Give Yourself the gift of Better Health this Christmas or Hanukkah Season!

posted on December 20th 2012 in Heart Health with 0 Comments

I want to share with you a recent experience of mine…

As many of you know, I am working with the esteemed Cardiologist, Jeffrey Gladden, MD, FACC and the AWHOL-HP program.  AWHOL-HP is the acronym for Advanced Wellness Health Optimization & Longevity – Health Partners.  He and I “Walk the Talk”, as is recommended in the AWHOL-HP program I routinely have my blood drawn.  Most recently, on my second set of blood tests, my iron level had fallen from previous testing.

This was especially surprising to me because I have been eating healthier of recent – meaning more nutrient rich foods, especially vegetables – with 1-2 cups of dark green vegetables in my smoothie once or twice daily.  Spinach is a good source of iron with 2.2 mg per cup.  I had been eating some spinach, but more Kale.  Kale has half the amount of iron that spinach does (1.1 mg per cup).  So while Kale is a one of the best, most nutrient dense foods we can eat, I will now incorporate the opposite ratio, with more spinach and less kale.

You will find lots of discussion surrounding the human absorption of the iron in spinach.  The iron in spinach in not derived from a heme source.  Much debate exists as to whether or not this means the iron from spinach is poorly absorbed or not.  So, my recommendation is to get iron from a variety of sources.  And, to consider supplementation if blood levels are low.  As always, discuss with your personl health care professional.

I had avoided iron as an ingredient in my daily multivitamin and supplement regimen.  Most women past child-bearing years do well to avoid extra iron supplementation, as additional iron may increase one’s risk of heart attack.  However, we are all individuals and we just do not know exactly what our body needs without testing.

If you are iron deficient, like me, incorporate some of these foods into your diet, as they are good sources of iron:

  • Pumpkin and Squash Seed Kernels
  • Spinach
  • Chickpeas
  • Prunes and Prune Juice
  • Shrimp
  • Tomato
  • Lentils and Beans (White, Kidney, Lima, Navy)

Molasses is a great source of iron as well.  But molasses is just like any other sugar and has a high glycemic index, meaning it is rapidly converted to sugar and produces a quick spike in insulin.  So, go easy on the amount of molasses; and always eat molasses (or any high glycemic food) with protein and fiber to slow the rate of absorption.

While I recommend eating a diet that is primarily or heavily plant based you can also eat the following foods for an additional sourse of iron:

  • Clams
  • Oysters
  • Organ meats
  • Beef and Sardines

Some soybeans, cereals, crackers, and breads have iron in them; but I would recommend avoiding these as much as possible.  I never recommend soy or soy products due to the potential for adverse effect on hormones and because soy is often genetically modified.  And I always recommend avoiding processed foods.  Cereals and crackers fall into this category.  Just eat real food.

Another important point about iron is that it has higher absorption if taken with vitamin C.  So, if you are taking an iron supplement, eat an orange or fruit rich in vitamin C with your supplement.  You can also combine a high iron food (listed above) with a vitamin C rich fruit.  Eat them together for greater absorption of the iron.

So, my work-up continues to determine the source of my iron deficiency.  I will give you an update in my upcoming blog posts.  I also have a few other surprising findings in my blood test results, stay tuned right here for some behind the scenes details.

But for now, please know that this experience is teaching me several things!

Firstly, nutritional deficiencies can happen to anyone – even well fed, healthy individuals – and even me.  I have a good friend who was diagnosed with iron deficiency a few months ago.  When he and I were discussing iron and iron deficiency, I never dreamed I would soon be diagnosed with iron deficiency as well.

Secondly, this experience validates the importance of testing.  No need to guess about what your body needs when you can easily be tested.

And, thirdly, the old saying that “Food Is Medicine” is so true.   Buy something dark green in the produce section and incorporate it into you daily nutrition.  I suggest spinach or kale.

Give yourself the gift of better health this Christmas or Hanukkah season.  Eat healthy, and do not put off getting your blood tests!

…more to come

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