Iron for vegetarians (or anyone who likes plants)

Legumes a good source of iron

One of the more difficult nutrients in a plant based diet is iron, partly because it is more difficult to absorb and partly because women in particular may have higher needs at different stages of their life. In this blog we will look at requirements at different stages, good plant sources and factors that affect absorption.

How much iron do you need ?

Requirements change depending on your age and stage, but also whether there are other stressors which may affect your needs. For women who are having heavy periods extra iron is often needed. For athletes who are doing intensive training they have a higher need for iron as the training stimulates production of red blood cells.

Generally the recommended iron intake for adults is 8mg for men and 18mg for women. For women this increases to 27mg during pregnancy. Post menopausal women drop to 8mg a day the same as men. Babies and toddlers have similar requirements regardless of gender but typically around 8-11mg a day depending on the stage.

Good plant sources of iron

  1. Nuts depending on the type are good sources of iron. Pistachio’s have 14mg of iron per 100g and are about four times higher than almonds, brazil or cashew nuts. Nut butters could be a good way to increase iron in the diet.
  2. Seeds particularly pumpkin, sesame, hemp and flaxseed. Two tablespoons average between 1 – 1.4mg of iron per serve.
  3. Legumes such as beans, peas , chickpeas and soybeans with soybeans topping the list at 8.8mg of iron per cup. Legumes are also an important source of protein for vegetarians so they have multiple benefits.
  4. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, chard and kale often have between 2.5-6mg per cup of cooked vegetables. Included in a dish with legumes it gets easier to meet your recommended intake.
  5. Potatoes but the iron is under the skin so make sure you scrub the skin before cooking and don’t peel it off. A large potato has around 3mg and sweet potato a little less.
  6. Oyster and white mushrooms are good sources, however shitake and portobello have little iron content. The varieties noted above have around 3mg per 100g.
  7. Olives hold around 3mg per 100g .

How do I digest iron easily ?

Most people seem to know that having foods containing Vitamin C at the same time as eating iron sources improves their digestion, leafy green vegetables are a good source of iron as they usually contain both. Other factors which may impact absorption are consuming dairy products or tea at the same time as the iron source.

Dairy products may impact absorption of iron due to the high calcium content, which in some studies has been shown to lower absorption of the iron. This may not be an issue if your levels are adequate as its only reducing absorption however if you are suffering from iron deficiency it might be best to have your capuccino at least 30 minutes away from your meal.

Tea is high in tannins which constrict the mucous membranes lining the stomach. If consumed with meals it may limit your absorption of nutrients such as the non-heme iron from plants significantly, by up to 62% in one study. Again enjoying your tea away from your iron containing meal is probably fine.

Christine Pope is a practicing naturopath and nutritionist who is based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Appointments can be made through the website at www.elementalhealth.net.au or by calling 8084 0081.

Microbiome or genome – what tells you more?

shutterstock_609019046What tells us more about your risk of developing a disease, DNA or your microbiome? The explosion of DNA testing has meant that we have developed much more knowledge about an individual’s DNA. It’s also clear that simply having a particular gene or a snip does not mean you will necessarily develop the relevant condition. Our DNA is the terrain but the environment is the trigger.

The microbiome on the other hand can tell us more about whether the environment is triggering a condition. Microbial diversity is more critical to health. Loss of diversity seems to have a more negative impact on health and an overgrowth of particular strains of bacteria can also contribute to a higher risk of developing chronic diseases.

Cholesterol is a good example. Looking at the risk factors for cholesterol levels close to 50% is derived from your underlying genetics and 50% from your microbiome. A good diet which increases microbial diversity can make all the difference to your cardiovascular risks. In fact the microbiome strongly influences many of our metabolic risks including factors such as fasting glucose, lactose intolerance and waist circumference.

The bacteria in our gut enable exert their effects by the production of key metabolites. Certain gut bacteria can control the production of these metabolites and therefore significantly influence our function. An example of this is Bifidobacterium lactis. It increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the bowels. These activate the vagal nerve and signal that we feel full. So a deficiency of Bifidobacterium lactic can mean that we don’t have that signal working quickly and therefore we are prone to overeating.

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In conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Ankolysing Spondylitis the gut bacteria is often low in strains that produce a metabolite called butyrate. It is often the case that the microbiome has an elevated level of Prevotella Copri or another problematic strain. That is why treatment needs to be focused as much on rebalancing the microbiome to support the strains that are healthy and to crowd out the problematic strains. Prebiotic fibres such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Boulaardi) can be a useful part of treatment. The other critical factor is to ensure that you are feeding the microbiome and my blog on 6 Tips for feeding your gut bacteria right! is a useful guide.

There is still a lot of emerging research in this area so please follow my blog to see the latest updates.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives in Sydney. If you think your microbiome needs some attention you can make an appointment online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au or phone on 8084 0081.

 

 

Climate Change – what can you do?

During the recent election there was a lot of debate about climate change and the need to take action. It is an overwhelming issue for any one person to deal with on their own. What I thought might help is to break it down into smaller tasks and see what you can do to reduce your carbon consumption. In the last 18 months Australians have reduced consumption of plastic bags by 1.5 billion bags so I am sure collectively we can make some reasonable changes.

First up where are the big contributors to greenhouse emissions – well it depends a little bit on your source but according to Austalian government data

transport is a major contributor to emissions.

How do we reduce reliance on gas guzzling cars ? My top four suggestions are as follows:

  1. Use public transport where possible. Ever since they dug up George St for the light rail I have found driving into town a nightmare. Roads are blocked off and its really hard to find places to cross over. Consequently my entire family now uses the train consistently and its really reduced the mileage in our cars significantly. Look at bus routes too it is so easy now with the Opal card to jump on a bus for short distances.
  2. Consider whether you really need a second car (which is an expensive cost in terms of depreciation, insurance and registration etc) and whether you could use taxis or Ubershutterstock_1216160155 particularly if you live close to where you work. If you really only use a car intermittently have a look at services like Go-Get for short term use or hire a car for bigger trips.
  3. Walk more! On Sundays we walk to a local coffee bar with the dog and pop in and buy a few things at Harris Farm. More steps for us and lower use of the car.
  4. Invest in the latest energy efficient vehicle , whether its an electric car or a hybrid like the Honda Civic.
  5. Put the kids on the bus to school. Traffic on the North Shore is chaotic in the mornings and part of that is due to the number of children who are driven to school. Due to the fact that many parents are unaware of bus services to school they don’t use them and then it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the service. 40 kids on a bus is much less problematic than 40 parents individually driving children to school.

What’s next? If you have already adopted as many of those options that are affordable probably the next area to look at in reducing your carbon footprint is food. Agriculture is responsible for around 16% of carbon emissions and the biggest part of that is methane from livestock accounting for in excess of 50%.

  1. Reduce your consumption of meat and other animal products. I am not recommending that you adopt veganism however it may well be worthwhile looking at making vegetables the star of your dinner table and meat more of a condiment.
  2. Look at more than just a Meat Free Monday – ideally look at vegetarian proteins like chickpeas, tofu and other legumes as well as cheese or eggs to make up your protein requirements. This also makes a much more affordable diet than relying heavily on meat.shutterstock_158785211
  3. What can you grow at home ? Whether its simply some herbs or fruit, most people can grow things they use regularly like lemons or mint or rosemary. It all helps reduce the amount of transport used for shipping food as well as food miles.
  4. See if you can buy produce locally as there are now lots of farmers markets or organic markets on offer.

Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to look at reducing plastic use in your home. My recent blog on Quitting Plastic has some straightforward ideas.

How are you planning on reducing your footprint ?  Post in the comments section to share your ideas.

Christine Pope is an experienced natural medicine practitioner based at Elemental Health, St Ives. You can make appointments on 8084 0081 or online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Dinner for the next 2 weeks

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Imagine how much better we would all eat if we had a chef shopping and cooking for us. If we didn’t need to think about what to cook and whether we had the ingredients but simply show up and eat. It sounds ideal doesn’t it ? This isn’t really a solution for most of us so I would recommend a few ways to reduce the mental load and make it a little easier to shop and cook without having to waste too much time and energy in the process.

Setting up a two week menu that you rotate with a few seasonal adjustments can be a good tool. The menu below if what I am currently working around. Ideally one night’s meal becomes a second meal reheating leftovers or reusing some of the ingredients. Here is a sample 2 week menu you can then adjust based on your own preferences (you get one night off a week for a meal out or takeaway).

Week One

Monday Easy Carve leg of lamb with roast vegetables (potatoes, pumpkin, parsnip or carrots depending on the season) and greens (steamed beans or blackened asparagus).

Tuesday Leftover lamb from roast as Lamb Biriyani or Shepherd’s Pie. Click here for an easy recipe from the Fuss Free Foodie with a couple of easy cheats.

Wednesday Turkey with Sweet Potato and Snow Peas served with rice

Thursday Vegetable Curry with Sausages or Lentils

Friday Grilled Salmon with Stir Fry Greens (see recipe below)

Saturday Asparagus and Mushroom risotto (or Spring Vegetables or Cauliflower and Peas) Leftovers make good risotto cakes for Sunday lunch with a green salad.

Week Two

Monday Easy Roast Chicken with roast vegetables (use thigh cutlets and layer on the roast vegetables with lemon juice, rosemary, olive oil and rock salt – 50 minutes for the cutlets to cook and then crisp off the vegetables for a further 10 at 180C.

Tuesday Spaghetti Bolognaise

Wednesday Leftover Lasagne Bake with a Cos salad

Thursday Cauliflower and Chicken Curry with Steamed Rice (or better yet a bed of steamed spinach).

Friday San Choy Bow with Stir Fried Greens (scroll down for the recipe)

Saturday  Grilled Steak with bay seasoned potatoes and roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

Stir Fry Greens

2 bunches of broccolini or 400g of broccoli cut into florets

2 bunches of bok choy

1/2 cup of bone broth or stock

1/2 cup soy sauce

1-2 Tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce

Combine liquid ingredients in a jug. Heat a small amount of oil in a wok and then add broccolini and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add liquid ingredients and bok choy and heat through and stir fry on a low heat for 10 minutes. Serve.

Turkey mince bolognaise

750g turkey mince (other mince works well too)
1 brown onion finely chopped
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 jar of passata (chopped tomatoes)
1 glass of red wine or beef stock
1 tsp chili (optional)
2 cloves garlic crushed

In a little olive oil saute onions and carrots on a low heat for a few minutes until onions are soft. Add mince, continue cooking until mince is browned and then add remaining ingredients and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Serve with pasta and a little grated Parmesan cheese.

Lasagne Bake

Add eggplant: 1-2 eggplants approx 500g.  Pierce the skin with a fork in a couple of places or it will explode in the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes at 180c. Scoop out the flesh and combine with the sauce about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Layer the sauce with lasagne sheets and bake in the oven covered for 30-40 minutes at 180C.

Christine Pope is an experienced naturopath and nutritionist but she frequently gets bored trying to think about what to cook for dinner too! Please add further menu suggestions in the comments below and share your inspiration.

 

Serves 6-8

 

6 ways to quit plastic

Last year Coles and Woolworths decided to remove free plastic bags from the checkouts. In the 12 months following this announcement it reduced the number of single use plastic bags by 1.5 billion. However we are still using 3.5 billion plastic bags annually and there is quite a long way to go in reducing our reliance on plastic. After reading the book Quitting Plastic recently I have developed a quick list to start on helping you reduce your plastic use further.

  1. Ditch single use bags – reducing plastic bag use means that you need to take reusable bags every time you go shopping. Ideally return them to the car as soon as you have emptied them so they are ready for the next trip. Also have a think about whether you need bags as you buy items in the fruit shop. Can you just put them loose in a couple of your recyclable bags for weighing at the checkout?  If we do end up with a few bags from the shopping we reuse them as dog bags.
  2. Reduce plastic wrap – find containers that can be reused for storage rather than placing plastic wrap over the contents. For smaller items that do need coverage invest in some beeswax wraps. One medium wrap I bought I cut into three pieces and used it for wrapping cheese and another section for rewrapping around cold cuts. Beeswax wraps can be washed in lukewarm (not hot) water with a little dish soap to reuse them for up to 6-12 months.
  3. Find a drink bottle – single use water bottles are another significant contributor to our overuse of plastic. Stainless steel bottles can be used for both hot and cold drinks however there are also good quality plastic bottles that can be reused multiple times. Just try and avoid other nasties such as BPA or phthalates.
  4. Dine in or Keep Cups – two or three takeaway coffees a days can add up to a lot of cups cluttering landfill. Better alternatives are a keep cup that is reused or dining in.  Many cafes are now offering a discount if you use a keep cup which is another plus. Actually an even better option is to sit at the cafe and have your coffee or tea in a real ceramic or porcelain cup which then gets washed and reused. It’s also a good way to give yourself a little break during the day and its environmentally sound. It’s good to know I can justify a cuppa at my favourite locals when I am at work so look out for me at Pattisons or Stanley St Cafe !
  5. Freezer options – The first four items to me felt reasonably straight forward however I know that with keeping meat in the freezer I do not feel comfortable with it being unwrapped so what are the alternatives? The best options I can find so far are cornstarch bags (which are biodegradable) or using reusable plastic or glass containers. I have been freezing stock in glass bottles however I probably do lose an occasional one to breakages so you do need to be careful about how you store it in the freezer. Also do not put hot food into glass and then straight into the freezer, let it cool first.
  6. Clothing – To be really honest when I read the book Quitting Plastic I really hadn’t thought through the amount of plastics used in clothing and more concerningly the tendency for those plastics to generate micro-plastics in the washing process. These microplastics accumulate in our water supplies. A quick and panicked look at labels revealed a few good purchases and a few more concerning ones, in particular my favourite workout gear which is very flattering was also largely derived from plastics. BUT throwing it out will mean more plastics in landfill. So I am going to wear them out and find a bag that I can wash them in which will trap the microplastics (guppyfriend.com) and I can then throw them out. In the meantime I am carefully checking clothing and looking for a high percentage of cotton, wool, silk or bamboo or pulped wood fibres or cellulose such as viscose and rayon. One label that does offer alternatives in bamboo in colourful prints and designs is Maiochi. Country Road also offers some and quite a large range of cotton and linen.

For more ideas on quitting plastic have a look at my Instagram (@allaboutnaturalmedicine) this month or my Facebook page. You can also get your own copy of Quitting Plastic for a large range of other ideas from Booktopia, Target, Angus and Robertson or Dymocks.

Mountain high – adding dietary options to your holiday.

The Blue Mountains is a great spot for a holiday whether a long weekend or a full week like we just did before Christmas. This year I thought I would update an earlier blog I wrote about 5 Tips for Gluten Free Menus which was based on an earlier trip and I have updated my information about a few of my favourite dining spots. Unfortunately a couple have since closed including long term favourite Vesta’s at Blackheath. I am also including a few tips for dining with food intolerances to make travel a little easier.

1. Gluten Free Bread is nice but …think about the rest of the menu as well. We particularly enjoyed the gluten free high tea at the Hydro Majestic because we got to enjoy lots of delicious options which were all gluten free. They even toasted the bread which is essential when you are dealing with gluten free bread and had added a delicious herb focaccia with the vegetarian sandwich. Bonus points for this venue it has now added an excellent choice of gluten free scones providing both a plain and a date scone to the menu.  It also handled a request for a dairy free option particularly well and I was impressed that they could handle it over the phone on the day and didn’t require more notice.

2. Provide real gluten free options. At Anonymous Cafe at Blackheath the gluten free breakfast options included gluten free toast, spiced pumpkin loaf and a gluten free muesli. The spiced pumpkin loaf was served with marscopone and jam and was a delicious option. They have also opened a second cafe at Medlow Bath called Synonomous which we never got to but I am sure continues the tradition.

3. Multiple intolerances should be considered including dairy and egg so ideally include options which don’t double down on the intolerances. Adding more vegetable options is one way around it. Great breakfast options could include adding a vegetable hash with optional inclusions such as salmon, egg or bacon. The Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls offered a smoked trout hash with a poached egg and was happy to leave it off when requested. The Annonymous cafe at Blackheath also offered a black rice and coconut pudding option for breakfast – a bit different and interesting but covered a range of intolerances.

4. Mark the menu with the gluten free and other options, such as vegetarian and vegan. This means when you search menu’s its easy to see if there are real gluten free options and quickly identify what they are. The Ori Cafe at Springwood and Papadino’s at Katoomba both have well marked menu’s with a good range of options. A recent find at Katoomba was the Palette Diner where v stood for vegan options making it easier to find options for my daughter who is dairy free as well. The Must Try is the gluten free crumbed chicken and ribs as well as the vegan cauliflower. Servings are generous so don’t make our mistake and over order.

5. Technology can be very useful – Trip Advisor is a great app for checking out whether local restaurants can accomodate special dietary needs, however I would still ring ahead and check if something isn’t marked. Leura Garage was good at listing gluten free options but seemed rattled when asked about dairy free and surprisingly had dairy in the roast lamb. Possibly it wasn’t a good day to check with the server but overall they didn’t handle a request particularly well and options were very limited.

Its 2019 and one in six children now have allergies or food intolerances so its increasingly important that restaurants and cafes manage intolerances as well as possible. Recently we were in Oberon and arrived after 230 so most places had shut. We ended up buying a picnic lunch at the local IGA as there wasn’t anywhere that could accomodate gluten free.

Let me know if you have any good tips for managing travel with allergies in the comments below.

 

Greening Christmas

XmasThis year think about reducing your footprint and making Christmas a little greener. Here are a few suggestions from fellow Naturopaths for you this year.

  1. Brown Paper Packages – most gift wrapping can’t be recycled so this year use brown paper and some fun stamps or fir sprigs to create an attractive Xmas wrapping. Brown paper is also highly cost effective at $10 for 30m at Officeworx.
  2. Kris Kringle – avoid buying lots of gifts which may end up in landfill and consider doing a Kris Kringle where everyone draws a name and buys one gift for the person on the list. The best thing about a Kris Kringle is that it saves hours of driving around looking for gifts as well.
  3. Gift of expertise – is there something you make or bake really well? Consider making some delicious chutney, jam or fermented vegetables in bulk and giving them at Christmas. Berries are in abundance at this time of year so its perfect for making jam. My husband’s Scottish grandmother made the most amazing shortbread and every year she would bulk buy butter when it was on sale to prepare her shortbread at Christmas. It’s still the best shortbread I can remember eating.
  4. Buy a real tree it has already sequestered some carbon. It is recyclable and in some countries now they run pickup programs to turn them into mulch for parks.
  5. Shop Local – cut down on the driving and support local businesses. Its also easier to drive to your local shops and pick up all your Christmas food at one time.
  6. Share the load – if friends or family are running an event offer to bring something like a dip and vegetable platter to help with the catering. That way you have a healthy option to eat and you take a load off your host or hostess.
  7. Presence is presents – catch up with friends for a cuppa at a local cafe and spend time with them. Maybe put the phone on silent for an hour too unless you need it for pictures of the kids.
  8. Regiftmas – if you do end up with a number of presents that aren’t really you consider organising regiftmas. Everyone brings a gift they won’t use and puts it in the middle. Then let everyone select one they do want. Alternatively look at giving them to a local charity. Women’s refuges are often happy to receive new toiletries and local charities often appreciate clean unworn clothing.