Tag Archives: facts

FACTFILE: IRON

What is it?

Iron is a micromineral, or trace mineral, needed by the body for loads of different physiological functions. It’s deficiency is the most common, in both the UK and global population and can have some nasty side effects.

There are two types of iron: haem and non-haem. Haem iron is more useful to the body as it is more readily absorbed compared with non-haem iron, so is more effective in completing the physiological functions below.

What do we need it for?

Iron is used for oxygen transfer in the body by being a major component of haemoglobin, the protein which carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and working muscles.

Iron also helps make a protein called myoglobin which binds to oxygen in the muscles for storage.

The oxygen is then used to release energy, with help of cytochrome proteins which aid energy transfer and contains iron groups.

So, the mineral is pretty important in preventing fatigue.

It also has roles in the immune system as it helps produce white blood cells, which engulf and kill any invading bacteria.

Where can we get it?

Haem iron is present in animal sources:

  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • White meat
  • Fish

Non-haem iron is present in plant sources:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • White bread (note that although this is higher in iron, it lacks fibre which is also important in the diet)
  • Green vegetables
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit

How much do we need?

Men need 8.7mg/day

Women need 14.8mg/day

Women need more due to larger losses.

  • Chicken liver (100g) – 9.2mg
  • Lean beef (125g) – 3.38mg
  • Roasted chicken (100g) – 0.7mg
  • Roasted lamb (90g) – 1.71mg
  • One slice white bread – 0.54mg
  • 30g fortified cornflakes – 3.54mg
  • 85g broccoli – 0.51mg
  • 30g almonds – 0.9mg
  • 30g cashew nuts – 1.86mg
  • 1/2 can baked beans – 1.92mg
  • 1/2 can kidney beans – 2.20mg

IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE;

  • Try increasing your vitamin C intake if you are lower on iron; vitamin C makes iron more absorbable in the body.
  • Iron has many inhibitors which keep it insoluble so less is absorbed; it is important to avoid these in iron-rich meals. Foods containing these inhibitors include:
    • Wholegrains – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t cut these out of your diet as wholegrain foods are really important for increasing fibre, just think about WHAT they are consumed with (don’t eat them with iron rich foods).
    • Tea – Again, can be consumed but avoid with iron-rich meals.
    • Coffee – Same as tea.
    • Chocolate – Avoid with iron-rich meals.
    • Spinach – It is a common misconception that spinach is high in iron, it is often used as a source of iron by vegetarians and vegans, but it contains oxalic acid which stops absorption.
    • Egg yolks – Again, eggs are seen as a source high in iron, but they contain phosphates which inhibit absorption.

Staving those hunger cravings

Imagine this: hefty day at work….. stomach rumbling….. looks at watch……. damn it’s only 11am…..

HOW DO I CONCENTRATE FOR 2 HOURS ON NO FOOD?

We’ve all been there, either too hungry before lunch or before tea, and it is NOT a pleasant feeling.

the science – satiety levels tend to improve when food stays in the digestive system longer. For carbohydrates, this can be explained via Glycaemic index* – which is a number expressing how the carbohydrate affects blood glucose levels. Foods with lower glycaemic indexes tend to keep a person fuller for longer as they are slowly digested and contain more fibre/ resistant starch – for example wholemeal foods and pulses. These foods therefore cause a slow and gradual rise in blood glucose levels. Foods with high glycaemic indexes are rapidly digested as they contain sugars and cause quick spikes in blood glucose levels – for example white bread and cereals like cornflakes. Foods may also stay longer in the digestive system, and therefore improve mid-morning/afternoon hunger, if paired with fat or protein as these nutrients tend to have effects on gut emptying.

*Note that there can be some issues with using this method to predict satiety levels as it can be affected by the amount of carbohydrate consumed  and the other components of the meal.

Hopefully I can give you a few handy tips on stopping this from happening so you can power on through your day!

HUNGRY AT 11AM

Just think about what you have had for breakfast…. Cereal? Toast? Eggs? Nothing?

I mean, to point out the obvious, if you’re hungry at 11am and you haven’t had breakfast I think I’ve just solved the issue.

BUT, for the majority of us, the hunger pangs are down to WHAT we are eating at breakfast.

BREAKFAST FOODS THAT CAN KEEP US FULLER FOR LONGER:

EGGS:

Eggs are high in protein which stays in the digestive system for long periods of time, therefore a mixture of eggs with other carbohydrate or fat-based foods will keep you powering on through until lunchtime.

  • Cheese and spinach omelette
  • Poached eggs and avocado on wholemeal toast
  • Scrambled eggs and lean bacon on wholemeal toast
  • Boiled dippy eggs with wholemeal toast and grilled tomatoes

PORRIDGE:

Porridge stays in the digestive system longer as it is high in fibre, so when cooked with semi-skimmed milk (which provides proteins and fats), and topped with some yummy but nutritious toppings, it is the perfect breakfast to start the day with. Here are some topping ideas:

  • Honey, dried fruit, nut and seeds
  • Peanut butter and banana
  • Dates, raisens, banana and cinnamon
  • Nutella and strawberries
  • Coconut flakes, mango, papaya and pineapple
  • Chopped pears and maple syrup

ANYTHING WHOLEGRAIN:

  • Wholemeal/rye bread – jam on toast, bacon butty, dippy eggs, you name it – should increase satiety levels when eaten compared its white bread counterpart.
  • Wholemeal cereals – there is truth behind the saying ‘he must have had his Weetabix this morning’, so stock up on those flaked rectangles of goodness as well as cereals like fruit and fibre, and avoid cereals like Cornflakes and Rice Krispies which contain sugars rather than slowly digesting carbohydrates.
  • Wholemeal rice/pasta – okay, okay, I know this isn’t a conventional breakfast food. As a student, when it is coming up to shopping week, I admittedly have has pasta and pesto for breakfast a few times, and it has kept me full until lunchtime!

HUNGRY AT 4PM

Please refer to ‘HUNGRY AT 11AM’. One of the main reasons that you could be getting hungry at 4 is that your breakfast is not big or nutritious enough to sustain you throughout the day.

Despite this, most people (including me) reach for a mid-afternoon snack to keep me going through to teatime and there has been some pretty extensive research on what snacks we should be eating to keep us going, and stop us from over-snacking or over-eating at the next meal.

SNACK FOODS THAT CAN KEEP US FULLER FOR LONGER:

YOGHURT:

There has been some interesting research conducted that found that eating yoghurt over other high-fat snacks increases the satiety of the consumer, and yoghurt tends to include high amounts of protein which can also aid this. Greek yoghurts tend to be the preferred option, and if you prefer it topped with something to sweeten it, refer to the porridge toppings above.

NUTS:

Again, high in protein and fat, nuts are a great snack alternative to anything high in sugar. Although a handful may not seem like much quantity-wise, they will sure fill you up. Here are some nut options worth about 100 calories:

  • 15-19 almonds
  • 13-14 cashews
  • 28-30 peanuts
  • 10 pecan halves
  • 28 shelled pistachios

DRIED FRUIT

High in fibre so moves through the gut slower, containing lots of vitamins and minerals and counting as one of your 5-a-day, these are a perfect snacking option. A handful is usually a good portion, and prunes, plums and dates have been found to come out on top when looking at satiety levels.

I hope this helps stave those cravings and gives some good options for breakfast and snacks for those on-the-go days!

Continue reading Staving those hunger cravings

Fancy steak and chips

This is super easy and nutritious meal takes only 20minutes to make and is perfect for those on the go that want something filling yet tasty!!

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 13.12.42

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 150g lean beef steak (3-5% fat)
  • 90g curly kale
  • teaspoon of honey
  • teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 65g sweet potato
  • paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • teaspoon of olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC(fan)/220º/gas mark 9 (basically whack it up to the highest temperature).
  2. Cut the sweet potato into chips (it is up to you how thick you cut them – they may just have slightly different cooking times).
  3. Cover the chips in some olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika and put into the oven for 15-20minutes – shake the pan halfway through.
  4. When there is 8minutes left until the chips are done, heat a small amount of the oil in two frying pans until hot (highest temperature on the hob again – we like speedy cooking here!).
  5. Season the steak and cook in one frying pan, turning halfway through. For rare – 3minutes each side, for medium – 4minutes each side and for well done – 5minutes each side.
  6. Meanwhile, add the kale to the other pan and stir fry for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the honey and soy sauce and mix into the kale whilst still in the frying pan to heat it through.
  8. Enjoy!

Health benefits:

Looking at the nutritional content of the food actually surprised me quite a bit! I have narrowed down the main 5 nutrients which are in considerable abundance in this meal – and their contributing meal components (displayed in some pretty swish pie charts):

Folate:

Folate is the ‘umbrella term’ for a group of chemicals which have significant benefits if eaten more often. It has been linked to decrease risk of heart disease, and in pregnant women to reduce the risk of birth defects in the baby (the recommended requirement of folate per day is therefore higher for pregnant women). This meal contributes just under half the daily requirement of folate expected for the average (non-pregnant) adult, so there is a HUGE amount considering this is only one meal!

Iron:

Iron has a multitude of functions in the body, with the main one being the transport of oxygen. Iron deficiency is the most common mineral deficiency in humans, and can result in fatigue, struggling to breath and a decrease in immune function, to name a few. Iron deficiency (anaemia) is also more evident in women due to loss of iron because of the menstrual cycle. SO this meal is perfect in helping get more iron into the diet – with it containing 4.8mg per portion and the average reference intakes for males being 8.7mg/day and for females being 14.8mg/day.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 13.57.48

Most red meats are high in iron therefore beef being the main contributor did not surprise me, and I know curly kale and dark green leafy vegetables are also relatively high in iron however I did not expect PAPRIKA to be this high in iron with just 3 grams containing 0.63mg of iron!

Vitamin B6:

Vitamin B6 is used in the body for the release of glucose to use as energy and for protein metabolism, and although deficiency is rare it can result in sleepiness, changes in personality and impaired immunity. There is some research out there to suggest that may decrease PMS symptoms of the menstrual cycle (bloating, cramps, moodiness – we’ve all been there ladies), and this meal will provide you with roughly 80% of your daily B6 intake!

Vitamin B12:

Vitamin B12 and folic acid work hand-in-hand in the body, so often it is hard to distinguish whether these benefits are from B12 or folic acid – BUT these benefits include helping to protect against chronic diseases and birth defects in pregnant women. AND THIS MEAL CONTAINS 192% OF YOUR DAILY B12 REQUIREMENT.

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is commonly known to prevent the common cold – and I’m afraid that this information widely believed by the public has no sufficient information to back it up (sorry – I’m upset too) however it does prevent scurvy, so if you’re a pirate, you will want to read this. It also synthesises college which is a material in bones and tissue. This, my friends, is where the curly kale steps in, with it providing the majority of the vitamin C content of the meal which also happens to be 280% of your vitamin C daily requirement!!Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 13.59.47

SO!! We have established that this meal is VERY high in some major nutrients that our bodies need…. and is also delicious so it’s the best of both worlds really!!

Continue reading Fancy steak and chips

WTF is DF??

Dietary fibre… something that helps digestion, right? Maybe in cereal?

There are so many packages stating that the products are ‘high in fibre’, but what does this even mean for our health? Is there a set amount of it you are meant to have per day? And what foods can you eat which include fibre?

Well don’t worry my darlings, all will be explained:

WHAT IS DIETARY FIBRE??

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate of which, when eaten in high consumption, has a multitude of health benefits. It has been proven to reduce the amount of fat in the blood and therefore reduce risk of heart disease. It can also help regulate body weight, increase the immune systems function, and prevent irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. On top of this, it also lowers risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. So it’s god damn important!!

The science – fibre is a plant component that resists digestion in the small intestine, so moving into the large intestine where it undergoes fermentation. This fermentation process is important as it provides energy in the form of sugars (monosaccharides). Overall, this digestive process maximises the time to absorb nutrients from other foods eaten by moving slowly through the small intestine in a thick and viscous consistency. 

HOW MUCH SHOULD WE BE HAVING??

The government recommends, on average, 30g of fibre per day as part of a healthy diet. Most adults only consume 18g – so much lower than the expected amount. But, what does 30 grams of fibre actually look like? Most of us don’t weigh our food so how are we meant to know that we are getting our 30g in…

FOODS AND THEIR FIBRE CONTENT…

ANYTHING WHOLEMEAL – wholemeal and granary bread (2.5g per slice), cereals like wholewheat biscuits (1.9g per biscuit) and shredded wheat (3.7g per bowl), wholegrain pasta (9.2g per bowl), brown rice (2.7g per portion), bulgar wheat (you can probably get it from M&S or Waitrose?).

Porridge (1.5g per bowl).

Potatoes with the skin on (2.5g per jacket potato) (most of the nutrients of a potato, and any root veg really, are in the skin).

Pulses – beans (6.5g per two tablespoons of broad), lentils (1g per portion) and chickpeas (3.7g per 3 tablespoons). So stock up on the houmous…

VEG AND FRUIT – peas (2.8g per serving), broccoli (2g per serving), brussels (2.8g per serving), avocado (5g per serving) are all high fibre vegetables and raspberries (1.5g per 15), blackberries (2.3g per 15) and pears (2.4g per pear) have high amounts of fibre for fruits – please note that these are just vegetables and fruits that have the highest amounts of fibre, all fruits and vegetables contain some fibre so are important to include.

ADDING MORE FIBRE TO OUR DIETS….

SO, knowing all these foods and the amount of fibre is in them in grams may not mean anything to you – so if you want a slightly simpler way of knowing that you are having your 30g of fibre per day there is an easier way of doing it:
It can be recommended that, with your 5-A-DAY, you should be having 3 portions of the following foods per day (that is 3 portions overall, not three portions of each food):

  • One slice of wholemeal bread
  • 1/2 a wholemeal pitta
  • 2 tablespoons of brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons of wholegrain breakfast cereal
  • 2 oatcakes
  • 1 tablespoon of uncooked porridge oats

Hopefully this has cleared up some of the confusion over WTF is DF and how it works in the body. Keep posted for some easy high-fibre recipes to help with hitting that 30g a day target!!

Continue reading WTF is DF??