Scooby has snacks. Garfield has lasagna. And Cartman has cheesy puffs. Yet none rival the relationship Popeye has with spinach. When Popeye eats spinach, his forearms triple, he gains supercharged strength and, perhaps most puzzling of all, he continues to be one of pop culture’s greatest myths.
Popeye first munched a mouthful of spinach in a July 3, 1932, cartoon strip. Although the sailor man wasn’t known for speaking clearly, his actions sure did: Spinach is good, and good for you. Decades later, children are still hearing parents say, “Eat your spinach” – for its iron content – “so you can be big and strong like Popeye.”
In 1870, German chemist Erich von Wolf was researching the amount of iron in spinach and other green vegetables.
When writing up his findings in a new notebook, he misplaced a decimal point, marking the iron content in spinach ten times more generous than in reality. While Mr von Wolf actually found out that there are just 3.5 milligrams of iron in a 100g serving of spinach, the accepted number became 35 milligrams thanks to his mistake.
This caused the popular misconception that spinach is exceptionally high in iron, which makes the body stronger!
The story goes that cartoon creators were aware of spinach’s miraculous health properties and had the idea that Popeye should eat spinach to increase his strength. It is now believed that the cartoon character is responsible for boosting consumption of spinach in the US by a third.
Although spinach is not as high in iron as we once thought, spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium and vitamin B2. Vitamin K is important for maintaining bone health and it is difficult to find vegetables richer in vitamin K than spinach.