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Ideas for pairing iron-rich foods

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Do you suffer from fatigue, feelings of dizziness, or shortness of breath (easily winded doing simple activities)? What about feeling grumpy or cranky? Short attention span?

Having yours or your child’s iron levels checked is important. It is a quick prick of a finger and the results, typically, are read immediately. While you’re waiting on doctor’s orders, I invite you to look at food with a different perspective.

I will start with absorption, foods rich in C and Iron, then dive into food pairing ideas, and lastly, I give additional tips to assess what you're doing and where you want to go.

Dr. Bill Sears of Ask Dr. Sears says that in order for iron to be absorbed by our body, we must also be eating a diet rich in Vitamin C. The best way to do this is by pairing foods that contain both together for maximum absorption. Dr. Sears says that (dairy) milk, tea, coffee, and antacids inhibit iron absorption.

Foods Rich in Vitamin C

quinoa, potatoes with their skin on (5x more iron is found in the skin), flax seed (and meal), guavas, parsley and thyme, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, papayas, tangerines, oranges, and strawberries

Foods Rich in Iron

oysters, shrimp, liver, squash, pumpkin seeds, nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews), beef and lam (lean tenderloin), white beans, lentils, 100% whole grains, bran, rice, tomato products, dark leafy greens (spinach, swiss chard), artichoke, cabbage, peas, dark chocolate (anything over 70%), tofu, flax seeds (and meal), chia seeds, eggs with their yoke, and prune juice

Some of the foods above are also rich in B12 which if there’s a deficiency may lead to anemia or anemia-like symptoms. Some B12 foods are oysters, liver, fish (salmon, cod, tuna), crab and lobster, beef, cheese (swiss, mozzarella, parmesan), and eggs. If you are not eating animal products, you can take a B12 vegan supplement.

Food Combinations

Here are some to consider when wanting to gain the most nutritional impact by pairing foods together:

· Spaghetti with lean meat and tomato sauce seasoned with thyme

· Meat and potatoes (with skin on)

· Chicken fajitas with broccoli, sweet bell pepper, and tomatoes seasoned with parsley

· Hamburger with coleslaw (home-made preferably)

· Nitrate free hot dogs on 100% whole grain rolls and orange slices

· Fruit, iron-fortified cereal, and raisins

· Fresh fruit with dark chocolate (at least 70%)

· Salmond served with lightly sautéed cabbage and squash

· Green smoothie with kale, spinach, strawberries, papaya, and 1 T of flax meal/seeds (check out my crowd pleaser smoothie recipe)

· Whole grain cereal with strawberries (fresh preferably)

· Omelet with peppers, spinach, and mozzarella cheese

Choose lean cuts of beef, and when possible, organic. Want to watch your sugar consumption? Avoid juices with sugar added. Read the ingredients to see if your favorite juice has sugar listed (even organic selections may have sugar added). If you must have juice, choose 100%.

Also, cooking in a cast iron skillet will help with increasing your iron levels. Cooking foods containing acids like tomatoes or tomato sauce and others like vinegar, red wine, citrus juice can also increase the iron content of the finished meal. (Ask Dr. Sears)

If your iron levels are in the normal range and you are still having unexplained fatigue, assess what you have been doing lately. Have you changed your exercising method and rate in which you are active? What about stress from a job or a relationship? What are you eating?

If your health regimen needs an overall, I recommend you start with eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily (at least 5 servings but strive for 7). When we eat our best, we’re able to feel better but we must couple this with ensuring our stress levels are low to moderate (some stress is a good thing), we are sleeping between 7-9 hours a night, we’re staying hydrated (from water; at least half our body’s weight in ounces daily), and we are exercising (even walking and stretching is good!).

Lastly, could you benefit from further nutrition accountability and encouragement? Consider hiring a health coach. See article on the benefits and how to find us!

Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease, condition, or ailment. This information is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Speak with your healthcare provider to see how/if it pertains to your individual needs.

The purpose of this blog is to offer support for your health goals. As of July 2022, Jessica David is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Jessica has ten years of coaching experience and you can consider her an encourager, someone in your corner, a friend, and a professional.

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© Conveying Awareness with Jessica David

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