Thursday, August 11, 2011

All About Iron & Black Lentil Salad

I did pretty well in high school and college.  Multiple choice tests, essay tests, I could handle them all, with the exception of oral Spanish tests.  Now I'm in my third trimester of pregnancy and most of my tests involve my blood, not my brains.  My blood is in severe need of after-school enrichment in order to pass the hemoglobin portion of my retake-test.

Adult women need about 18 mg of iron per day and pregnant women need 27.  However, not all iron is absorbed equally.  The body absorbs iron from animal sources (heme iron) much better then iron from plant sources (non-heme iron).  For instance, 100 mg of egg has 2-3 mg of iron, all of which is absorbed by the body, 100 mg of boiled spinach has 4 mg, but only about 1.2 mg is absorbed.


Here are a few tips to absorb the maximum amount of iron from your source:
  • Get your iron from real food instead of pills as much as possible. 
  • Enjoy vegetarian sources with some heme iron (animal product), like an egg. 
  • Eat iron with vitamin C like orange, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
  • Do not eat iron with high calcium foods, tea, coffee, or red wine (contains tannins that bind with iron).
  • If you need a supplement, my midwife recommends Spatone as a natural, gentle, and well absorbed source. 
An example of putting the above tips to use might be a spinach salad with strawberries, oranges, and egg on top.  (Though spinach contains oxalic acid or oxalate which bind to iron inhibiting absorption.)

Lentils contain about 2 mg of iron per 100 mg of lentils.  If we compliment the lentil with vitamin C, our bodies can absorb more than 0.6 mg.  My need for iron and protein inspired the following dish.

Black Lentil Salad with Lemon, Ginger, and Noodles

The tiny black lentils are probably the fastest cooking whole legume, and, in my opinion, they are the tastiest.

Cook 1 or 1.5 cups lentils according to directions, but add a little extra water, which will cook the noodles.  (I used my pressure cooker.)  You can also make this without noodles.  My kids actually liked the lentils but not the noodles.
Green lemons are from right outside..

While the lentils cook, mix the following dressing:
  • zest of 2 lemons or 3 limes
  • juice of two medium lemons or a lemon and two limes
  • 1-2 cubes of crystallized ginger, grated
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • salt
  • crushed red pepper flakes

When the the lentils are cooked, add instant noodles or leftover cooked pasta like orzo or stars.   (I used two packs of low-fat Raman noodles and threw away the seasoning pack.)

Mix in dressing and cover until pasta is cooked. Optionally, you could add chopped, roasted red peppers.  Serve hot or cold.  

Looking for more sources of iron?  Try
For tables on recommended dietary allowance for iron and how much iron is absorbed from various foods, read "How Much Iron Do We Need? What are the Best Sources of Iron?" from AmeliaBurton.com.au or check out the CDC's page on Iron and Iron Deficiency.

2 comments:

  1. I adore black lentils. I usually make a majadara-ish salad with either brown rice or wheat berries, but the idea of using the ramen noodles is intriguing. BTW, you can buy ramen noodles without having to buy the whole Mana Chama. For what you pay for one of those MSG-laden packages (and you get to throw away the seasoning and the plastic cup) you can buy twice as much in the dried pasta section of your supermarket.

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  2. Black lentils are my favorite too. I use them in salads and combined with rice. I also love lentil soup although I usually make that with ordinary green lentils.

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