This is a question I ask myself all the time. I went vegetarian as a teenager, and my Mum was very worried that I would not get all the nutrients I needed, so I started taking a multivitamin with iron, only I took it every other day as all the supplements gave you 100% RDA and I was sure that I got some. I have continued with this multivitamin “habit” into adulthood, and still take them every other day (and every day on holiday as I am sure my diet is much worse). I did used to give blood, as they always check your iron levels before you do it, and mine were always fine, so I was reassured that something I was doing was alright. (I don’t give blood any more as every single time they took the tube out of my arm I would faint- they even tried taking less blood and I still fainted so I am afraid I do not go any more).
Anyway, I have been reading Vegetarian Sports Nutrition , dipping into a chapter now and then, and was interested to read the chapter about boosting iron intake and absorption. Now I did know that iron from plant sources is harder for the body to absorb, but what I did not realise what that the RDA is 10 times what you actually need as iron is poorly absorbed by the body. Interesting. Now according to the book I need 18mg per day, and the book has a handy table with common iron sources in them. Now although my meals do vary, there are lots of things I eat every day, so anyway, I decided to have a look and see if I get enough iron without the supplement. It was difficult to work out as the measurements are all in cups, as oppose to grams, but it gave me a fair idea.
So- Breakfast- porridge- 1.6mg, raisins- 0.7mg = 2.3mg
Lunch- 2 slices wholemeal bread- 1.6mg.
Snacks- nuts- 1.2mg, cereal 2mg= 3.2mg.
Dinner- Lentils- 6.6g OR kidney beans 5.2mg OR tofu 6.7mg OR chickpeas 4.7mg, tomatoes 0.5mg.
So I have 7.1mg for breakfast, lunch and snacks, but I would not be getting 11mg from my dinner although on some days I would be close. Some vegetables are listed (eg squash between 0.9-1/4mg) and clearly there are sources of iron in other foods too. It did not list many fruits, but frozen raspberries contain 1.6mg iron, and I have some in my freezer and often add them to snacks. It also emphasised the need for some vitamin C to enhance the iron absorption (something I remember from my Home Ec GCSE!) and as I normally have roasted peppers in my sandwich, and eat a lot of tomato sauces for dinner I know I am getting enough to help the iron.
It also explained a little bit more about factors that inhibit iron absorption- I knew that tea could (and I normally have a cup of tea after my dinner), but there were a few other things listed (and in fact it said it was some herbal teas too, not just normal black tea), so it was nice to be made aware of other factors- for examply soya can inhibit the absorption, but the process of making it into silken tofu will lessen this effect.
I found it really interesting to see the variety of sources. I did not realise tofu was such a good source of iron, and it was interesting to see the difference between certain legumes- for example black eye beans gave 3.6mg, whereas kidney beans 5.2mg, and chickpeas 4.7mg and lentils a whopping 6.6mg. This is going to encourage me to look for different recipes which will also give me the iron I need. I saw a lovely lentil recipe this morning, which I think I will have to try now. I think I still need to take the multivitamin, but at least I know that I am getting lots from natural souces. So I am interested to know how other people manage this. Do you keep an eye on your iron intake? Do you take supplements?
Now for the non-science bit!
I caved in and ordered the nakd bars! I was not going to, but then I worked it out, and £5 for 18 bars (when normally £5 would get you 8 bars) seemed too good to miss. Andy will eat the banana bread ones as I am not a fan, but I like all the others (and I love the apple pie ones). We are going through snack foods more quickly now we are both running more, so I am sure it will not take us long to eat them. Plus the freebie pixie left a couple of bars- double bonus!
Yesterday was a fab day- after breakfast I headed out on a run. I was going to do the 6 miles again, but the secret voice in my head was wondering if I could manage 8 miles (as that is what was on the plan). Although it was raining (and my waterproof jacket stopped being waterproof and my clothes turned into a sponge) I really enjoyed it. I avoided the muddy puddles and my new shoes were alright. So after running 10k, I decided to go on a little more. My Nike+ says I did 8.1 miles in 75 minutes, but that is way to fast for me so I think I must have done around 7.5 miles. Still, pretty good. I do seem to run better when I leave the display on the miles as oppose to the pace or time, so I am going to keep doing this. Then it was a rush as I had friends coming over so had a speedy shower and blow dry. We had a lovely day of catching up (and healthy nibbles of mini wholemeal pittas, peppers, cucumber, carrots, tzaziki, grapes, cherries and then some sugary fudge and brownie cupcakes), but by the evening I was really feeling the effects of my run! I did have some yummy pumpkin tofu pasta, but I still wanted some carbs before bedtime;
I randomly had 1/2 a pack of bear granola left, so I had that and then topped up the alpro (and a pear, and a bit of homemade choc pb) with some dorset chocolate granola. Can I just say there is no comparison? I love dorset mueslis and porridge, but the granola is really just oat pieces in a sugary coating. Can you see the size of the bear granola chunk? It was bigger than my teaspoon! That is what granola should be like!
Today I had a nice walk in the sunshine (this was an attempt to loosen my calf muscles which I clearly did not stretch enough yesterday oops), and attempted some kind of creation with my chickpea flour.
This (made 2 lots) was 50g chickpea flour, half a mashed banana, some water, vanilla and spices, baked in the oven. I was planning on adding date syrup, but I forgot. It was ok (and nice topped with choc pb) but I think I prefer the chickpea flour in savoury items. I think it has a funny aftertaste but I am not sure if I imagine it or not. I really must try using it as pizza dough as I think that would be lovely.
Currently I am being very civilised and enjoying some Earl Grey tea. Tis how we do it in England you know.
And I am looking forward to body pump tonight hooray! As I missed it last week I know it is going to be hard work, but I am looking forward to that in a weird way.