When I say “Iron Chef,” I’m not talking about the competition hosted by Mark Dacascos on Food Network (although that’s an entertaining show). I’m talking about cooking to add iron to your diet.
The common response to the person suffering anemia is “eat more liver.” Unfortunately, liver is high in cholesterol, too. What other strategies can you use in your kitchen to boost the iron in your diet?
First, don’t overlook cast iron cookware. It’s heavy and it isn’t dishwasher-safe, but it imparts iron into the food as it cooks it. Currently, only Lodge brand is made in the USA, so buy Lodge. Foreign-made cast iron isn’t made to USA standards and may contain impurities in the metal. Lodge is available online, at Cracker Barrels, at Wal-mart, and at their factory store in Tennessee. New cast iron cookware comes seasoned, so it’s ready to use.
Second, focus on foods that supply iron to your diet, which include: dried, unsweetened apricots; raisins; lima beans; spinach; broccoli; whole wheat breads; brown rice; cooked dried beans such as black-eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney, or white beans; pumpkin seeds; nuts (black walnuts, almonds, cashews); pine nuts (pignolias); clams; shrimp; trout; mackerel; fortified cereals; lean beef.
Next, try to avoid iron blockers, like carbonated sodas or any foods containing oxylates and phosphates. Do eat food rich in vitamin C, as they help you absorb iron. Sneak wheat germ or brewer’s yeast in your smoothies.
Finally, remember some anemia isn’t caused by inadequate iron consumption. If your attempts as an iron chef don’t increase your blood iron levels, talk to your doctor.
Minestra (Beans & Greens)
Here’s a southern twist on an Italian favorite.
1 15 oz. can black-eyed peas 1 14½ oz. can spinach or greens, any kind 1 packet beef bouillon (Herb Ox brand is sodium free) 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 Tbsp. minced garlic Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and drain black-eyed peas.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir.
Immediately add the canned black-eyed peas and the canned greens. Stir to combine.
Sprinkle the beef bouillon over the greens/peas, cover, and simmer for ten minutes.
Taste test and add salt and pepper as needed.
Yield: 4 servings
Variation: Grate nutmeg over the dish before serving.