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Good Habits #5 – Popeye Was On To Something

When I was younger, I was exposed to a form of blatant, shameless propaganda.  A form of animated brainwashing I’m absolutely convinced that a shadowy cabal of American mothers had produced to slowly osmose nefarious and wicked ideas into the brains of young children.  An elaborate and sinister plot to make us…eat vegetables.

The hateful source of this childhood indoctrination was an innocent seeming cartoon, a shockingly Orwellian method used to promulgate dietary dogma on unsuspecting toddlers.  The cartoon starred a strapping sailor who would constantly be thwarted in his attempts to save his lady love from another sailor, a bearded behemoth of a man who would frequently toss our hapless hero around like a rag doll.  Until, of course, our hero popped open and inhaled (literally inhaled) a can of spinach.  Which immediately made him super strong, able to clobber his arch-nemesis into a pulp.

The insidious attempts to condition me didn’t stop there.  One of our hero’s friends was a gluttonous, obese man who constantly ate hamburgers.  And was apparently a derelict who was constantly broke, because he always offered to pay Tuesday or Wednesday if someone would buy him a hamburger today.  So the spinach eater was a winner and the burger eater was a loser.

This was clearly an attempt to make me eat spinach and other variously healthy things.  The types of things that anyone under the age of ten agrees are disgusting.  And not eat hamburgers, which are ostensibly bad (Although I’ve pointed out in the past that those really aren’t that bad for you) according to the promoters of this animated agitprop.  Fortunately, it didn’t work on me.  Although I guess maybe it’s not so fortunate.  It turns out, these things are quite good for you.

A half cup of spinach will get you all of the vitamin A and vitamin K you need for a whole day and then some.  And a variety of other things, including various B vitamins, some vitamin C, calcium and various other nutrients, including magnesium and vitamin E, which, as I’ve noted before, can be hard to come by.  It’s basically a super food that I don’t have to search the obscure corners of the grocery store for or import from another continent. 

But Popeye’s secret weapon isn’t the only leafy green thing that does good things for you.  Residents of the Holy Land south of the Mason-Dixon line (like myself) know that collard greens, in addition to being an excellent side for barbecue (something I think I mentioned when discussing how to combat COVID-19), are extremely good for you.  It has everything spinach has, although slightly less overall.  One exception to this is that it does have more calcium than spinach.  And unlike spinach, it is an excellent side dish for the blessed burnt offerings that come from a barbecue pit.  

Another thing I discovered recently was beet greens.  It was a bit strange, because my mother threw the greens away when I was a kid and just kept the beets themselves.  I guess her dark sisterhood of vegetable propaganda didn’t know about the nutritional value of beet greens.  It’s not quite so high on vitamin A and K as spinach or collards, but a little bit heavier on various minerals, like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.  

Another healthy thing that grows on top of other things we eat are turnip greens.  They, like most greens, are pretty good all around.  And they have a good chunk of calcium and vitamin E.  This is a pattern I noticed with the root vegetables we eat.  The part of these plants that’s above ground is better for us than the part we dig up.  Turnips themselves aren’t particularly impressive, both in terms of nutrition or taste.  And this is true with beets too, by the way.

My adventures in dieting have also led me to discover assorted green things from foreign lands such as chard and endive.  These are exotic things from the mysterious lands of clockworks and waffles.  And by that I mean Switzerland and Belgium.  I always passed on these, because they seemed like bourgeois things eaten by people who spend entirely too much time at Whole Foods.  But they’re very nutritious.  Chard in particular has a decent chunk of the relatively hard to come by vitamin E.

I also discovered Bok Choy, which I’d heard of before, but always thought was a type of ramen or some such.  It’s…not bad.  I mean, in terms of nutrients, not taste.  All of the vegetables I’m listing here taste like a compost pile.  Anyway, Totally Not Ramen is not as good as spinach, but it does carry a nice chunk calcium, in addition to the vitamin A and K present in almost all green things.

Then there’s Kale, another thing eaten by fancy, pretentious people who think that hollandaise should be a topping for hamburgers.  Not that I’m bashing hollandaise.  I mean, anyone who is familiar with my Instagram feed knows that I’m fine for using it on Eggs Benedict, but not hamburgers.  That’s going too far.  And yes, I know Eggs Benedict is a bit snobby, but some things are so good that I can deal with the fact that eating it makes me seem a bit pompous.

I resisted Kale for a long time, but relented when I discovered it’s pretty good for you.  Not the same way spinach is, because it’s actually a bit light on micronutrients.  But I noticed a secondary benefit you don’t see much in vegetables.  Unlike the other greens, it has a decent chunk of the vaunted supernutrient that prevents heart attacks and allows alcoholics to live longer by reducing their triglyceride count.  By that I mean, Omega-3 fatty acids.

Two other things in the leafy green category which I didn’t object to so much as a kid are cabbage and romaine lettuce.  These…aren’t so great nutritionally.  They have some A and K, but not so much of anything else. And then there’s the least objectionable green leafy thing, iceberg lettuce.  The one green I could eat as a kid and not complain at all.  Unfortunately, it’s basically useless.  It has very little in the way of nutrition.  

This may explain why the vast mom conspiracy exists.  Things that are good for you apparently taste gross to a child’s palate, and the things that were edible were mostly useless.  So any green, leafy thing you were willing to eat as a kid should get a hard pass in adulthood.

So, eating your greens is something you should do.  A lot.  Overall, greens are high on things like vitamin A and C and have a nice chunk of various other vitamins and minerals.  They’re a little light on B vitamins, but that’s what dead animals are for.  And most importantly, they have minimal calories.  So you get a lot of good nutrition with no guilt.

And if you still think greens are gross, just try adding them to other stuff.  I frequently stir in a little spinach into the bizarre amalgamations of scrambled eggs and bacon and cheese that I eat for breakfast.  My Instagram is full of these.  They may look like crime scene evidence, but they generally taste good and the leafy part makes them good for me.  

Other options exist too.  A wily Italian once came up with the idea of Margherita pizza, which includes foods mimicking the colors of the Italian flag.  These include mozzarella (white), tomato sauce (red) and spinach (green).  This is quite edible, to the point where you don’t even taste the spinach.  You can also mix greens with mac and cheese, douse them in vinegar or hot sauce, mix them in stew or with potatoes or rice.  Or maybe put them in some gumbo.  Anyone who’s ever had gumbo knows that leafy greens would probably be the least strange ingredient in it.  Cajuns have peculiar ideas about what counts as food.

One other bit of advice when eating green things.  Cooked greens tend to provide more nutrients than raw greens.  Although it may reduce the vitamin C content slightly, so eat an orange or something.  This has to do with the cooking process breaking down the cell walls in the plants which your body has difficulty digesting.  Heating them a bit unlocks some of the nutrients trapped in them.  Or so I’m told.  I’m not an expert, because I mostly slept through high school biology.  But those people who are experts confirm that cooking these things generally improves nutrition.  Also, you’re less likely to get E. Coli and die.

So, I guess Popeye was on to something.  And I guess the byzantine plot behind the cartoon, which was clearly orchestrated by sneaky moms, was well intentioned.  Although I can never approve of their duplicitous methods.  But you might as well eat those green, leafy veggies like Mom says.  They are really good for you.  And if you try to ignore the advice of your dear mother, she and her clandestine network of devious matriarchs will probably just find a way to trick you into it anyway.

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Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

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