1938: Iron and Spinach

I’ve always had low iron. I know because every time I go to the American Red Cross Blood Drive at work, I have to stock up on my multivitamins, spinach, and raisins in the week before, so I can donate successfully. And with this recent spinach scare, I’m going nuts! I am craving spinach. Must have spinach. Willing to risk life to eat dear, sweet, spinach.

Since I can’t eat it, I figured I’d read about the benefits of spinach (when not spreading E. coli). I turned to something in my collection called Health, Hygiene and Hooey. I love this book. It’s from 1938 and was written by W. W. Bauer, who debunks health and hygiene information that was coming out at that time. The flap copy tells us “the purpose of this book is not only to expose hooey, but to throw light on what is not hooey.” Some of the quakery from back then rings familiar today: he covers fad diets, insomnia cures, claims about various vitamins, harmful cosmetics, and “a fake for every ache” – all about pain relievers and whether or not to trust those dispensing them to desperate patients.

To get us back to the original topic, here’s an excerpt from Bauer’s chapter on “Mineral Madness.”

Have you warmth and magnetism? Do you bubble with creative ability, with vitality? Are you successful? How is your ambition? Is your life force in harmony? If all is not all well, in these important respects, perhaps you need more of the master chemical, iron. Well, you do need iron, of course, but not for these romantic reasons, which I admit are more intriguing than the prosaic but accurate ones I am about to set forth. You need iron primarily to supply the necessary chemical for the formation of hemoglobin, the red blood coloring matter which transports the oxygen from the lungs to the tissues, and most of the carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be exhaled. You need iron for important functions in cell life and cell division which determines the inherited qualities of succeeding generations. . . .

Iron is popularly believed to be contained only in spinach, and as a result innumberable innocent infants and children have been manhandled and womanhandled into eating this good but overrated and underappreciated vegetable. Many infants have a sense enough to stage a sit-down strike, threatening to starve in the midst of plenty, thus bringing their parents appropriately out of the spinach hallucination.

The author goes on to describe what other foods have iron (other green vegetables, liver, egg-yolks, etc.). But I don’t care what those infants think — I still want to buy, cook, and eat my spinach!!

Please? The restrictions have been eased, haven’t they? Sigh.

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