as it plays a number of important roles in helping to keep us fit and healthy. One of these roles is to help make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around our bodies. Most people get enough iron from their daily diet and do not need to worry about taking supplements. However, there are a number of foods that are rich in iron, including red meat, fortified breakfast cereals, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Spinach is indeed a green leafy vegetable and it does indeed contain a significant amount of iron. The problem is that it also contains a substance that can actually make it harder for the human body to absorb the mineral. It’s these absorption-inhibiting substances that can make much of the iron in the vegetable unusable by the body.
There are various stories linking Popeye with iron, including the version favored by many that a mistake by a researcher who was investigating the properties of spinach back in the 1870s led to people believing it contained ten times more iron than it actually did. It was this misunderstanding that is said by some to have led to Popeye choosing to eat spinach in order to increase his strength. Others have said this is a myth. The truth? Well as usual it probably lies somewhere in between.
And while Popeye might have over-egged the power of spinach, the vegetable is certainly worthy of a spot on your plate. It contains a large amount of vitamin K, which helps the body to clot blood, and is also high in vitamin A which helps the body to maintain vision in dim light, helps to strengthen the body’s immunity against infections, and keeps skin healthy.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate spinach into your diet, so why not run a search online and see what recipes you could try at home?