When I approached my home on my walk from grammar school at lunch time, I could hear the record my mother would play for me each day about Popeye- The- Sailor man eating his spinach. I was a rather frail child and she hoped the music from the cartoon character who had great strength because he ate the green leafy vegetable would entice me to eat it and become stronger.
I did eat the vegetable because I loved the cartoon character but I still looked more like Olive Oil, Popeye’s skinny girl friend, than Popeye. My mother, however, was right about spinach being nourishing because it is an excellent source of magnesium, iron, potassium and Vitamin A, and a good source of calcium and Vitamin C.
She also tried to get me to eat an apple-a-day to keep the doctor away. Fortunately, even though I ate an apple a day, it didn’t keep all the doctors away. I married one. But again, my mother was right, although she may have not known the exact reason. Apples have a combination of plant chemicals, such as flavonoids and polyphenols—collectively known as phytochemicals—found within the flesh of an apple, particularly in the skin. These provide the fruit’s antioxidant and anti-cancer benefits. An apple polyphenol extract from unripe apples, in addition, was found by Japanese researcher to reduce symptoms of fatigue and improve physical performance during exercise. Writing in the journal Nutrition, lead author Suzuka Ataka from Osaka City University Graduate School of Medicine reports that oral supplementation with the apple extract may find a place in the growing sports nutrition market.
In researching recently for A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients (Three Rivers Press) I found that there is more to the benefit of apples than my mother could have imagined. PhytoCellTec Malus (apples) Domestica, reportedly boosts the production of human stem cells and is being promoted as protecting human stem cells from stress and wrinkles, Mibelle AG Biochemistry, which specializes in the research and development of active ingredients for the cosmetic industry, says the a novel plant cell culture technology has been invented to cultivate cells from a rare Swiss apple: “These apple stem cells are rich in epigenetic factors and metabolites, assuring the longevity of skin cells.” Epigenetic factors generally turn genes on or off, allowing or preventing the gene from being used to make a protein. A metabolite is a substance necessary for or taking part in a particular metabolic process. Examples of metabolites are glucose in the metabolism of sugars and starches, amino acids in the body’s production of proteins, and squalene in the body’s manufacture of cholesterol.
My mother, of course, gave me chicken soup when I wasn’t feeling well and scientists now say it has benefits for cold sufferers besides the heat and fluid.
The one thing my mother was not right about was telling me to “clean my plate because children in China were starving.” That might have been good advice for me as a skinny kid but now that I am grown, eating everything on the plate is a bad idea, especially with the overgenerous portions American serve. Maybe Popeye ate too much spinach and that’s why the youngest generation today doesn’t know the song of the Sailor man and I have to fight not to eat everything on my plate.