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The Kitchen Coach

Two views about iron deficiency

Rebecca Wood —

Health professionals agree that iron deficiency is a common — problem and that there are two obvious ways to remedy the situation. However, — their recommendations vary. Alternative health professionals offer an — insight not found in conventional sources. I've presented here their mutual — guidelines - and where they differ - so you can make an informed decision.

The first step to assure adequate iron is to enjoy iron-rich — foods. Since iron is found in virtually every naturally occurring food, — presumably you should be getting enough.

However, there are foods that can deplete your iron reserves. — Therefore, the second recommendation is to avoid the iron robbers; which, — according to both traditional and alternative authorities include caffeine, — soft drinks, aspirin, antacids and phosphate-containing soft drinks and — ice cream. Teens and people eating junk food may be deficient because — they're not, according to conventional nutrition, eating enough iron-rich — foods.

But, hold on. Most pizza, cold breakfast cereal, bread, — cookies, crackers and pasta are made from iron-enriched flour. Even if — a teen isn't eating broccoli, her diet is laced with iron-fortified pizza — and snacks. So why the deficiency? Something is not adding up.

Alternative sources hold that nutrients from whole, natural — foods are more effectively assimilated than the nutrients - natural or — otherwise - from refined foods. While an iron-enriched infant formula — contains iron, mother's iron-rich milk is preferable.

The same sources also hold that your iron is squandered — when you eat highly refined foods. Here's why. Refined foods like sugar — and flour challenge your digestive system. Refined wheat, for example, — has its iron and over 40 other nutrients removed, leaving only carbohydrate — and some protein. For digestion to occur, your gut first attempts to patch — up this broken grain. It does so by extracting the missing nutrients from — your bones, tissues and nerves. Thus, eating refined foods - even a bowl — of iron-fortified Wheat Chex - depletes your reserves of iron and other — nutrients.

If your diet is generally good but you eat a fair amount — of sugar, white bread or pasta, be aware that this can undermine your — health in the long term. People who resolve to more conscientiously avoid — refined foods often note a corresponding increase in energy as their own — nutrient reserves become replenished.

Therefore, to assure you are getting and retaining adequate — iron, please enjoy a varied whole foods diet. And, starting today, minimize — your use of all iron-draining substances, especially refined foods. Foods — particularly high in iron include meat, green vegetables, blackstrap molasses, — seaweed, poultry, fish, eggs, prunes and legumes.

While whole grains contain iron, they contain phytic acid — which inhibits iron absorption. To eliminate this problem, ferment, sprout — or soak your grains. This is accomplished by favoring sourdough or sprouted — breads and by soaking whole grains for 8 to 10 hours prior to cooking.

Iron deficiency symptoms may include anemia, fatigue, — digestive problems, decreased alertness, intolerance to cold, susceptibility — to chronic infections and frequent colds. People at high risk of iron — deficiency are menstruating women, children, teenagers and anyone lacking — adequate nutrition.

Note, however, that not everyone is iron deficient and — iron overload is problematic. Non-menstruating women and men susceptible — to hemochromatosis can have toxic amounts of iron in their bodies. Should — you have excess iron, an easy - and altruistic - way to lower your iron — levels is to periodically donate blood to the Red Cross. If you are concerned — about an iron deficiency or excess, check with your health care practitioner.

Here's a recipe using one of my favorite iron-rich foods, — dulse.

While I enjoy dulse in any tossed green salad, its bright — flavor and cooling properties especially stand up to arugula's hot bite. — This rusty-red seaweed has a pleasingly tangy, salty flavor that, some — say, is reminiscent of jerky. Pick over dulse to remove any small shells — or foreign material.

Garden Salad with Dulse and Walnuts -

Serves — 2 — — 1/2 cup dulse fronds, picked over and torn into bite-size — pieces, or 1/4 cup dulse flakes

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Place the arugula and dulse in a salad bowl and toss with — salt. Drizzle on the oil and toss again. Add the lemon juice and pepper — and give a final toss. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with walnuts — and arugula blossoms if using. Serve immediately.

Local resident Rebecca Wood is a Personal Chef, Kitchen — Coach and author. Her book, "The Splendid Grain," won both Julia Child — and James Beard Cookbook Awards. You may reach Rebecca or visit her many — recipes and articles, at www.rwood.com.