Aside from the long and almost unpronounceable name, one of the things I found most confusing when diagnosed with haemochromatosis was understanding the various technical terms that jumped out from every website I scoured about this disease – autosomal recessive inherited HFE, C282Y mutation (what, I’m not perfect?), H63D gene fault, transferrin saturation, serum ferritin, haemoglobin, homozygous, heterozygote, venesection, and the list goes on.
However once I’d broadly come to terms with what haemochromatosis was, I was also quickly comforted by the fact that the main dietary rules for managing this disease were relatively simple.
The recommended daily intake of iron is around 10-15mg per day, depending on your age and gender. Iron absorption from food can range, hence the trick is to tweak your diet so the highly absorbable foods are balanced out by those less absorbable. Simple right?
Highly absorbable foods are those you would naturally think of as being high in iron, especially those from animal sources – red meats, offal, poultry, fish and seafood. This type of iron is called “heme iron” (think hemoglobin) and is highly absorbable by the body (around 20% – 30%). In fact, people with haemochromatosis can absorb up to four times the amount of this iron than someone without haemochromatosis. Bottom line – you eat it, you absorb it! Calcium is the only known substance found to inhibit heme iron absorption, which is why it is often recommended that people with haemochromatosis consume some form of calcium with each meal.
However, there are non animal sources which are high in iron too, such as dark green leafy vegetables, whole grain cereals, nuts, tofu, dried beans and pulses. The iron in these foods, known as “non heme”, is not as easily absorbed by the body (around 1% – 20%). There are a number of complimentary foods which can inhibit absorption of non heme iron (you can go back to this earlier post for tips on food combining).
Hence, there is no one “silver bullet“ and whilst it is important to incorporate all food groups into your diet, it is preferable to ensure that the bulk of your daily meals comprise non heme sources.
One of the best ways I’ve found to incorporate more low iron non heme foods into my diet is through vegetable soups. Here’s why I just love soups:
- Soups are not only nutrient dense and provide an easy way to get your “daily five”, but are also relatively low in calories whilst being high on flavour.
- Nutritionally, vegetable soups contain many water soluble vitamins (notably vitamins B and K) as well as dietary fibre which helps to regulate our digestive system and assist in removing excess fluids.
- With only a few ingredients, soups are a meal in a bowl and make a quick and tasty evening meal (especially if you are trying to “hide” vegetables).
- Homemade soups allow you to control the amount of sodium and fats you are putting into your body.
- Soups are an economical way to feed a crowd – from a single vegetable soup (cauliflower, zucchini, tomato or pumpkin to name a few suggestions) through to a hearty minestrone, for a small cost you can make enough to feed the entire family or large diner party.
- You can dress a soup up or down – it can be delicate or rustic, with both equally impressive and delicious.
- Soups are a great way of incorporating iron inhibiting tea, which can be used as a substitute for, or in addition to, stocks and water (and both soup recipes below adopt this approach).
Australia is well and truly in the midst of a winter blast and soups are a great way to satiate our appetite at a time when our bodies are craving carbs and fried food. In fact, some studies have found that even where a vegetable soup is consumed before a main meal, it can lead to up to 20% less calories being consumed. It makes sense really – when we bulk up on soups we eat less!
Our friends in the northern hemisphere on the other hand are enjoying sunny days and balmy nights and craving a light meal which doesn’t require hours slaving over a hot oven.
So, today we will be making a soup for whichever season you may be lucky enough to be experiencing, using tomatoes as the base.
Tomatoes have powerful antioxidant properties and, with their disease fighting compound – Lycopene – are said to have the ability to protect us from a range of degenerative diseases, particularly heart disease, cataracts and prostate cancer. The good news is that whilst fresh tomatoes provide an essential Lycopene boost, cooked tomatoes are more concentrated and most effective in neutralising free radicals.
Whether you have a hankering for a mouth watering Spanish inspired Gazpacho (bread free) or my signature Tomato and Pumpkin Soup (which my best friend’s husband still raves about years later), feel better knowing you are feeding your body antioxidant rich vegetables, essential minerals and dietary fibre for which it will thank you. Enjoy!
*Special thanks to Iron-ic Wellbeing followers Maggie and Alma for inspiring this post. It’s largely through the fantastic support and feedback from these two generous ladies that Iron-ic Wellbeing keeps going from strength to strength. Thank you Maggie and Alma.
- 1.3kg tomatoes
- 1 bulb garlic, broken into unpeeled cloves
- 1 tbsp herbs de provence (thyme, marjoram, basil, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary)
- 2 tsp coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 800g pumpkin, peeled and chopped
- 30g butter
- 1 cup black tea
- 2 cups water
- 1 bunch rocket, roughly chopped
- 30g chopped fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 70g pinenuts, toasted lightly in a pan
- 50g parmesan, grated
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- 2. Cut tomatoes in half and place in a baking tray with garlic, herbs, vinegar, melted coconut oil sugar and salt and pepper. Bake for 1 hour. Set aside to cool.
- 3. Remove garlic skins and discard.
- 4. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulsate to a coarse consistency.
- 5. Taste and season if necessary.
- 1. Heat 30g butter in a large saucepan.
- 2. Add the chopped pumpkin and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
- 3. Stir in passata, 1 cup of tea and 2 cups of water. Add black pepper and salt to taste if necessary.
- 4. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. Cool slightly.
- 5. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- 6. Return to the saucepan and re-heat as required.
- 7. Serve with rocket pesto, natural yoghurt or parmesan cheese.
- 1. Combine rocket, parsley, garlic clove, toasted pinenuts, parmesan and olive oil in a blender or food processor and pulsate until smooth.
- You can also use store bought passata if you don't have tomatoes handy.
- Quantities for the pesto are entirely up to you - adjust the ingredients to your taste.
- 1 kg ripe tomatoes
- 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 green pepper, de-cored and chopped
- 1 red pepper, de-cored and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 red chilli, de-seeded
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup black tea
- 1 cup cold water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and submerge tomatoes. Boil for 20 seconds or until their skins split. Remove immediately and run the tomatoes under cold water. Peel off skin, cut into quarters and de-seed.
- 2. Place tomatoes and chopped vegetables, tea and water into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
- 3. Add oil, vinegar and salt and pepper and process until smooth.
- 4. Depending on how thick you like your soup, you can add some more water at this stage.
- 5. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavours infuse.
- 6. Serve chilled in bowls or glasses.
- I served the Gazpacho with "Meal In a Biscuit Crackers" from Sarah Wilson's "I Quit Sugar" (Pan Macmillan, 2013) cookbook.