Mar 2016

IRON AND PLANT BASED DIETS

IRON AND PLANT BASED DIETS

Iron is without a doubt essential to our health, it has several roles in the body. Iron is needed production of red blood cells and facilitates the transport of oxygen around the body. Iron is also involved in the immune system function, production of enzymes and the conversion of blood sugar to energy.
Deficiency or suboptimal iron are very often touted as one of the downfalls of plant-based (vegan) diets. From my clinical experience I can say vegans are no more likely to suffer with iron deficiency than meat eaters.
It is true that haem-iron from meat is easier for the human body to absorb thus making it, in theory, easier to have healthy iron levels if you include meat in your diet. Saying that there is no reason while you shouldn’t get the iron you need from a plant based diet. All that’s required is a little bit of knowledge and planning.

There are many underlying causes such as inadequate diet, impaired absorption, late stage pregnancy and heavy periods can all contribute to low iron levels. There are several chronic conditions (i.e. Crohn’s disease) and medications (i.e. Proton Pump Inhibitors such as Omeprazol) that are associated with decreased absorption of iron.

What you drink and eat can interfere with absorption even if you are otherwise healthy. Calcium, oxalates (found in green leafy veg, beetroot, nuts, wheat bran and other foods), polyphenols (tea and coffee) and phytates (legumes, seeds and whole grains) are all known to reduce the absorption of iron. Fermentation, soaking, and boiling beans and grains all reduce phytates and oxalates. Drinking your tea and coffee away from main meals is also advisable.

Vitamin C on the other hand increases the absorption of iron from non-hame iron by two to three fold. Anybody following a healthy plant based diet should have plenty good sources of Vitamin C in their diet. Having a fresh salad with lemon dressing alongside an iron rich meal or some fruit for dessert are great strategies.

Iron deficiency symptoms include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling or crawling feelings in legs, headaches, irregular or fast heartbeat, cold hands and feet, brittle nails and hair loss. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms if is always a good idea to have a blood test to check for iron levels.

A good practitioner will never prescribe iron supplement unless it is based on results of a blood test as having too much iron may have detrimental effect on the body. Having too much iron results in oxidative stress and can contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and some cancers .
However in a case of diagnosed deficiency iron supplement is a sure way of increasing iron blood levels until underlying causes can be addressed.

For any vegan it is important to not only maintain cruelty free aspects in their diet but this cruelty free ethos spreads to all aspects of life. That’s why it is important to me to be able to prescribe vegans supplements from companies that are run with vegan values in mind such as Vertese. Supplements produced by Vertese are both Vegetarian and Vegan Society approved, they are made using vegan sources, not tested on animals and encapsulated in gelatine free capsules. The Beetroot, B12 and Iron complex contains 15mg of iron citrate that is gentle for people with sensitive stomachs. The complex also contains vitamin B12 (one vitamin that vegans need to supplement) and vitamin C from the superfood acerola cherry.
Vertese supplements are available from https://www.nutricentre.com where you can explore the whole range of their vegan friendly products.

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ROASTED ROOT SALAD WITH MUSTARD DRESSING

ROASTED ROOT SALAD WITH MUSTARD DRESSING



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What happens when three nutritional therapists and their families get together for dinner? No, we don’t snack on carrot and celery sticks and drink kale juice. We eat, and we eat a lot. But we do eat very nutritions and delicious foods. Usually we struggle to put all the various dishes on the table. The quantity reminds me of the French film Blow Out.

Last Saturday we had one of our foodie get togethers. Our table was overflowing with black bean chilli, patatas bravas, Mexican rice, guacamole, hummus, rocket and vegetable salad with cashew dressing and roasted vegetable salad with mustard dressing. Everything was delicious, full of nutrients and made with love :)

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One of my contributions was the roasted root salad with mustard dressing. Full of flavour, zingy, delicious and very colourful (if I may say so myself). It is so easy to make! I used carrots, butternut squash and beetroot. Of course other veggies would work here well too, sweet potato, parsnip, pumpkin, swede. The sweetness of root veggies can take a very punchy dressing flavoured with plenty of whole grain mustard.

This salad is fabulous when made ahead, great for take to work for lunch. Or as the weather gets better it is definitely one for a picnic basket. Bit of crusty sourdough would be amazing to soak up the dressing that has turned beautifully pink. I know I will be making this again and again.



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ROASTED ROOT SALAD WITH MUSTARD DRESSING

ingredients

1Tbs coconut oil
5 medium to large red beetroot
5 large carrots
1 small to medium butternut squash
3 medium red onions
Dressing
2 Tbs whole grain mustard
3 Tbs sherry vinegar
4 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp tamari or nama shoyu
1 Tbs maple syrup

5 tbs chopped parsley
1/2 cup walnuts

  • Cut the root vegetables into 1/2 inch (1.5cm) dice.
  • Melt the coconut oil.
  • Place the vegetables on a baking tray and roast, drizzle with coconut oil and roast for 15 minutes.
  • Slice the red onions and add to the vegetables, roast for another 30-35min or until the roots are cooked all the way through and starting to caramelise around the edges.
  • While the veggies are roasting prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients.
  • Tip the roasted veggies into the dressing, mix to coat. Hot vegetables will soak up the dressing making this extra delicious.
  • When the dressed veggies are cooled down add the parsley and walnuts.
  • Serve with a crusty chunk of sourdough.


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