Happy Friday SRC!
This week we are going to switch things up and instead of just a recipe, we are going to talk about nutrients that are crucial for runners to have!
This week I want to talk about Iron.
Iron is a mineral that everyone needs in their body, but especially runners since it is a component of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to various tissues. Iron is also used to produce myoglobin, which delivers oxygen to our muscles.
Iron exists in two natural sources: heme and non-heme iron. The most bioavailable form of iron is heme iron, meaning it is better absorbed in the body. Sources of heme iron include animal products such as meat, poultry, seafood, clams and oysters. Red meat is the best source of heme iron. Non-heme iron is from sources that are not animal derived such as dark leafy greens, black strap molasses, dried fruit, beans and fortified foods such as cereal.
Every runner has heard that they need to take their iron supplements with orange juice, but why? Orange juice contains high levels of Vitamin C! Vitamin C is essential in improving iron absorption in the body. Zinc, and folate can also help increase iron absorption.
There are foods that can inhibit iron absorption such as dairy, coffee, tea, chocolate, and certain polyphenols in grains. If you are taking a calcium supplement and an iron supplement, take them at separate times such as in the morning and night!
As runners, we can suffer from iron deficiency since we are constantly causing stress on our bones, which can damage red blood cells. Symptoms of iron deficiency are headaches, fatigue, weakness, or brittle nails. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms and are noticing a drop in performance, make sure you go see your doctor to get your ferritin levels checked. Ferritin stores iron and reflects the amount of iron stored in the body. They may recommend iron supplements or liquid iron! Iron deficiency can become severe and turn into anemia.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron for girls 9-13 years old is 8mg, women 14-18 years old is 11mg, and for women 19-50 years old is 18mg. Pregnancy and lactation changes these needs.
If you would like additional information, this link is very helpful. Now that you know all about iron, here is a recipe you could make you help increase your intake!
Flank Steak with Chimichurri
1 flank steak or red meat of choice
1/2 bunch Lacinato kale, leaves removed
1/2 bunch Swiss chard
1 cup basil leaves
3/4 cup parsley
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 lemon squeezed
1/2 orange squeezed
Zest of lemon if desired
1 garlic clove
Cook steak according to desired liking. Season with salt, pepper, or grill seasoning.
Add all ingredients to a food processor and slowly stream in the olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency. You can play around with the dark greens and the flavors! I always add either orange, grapefruit, or lemon with dark greens since your body won’t absorb the non-heme iron as well unless there is some Vit. C.
On the side you could serve brown rice over sautéed spinach with some toasted almonds and dried apricots. Spinach has a lot of iron as well, and there have been papers published that state that the iron levels in spinach are higher when cooked. Brown rice is cheap and the dried apricots have a fair amount of iron too! If you don’t eat red meat, chicken or fish works well.