Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Iron Boosting Power Salad

It's a fairly well known medical fact that kids can get low in iron easily. It's actually the main reason that  iron fortified rice cereals like Farex are marketed as 'the best first food' for babies (obviously I have other ideas!). Aside from kids, iron is essential for everyone and in high demand when pregnant or breastfeeding. Iron is used to carry oxygen around the body in our red blood cells. This means that it is essential for balanced energy levels, motivation, concentration, learning and also helps to boost our immune system's defence against infection. An iron deficient child is usually pale, restless, lacks concentration, is learning slowly, has slumps in energy and frequently gets infections. Remind you of anyone? It is actually one of the most important nutritional factors in the prevention and management of attention and behavioural disorders like ADHD. Here's some ideas for helping your family eat and absorb more iron.

: : Regularly eat grass fed red meat like beef and lamb (especially liver if you can)
: : Cook meat into stews, casseroles and curries so that even if a lot of the actual meat isn't eaten at least some of the nutrition has cooked into the liquid - especially useful for kids who don't like to chew the meat.
: : Include pumpkin seeds, cocoa powder, spirulina, dried apricots, beetroot, shell fish, molasses and lentils into your daily diet - all known to contain good levels of iron
: : Increase dark green leafy vegetables and herbs - like spinach, silverbeet, parsley, rocket, kale and basil
: : Increase vitamin C rich foods with iron meals - like citrus, red capsicum, kiwifruit, parsley
: : Avoid drinking tea or coffee around meals as these reduce iron absorption
: : Increase acidic foods when eating red meat to help their digestion and iron absorption- like a lemon juice or apple cider vinegar salad dressing 
: : Include iron rich herbal teas like raspberry leaf, nettle and rooibos

Or try this salad which incorporates the dark greens, the vitamin C and the acidic dressing to serve next to your steak, bolognese sauce,  lamb cutlets, lentil burgers or tofu etc. This will help increase iron absorption from anything.

Iron Boosting Power Salad

Big handful of fresh parsley
Handful Baby Spinach
Handful Kale
1/2 Lebanese Cucumber
Handful Cabbage
1 lemon juiced
2 tbs Olive Oil
Pinch of Sea Salt

Finely chop all the greens. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil and salt together and mix through salad. Go Iron go!

To accurately assess your iron you need a blood test called an iron studies - which includes the test for ferritin, the stored iron. This is not routinely assessed unless there are obvious indications for it. This is why it is common for women to start their pregnancy with low iron stores (although their haemoglobin is perfectly fine) and for iron deficiency to be diagnosed in the second or third trimester. Obviously this reduces the baby's iron stores and can result in preterm delivery, low birth weight or even early miscarriage. A good pre-pregnancy ferritin level, for maternal wellbeing and baby health, to aim for is about 80ng/mL or higher, which is quite hard to achieve as a regularly menstruating woman. This ferritin drops quickly once you are pregnant to allow for placenta growth, increased blood volume and foetal growth. 

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