Welcome to Eat Well Every Day

Welcome to Eat Well Every Day!

I've spent years researching nutritional information, food ideas and recipes, because cooking and eating - especially with family & friends - are some of life's great pleasures. And guess what- healthy food doesn't have to be boring! It can be exciting and delicious!


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Monday, April 26, 2010

Ironing out Anaemia

Every body needs dietary iron to build healthy red blood cells and mitochondria (‘cellular power plants') producing energy.

Iron is vital for producing healthy red blood cells (erythrocytes) which help carry oxygen around the body. As well as haemoglobin, iron is needed for myoglobin, another oxygen-carrying molecule, which distributes oxygen to muscles cells, especially to skeletal muscles and to the heart.

It also helps keep the immune system strong and helps the body produce energy from the foods eaten, through chemical reactions from enzymes produced via the mitochondria.

Too little iron and you can become anaemic, lethargic, susceptible to infections, dizziness and headaches. Really low levels of iron can make you unable to concentrate and can contribute to depression.

Women Need More Iron than Men

Women between the stages of puberty and menopause need higher levels of iron than men of equivalent age, to replace the iron lost through menstrual blood. Pregnant women can be at risk of anaemia if they don’t watch their iron levels, as the developing foetus draws on the mother’s iron for its developmental needs. Breast feeding mothers also need to increase their iron intake.

People who donate blood regularly, elderly people, vegetarians, and children are often unaware of being low in dietary iron. Young children, especially, need adequate iron levels as their rapidly growing bodies consume iron to build muscle and blood cells.

Men, on the other hand, as they don’t lose blood each month, bear children or lactate, are at risk of having too much iron. Chronic iron overload, or excessive iron storage, can cause loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, headaches, bronze or grey hue to the skin, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath. Too much iron has been suggested as a factor in heart disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Which Iron Do You Eat?

There are two sorts of iron the body can absorb and use – haem iron and non-haem iron. Haem iron is found only in meat, as it is derived from the haemoglobin and myoglobin in animal tissues. Non-haem iron is found in plant foods and dairy products.

Vegetarians and vegans will be dependent on non-haem iron for all their dietary iron, so it’s important to eat as wide a range of foods as possible to maximise iron intake.

Good Sources of Iron

Excellent food sources of iron include chard (our green friend, silverbeet), spinach, thyme, and, surprisingly, turmeric. A good reason to eat lots of golden curries.

Very good sources include parsley, romaine lettuce, blackstrap molasses, tofu, mustard greens, turnip greens, string beans and shiitake mushrooms.

Good sources of iron include beef, lamb, offal (liver, kidneys, heart), lentils, cocoa powder, eggs, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, venison, garbanzo beans, broccoli, leeks and kelp.

Be aware that cooking with iron cookware will add iron to food, so for men, watch out for iron toxicity from that steak sizzling on the hot iron plate!

Vitamin C and Non-haem Iron

Non-haem iron is harder for the body to absorb than haem iron. A combination of haem and non-haem iron in the same meal – eg red meat and green vegetables – makes the non-haem iron more easily absorbed.

However, vegetarians and vegans are dependent entirely on non-haem iron, so as well as eating a wide choice of foods, they should make sure they have adequate Vitamin C and copper in the meal to maximise their iron absorption.

Vitamin C is easy – just add tomatoes, orange slices or capsicum (bell peppers) to a salad, or a squirt of fresh lemon juice over steamed green vegetables.

Copper and Iron

Copper assists the body to metabolise iron to create haemoglobin and myoglobin. Unfortunately, it is another of those minerals that many people are likely to be low on, and some sources suggest that anaemia is actually the result of a copper deficiency.

However, there is no indication that cooking with a copper pan, like my favourite omelette pan, will add copper to the diet!

The best sources of dietary copper other than seafood and offal are nuts, yeast, bran and cocoa powder.

So, to the recipes. As the weather is heading through autumn to winter here in Australia, I’m going for home cooking of distinctly British origin – an old-fashioned lamb chop stew, known as Lancashire Hotpot, and a chocolate self-saucing pudding.

Lancashire HotpotLancashire Hotpot

1kg (2 pounds) of lamb cutlets
2 lamb kidneys, peeled, cored and sliced
4 medium onions, sliced
250 grams (1/2 a pound) of mushrooms, sliced
750 grams (1 & ½ pounds) potatoes, scrubbed & sliced thin
1 tablesp flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
500 ml (3/4 pint) of stock, or warm water plus 2 stock cubes or Worcester Sauce

Trim any fat off the chops and coat them and the kidney slices in seasoned flour. Place layers of meat, onions, kidneys, mushrooms and potatoes in a large casserole, finishing with a layer of potatoes.

Pour over the stock, and bake, covered in a moderate oven (180C, 350F) for two hours. Remove the lid and cook for another half hour to brown the potato topping.

Serve with carrots or pumpkin and a green vegetables such as beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli or spinach. Sprinkle servings with chopped parsley for extra Vitamin C and iron.

Serves 4

Self-Saucing Chocolate Fruit Pudding

This would be a great winter pud to have after the Lancashire Hotpot – real comfort food. It would also be a nice treat after a vegetarian meal such as rice and dhal, although vegans would need to make some changes to this recipe. Both the cocoa powder and the dried fruit provide iron, and cocoa contributes copper and antioxidants.

½ cup milk
60 grams (2 ounces) butter or margarine
¾ cup caster sugar
1 teasp vanilla essence
1 cup self-raising flour, or plain (all purpose flour) and baking powder
¼ cup dried fruit – sultanas, currants or mixed dried fruit
1 tablesp cocoa powder
¾ cup brown sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 extra tablesp cocoa

Sift together flour (baking powder), cocoa and caster sugar. Stir in dried fruit to coat fruit completely.

In a small saucepan or a glass jug in the microwave, melt together the butter and milk, stir in the vanilla essence.

Combine the liquids and the flour mixture until just mixed and pour into a greased 6-cup casserole dish.

Sift the extra cocoa and brown sugar over the pudding. Slowly pour the boiling water over the mixture.

Bake in moderate oven (180C, 350F) for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer in the centre comes out clean (apart from the sauce).

Serves 6 (or 4 with left-overs for breakfast).

Buon Appetito!