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    Archive for the ‘iron’ Category

    Q &A Roundup #2

    Another compilation of thoughtful questions courtesy of Small Bites readers. Enjoy!

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    Guest Post: For ADHD & Dyslexia, Good Nutrition Is Best Medicine

    Although millions of Americans are increasingly becoming aware of nutrition’s vital role in cardiovascular health, blood pressure regulation, and blood sugar control, that same paradigm is nowhere near as widespread when it comes to learning and comprehension disabilities.

    For this guest post, I asked Judy Converse, an established expert on the subject matter, to provide an overview of how proper — and improper! — nutrition can affect children with ADD, dyslexia, and other conditions she commonly works with in her private practice.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spicy Mushroom & Black Bean Burger

    Onto the second vegan burger recipe!

    While this one requires a bit longer prep time than the firstblack-beans, it shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes.  This burger freezes very well, so you could make a huge batch and save most of it in the freezer for hurried nights.

    YIELDS: 4 patties

    INGREDIENTS:

    2 14-ounce cans low-sodium or sodium-free black beans, drained and rinsed for about 30 seconds
    1 Tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 cup white mushrooms
    1/2 cup onions, chopped
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    1/4 teaspoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/4 teaspoon paprika
    Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork or wooden spoon (or, if you really want to get into it, use your hands!). The idea is not to make bean puree, but to achieve a chunky mashed texture. You definitely want solid bits of bean here and there. Once done, set bowl aside.

    In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Once hot, add mushrooms. Cook and stir frequently for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions. Stir frequently for 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic, and continue to cook until garlic is golden brown.

    Increase heat and add all spices (except salt). Stir frequently for 2 minutes.

    Transfer vegetable mixture into food processor. Add salt. Process for approximately 10 seconds.

    Add vegetable mixture to “bean mush” bowl.  Mix with hands, compressing all ingredients together, making “burger dough”.  Form “burger dough” into four individual patties and cook to your liking (either pan-fry for a few minutes on each side or bake on a lighty oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 7  minutes on each side).

    NOTE: I have been able to get a solid dough without needing to use binders (that said, I don’t mind eating crumbly vegan burgers).  If you want your burgers more solid, feel free to add a half cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs or quick-cooking oats.  Or, if you don’t require a fully vegan recipe, two egg whites will work, too.  Even then, don’t expect these to be as solid as the frozen type you can buy at the grocery store.

    NUTRITION FACTS (for one patty):

    249 calories
    0.5 grams saturated fat
    375 milligrams sodium
    14 grams fiber
    15 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Folate, iron, magnesium, thiamin

    Good Source of: Manganese, phosphorus, zinc

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    Who Said It?: Reveal

    QuestionMark-300x2991Spinach is full of pleasant surprises [and a top-ten “power food”].  It’s a natural source of iron… and a rich non-dairy source of calcium.

    Those sentences appear in The Sonoma Diet, penned by Registered Dietitian Connie Guttersen.

    I find it incomprehensible that a Registered Dietitian can make such an elementary mistake.

    Although spinach offers plenty of vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, it is not a rich source of iron or calcium.

    Unlike other leafy greens (i.e.: bok choy, broccoli, mustard greens, and kale) which are very good sources of both those minerals, spinach is loaded with compouds known as oxalates.

    Oxalates bind to iron and calcium, significantly decreasing absorption of those minerals in our digestive systems.

    Consider the following:

    • A half cup of cooked Chinese cabbage delivers as much calcium as a cup of milk
    • One and a quarter cups of cooked bok choy deliver as much calcium as a cup of milk
    • Eight cups of cooked spinach deliver as much calcium as a cup of milk

    What makes this tricky is that the figures presented for spinach in terms of iron and calcium content do not take into account decreased absorption.  Therefore, you will see that a half cup of cooked spinach “provides” 115 milligrams of calcium (11% of the Daily Value).  Sadly, we only absorb 10 to 15% of that amount.

    Please share this tidbit with as many people as you can.  I am continually amazed by the amount of health professionals (dietitians, doctors, and educators) who keep this myth alive.

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    Who Said It?

    QuestionMark-300x299Spinach is full of pleasant surprises [and a top-ten “power food”].  It’s a natural source of iron… and a rich non-dairy source of calcium.

    Yikes!  Come back on Wednesday to find out who apparently didn’t pay much attention during the vitamins and minerals lesson in nutrition class…

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    You Ask, I Answer: Sea Vegetables

    DulseIn the past, you have written that seaweed is a good source of omega-3 for vegans, but what are the benefits for those of us who already eat fish?

    Is there any reason to eat sea vegetables if you already get omega-3s from animal sources?

    — Tom Emilio
    (Location withheld)

    Absolutely!  Their EPA content (one of the two omega 3 fatty acids found exclusively in fish and seaweed) is only one of their many benefits.

    All sea vegetables are great low-calorie sources of iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, vitamin A, and vitamin K.

    Another bonus?  Sea vegetables have their own share of unique phytonutrients and antioxidants that help lower risk for heart disease and many different cancers.  This is why I often say that oceans have a very worthy produce section!

    Many people erroneously assume all seaweed is slimy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    You can purchase sheets of thin, crunchy nori (wonderful mixed into salads or used to wrap vegetables and avocado), dried chewy dulse (pictured, right), or hijiki (which, when cooked, has a consistency similar to that of rice).

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Lentil Paté

    Red Lentils 002Due to their stellar nutrition profile, hearty texture, and unique flavor, I am a die-hard fan of lentils.

    Though they are often prominent in soups and casseroles, they also go well as a dip for crudité or heart whole grain crackers.

    This lentil paté is especially wonderful served warm in the winter months.

    YIELDS: 8 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup white or yellow onion, chopped
    2 medium garlic cloves, diced
    1 small carrot, peeled and shredded
    1/3 cup red pepper, chopped
    1 cup dry lentils, rinsed (I think red lentils look nicer for dips, but feel free to use brown)
    1 1/2 cups water
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1/2 teaspoon paprika
    3/4 teaspoon cumin
    Pepper, to taste
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, carrot, and red pepper.

    Cook the vegetables until soft, stirring frequently.

    Add lentils and water.  Bring contents to a boil.

    Lower heat to a low simmer and cook until no more water remains in pot.

    Add salt and spices.  Stir until well-combined and cook, still over simmer, for two minutes.

    Pour contents into food processor, add lemon juice, and puree until smooth.

    Feel free to add more spices after pureeing, if you deem it necessary.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    123 calories
    0.8 grams saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    8 grams fiber
    6 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: B vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, monounsaturated fats, pantothenic acid, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C

    Good Source of: Iron, phosphorus, zinc

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    You Ask, I Answer: Corn Processed with Lime

    tacoshell

    When the ingredients on taco shells says corn processed with lime is it considered a whole grain or not?

    — Peggy Martin
    (Location Withheld)

    While popcorn is a whole grain, not all corn flours are.

    If the ingredient list does not specifically mention the presence of “whole grain corn”, you are not looking at a whole grain product.

    Corn is actually processed with lime to boost its calcium levels.

    Since lime-cooked corn contains lower levels of phytic acid than conventionally-cooked varieties, its calcium is much more absorbable. it also makes its iron much more absorbable.

    These discoveries came to light when nutrition researchers couldn’t explain why certain populations of native Mexicans did not have low iron blood levels despite a diet high in corn.

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    Fave Four

    food_labelMany public health and nutrition experts have advocated a variety of changes to the current standard food label.

    From listing calorie information for entire packages commonly consumed in one sitting (i.e.: 20-ounce bottles of soda) to differentiating between naturally-occurring and added sugars (so consumers can know how much sugar is added to yogurt or dried fruit), the proposed changes would absolutely be helpful.

    I have thought of one tweak, however, that I haven’t heard anyone mention yet:

    The Food & Drug Administration should stop mandating that values of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron be listed for all products.  Instead, they should ask food companies to list the top four vitamins and minerals a particular product contains — and the recommended intake percentages in which they are present.

    Of course, as is the case now, food companies would have the choice of listing more than four nutrients if so desired.

    My main gripe with the four nutrients currently listed on food labels is that it often results in very healthy foods coming across as nutrition duds.

    Brown rice, for example, contains practically zero grams of calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C, but is a wonderful source of other vitamins and minerals — consumers should know what they are!

    “But those four nutrients are supposed to be on the food label because they aren’t consumed in sufficient quantities,” some of you may rebutt.

    True, so if a consumer does not see calcium on a food label, they will know that particular product is not a good source of the nutrient.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Octopus & Squid

    octopusTwo of my favorite proteins are octopus and squid.  I rarely ever read or hear anything about their nutritional profiles.

    Can you enlighten me?

    — Paul (last name withheld)
    San Clemente, CA

    The United States consumes a lot less seafood than many other countries, and that is especially the case with these two mollusks.  In Japan, Portugal, and Spain, however, octopus is as common as canned tuna.

    A 3-ounce serving of cooked octopus delivers:

    • 139 calories
    • 2 grams of fat (of which none are saturated)
    • 240 milligrams of sodium
    • 25 grams protein
    • 510% of the Daily Value of vitamin B12
    • 45% of the Daily Value of iron
    • 11% of the Daily Value of vitamin C

    Just so you get an idea, a 3-ounce serving of chicken breast delivers five percent of the Daily Value of B12 and iron!  In fact, on an ounce-by-ounce basis, octopus packs in four times as much iron as — and 20 times the B12 of — beef.

    When simply grilled, squid has similar caloric and fat values to octopus.  However, squid offers less sodium and protein.  Squid is also void of any vitamin C and contains a substantially lower amount of iron and vitamin B12, but is home to 90% of a day’s worth of copper.

    The main issue with squid is that most people consume it in a breaded and deep fried form (calamari), which they then dip into sauces high in fat and sodium.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Red Pepper Cream Soup

    red-pepperMy recent cream of mushroom soup recipe was such a hit that many of you have been asking for another “blend and heat” soup recipe.  I am happy to oblige!

    Here is a similar concoction that beautifully highlights the natural sweetness in red peppers and carrots.  Perfect for fall!  Like the mushroom soup, this is fairly hearty and filling, so you can simply follow it up with a light entree.

    YIELDS: 1 serving

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup water
    1/2 cup raw cashews, almonds, or sunflower seeds
    2/3 cup raw red pepper strips
    1/4 cup raw green pepper, diced
    4 baby carrots
    2 Tablespoons raw onion, chopped
    1 Tablespoon chopped celery
    1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
    1 garlic clove
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    1/6 teaspoon salt
    Black pepper, to taste
    1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Combine all ingredients in blender and process until well combined.

    Transfer to small pot and heat on stovetop for 2 or 3 minutes.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (for cashew variation):

    384 calories
    4 grams saturated fat
    400 milligrams sodium
    6 grams fiber
    13 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Copper, vitamin A, vitamin C

    Good source of: Folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Five-Minute Creamy Mushroom Soup

    mushroomsI love a bowl of homemade soup on chilly days, but don’t always have the time (or patience) to make soup from scratch.

    Alas, this amazingly simple “chop, blend, and heat” recipe produces an out-of-this-world-delicious (and super healthy!) soup.  I’ve been hooked on this since day one.

    Since this soup is filling due to its share of healthy fats and protein, it can be perfectly paired with a salad or small sandwich.

    YIELDS: 1 – 2 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup water
    1/4 – 1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
    1/4 cup chopped onion of choice (I use yellow)
    1 garlic clove (use 2 if you want it extra-garlicky)
    1 cup sliced mushrooms of choice (I use white)
    1/4 cup chopped celery
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    1/8 teaspoon salt or miso
    Pepper, to taste

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Process all ingredients in blender.

    Transfer to pot and heat for 5 minutes.

    Serve and enjoy.  Top with cilantro or scallions!

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    358 calories
    4 grams saturated fat
    300 milligrams sodium
    3 grams fiber
    11 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin C

    Good source of: Copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Red Meat & Iron

    _d220328Is it necessary to [include] some red meat [in one’s diet]?  Even just once a month to get iron?

    I often hear that the iron source best absorbed by our body is from red meat, so women, especially, need red meat.

    Is that true?

    — Coco (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Your question touches on a variety of issues.  Let’s take them one by one.

    It is true that heme iron (that from meat, poultry, and shellfish) is absorbed more efficiently by our bodies than non-heme iron (that in dairy, eggs, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables).  Consequently, vegetarians and vegans have higher iron requirements than their meat-eating counterparts.

    While all meat-based iron is highly absorbable, organ meats (like liver) have the highest absorption rate, followed by pork, beef, chicken, and fish.

    Non-meat-eaters can more easily meet their iron requirements by:

    • Abstaining from drinking coffee or tea with meals, as they strongly block iron absorption
    • Including foods/beverages rich in vitamin C in meals to enhance non-heme iron absorption
    • Consuming high-iron vegetarian foods (beans, nuts, seeds, fortified whole grain cereals) daily
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    You Ask, I Answer: Pre-Pregnancy Nutrition

    Don-Farrall-positive-pregnancy-testIs there a necessary [nutrient] formulation for women who are preparing to get pregnant, or will any kind of multivitamin do?

    — Coco
    Via the blog

    In most cases, a general multivitamin will do.  Steer clear of multivitamins that provides extremely high amounts, though, as these can negatively impact the health of a growing fetus.

    The two main nutrients women looking to conceive should be particularly mindful of are folic acid (known as ‘folate’ in its “from-food” form) and iron.

    Adequate intakes of folic acid/folate significantly lower the risk of fetal neural tube development problems, which occur around the third week of conception (often times a few weeks before a woman even knows she’s pregnant).  This is why it is crucial to get sufficient folate when trying to conceive.

    Most multivitamins offer 100 percent of the daily folate requirement, while the average prenatal multivitamin offers, on average, an additional 50 percent.

    Remember, though, that most cereals are multivitamins in their own right (a serving of most breakfast cereals offers 100 percent of the daily folate requirement).

    Iron is also crucial to both prevent the mother from developing anemia and to ensure that the growing fetus receives the necessary amounts of red blood cells to get enough oxygen.

    Although most breakfast cereals offer a day’s worth of iron, remember that non-heme (plant-based) iron is not as absorbable as that from animal products.

    Women looking to get pregnant who do not have a history of anemia and who eat meat (that includes chicken, pork, and seafood) regularly don’t necessarily need to supplement iron.  Vegetarian and vegan women, on the other hand, should.

    Must all women looking to conceive buy special supplements?  It depends.

    If their diet includes a variety of foods naturally rich in folate (spinach, peanuts, broccoli, avocado) as well as those fortified with folic acid (breakfast cereals, commercial breads), there is no reason for additional supplementation.  Similarly, if they regularly consume foods high in iron (meats, chickpeas, breakfast cereals) they should be in good shape.

    One of the absolute best things women looking to get pregnant can do is lose excess weight, particularly to minimize health risks for themselves — and their future babies.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    raw_pepitas_wA one-ounce, 126-calorie serving of hulled and roasted pumpkin seeds is made up of 85 kernels.

    Great news for visual eaters (those who need to see a lot of food on their plate to not feel deprived)!

    For the record — I verified this figure in my kitchen by counting the number of hulled pumpkin seed kernels (also known as ‘pepitas’) in a one-ounce, quarter-cup serving.

    If you’re keeping track of nut and seed servings at home:

    1 serving = 23 almonds, 49 pistachio kernels, or 85 pumpkin seed kernels!

    Pumpkin seeds make for a great snack, by the way.  They are a great source of iron, manganese, phosphorus, protein, and vitamin K.

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