Popeye Was Right about Spinach · 21 September 2012

The more I look at protein and plant-based foods, I cannot help but think, “Popeye was right about spinach.”

Popeye, that zany sailor man of comics and cartoons, ate spinach to get super strong and beat up his nemesis, Bluto. I know he and the other characters are all fictitious, but they seem to point to some truths about eating.

Popeye was all muscle and the only thing we ever saw him eat was spinach. His pudgy friend with a penchant for burgers was appropriately named Wimpy. As a writer, I know that I ought not read anything into what the fictional characters ate, but it is interesting that the meat eater was wimpy and the greens eater was strong.

I never thought about this until I started eating more leafy green stuff and thinking about getting protein as a vegan. Of course, I found that we do not need to eat meat to get protein and amino acids. What we need to do is eat a variety of plant-based foods including fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, grains, and legumes.

As I read about protein, I found that all protein is not created equal. Proteins are made up of amino acids which are necessary nutrients. There are nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce. Meat products contain all the essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine). Any food that contains all the essential amino acids is called a high quality protein.

While most plant-based food would not be considered high quality protein, soybeans, quinoa, and spinach are. (As a matter of fact, according to, one cup of spinach (30g) has 19.2 mg histidine, 44.1 mg isoleucine, 66.9 mg leucine, 52.2 mg lysine, 15.9 mg methionine, 38.7 mg phenylalanine, 36.6 mg threonine, 11.7 mg Tryptophan, 48.3 valine.) When I read that spinach had all that good stuff in it, I could not help but get excited. I love fresh spinach. And while I do not expect to be doing any super human feats in the near future, I will continue to eat the green stuff and remember a comic strip hero.

It is hard to believe but when it comes right down to it, Popeye was right about spinach.

© 2012 Michael T. Miyoshi

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