By Leslie Vandever
Popeye the Sailor was a popular Saturday morning cartoon character in the 1960s whose main claim to fame was his love for spinach. At the crucial moment—usually when his nemesis, Bluto, was about to pound him to smithereens—Popeye would nom a can of spinach. He’d grow a pair of huge biceps (his “muskles”) and proceed to pound Bluto instead. And then he and his adoring “goil,” Olive Oyl, would stroll happily away together, cheek to cheek.
We’ll never know if Popeye was a vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous, but he sure liked his spinach. He was a smart guy: spinach is rich in iron, a vital mineral our body needs to function. It makes up part of the protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from our lungs to the rest of the body, including the muscles, which not only use it, but store it. When we don’t get enough iron, we develop anemia.
The iron in meat, poultry, and fish—heme iron—is the type that the human body absorbs most efficiently. Non-heme iron—the iron found in plant foods—is just as good, but the body also needs Vitamin C in the same meal in order to absorb it. The best plant-bases sources of iron, other than spinach,include: ·
- broccoli, bok choy, kale, dandelion greens, beet greens, collards, and asparagus · soybeans, lima beans, and dried beans and peas, chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas ·
- dried prunes, raisins, and apricots ·
- almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds ·
- whole grains like wheat, millet, oats, bulgur, and quinoa and brown rice ·
- blackstrap molasses and tofu
- tomatoes, sweet and white potatoes, green and red peppers, turnip greens, spinach, and other leafy greens, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts ·
- citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, cantaloupe, and watermelon
- tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy milk, soy nuts · beans and legumes, like navy beans, chickpeas, split peas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas ·
- cashews, almonds, nut butters, almond milk, and sunflower seeds · whole grains, bulgur, and quinoa
- spinach and broccoli Turns out that humble, green, leafy spinach really is a super-food,packed as it is with iron, Vitamin C, and protein.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.
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