Why you shouldn’t have beef with dark chicken meat in 100 words

When I was growing up, and actually until about a year ago I always though dark poultry was “bad” for me because of the higher fat content.  During a course on sports nutrition, my teacher Dr. Daniel Watters (ND) totally blew my mind when he asked us to consider the importance of what the tissue we’re consuming is used for in the originating animal.

Dark vs. white chicken meat

In the case of chicken thighs vs. chicken breast for example, the thighs are a powerhouse of movement for the chicken and are very much full of muscle tissue.  So, imagine how a chicken moves and functions – the legs move around, but what about the breasts?  Not a whole lot of action going on with a chicken’s breast since they don’t actually fly.

Chicken

 

Chicken thighs are packed with much more myoglobin as compared to the breast and myoglobin contains a lot of iron which is excellent for the all you lady readers.  Dark meat also tends to have more zinc, B1, B2, B6, and B12 (important for you immune system, adapting to the environment, mood, prevention of migraine headaches and the list could literally go on for days).  Dark poultry meat has roughly 3 x more fat than its white counterpart but 2/3rd of that fat is unsaturated which isn’t bad for you in moderation.  Feeling peckish?  Try out this recipe adapted from The Looneyspoons Collection.

Amazingly Saucy Chicken Thighs

12 boneless skinless chicken thighs (try to get organic free range if possible)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2/3rd cup all natural grape jelly

1/2 cup of organic all natural ketchup

1 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder

Pepper

Preheat oven to 400.  In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except for chicken and bring to a boil.  Jelly will melt.  Lay the thighs out in a 9 x 13 baking dish and pour sauce overtop the thighs.  Turn and coat well.  Place in oven for 45 minutes.  Serve with 1 cup of broccoli on the side and you’ve got yourself a dinner to remember.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“We all like chicken” 

–  Malcolm X (The Autobiography of Malcolm X)

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Got the Flu? Feeling Sick? Think twice before you reach for Orange Juice.

It’s pretty common practice to drink Orange Juice when feeling a little under the weather, right?

OJ

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, increases iron absorption, and is well-regarded for its role in supporting and protecting the immune system.  There are countless foods that are chalked full of Vitamin C (check here for a comprehensive list) and it’s true that Orange Juice is high up on the chart – so why should OJ actually be avoided when sick?

Sick Young Woman Lying in Bed

Vitamin C is absorbed into the blood stream via a receptor called GLUT-1 which is also a major receptor for glucose (sugar).  Since Orange Juice is quite high in sugar when you drink a glass of OJ, both the sugar and Vitamin C end up competing to be taken into the blood stream via the GLUT-1 receptor and therefore less will be received.  By removing the fiber from fruit, the sugar is quickly absorbed and causes the absorption of Vitamin C to be compromised.

Vitamin C Fruits

With the fiber in tact, the sugar absorption will be slow and steady making room for more Vitamin C to find its way into your blood stream through the GLUT-1 receptor.  If you’re looking to increase your intake of Vitamin C, try going for whole food based choices like bell peppers, kiwis, broccoli, strawberries, papaya, kale, cantaloupe, pineapple, and of course…oranges!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” 

– Spanish Proverb

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Become an Iron Woman (or at least a woman who gets enough iron)

It is really difficult getting enough iron if you’re a woman, one who has her period, and especially if you’re a vegetarian (or infrequent meat-eating) menstruating woman.

Are you still with me?

If you’re a guy and still reading, kudos to you for realising that having your woman well ironized is good for everyone.

I bet this guy is into iron absorption

Iron deficiency is actually the top nutritional disorder in the entire world and it tends to affect women and children more than others.

What is anemia?  It’s when the red blood cell count is low and since red blood cells carry oxygen around the body it can cause a host of symptoms such as:

  • Easy fatigue and loss of energy
  • Unusually rapid heart beat, particularly with exercise
  • Shortness of breath and headache, particularly with exercise
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Leg cramps
  • Insomnia

There are two main factors that contribute to having reduced iron stores: 1.) losing blood (aka the link to menstruation),  and 2.) not producing enough red blood cells.

Since we can’t really do anything about having a period, let’s look at dietary reasons why some of us don’t produce enough red blood cells.

DIET:  red blood cells need iron, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin C, and copper.  Not getting enough of iron, folate, and B12 are usually the major culprits to iron deficiency.

In terms of diet, the most absorbable form or iron is called “heme iron” which comes from animal protein.  It’s true that you can get iron from vegetarian sources, but you should know that it’s much harder for your body to absorb.  Vitamin B12 is also most common in animal protein – another reason why vegetarians struggle so much.

How much iron do I need?

If you are a meat-eating woman, you need around 18 mg’s or 27 mg’s if you’re pregnant.

If you’re a vegetarian women, you need around 33 mg’s per day.

Men, you’re cool with about 14 mg’s.

What are some non animal sources of iron?

Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 8.8
Blackstrap molasses 2 Tbsp 7.2
Lentils, cooked 1 cup 6.6
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 6.4
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 6.3
Tofu 4 ounces 6.0
Bagel, enriched 3 ounces 5.2
Tempeh 1 cup 4.8
Lima beans, cooked 1 cup 4.4
Swiss chard, cooked 1 cup 4.0
Black beans, cooked 1 cup 3.6
Pinto beans, cooked 1 cup 3.5
Turnip greens, cooked 1 cup 3.2
Chickpeas, cooked 1 cup 3.2
Potato 1 large 3.2
Kidney beans, cooked 1 cup 3.0
Prune juice 8 ounces 3.0
Beet greens, cooked 1 cup 2.7
Tahini 2 Tbsp 2.7
Veggie hot dog 1 hot dog 2.7
Peas, cooked 1 cup 2.5
Black-eyed peas, cooked 1 cup 2.3
Cashews 1/4 cup 2.1
Brussels sprouts, cooked 1 cup 1.9
Bok choy, cooked 1 cup 1.8
Bulgur, cooked 1 cup 1.7
Raisins 1/2 cup 1.6
Almonds 1/4 cup 1.5
Apricots, dried 15 halves 1.4
Veggie burger, commercial 1 patty 1.4
Watermelon 1/8 medium 1.4
Soy yogurt 6 ounces 1.1
Tomato juice 8 ounces 1.0
Green beans, cooked 1 cup 1.2
Kale, cooked 1 cup 1.2
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup 1.2
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 1.1
Millet, cooked 1 cup 1.1
Sesame seeds 2 Tbsp 1.0

How can I improve iron absorption?

Make sure you consume the foods above with a source of vitamin C in order to optimize absorption.  Foods high in vitamin C include: broccoli, red peppers, strawberries, dark leafy greens (think kale and mustard greens), cauliflower, kiwis, and oranges.

Also, avoid consuming caffeine when eating foods with iron.

What about the other major players in red blood cell creation?

You need to make a concerted effort to eat enough folate and B12.  Here’s how.

B12:  we need around 2.4 mg’s per day.  The best way to get it is from animal sources like eggs, milk, cheese, milk products, meat, fish, shellfish and poultry.  If you don’t eat meat, look for fortified cereals and beverages (soy/rice/almond milk etc).  There is also a product on the market called Red Star Nutritional Yeast (can be found at health food stores) which is an excellent source of vitamin B12.

Folate: excellent sources of folate include; dark leafy greens, asparagus, beets, cauliflower, squash, lentils, bell peppers, sea vegetables, celery, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, most types of beans, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and green peas.

Last but not least, if you suspect that you’re iron deficient consider asking your doctor (medical or naturopathic) to do a blood test.  There are a bunch of supplements (normally they are about 25-30 mg’s per capsule) on the market that can really help you get your stores up.  They can be tough on the digestive system and often cause constipation so it’s worth researching to find a good quality one.  Also, just like food sources, taking your supplement with vitamin C rich foods or even 1000 mg’s of a vitamin C supplement can boost the absorption.  I’ve been anemic for years and only recently got it under control – I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to have more energy and less dizziness!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

– Dalai Lama XIV

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