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
- Squeeze liquid out from the spinach, and chop
- 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