Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Why popeye loved his spinach

I was asked the other day about the best food sources of iron and thought I'd share my answer. Iron is needed to make haemoglobin which carries oxygen round your body, if this becomes too low you can become anaemic (also caused by vitamin B12 deficiency). Symptoms of anaemia/low iron status include fatigue, poor concentration, lethargy, apathy, muscle weakness, pale skin and fainting.

Red meat provides the most easily assimilated iron for the body, however it shouldn't be eaten too frequently due to the high saturated fat content. Other foods rich in iron include other meats, spinach, dried fruits, nuts and blackstrap molasses.

For those who don't know, blackstrap molasses is a very unrefined form of sugar which hasn't had all the nutrients stripped out during processing, consequently it is rich in minerals, particularly iron, and easily assimilated by the body. The downside is that it has quite a strong treacle-like taste and texture so isn't pleasant eaten off a spoon.

The following recipe is a pleasant and healthy way to eat molasses, although remember molasses is a form of sugar so shouldn't be eaten in large quantities:

Sticky banana & molasses cake:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius
Mix together:
150g wholemeal spelt flour (or gluten-free flour)
1 tsp baking powder
2 heaped tsp ground ginger
2 heaped tsp mixed spice
2 heaped tsp cinnamon
75g ground almonds
25g pumpkin seeds
150g dried mixed fruit
In another bowl mash 3 ripe bananas, beat in 2 eggs and add 100ml sunflower oil, 2 tsp vanilla extract and 3 large tbsp blackstrap molasses. Whisk the mixture til smooth and then fold in the dry ingredients.
Pour into a lightly oil 2lb loaf tin, cover with foil and place in a deep baking tray with water halfway up the side of the loaf tin.
Bake for 50-60 minutes (test with a skewer)
Turn out, allow to cool and then cut into slices.

(recipe taken form Optimum Nutrition magazine)

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