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How Did "Popeye" Affect Spinach Consumption?

Popeye rips open a can of spinach and gulps it down, and almost instantly his biceps throb. He's now able to perform superhuman feats. Many have claimed that E.C. Segar, Popeye's creator, chose spinach for his naval hero's favorite food based on an 1870 German study that found spinach contained more iron than red meat. And so, at the urging of parents across America, children during the Great Depression were persuaded to eat their spinach -- so much so that consumption increased by more than 30%.

However, there are many myths associated with Popeye's affect on spinach consumption. It's difficult to prove that Popeye was primarily responsible for the surge in U.S. spinach consumption, especially as spinach was already gaining popularity between 1915 and 1928, a year before Popeye's debut in 1929. In fact, early newspaper strips show Popeye flexing his fine muscles without nutritional assistance of any kind.

It wasn't until 1931 that Segar introduced spinach into Popeye's diet. And the cartoonist admitted that he picked spinach because of its high vitamin A content -- not because of iron.

Other facts about spinach:

  • Like many green leafy vegetables, spinach is rich in iron, but not all of this iron can be absorbed by the human body.

  • Spinach is a nutritional treasure, high in vitamins A, B and C, antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium and zinc.

  • Fresh spinach loses nutrients every day it stays in the refrigerator, so it's best to eat it as soon as possible.

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