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Popeye Encourages Children to Eat Vegetables

Popeye Encourages Children to Eat Vegetables

With his bulging biceps and vegetarian diet, Popeye is credited with urging millions of youngsters to eat spinach since the 1930s. But now the cartoon sailor man's impact on children's eating habits has been recognised by scientific research. Experts found that children who regularly watched Popeye scoffing spinach before his animated bouts with his arch-rival Bluto, doubled their vegetable intake. The youngsters, aged four and five, ate four portions of vegetables a day after watching the cartoon hero compared to two before the study.

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Professor Chutima Sirikulchayanonta, who led the research at Mahidol University in Bangkok, said: “We got the children planting vegetable seeds, taking part in fruit and vegetable tasting parties, cooking vegetable soup, and watching Popeye cartoons.”

Researchers said that the experiment, which also encouraged children to plant their own vegetables, led to the 26 volunteers taking more interest in eating healthily.

Prof Sirikulchayanonta added that Popeye did not influence an increase in the children's fruit consumption, but that this was possibly because they already enjoyed plenty of fruit in their diet.

The findings of the study are published in journal Nutrition & Dietetics.

Research earlier this year found that sales of tinned spinach, like the kind eaten by Popeye, rose by 24 per cent last year to become one of Britain's fastest selling canned vegetables.

Popeye, who was created by Elzie Crisler Segar for the Thimble Theatre comic strip and first appeared on screen in 1933, is credited with helping save the US spinach industry in the 1930s.

His influence in boosting sales among children was recognised by the spinach-growing community in Crystal City, Texas, who erected a statue of the fictional sailor in 1937.

Popeye has not regularly been seen on British television since The Popeye Show – the most recent incarnation of the cartoon – ended its run in 2004. The cartoons are still aired in Asia.

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Popular Fruit and Veg Not The Healthiest

Obvious choices of fruit and vegetables are not necessarily the healthiest, new research has suggested. Scientists have come up with a list of five “powerhouse” foods that may be better alternatives. Experts recommend five portions a day of fruit and veg in a healthy diet – plant foods are known to contain “phytonutrient” chemicals that can protect the heart and arteries and prevent cancers – but the most popular varieties may not be the best, according to US researchers.

Scientists analysed data from US health surveys of people's dietary habits to examine sources of phytonutrients. They found that for 10 of the 14 phytonutrients studied, a single food type accounted for two-thirds or more of an individual's consumption. It made no difference whether or not a person was a high or low consumer of fruit and veg.

The most common food sources for five key phytonutrients were: carrots (beta-carotene), oranges / orange juice (beta-cryptoxanthin), spinach (lutein/zeaxanthin), strawberries (ellagic acid) and mustard (isothiocyanates).

However, for each of these phytonutrients there was a better food source available.

These were listed as follows: sweet potatoes (nearly double the beta-carotene of carrots), papaya (15 times more beta-cryptoxanthin than oranges), kale (three times more lutein/zeaxanthin than spinach), raspberries (three times more ellagic acid than strawberries), and watercress (one cup contains as much isothiocyanate as four teaspoonfuls of mustard)

Study leader Keith Randolph, technology strategist for the supplement company Nutrilite, said: “These data highlight the importance of not only the quantity but also the significant impact the quality and variety of the fruits and vegetables you eat can have on your health.”

The findings were presented at the 2010 Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, California.

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