Category Archives: Diets
Iron deficiency is the most common mineral deficiency worldwide. Iron is needed to deliver oxygen throughout your body. If your blood is iron deficient, then you aren’t creating enough red blood cells to transport oxygen and your body will be fatigued. Exhaustion, in turn, will affect your brain function and your immune system’s ability to fight off infection.
Iron deficiency is a common problem for females during their childbearing years, in fact, a 2011 Canadian study showed 9% of women of this group were experiencing iron-deficiency anemia. Also at risk are: pregnant women who need twice as much iron, young children because they require extra iron for growth and development, underweight teens, women who experience heavy periods, patients on kidney dialysis and people who work-out a lot.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include lethargy, irritability, lack of appetite, difficulty concentrating, being easily out of breath, hair loss, and weakened immune systems leading to easily catching colds and getting sick.
Vegetarians and vegans need higher than average daily iron intake, because there are two differing types of iron – heme and non-heme (illustrated below). Heme iron is primarily animal based and is more easily digestible by the body than non-heme iron.
To help the body increase absorption of non-heme iron, it is a good idea to get ample Vitamin C. Many fruits and veggies besides oranges are high in Vitamin C including strawberries, pineapples, guava, papaya, kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurts, and kimchi contain lactic acid and will enhance non-heme iron absorption. Another good tip is to cook with cast iron skillets – they will actually leach iron into your food!
At the same time, it is best to avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee, black and green teas, pop, beer and wine because these bevvies will decrease your body’s ability to absorb iron.
If you are feeling lethargic and are experiencing other symptoms, simple blood tests from you doctor will show whether you’re iron levels are lacking. Adding iron to your diet with meal planning is helpful in maintaining iron levels, but sometimes supplements will be required to get your iron levels back on track.
Recently, I attended a highly informative Ontario Society of Nutrition Management conference, where I learned some interesting facts about dementia, handling difficult people, and leading edge thought was shared on retaining maximum mental and physical health.
Here is some of what we learned:
Eat 7-10 servings of fruits and veggies per day
This sounds brutally difficult, but it’s not considering 1/2 cup of juice, chopped, cooked or canned fruit is one serving! The easiest way is to throw it in a blender, (of course then be sure to include some flax seeds and raw cocoa powder!)
Eat 1/2 cup of whole grains per day
This reduces blood cholesterol levels, may lower chances of heart disease, fills you with fibre for good bowel function, and gives your body Vitamin Bs which are needed for cellular body function.
Make getting your Vitamin D a priority because deficiency is associated with poor bone health, and chronic diseases such as cancer, let alone mood disorders! Studies show Canadians have widespread D deficiency, so eat lots of mushrooms all year round.
Beans – complex carbohydrates that break down slowly. This means steadier blood sugar levels, lowering risks of diabetes and heart disease. Since Type 3 diabetes is now linked to Alzheimer’s, it’s wise to lean towards foods that have a low glycemic index. Since eating less meat is advisable for those on the Standard American Diet, eating beans alongside a grain you will save money, and still provide your complete proteins. It’s so simple and satisfying = try rice and beansor beans on toast!
Exercise, exercise, exercise! Just a 20 minute walk makes your brain more active and happier, while blood travels faster through your body helping your cells to function properly. It improves resistance to disease, keeps inflammation down, and sharpens the brain. Just adopt a dog, it will ensure you get the daily walks, or simply dance to your favourite music for 20 minutes each day!
Fortunately for us, foods of other cultures are readily available these days, so why not try out a Mediterranean Diet?
The main differences between the Mediterranean Diet and what the Canada Food Guide recommends are:
-Having a glass of wine with dinner
-Using olive oil as the main source of fat
-Less meat servings
Animal products are consumed a few times per week, with red meat as an exception – only a few times per month. The main diet focus is plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, with wine in moderation during meals, and lunch being the main meal of the day. (See the diet pyramid below.)
According to the New England Journal of Medicine’s 2008 study – following a Mediterranean diet was just as effective for weight loss as a low-carb diet. As a result, longer life expectancy, less chance of heart disease, protection against type 2 diabetes, with lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
So tonight for dinner – veggie lasagne and a bottle o’ red!