Tag Archives: your body is awesome

Your Body is Awesome: Iron Edition

As a child I was always told to eat my spinach so that I would grow up to be big and strong.

I’m not entirely sure that that’s true of my childhood, but it seems like a common saying.  Then there’s the spinach-loving Popeye with his bulging biceps, and Iron Man who no doubt has eaten lots of stuff.  Here’s the real deal on iron, and ways you can eat it (in addition to spinach).

What is it?

Iron is an especially important mineral that the body uses to form hemoglobin, a protein found in blood cells.  These cells help circulate oxygen through the blood stream, which is pretty crucial.  There are plenty of natural, edible sources of iron, but they get forgotten in many a college diet.  Anemia, a common result of iron deficiency, can cause weakness and even more fatigue, which is the last thing we sleep-deprived students need.  Fun fact: most nutrients work with each other to help the body function.  The only ones that counteract each other?  Iron and calcium.  So your milk and your burger are best eaten separately.

How much do I need?

Men tend to need 8 mg per day, but adult women need 18 mg per day.

How can I get it?

Meat-lovers should have a pretty easy time finding iron, as red meat and chicken are both iron-rich, as are tuna, salmon, oysters, and eggs (the yolk—egg whites aren’t everything).  So next time Wilma whips you up a fresh omelet, go for the real eggs.  Dried beans and fruit are also excellent sources of iron for those less amenable to meat products.  Dried fruits are an easy on-the-go snack, and make yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal a little more exciting.  Bran flakes also have high iron contents, which makes Raisin Bran a yummy one-stop shop for this mineral, though you can add whatever fruit you like to a bowl of bran.  Leafy green vegetables, too, are known for their high iron content, so opting for spinach in your salad, on your pizza, or in your omelet now and again will also help.

For a new take on hummus and an easy, iron-laden snack, try out this spinach hummus:


1 package (10 oz.) frozen, thawed spinach

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 19 oz. can)

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tbsp. sesame tahini

1 ½ tsps. salt

1 tsp. ground cumin

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper



  1. Squeeze liquid out from the spinach, and chop
  2. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in a food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Add the spinach and blend briefly.


Adapted from Rodale

Image from http://www.rodale.com/high-iron-recipes?page=0,1

Sources: nytimes.com, kidzworld.com


Your Body is Awesome: Vitamin C Edition

At the first sign of a cold I generally find myself chugging Airborne, Emergen-C, any and every fast-acting vitamin C supplement to nip it in the bud.  I generally dislike citrus fruits, so I figured those were my only options as far as upping my vitamin C intake went.  But it would be so great, I thought in the middle of the sick season, if there were other, yummier ways to get my fill.  It is true that oranges pack a punch when it comes to this vitamin, but there are, of course, plenty of other ways to get your fill.

What is it?

Vitamin C is a part of the protein that helps make and repair skin.  Not only is it important for the formation of ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels, vitamin C also helps wounds to heal and maintains and maintains cartilage, bones, and teeth.  The problem is that the body can neither make nor store this vitamin, so regular intake is especially important.  While vitamin C may not necessarily prevent you from getting a cold, people who regularly get enough of it tend to have shorter and less sever colds overall.

How much do I need?

Men need about 90 mg/day, 75 mg/day for women.

How do I get it?

picture from mindbodygreen.com

Tons of fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamin C—not just oranges!  Of course, an orange a day may very well keep the doctor away, as a navel orange packs about 83 mg of vitamin c, but citrus is not the only source.  Opting for broccoli or red bell peppers on your salads, both of which have even more vitamin c per serving than your average orange, will get you well on your way to the recommended daily serving.  Kale is also very rich in vitamin C.  You can buy kale chips or even make your own by coating fresh kale in olive oil and some spice and baking it in the oven.  And while it may still be a bit early for strawberries and kiwi, keep them in mind as excellent sources once the weather changes.  After all, it is starting to warm up…

Your Body is Awesome: Potassium Addition

In high school I had a terrifying drama teacher.  Every time I had to go to class my stomach was in knots.  Considering I had drama class four times a week, this became rather unpleasant.  A friend recommended that I eat a banana before class to calm my nerves.  The first time she did so I pulled out a banana—which I happened to have on hand—and scarfed it down so that I wouldn’t be late to class.  Whether or not it actually helped in the moment, I’m not sure.  But it turns out that bananas, by virtue of their high potassium content, can help with anxiety.  Inspired by 9th grade Drama I, I present the many benefits of potassium:

What is it?

Potassium is an important mineral for multiple bodily functions.  It helps build both proteins and muscle, and helps your body break down carbohydrates, which give you energy. Bread and pasta are good for something—they just need a little help along the way.  This mineral also counteracts some of the negative affects of sodium, helping to maintain blood pressure, and also helps maintain a mineral balance in the body.  Low levels of potassium can also caused increased anxiety, so adding more to your diet may make the semester a bit smoother.

How much do I need?

Most adults need about 4.7 grams of potassium a day.  It’s estimated that most of us probably get about half of that right now.

How do I get it?

Not to worry, though—potassium may be lacking in many of our diets, but it is not hard to come by.  Many fruits and vegetables contain a good amount of potassium, as well as dairy products and some meats.  Bananas are very often associated with potassium, and for good reason as a medium banana has about 450 mg of potassium.  A peanut butter and sliced banana sandwich drizzled with honey is not only extremely comforting but also packed with nutrients.  A cup of spinach and a baked potato both pack over 800 mg of potassium, so either of these will quickly get you closer to the daily goal.  Interestingly, some fruits, such as apricots, have more potassium when sun-dried than when fresh.  In honor of potassium and Jack Johnson, here’s a recipe for banana pancakes to try:



1 cup all-purpose flower

1 tbsp. white sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1 cup milk

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 ripe bananas, mashed



  1. Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil, and bananas
  2. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy
  3. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat.  Pour or scoop batter onto the griddle.  Cook each pancake until golden brown on both sides.


Makes approx. 12 pancakes.  Adapted from allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/banana-pancakes-i/)


Sources: eatright.org, nlm.nih.gov

Your Body is Awesome: Zinc Edition

What is it?

Zinc helps cells to divide and grow, wounds to heal, and carbohydrates to divide and grow.  Perhaps most importantly, it is also a crucial part of immune system function.  The worst of the flu epidemic may be over, but now is still the perfect time to make sure your immune system has all the help it can get.  Increasing zinc intake within 24 hours of the first cold symptoms has been shown to reduce the length of the cold.  And if you want to think ahead, zinc reduces the overall risk of coming down with a cold when taken for five months.  If you want to think a bit farther ahead, zinc is especially important for infants and children, who need it for proper growth and development in the early years.

How much do I need?

Women should get 8 mg/day, and men generally need closer to 11 mg/day.

How can I get it?

If you eat a lot of protein, chances are you eat a good amount of zinc.  Unlike many of the nutrients in this column, fruits and vegetables are not a great source—though they have zinc, it’s not the kind our bodies can make use of.  Oysters are perhaps the best source, but red meat and chicken (especially dark meat) are also excellent options and are readily available at every Halal cart.  If meat isn’t your thing, beans, nuts, and whole grains also have appreciable amounts of zinc.  Yogurt with nuts or wheat germ gets you two sources of zinc.  This make-ahead, on-the-go snack includes both wheat germ and nuts, and are a great pick me up in the middle of a long day:


Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bites (adapted from gimmesomeoven.com)



1 packed cup chopped dates

½ cup honey

1 tbsp. ground wheat germ

1 ½ cups old fashioned dry oats

1 cup shelled pistachios

1 cup dried crandberries

1/3 cup white chocolate chips (optional)



Combine the dates, honey, and wheat germ in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and combined. You should be able to stir the mixture — if it is too thick, add in another tablespoon or two of honey.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the oats, pistachios, dried cranberries, and white chocolate chips until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once the mixture is cool (and easier to work with), use a spoon or cookie scoop to shape it into your desired size of energy balls. Alternately, you can line a small baking pan with parchment paper, and press the mixture evenly into the pan, let it cool, and then cut into bars.

Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (Storing them in the refrigerator especially helps the energy bites hold their shape.)

Via health.nyt.com, ods.od.nih.gov


Your Body is Awesome: Magnesium Edition

For some reason spinach gets a bad rap.  They always get lumped in with Brussels sprouts and broccoli—both of which I also happen to love—as those vegetables that parents force-feed their children.  As much as I love it, though, I realized upon returning home for the break that without my parents around, I was missing my leafy greens.  Which got me thinking about what I was actually missing, beyond the taste.  It turns out that spinach and its kin are great sources of, among other things to be sure, magnesium.

What is it?

Magnesium is a mineral necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.  Among these many uses are the regulation of energy production, maintenance of proper muscle and nerve function, and energy production.  It also plays a role in reducing migraine frequency, and supports both immune health and bone strength.

How much do I need?

Most adults need 300-400 milligrams of magnesium per day.

How do I get it?

Leafy green vegetables are most often associated with magnesium—the darker the green, the richer the magnesium content.  Choosing spinach as the base of a salad, or adding it as a pizza or pasta topping will work it seamlessly into your diet.  Magnesium is just one of the minerals that make whole grains so healthy, and it is also present in many nuts, seeds, and legumes.  Actually, almonds have slightly more magnesium per serving than even spinach, and cashews aren’t far behind.  Both of these nuts work well as mix-ins with yogurt, oatmeal, or in your very own trail mix—toss together your favorite nuts with dried fruits, chocolate, etc.  If you’re in the mood to cook, these dark-chocolate covered almonds will satisfy a chocolate craving, and are even a healthy addition to your diet!

Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds (adapted from thehealthyapple.com)



2 cups roasted almonds

1 tbsp. sugar

5-6 oz. dark chocolate



  1. Break up chocolate bars into ½ inch pieces in a medium bowl; place bowl over simmering water on the stove top until melted
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside
  3. In a large bowl, combine almonds with sugar and melted chocolate; stir well until coated
  4. Transfer nuts to prepared baking sheets.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.


Sources: eatright.org, ods.od.nih.gov

Your Body is Awesome: Vitamin D Edition

Becky’s newest foray into helping out your body is seeking out vitamin D in ways far less similar to chem-lab than the molecule above.

You’ve probably noticed that your milk and orange juice cartons taut the addition of vitamin D to their contents.  Unless these are your drinks of choice, those additions will probably not give you the recommended daily dosage of vitamin D.  This week I’ll show you just how important D is, especially for college students, and some new ways to include it in your diet.

Why do I need it?

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorous, promoting healthy tooth and bone growth. This makes it especially important for college students, since peak bone mass development occurs between the ages of 18 and 25.  If your bones are not healthy now, you are more likely to experience problems such as osteoporosis later in life.  You have probably heard that drinking your milk promotes strong bones, but without Vitamin D the body has more trouble absorbing the calcium from it—that’s why most milk is fortified with D.  If you need more reasons, this vitamin also regulates cell growth and supports the immune system—another boost most college students could use.

How much do I need?

Both men and women need approximately 600 IU (15 mcg) of vitamin D per day.  A little perspective: three ounces of salmon has around 450 IU, and a cup of fortified milk will have about 115 IU.

How do I get it?

Continue reading Your Body is Awesome: Vitamin D Edition

Your Body is Awesome: Fiber Edition

One of our many new bloggers, Rebecca tells us about how we can get fiber and how it helps us survive the deadly waters of midterms.  With tips and plenty of references, Rebecca’s here to make sure you’re taking care of that precious temple.

We’ve all seen the FiberOne commercials lamenting the tastelessness of traditional sources of fiber.  Despite supermarket shelves being full of foods marked “high fiber,” I am still left wondering what exactly fiber does and whether or not those cereals are really the best way to get it.  The good news is that fiber comes in many shapes and sizes, and is likely already present in your diet.  Most of us, however, still probably do not get quite as much as we need.  To help fix that, here’s the low down on fiber:

What is it?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that, while it cannot itself be digested, aids in the digestive process by helping the other food you eat move through the process quickly and efficiently.

Why do I need it?

Fiber helps you feel fuller, faster, as it adds volume but not calories to meals. Soluble fiber, which slows digestion, prevents absorption of cholesterol, thereby lowering your risk of heart disease.  Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, combats indigestion by helping food along the digestive tract.  Though studies linking fiber to reduced risk of colon cancer have been relatively inconclusive, proper amounts of fiber in the diet have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and diverticular disease (intestinal inflammation).

How much do I need?

College-age women need about 25 grams a day; men need 38 grams.  Recommended daily intake varies by age and total calorie intake.  To put that in perspective, an apple, a slice of wheat bread, and a quarter cup of garbanzo beans have about three grams of fiber each.

How do I get it?

Continue reading Your Body is Awesome: Fiber Edition