I watched cartoons a lot when I was young, in fact every one that was available on TV. There wasn’t the variety then that there is now, and we certainly didn’t enjoy internet on demand. But what we lacked in choice, I think, was made up for with wholesome, meaningful programming. Back then, one could still pick up some positive values from cartoon shows, like the good guys always win, bad guys never get away with lying, cheating and bullying, and so on. I’ve tried watching modern cartoon shows, and usually come away wondering what I’d just allowed my eyeballs to be abused by.


One cartoon I remember loving was Popeye The Sailorman. He was a pretty affable fellow, short in stature but with oversized forearms like canons. He spoke with a funny accent, had an infectious chuckle, smoked a pipe, and would do anything for his girlfriend, Olive. The baddy in the show, Brutus, also had a thing for Olive, and would thus be at loggerheads with Popeye. But Brutus wasn’t likeable like Popeye was, and each time that big bully pushed our hero too far, he’d empty a can of spinach into his mouth, which made his muscles bulge, and from there it was exciting to see what kind of whooping he’d give Brutus. Popeye taught me the importance of eating spinach, and that’s a good value, right?


Here at SoFresh, we get huge orders for spinach from our cruise ship clients. That’s not surprising, because spinach is a comparatively cheap vegetable, it’s abundantly available, extremely versatile in usage, and a superpower when it comes to nutritional value. Spinach has the reputation of providing strong protection against inflammation, stress-related health problems, cardiovascular disease, bone health issues, and various cancers.


While it’s known that nearly all vegetables contain phytonutrients – ie. flavonoids and carotenoids – Spinach is the handsdown champion in the vegetable world in terms of phytonutrient content. Research has shown that spinach contains more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds that function as anti-inflammation and anti-cancer agents, especially against breast, stomach, skin and prostrate cancers.


Besides helping Popeye muscle-up instantly to thump Brutus, spinach helped keep our hero very fit and healthy too. This leafy vegetable is an excellent source of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin A (105%DailyValue), vitamin C (24%DV), vitamin E (25%DV), manganese (84%DV), zinc (12%DV) and selenium (5%DV). As such, regularly eating spinach helps lower the risks of health problems related to stress, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.


Further research has shown that spinach contains lutein and zeaxanthin. These two particular carotenoids are crucial antioxidants in the protection of our eyes, especially the retina and the macula. So, a regular diet of spinach could give a big boost to the prevention of eye problems like age-related macular degeneration.


Coming back to Popeye, I’d hazard a guess that his oversized forearms weren’t just all muscle, but that big, strong bones were concealed in there too – Brutus really couldn’t tell what was actually coming at him in those punches! That’s because just one serving of spinach (about 180g) provides a whopping 987%DailyValue of vitamin K. Combine that with the calcium (24%DV) and magnesium (39%DV) also in spinach, and you have the recipe for building strong, healthy bones.


I think there’s some truth in spinach instantly powering up Popeye actually, and that lies in the fact that spinach is a great source of the energy-boosting B group of vitamins, providing vitamins B1 (14%DV), B2 (32%DV), B3 (6%DV), and B6 (26%DV). And that’s not all, spinach also contains folate (66%DV), iron (36%DV), copper (34%DV), potassium (24%DV), fibre (17%DV), phosphorus (14%DV), protein (11%DV), choline (8%DV), omega-3 fats (7%DV), and pantothenic acid (5%DV). With so much packed into a single serving, the humble spinach truly is a vegetable superpower!


And the beautiful thing about spinach is that it can be enjoyed in so many ways – in classic salads, as pizza topping, with poached eggs and mushrooms, in soups, as a sauce for pasta dishes, blended and drank as a smoothie, to bulk up sandwiches, add layers in lasagna, etc, etc – it’s such a versatile ingredient that the only limitation is one’s own creativity. About the easiest, and probably healthiest, way to cook spinach is to throw it into a pot of boiling water for about a minute. After that, strain dry the spinach and use. And by the way, pine nuts are a super-yummy and nutritious addition to cooked spinach dishes.


Spinach is such a common and affordable vegetable, one can imagine it could be a saving solution for malnutrition and many health-related issues around the world. For us in Singapore, we should really take advantage of the wide-ranging health benefits of this cheap, everyday vegetable by making it a regular feature in our meals. Well, if it’s good enough for Popeye, it certainly is good enough for me! Till the next one!


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