October 29, 2017
I read a great blog this week by Casey Seidenberg called Pumping Iron. Casey's a certified nutrition counselor and co-founder of Nourish Schools, which is doing a great job of spreading the value-of-whole-food-nutrition word through blogs, articles in The Washington Post, national talks, and individual counseling with families, schools, and doctors (learn more about Casey here.)
Here are the headlines:
· Iron equals energy: iron’s main job is to help carry oxygen from the lungs to every cell in the body (and I can tell you from years of experience as an American Red Cross CPR Instructor that no matter what your buddy the marathon runner or your spin instructor says about carbs, oxygen is truly the body's main fuel…you can live a couple of weeks without food and a couple of days without water, but you've got only about 4 minutes without O2!)
· So if you're feeling unexplainably exhausted and weak all the time it's possible you have an iron deficiency (in fact low iron is currently the most common nutrient deficiency in the US)
· And oxygen deficiency in the brain from chronically low iron can dramatically affect cognitive function because the brain uses 20% of the body's total O2 requirement
· Here's what else is affected by chronic iron deficiency: athletic performance, immune function, digestion (especially our ability to absorb other key nutrients), balanced hormones & metabolism, even our ability to maintain healthy skin, nails, and hair
So what contributes to iron deficiency? Here are a few common culprits:
· Excessive caffeine consumption
· Excessive alcohol consumption
· Digestive disorders like IBS, acid reflux, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, etc
· Excessive exercise
And simply popping an iron supplement without a doctor’s supervision might not only cause uncomfortable side effects it can even be dangerous…sticking to whole-food sources of iron is always a better idea!
The various RDA’s for iron are:
· All children aged 4-8: 10 mgs a day (this age group often experiences rapid growth and requires more iron than older kids.)
· All children aged 9-13: 8 mgs a day
· Girls aged 14-19: 15 mgs a day*
· Boys aged 14-19: 11 mgs a day
· Women aged 19-50: 18 mgs a day*
· Men aged 19-50: 8 mgs a day
*And why do you suppose females between puberty and menopause seem to need so much more iron than boys and men? I know it sounds yucky but if you think about it the following will make sense: because of monthly blood loss. (And BTW Casey didn’t include the following info in her blog but according to NIH the RDA for men and women over the age of 50 – the average age most women stop menstruating – levels out at 8 mgs a day for both.)
Last but not least, Casey hit on some particularly important info for vegetarian and vegan women: heme (or animal-based) iron sources are 2-3 times more easily absorbed into the body than vegetarian (or non-heme) sources of iron. The most common heme iron sources are organic meat (all kinds), poultry, fish, clams, and eggs while the most common non-heme sources are certain kinds of beans, leafy green vegetables, and nuts.
She went on to say a few words about combining non-heme foods in order to increase iron absorption but with all due respect, Casey didn’t say a word about something which (IMHO) could be one of the only PERFECT single-source vegetarian foods for iron deficiencies: RAW BEETS.
Wait…raw beets don’t sound tasty to you?
Then I guarantee you’ve simply never had one of my patented raw beet SMOOTHIES or you’d be touting the yumminess of raw beets as well!!!
So attend my next Smoothie 101 and I’ll show you how to make a DELICIOUS smoothie made from a raw beet root (which is not only high in non-heme iron but also loaded with vitamin C which ups the absorption of non-heme iron significantly!)
And of course this workshop isn’t just for serious veggie-lovers (especially the female variety.) In fact, this workshop may be even more appropriate for NON-veggie-lovers because remember that every major world health organization (including THE World Health Organization) agrees we need 9-13 servings of fresh whole produce EVERY DAY just to maintain our health…knowing how to make yummy daily smoothies is simply another important tool for your healthy toolbox!