Remember Popeye the Sailor Man and how much he loved eating spinach? (We’ll get more into that later)
Turns out that a Malaysian researcher made headlines on the other side of the world earlier this month all because of this particular vegetable.
Dr Noor Liyana Yusof recently completed her doctoral studies in food technology at Lund University in Sweden, as reported by New Straits Times
In her research findings from her PhD thesis
, Noor Liyana discovered a way to make spinach safe for young children
, especially infants, to consume.
Although spinach is widely known to be a nutritious vegetable, it is generally not recommended for babies because of its nitrate content
Nitrate is a common nutrient found in plants and leafy green vegetables. However, it can be converted into toxic substances when it is processed in our bodies, which reduces the transport of oxygen.
This can actually be harmful, especially for babies.
In Noor Liyana’s thesis, she developed a method which supposedly reduces the nitrate content by up to 70 per cent using sugar and vacuum
. This method alters the metabolism of the spinach leaf, which then breaks down nitrate and converts it to proteins.
“Placing the leaves in a sugar solution and then vacuum-treating them forces the sugar molecules to get into the leaves, stimulating their metabolism, so that the nitrates are reduced”, she told New Straits Times.
The 30-year-old said this method is cost effective and uses vacuum treatment, which is a technique that is already being used to pre-treat fruit and vegetables.
If you’re interested to find out more about her research or food technology in general, you can visit her at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), which happens to be her alma mater. She is currently a lecturer and researcher there.
Now, let’s get back to Popeye and his can of spinach. Have you ever wondered why this beloved cartoon character loves the spinach so much?
Apparently it’s all because of one careless mistake
According to Brain Pickings
, back in 1870, a German chemist named Erich von Wolf had examined the amount of iron in spinach. But while transcribing his notes and recording his findings, he had accidently misplaced a decimal point
that made a huge
Instead of recording only 3.5mg of iron per 100g of spinach, he wrote down 35mg
. Now, to put things into perspective, that’s equivalent to eating a small piece of paper clip.
So because of this tiny little decimal point, the nutritional value of spinach became world famous. The people behind Popeye eventually took this as fact and translated it to the cartoon series, recommending spinach to the world as a superfood for strength.
The error wasn’t corrected until 70 years later in 1937, but it was already too late.
Oh well, even though it doesn't give us muscles, at least now we know that spinach could be good for infants, thanks to Noor Liyana!