As many of you will know, we have recently arrived home from the most amazing few weeks in Switzerland. Ahhhh, Switzerland – home to the Red Cross, cuckoo clocks, watches, rösti, fondue, alpine trains, serene natural beauty, cows with bells, chocolate, and of course CHEESE!
Switzerland really is my ultimate holiday destination, as it’s where many of my favourite things sit comfortably with each other – long mountain walks amongst wildflowers and waterfalls, the inherent precision of everyday life which appeals to my Virgo-an sense of order and perfection, indulging in the occasional chocolate (ok, so it a little more than occasional, however I was on holidays afterall…) and savouring local cheeses – lots of cheeses!
As a post hike reward, nothing was better than visiting the town cheese store where slabs of local cheeses were carved to be enjoyed on the balcony whilst watching Swiss life go by. Favourites were Emmentaler, a hard cheese made from raw milk and with a 4-5 month ripening process, Mutschli, a semi hard cheese taking 3-6 months to mature and, our favourite, the regional Alpkase Wengern, which is only produced in the summer months when cows are moved from the valley to higher ground. Each Alpkase cheese is matured for at least 6 months and is wonderfully individual to the aromatic herbs and pastures upon which the cows grazed.
Lucky for me, consuming my body weight in cheese (almost) was actually beneficial, as calcium is an essential mineral for people with haemochromatosis given its unusual ability to inhibit both heme (primarily arising from meats, poultry and seafood) and non heme (primarily found in plant foods) iron.
In addition to the above, calcium is one of the most important minerals for bone, teeth, gum and heart health, is necessary for muscle growth and the prevention of cramps, and is also critical for the optimum function of our digestive and nervous systems.
The best sources of calcium, in addition to cheese, include milk, yoghurt, tofu, almonds, broccoli, sesame and sunflower seeds, canned salmon (with soft bones), green leafy vegetables and parsley.
One of the easiest ways to make sure we consume enough calcium is to drink a glass of milk (1 cup has around 300mg of calcium) or equivalent dairy product. Personally I look to consume my calcium through eating natural yoghurt each evening (150g of which has around 250mg of calcium). Interestingly, the maximum amount of calcium that will block iron is 300mg, so if you consume any more than 300mg it won’t necessarily be of any further benefit. Milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, also contain lactoferrin, which has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties in addition to binding iron, hence are preferable to a calcium supplement in my view and oh so much easier. Of course, if you are unable to stomach milk and dairy products, then a supplement is the way to go (subject to a discussion with your GP).
The ability for calcium to inhibit iron absorption, however, is also predicated on our body’s level of Vitamin D, a compound in which (through one of my regular blood tests) I was recently found to be significantly deficient. Here I was, happily thinking I was doing the right thing by consuming calcium with most meals, only to find that I was not optimising this intake due to inadequate Vitamin D levels. I’m now taking two Vitamin D capsules daily (under direction from my GP) to ensure an appropriate intake of “the sunshine vitamin”. If you haven’t had your Vitamin D levels checked lately, please add it to your list for your next GP visit.
One of my favourite “go to” weekend breakfasts is an omelette. As you know, I just love eggs and lucky for me they actually work to impair iron absorption due to the presence of a protein called phosvitin. In fact, research has shown that one boiled egg can actually decrease iron absorption by as much as 28%. If you want to know more about the benefits of eggs for people with haemochromatosis, you can read my post on the Egg Factor here.
As eggs are also a great source of Vitamin D (and zinc, which I also struggle to maintain at an appropriate level), this weekend I decided to give my mineral and vitamin intake a boost by combing eggs and calcium to make my Wild Mushroom and Emmental Omelette with Fresh Herbs.
Mushrooms are a fabulous vegetable for people with haemochromatosis as they contain only 0.2mg of iron (per 100g) and are also a great source of calcium, with 100g containing 2mg of calcium, zinc (for a healthy immune system) and selenium (for cell protection and heart health). Mushrooms are also a valuable source of dietary fibre, are fat free and chock full of not only Vitamin D but B1 (Thiamin) for energy release and optimum functioning of the brain and nervous system; B2 (Riboflavin) for healthy red blood cells, good vision and healthy skin; Vitamin B3 (Niacin) for digestive health; Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) for metabolic health and management of hormones; and Vitamin B9 (Folate) for the production of red and white blood cells and healthy growth and development, especially beneficial for pregnant women. Collectively, the B Vitamins found in mushrooms are also said to help relieve stress, depression and fatigue.
Talk about the perfect breakfast! Whilst the Swiss may traditionally partake in a hearty Rösti or Birchermüesli for breakfast, I think I would easily convert them with my fluffy and oh so nutritious omelette. Enjoy!
Got a favourite omelette filling? Let me know by dropping me a line below.
- 3 free range eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- 25g butter
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms - swiss brown, shitake, pine forest
- 3 stalks of thyme, stripped
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- 1 spring onion, sliced
- 30g Emmental cheese, grated
- Salt and Pepper
- Crack eggs into a bowl and beat lightly.
- Stir in milk to loosen mixture.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Melt butter in frypan until the sizzling ends.
- Add sliced mushrooms and thyme. Season well. Cook until the mushrooms are golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Wipe down pan and melt a little extra butter.
- Pour in egg mixture, tilting the pan to distribute the mixture. Loosen the sides as you go and keep tilting the pan. Cook until the bottom is golden in colour.
- Add the mushroom mix, chopped spring onions, cheese and parsley to one half of the omelette, and flip over the other side. Cook for 1-2 minutes to melt the cheese.
- Turn the omelette onto a plate and sprinkle with further thyme and parsley if desired.