Why is iron so important for our health?
Iron helps your body to make hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body and give your blood its deep red color. Hematocrit and hemoglobin tests measure the amount of red blood cells in your blood that carry oxygen. It is ideal for your hematocrit level to be at least 38 percent and the hemoglobin value to be at least 12.5 g/dL. Most men tend to easily obtain enough iron in their diet to maintain these levels, but many women naturally have a lower hematocrit/hemoglobin level.
Any abnnormally low hematocrit/hemoglobin (also called anemia) can develop when a person either does not make enough red blood cells or loses blood from the body. The most common cause of mild anemia in healthy people - particularly women - is a low level of iron which is need to make red blood cells. What are the symptoms of anemia?
- Fainting- Breathlessness
- Heart palpitations (rapid or irregular beating)
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
Common Signs Include:
- Pale complexion
- Normal red lining of the mouth and eyelids fades in color
- Rapid heartbeat
- Abnormal menstruation (either absence of periods or increased bleeding)
If your low hematocrit/hemoglobin is due to low iron, you can replenish the supply by increasing your intake of iron-rich food or supplements. The United States Department of Agriculture recommendations for iron varies with age and sex. For most males and postmenopausal women, it is 10 mg per day. Premenopausal women should ingest 15 mg of iron per day.Here is a list of iron-rich foods to help you boost your intake:
- Liver, beef, pork, poultry, and fish are all excellent source of dietary iron. These foods contain heme iron, which is readily absorbed by the body - keep in mind it is beneficial for your health to opt for lean protein sources such as lean ground beef, sirloin, flank or filet, chicken or turkey breast, or pork tenderloin.
- Shellfish such as shrimp, clams, mussels, and oyster are also good sources of iron.
- EggsIf you don't eat meat, poultry or fish, here are some great non-heme iron-rich foods:
- Iron fortified cereals - go with whole-grain options when possible
- Beans or legumes - especially kidney beans, pinto beans and chickpeas
- Vegetables such as peas, kale, watercress, broccoli, spinach and lentils
- Unsalted nuts and seeds (including natural peanut butter)
- Brown rice
- Fruits such as apricots, prunes, and raisins
- Enriched and whole-grain breads
The absorption of iron from any of these sources above can be improved by eating Vitamin C-rich foods at the same meal. Vitamin C-rich foods include 100% orange juice (1/2 cup), grapefruit, cantaloupe, green peppers and tomatoes. Tea and red wine contain tannins, which will decrease the absorption of iron. Coffee also has the same effect. Avoid drinking these before, after, or with meals.
Have questions? Feel free to contact me. Healthy wishes!Alissa C. Robertson, MS, RD
I love sweet potatoes, and there are numerous ways to eat them than the traditional baked potato. This is a great, healthy recipe for those of you who enjoy fries!
1 tsp. coriander seed
1/2 tsp. fennel seed
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Coarsely grind spices and add salt.
3. Slice potatoes into 1/2 inch rounds - so they look like french fries.
4. Toss potatoes with oil and spices and place in roasting pan.
5. Roast 20 minutes, turn over, roast 20 more minutes until tender and golden.
Serves 4 to 6.
Serve with a lean burger or turkey burger, and don't forget your veggies! A tossed salad and/or roasted vegetables are a great addition to this meal!
The human body uses fatty acids to do everything from building cell membranes to performing key functions in the brain, eyes, and lungs. Each day do your best to incorporate a few servings of the following healthy fats: olive oil, canola oil, avocado, unsalted raw nuts or seeds, olives, ground flaxseed or oil, Hempseed oil, coconut oil, organic cultured butter or ghee. The functions of fats include:
- Brain – Fats compose 60% of the brain and are essential to brain function, including learning abilities, memory retention and moods. Fats are especially important for pregnant women, since they are integral to fetal brain development.
- Cells – Fatty acids help your cells stay moveable and flexible, as well as being responsible for building cell membranes.
- Heart – 60% of our heart’s energy comes from burning fats. Specific fats are also used to help keep the heart beating in a regular rhythm.
- Nerves – Fats compose the material that insulates and protects the nerves, isolating electrical impulses and speeding their transmission.
- Lungs – Lung surfactant, which requires a high concentration of saturated fats, enables the lungs to work and keeps them from collapsing.
- Eyes – Fats are essential to eye function.
- Digestion – Fats in a meal slow down the digestion process so the body has more time to absorb nutrients. Fats help provide a constant level of energy and also keep the body satiated for longer periods of time. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can only be absorbed if fat is present.
- Organs – Fats cushion and protect your internal organs.
- Immune System –Some fats ease inflammation, helping your metabolism and immune system stay healthy and functioning.
Most of us are not planning on eating out less, and we do not want to spend much time sorting through nutrition facts. These tips can help you make quick, healthy decisions when eating out, which will allow you to enjoy your food without excess calories! Choosing the restaurant
· Choose restaurants that offer healthy options, such as grilled and broiled meats, and healthy side items, such as fruits and vegetables
· Avoid buffets when possible, as people tend to overeat and you cannot take home food for future meals
· Look for lunch or early bird specials, so you can eat at establishments with healthier options for lessChoosing menu items
· Scan the menu for a “lighter,” “low-calorie,” or “healthy option” section, but do not let the name fool you; read the menu descriptions:
1. Look for good words such as baked, roasted, grilled, broiled, steamed, cooked in its own juices, marinara/tomato sauce, choice/select cuts of meat, and broth or tomato-based soups
2. Avoid ordering items that use words such as fried, sautéed, batter dipped, breaded, au gratin, scampi, Alfredo, cooked with butter or cream, gravy, prime cuts of meat, and cream-based soups
· Consider ordering a salad if you are searching for a healthy alternative, which is usually better than most entrees. This is true only if you do the following:
1. Ask for dressing on the side
2. Request reduced amounts of high-calorie options, such as cheese and croutons
· Look at the appetizer menu, which sometimes contains the only healthy options at a restaurant, and see if you can mix and match an appetizer with a side salad, soup, or another healthy appetizer
· Ask someone to split a higher-calorie entrée or dessert with you if you want to order one. This way, you can enjoy the food while having half the caloriesOrdering
· Ask the waiter how items are prepared or served
1. Are the vegetables buttered? If so, can I get them steamed with no butter?
2. How are meats prepared – ask for no added salt or butter
· Request toast and baked or sweet potatoes dry, or with spreads and toppings on the side
· Substitute vinegar, lemon, salsa, plain yogurt, or oil and vingar-based salad dressings for higher-calorie dressings and toppings
· Tell your waiter to “hold the mayo” and put sauces, salad dressings, and other high-fat extras on the side, and use them sparingly
· Choose a side green salad, steamed vegetable, baked potato (only eat 1/2), or fruit cup in place of the coleslaw, potato salad, or French fries that normally come with a meal
· Opt for the more basically prepared dishes, such as baked or broiled chicken, instead of ordering something that you are not sure about the ingredients, such as a casserole, stew, or other mixed dishDining
· Avoid overeating by drinking a tall glass of water before you start eating, and drink several glasses during your meal
· Request a to-go container immediately when your food arrives if you receive a large portion, and put half away before you start eating—two meals for the price of one
· Ask others to share a large meal or a dessert if you're wanting to avoid overeating
· Do not have high-calorie dressings, gravies, or creamy sauces served directly on top of your food:
1. Have them served on the side instead
2. Dip your fork into the dressing, gravy, or sauce before taking a bite—taste the dressing, gravy, or sauce in each bite—you will consume much less by the end of the meal
· Ask the waiter to remove your plate as soon as you feel full to prevent picking at it
· Request that your waiter remove the bread/chip basket or place it out of your reach, if you find yourself snacking too much - you can also ask to NOT have the bread or chips on your table depending on who you are
· Eat slowly, put your fork down between bites, and chew well
These tips, along with your devotion to living a healthier lifestyle are sure to keep you moving in the right direction.
Alissa Robertson, MS, RD
Our bodies contain a variety of signaling molecules that are present in our tissues to regulate
cellular, physiological and systemic processes. These processes also include the cardiovascular system. One important signaling molecule is Nitric oxide, which initiates smooth muscle relaxation, results in vasodilation of the arteries. This action increases blood flow, the possibility of decreases in blood pressure, and overall improvements in cardiovascular health.
A polyphenol found in red wine and in medicinal plants called Resveratrol
has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide, which leads to protective cardiovascular benefits including decreases in blood pressure or use of medications, lowered cholesterol, and improved cardiovascular ability and athletic performance. Resveratrol has also been shown to prevent the aging process due to its high antioxidant and high ORAC value, leading to the protection of the largest organ of our bodies - our skin!
Source: Therapeutic effect of enhancing endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) expression and preventing eNOS uncoupling
Trans fats have been linked to depression, heart disease, infertility, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats are also contributing to the obesity pandemic, mainly due to the fact that they have been shown to cause belly fat. Although your favorite snack food or light butter substitute my have fewer calories, if it contains ANY trans fat, your "eating healthy" efforts will suffer - and ultimately, so will your health!
Why are Trans Fats So Bad for Us?
Our bodies are unable to respond to trans fats in the same way they do to animal or plain, unaltered vegetable oils. In other words, trans fats are synthetic and our bodies are not able to break them down as quickly or sometimes even at all. This means that when we eat trans fats, they are literally floating around in our blood stream longer than they should. This leads to damage to our metabolic systems (starting in our cells), and leaves thick plaque layers in our vessels.
Why are Trans Fats So Bad for Our Waistlines?
Trans Fats also don’t curb our appetites the way that real and healthy fats do. Therefore, we end up overeating and reaching for more. Because our bodies do not respond to trans fats in a normal manner, they make it harder for our bodies to use the glucose already in our blood stream causing insulin resistance. This impedes the use of fat reserves for energy, leading to the inability of our body to burn stored body fat = NO WEIGHT LOSS!
IT DOESN'T TAKE MUCH TO DO A LOT OF DAMAGE:
Negative effects of trans fats have been documented at levels as low as1% to 3% of total energy intake: This is only 20-60 calories (2g-7g) for a 2,000 calorie diet. That can equate to the smear of light margarine on your whole grain toast!
Trans fats are so detrimental to health, that the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association recommend that less than 1% of daily calories should come from trans fats. (That’s less than 20 calories for a 2000 calorie diet.) I RECOMMEND WE GET ZERO TRANS FATS - WHY RISK YOUR HEALTH?
TRANS FAT IS STILL HIDDEN IN OUR FOOD:
A manufacturer can claim zero trans-fat on their labels if one serving contains less than 1/2 a gram. If you’ve ever noticed, the serving sizes of many foods are considerably smaller than the amount you actually eat, as much as four times—so you could be getting a significant amount of trans-fat, even when the package says “Zero Trans Fat!” on its label. This is why reading the ingredients is as essential as reading the nutritional facts.
If a package says zero trans-fat, read the ingredients, you may be suprised.
INGREDIENTS THAT CONTAIN TRANS FATS:
The primary source of trans fat is partially hydrogenated oil. Manufacturers can use just about any plant (also fish oil), but most often choose corn or soy because they’re inexpensive. Hydrogenation is a process where they alter the molecular structure of the oil to lengthen its shelf-life and/or to make it thicker, so it can be spread on toast for example. (Ex. I can’t believe it’s not butter)
So What Should You Look For?
HYDROGENATED or PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED + OIL (vegetable, soybean, corn, etc…)
SHORTENING–this always contains trans fats
Use caution with:
MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES OF FATTY ACIDS–
These are modifications of fats and are produced as additives for use as emulsifiers and thickeners in foods like yogurt or whipped topping.
INTERESTERIFIED FAT (STEARIC ACID-RICH FAT)
This modified fat is also being used as a trans fat replacement, particularly in fast food restaurants. There is evidence that indicates that this fat may be just as harmful as trans fats.
NOTE: If labeled “fully hydrogenated,” then the oil is safe and free of trans fats. But if it only says “hydrogenated” it may contain partially hydrogenated oil mixed in with it.
Recent research has demonstrated that exercising prior to consuming protein-containing foods will actually help the body's ability to absorb protein more efficiently and effectively. The importance of consuming high-quality lean protein sources after exercise is therefore extremely important in order to aid in the synthesis and growth of new muscle, as well as protecting and preserving the muscle that is already present.
Source: Exercising before protein intake allows for greater use of dietary protein–derived amino acids for de novo muscle protein synthesis in both young and elderly men
Are you ready to focus on your health? Take it upon yourself to make the month of March the time to start. March is National Nutrition Month, and this year, the theme for National Nutrition Month is "Eat Right with Color."
Include a variety of colors on your plate such as the following:
Dark, colorful vegetables, such as broccoli, beets, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, and carrots, are more nutrient dense than cucumbers, mushrooms, and celery. That's not to say these vegetables don't have their benefits too, but include more of the colorful vegetables for optimal health!
Blues, Reds, Purples and Yellows Pack a Powerful Punch
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids, which are powerful phytochemicals that decrease the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and many other chronic diseases. Start today by consuming more blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, red cabbage, strawberries, red beans, black beans, pears, pecans, walnuts, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and many more.
Smart & Healthy Snacking
Eat more fruits and vegetables at snacks, and set an example for your kids and those around you. Have vegetables with hummus such as carrots, celery and cucumber; have celery or apple with all-natural peanut butter; or have cut-up fruit and vegetables readily available for you and the family to snack on in a pinch.
Fresh & Frozen
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh. Try tossing fresh or frozen carrots, broccoli, or mixed vegetables into soups, or make a fruit smoothie for a quick, delicious breakfast or snack.
Fiber for Overall Health
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables gives you fiber that keeps your digestive tract healthy and helps protect against diseases such as diverticulosis.
It appears that there is al relationship between flavonoids (beneficial plant chemicals found in fruits and vegetables) and omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oil, walnuts and flaxseed. A recent study demonstrates that flavonoids can actually help increase blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids thereby making these important polyunsaturated fatty acids more available for the body to use.Omega-3 fatty acids
are crucial for brain and heart health and help to reduce inflammation in the body. Getting various sources of Omega-3's per day is critical to maintain optimal health. Unfortunately, for many people, this is challenging to do when only through food sources. Therefore, supplementation with an Omega-3 Fatty acid can be highly beneficial.
Examples of flavonoids, which possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties
, include EGCg from green tea, quercetin from apples, citrus and onions and curcumin from the spice turmeric.
Source: Dietary Flavonoids Increase Plasma Very Long-Chain (n-3) Fatty Acids in Rats
When it comes to food, we all have temptations on a day to day basis. Let's face it, there are foods we love, and the thought of not having some is a tough one to swallow. Or does it have to be?
How many of you regret passing on dessert or some other food temptation the next day? My guess is not many of you. Instead, you felt confident, on top of the world, and excited that you resisted a common temptation! The fact is, once the temptations pass us by, we don’t miss it – not even one bit!
Regret, however has a way of hanging around. We beat ourselves up for giving into our temptations yet again, and often times keep right on going with this eating routine. We’ve ruined our day now, why not continue? Why do we do this to ourselves?
The next time you’re faced with temptation in the form of fattening foods, sugary desserts, or anything you know will send you on a binge, decide how you want to feel the next day. Would you rather be guilt-ridden and bloated OR guilt-free, slim, and confident!?
The choice is yours.