Aging Gracefully…and Other BS:
Women and aging…where do we begin and where does the path take us? There is no manicured trail to follow, but we can reach our best selves by listening to our bodies, pursuing our goals, and finding the right nourishment and exercise that fits into our lives. Sometimes, that means introducing new fitness ideas or specific nutrient-rich foods. We women can do anything if we want it badly enough! We are strong, capable and resilient seekers, planners, managers and leaders. Just as life is forever changing, so are our bodies. Static and sameness are boring! Let’s embrace our aging with grit and authenticity, IRON, and some wine (or a little Bourbon 😊) to wash it all down.
Iron is not exactly the hot topic of women and aging, but not because it isn’t important — iron is crucial for everyone. Iron stimulates the production of hemoglobin, a substance in the red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen to the tissues throughout the body. If your iron level is low, known as iron deficiency anemia, you may experience symptoms such as extreme fatigue, weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, cold hands and feet, and brittle nails. What’s most concerning is that you could be experiencing a lack of oxygenated blood in your body without any signs or symptoms.
Iron deficiency anemia may lead to a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Your heart must pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen carried in your blood when you are anemic. This can lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure. Not to scare the shit of out of you❤️,we just want you to focus on your iron consumption throughout your adulthood.
Iron deficiencies show up as we age due to significant blood loss including heavy menstruation cycles and major surgeries, celiac disease from lower absorption of iron, and chronic conditions like peptic ulcers and hiatal hernias. The other important cause is your diet. Your body depends on you to regularly consume iron from foods. If you do not consume enough iron, over time your body can become iron deficient.
⭐️The awesome news⭐️— we can consume enough iron from our food choices. We can also supplement if needed, but only through partnership with your physician and lab work. So what can you eat to be sure you are consuming enough iron?
Step 1: Consume foods rich in iron, that are of course healthy overall:
Seafood — especially oysters, mussels, clams
Lean red meat
Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and collard greens
Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots
Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas
Your body absorbs more iron from meat than it does from other sources. If you choose to not eat meat, you may need to increase your intake of iron-rich, plant-based foods to absorb the same amount of iron as someone who eats meat.
Step 2: Consume the above high-iron foods in sync with foods containing vitamin C, to enhance your body’s absorption of dietary iron:
Tips and Tricks:
🍋Citrus fruit is a great way to end a meal. Besides providing your body with extra iron-enhancing-absorber known as Vitamin C, it helps to transition yourself from the meal to a feeling of satisfaction with additional hydration and a bolt of sweet and sour, possibly decreasing your desire for more sweet when you depart from the table.
🍳 Using an iron-based skillet when cooking is helpful. The food you are cooking will absorb some of the iron from the skillet.
☎️Calling all chickpeas — for plant-based eaters, chickpeas are a great way to go. One cup provides 5 mg of iron. Hummus bonus — smash chickpeas into hummus and add lemon juice, creating a powerful iron and vitamin C combination…not to mention, deliciousness.
🌿Plant some seeds— in your food! Pumpkin seeds provide 2 mg of iron per quarter cup. Sesame seeds provide a little over 1 mg of iron per tablespoon. Add them to your salads, grains, cereals and snack mixes, for a smart dose of iron. Pair them with dried fruit for the vitamin C kick as well!
🥢Edamame anyone?— one cup of these addicting snack and salad toppers contain 4 mg of iron, plus protein, fiber and minerals. Frozen or fresh, an always-invited-back meal and snack companion.
💪🏾Popeye’s choice — spinach is an excellent sources of iron whether raw, cooked or churned into a smoothie, though cooking spinach helps your body absorb its nutrients more easily. Just 1 cup of cooked spinach delivers more than 6 mg of iron as well as protein, fiber, calcium and vitamins A and E. Bring it…again.
🥜Legume love— lentils and black beans are as awesome as chickpeas with 4–6 mg of iron per cup. Cook them up with some of the vitamin C veggies like kale and broccoli, throw on spice and enjoy your iron-laden-lovin’ meal.
BROCCOLI BAKIN’ CHICKEN
This dish takes all of the above tips into account, and of course, tasty flavors. I also included some short cut tips to help speed things up as needed.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces fresh broccoli florets (yes, you can buy them in a bag!)
3–4 clove garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons pre-minced jar)
1 pound chicken tenders
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oregano plus 2 tablespoons fresh for garnish (dry works as well)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (yup, the bottle works too) plus 1 lemon sliced, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Place a large iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and spread around pan. Add garlic and sauté for 1–2 minutes. Add broccoli to pan, mix well and arrange into a single layer. Cook for 3 minutes, no stirring. After 3 minutes, stir and arrange again into a single layer, continuing to cook for another 3–4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Place broccoli mixture into an oven proof serving dish. Cover dish with foil and place in oven. Set skillet aside.
In small bowl, mix pepper, salt, oregano and crushed red pepper. Place chicken tenders into a medium bowl. Pour spice mix on top and rub all over tenders evenly.
Place iron skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and cook 3–4 minutes per side, or until both sides are lightly browned. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
Remove broccoli from oven and add chicken mixture on top. Cover with the foil and bake for 8–10 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of broil for some extra browning (just keep an eye on it!). Remove from oven. Garnish with lemon slices, fresh oregano and more freshly ground pepper, if desired. Suggest serving with brown rice or quinoa. Makes 4–5 servings.
CREAMY WINTER GREENS and BEANS
All this talk about vibrant greens for iron, vitamin C, calcium and so on, it is hard not to desire to make them every day. This dish is combination of some of my favorites (and hopefully yours as well;), spinach and kale. Throwing in the beans for some additional iron, protein and fiber, makes this a satisfying main dish or a well-balanced side dish. If chickpeas or lentils are your love, they certainly work as well.
10 ounces kale leaves, stems removed, leaves chopped
10 ounces spinach leaves, stems removed, leaves chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 ounces low fat cream cheese
2–3 Tablespoons vegetable broth, low sodium
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
hot sauce (optional, yet recommended)
Heat olive oil in large sauté pan, over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 4–5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned. Add cream cheese, vegetable broth, basil and red pepper, continuing to stir until cream cheese is melted. Add more broth as needed, until cream cheese is melted. Add kale and spinach in batches, continuing to mix together, until all of the greens are slighted wilted. Stir in beans, salt and pepper to taste. Stir well until blended and warmed throughout. Serve with hot sauce on the side for some additional heat.
FRESH FRENCH ONION SOUP
This is a winter-warming dish, that has forever been one of my favorites. I lightened it up with vegetable broth versus beef broth, lower fat cheese, less sodium and more garlic. A perfect start to one of the iron-packed dishes above, especially as we await the winter vortex…
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 sweet onions (such as Vidalia), thinly sliced
3–4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
1/4 cup sherry
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
4 slices whole grain or whole wheat baguette
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese, reduced fat
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, for garnish
In a slow cooker, add butter, onions and garlic. Cook on low heat for 6 hours, until the onions are golden and caramelized.
Add the broth, sherry, bay leaf and thyme. Continue to cook with the slow cooker on low for another 4 to 5 hours.
Season the soup with salt and pepper. Preheat the broiler on your oven.
Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls and place 1 slice of baguette on top of each. Sprinkle ¼ cup of cheese on top of each baguette. Broil the soup until the cheese is melted and well-browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with chives. Makes 4 servings.
Weekend warriors ~keep in mind that your weekends are just as important as your week days, when it comes to eating healthfully. A recent study shows 75% of women are consuming an additional 160 calories on weekends, which not surprisingly are from alcoholic beverages🍸. Unfortunately, the study also showed women had a reduction of their quality of foods consumed, with less nutritious foods than their weekday choices. When does your weekend start mentally? Do you start to let down the guard on Thursday taking it through Sunday night? If so, this average might be higher for you. While it’s okay to treat yourself, choose what you love, not just what you like. Satisfaction is key for moderation.
For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. ~Joe Biden
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