I have not a thing against red meat. But many women I talk with do.
There are lots of reasons someone might avoid red meat- family history of colorectal cancer, ethical issues with red meat or meat in general, or just plain not liking it.
But a common recommendation for women, especially those with a history of anemia, is to eat lots of red meat (especially in the form of liver) for all the good iron.
Non-pregnant, pre-menopausal women actually have a daily requirement of twice the amount of iron as men! Because we lose iron through menstruation, it is very important for us to makes sure we’re getting enough, lest we develop iron-deficiency anemia.
While red meat is a good source of iron, there are actually lots of other sources, some even higher in iron.
Dietary sources of iron include two different kinds of iron- heme and nonheme. Heme iron is most often found in food and is much more bioavailable than non-heme iron which is contained mostly in plants.
That’s why vegetarians and vegans have so much trouble getting enough iron! Even though they may be eating foods that contain a good amount, it isn’t well absorbed. Phytic acid from grains and legumes and polyphenols from tea and chocolate can also reduce absorption of this important mineral.
But getting enough iron doesn’t have to be a red meat fest if you don’t want it to. Below are several non-red meat foods that contain higher amounts of iron which you can try to incorporate more of. You probably already eat some of these now!
Good Sources of Iron That Aren’t Red Meat
- Organ Meats
- Dark Meat Turkey
- Chicken Breast
- Beans (be careful if you are sensitive to these)
- Dark Leafy Greens
If you need to supplement your iron (and many women do) first make sure it is ok for you with your doctor. Iron overload is toxic to the body.
Second, try a good quality iron supplement (I like this one). Typical iron pills you might get are constipating and cause nausea, as well as being poorly absorbed. This brand is a great choice to avoid those things.
Many women also like to take desiccated liver because they want the benefits of liver without actually having to taste it! This is the brand of desiccated liver I like.
Consider also doing a lot of cooking in a cast iron skillet (like this one). It will help incorporate some iron into your diet, plus it heats evenly and makes food taste better, especially as it is used over time!
Being in the paleo world, it is tough to find any advice that doesn’t center on eating as much as possible red meat. I think we all got so burnt out on not eating it, we’re just psyched to eat steak again!
But red meat isn’t for everyone. I have met MANY women who struggle to eat it because they just don’t like it. I have met many others who can’t afford good quality and don’t want to risk it.
Whatever your reasons for avoiding it, I wanted to provide a little comfort that it is possible to get iron, particularly heme iron, in your diet even if you don’t eat much red meat.
How do you get enough iron?
Ah, leafy greens.
We love to extol your benefits, hate to actually eat you.
We praise the benefits of daily servings, yet fail to meet our own mark.
If you are one of the beautiful people who LOVE leafy greens and eat them all the time, this post is not for you.
No, this post is for all you ladies and gents out there who make a salad and eat mostly the toppings.
This is for those who buy those beautiful boxes of organic spinach and throw it, moldy and weeks later, in the trash.
This is for the ones who praise paleo and the nutritional benefits of leafy greens to friends but never seem to find the time to actually eat them.
I mean, geesh, it’s hard enough eating the minimum daily serving of VEGETABLES when all you really want to do is down about 3 sweet potatoes in the form of french fries.
I get it. Life is busy, food is hard. And it’s true what they say about leafy greens- they are one of nature’s healthiest, most important foods.
Spinach itself could provide all the nutrients a person needs in high enough quantities without ever touching another vegetable.
It’s magic food.
So if you find yourself flailing in the meantime as you mean to get those greens in but don’t, cut yourself some slack and try some of these 3 ways of getting in a little extra. It’ll do your body good.
1. Greens Capsules and Powders
I’m known in some parts for my smoothie recipes which, in my opinion, are bomb.
And usually I’ll use fresh greens and grind them up to include.
Spinach is great with banana, kale is awesome with raspberry.
But when you’re on the go or out of spinach, there’s also several great powders you can use that combine all the goodness and nutrition of leafy greens with other vegetables, many of which we don’t commonly eat. These can be mixed into smoothies and taste great.
I love these greens caps from Premier Research Labs because they have some crazy weird greens in them! All organic and nutritionally power-packed, there are a lot of greens you’ll probably never eat.
I’m talking to you barley grass!
These are great to take with food and it also comes in powder form for smoothies.
Find the greens capsules on Amazon here or the greens powder here.
I also really love this greens powder for smoothies. Just another great option to mix in! Find it here.
2. Baby Food
Okay, so maybe it sounds gross.
But if you’re in a hurry, making a smoothie in the morning or just need something to grab and sip, there are some seriously great baby foods out there.
Who says baby’s are the only ones who can eat pureed fruits and vegetables?
The best part about these is that they are pureed so you still get all the important fiber.
My favorite are these organic spinach, apple, and kale packets. (Find them here)
Truly, they taste pretty good and I love to just throw them into a smoothie or brownie batter, or whatever and I get extra greens in the process!
I don’t know if it’s possible to make spinach into a chip. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not.
But I do know one thing.
Kale can be made into a chip.
And it’s DELICIOUS.
I’m a huge, huge fan of kale chips. For some reason, they genuinely don’t taste like kale.
They are crunchy, salty and still good for you.
Find some of my favorite kale chips here.
From mixing purees into spaghetti sauce, to dressing up veggies like cute tiny animals, there are tons of ways to get more veggies.
What are some sneaky ways you like to get your greens?
One of the coolest things about releasing new books (like the one I have coming out in TWO WEEKS!!) is how much free stuff I get to give away.
As I announced early last week, I am releasing a new book on weight loss for women (huzzah!!) on January 1, 2015. That is exactly fifteen days from today, which is awesome.
This book is… well. It’s pretty great.
What I’m trying to do with Weight Loss Unlocked: The Paleo Woman’s Solution – in a nutshell – is bring the same revolutionary ‘women have unique bodies!’ perspective to weight loss that I’ve brought to fasting, carbohydrates, exercising, and all things paleo and women’s health.
The more we understand about womanly stuff like estrogen, progesterone, female metabolism, and the like — the better we can lose weight and maintain healthy weights in the long run. As women. Without messing with our metabolisms…. an unfortunate problem that so many women have to deal with, even on the paleo diet.
But we don’t HAVE to. We are suffering unnecessarily.
You really can use your female body and hormones to work for you rather than against you like it normally happens.
Which is awesome.
I know it sounds crazy. But it’s true.
And I am here to show you the way.
So anyway. The book is coming out and that’s cool. Yet even before I release it officially I am going to be giving away a new and awesome weight loss tool:
The Paleo Woman’s Smoothie Book
21 smoothies for 21 days. Full of nourishing fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Packed with vitamin K, magnesium, and other nutrients its hard to get even on a strict paleo diet. 100% gluten, dairy, nightshade free. Most are nut free. Super awesome for all gut-sensitive and autoimmune and leaky gut types. (AIP woooop!)
Plus its super fun with some of my favorite new experiments… I know, I know, I hate making the time for cooking… but smoothies, they’re not like cooking, right? 🙂 Only kinda sorta? I’ve kind of developed a thing for smoothies. And I make a hell of a Greensicle smoothie, I can tell you that right now.
Or maybe my Maple Bacon smoothie is better. No, it’s the Greensicle one. Damn, I don’t know. You tell me.
Download the FREE smoothie recipes immediately and listen (if you want) to me ramble in a ridiculous video about them here: http://unlocked.paleoforwomen.com/smoothie-book/.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it…. that might be possible!
I’ll be in touch AGAIN about more awesome weight loss tips (did you see my post from yesterday on weight gain and PMS?) and awesome deals on Weight Loss Unlocked: The Paleo Woman’s Solution super, super soon.
Now go grab it for free, and start using it immediately! It’s only available for the next 14 days!
Here: http://unlocked.paleoforwomen.com/smoothie-book/ !
I recently became a bit obsessed with gut flora research via a long story:
I began getting migraines again this winter after eating a lower-potassium diet to help with my electrolyte problem. Low potassium is associated with migraines. It didn’t help that I was visiting my father, who likes to cook with MSG. To help with the migraines, I took Aspirin, which is an NSAID. It worked, so I began taking Aspirin for my regular headaches, and that helped, too. However: NSAID’s are notoriously bad for your gut flora. My skin began breaking out a little bit. This could have been caused by anything (I thought: weight loss, fiber in my diet, increased progesterone, poor sleep, dirty towels… skin is complicated!), but I thought “maybe it’s the NSAIDs depleting my gut flora.”
I went to Whole Foods post haste and got kombucha on tap.
(My favorite brand available both in stores and online is THIS one)
I’m drinking a couple of jars a week.
My skin looks great – I’m not sure if its from the kombucha.
Something I did most definitely notice, however, is that my cravings for food, and particularly sweet food, have somewhat dramatically decreased. After just my first few gulps, I felt a difference. These days I walk around during the day, not even thinking about food, and I stop eating meals without needing willpower, and I wonder: is this how ‘normal’ people feel?
So I asked myself if there was a connection. Could my increased freedom from cravings be a result of kombucha’s notorius bifidobacterium?
Turns out, it most certainly can.
How it works: your gut flora
Gut flora–which are the bacteria that live in your gut and that number in the trillions–are responsible for a whole host of functions in the body. They play a role in digestive comfort, in being constipated or having diarrhea, in immune system health, in depression and anxiety, in insulin resistance, in obesity, and in inflammation. Because these critters are so significant for these issues, they are significant for just about every noncommunicable disease you can imagine.
Gut flora are incredibly important–perhaps the most important aspect of your body–for fighting off disease.
Why are gut bugs so important? Because your gut is the barrier between you and the outside world. Good gut flora help you process nutrients and protect yourself from toxins. When good gut flora populations decrease (as mine may have with my aspirin use), and/or when bad gut flora infiltrate the gut and outnumber the good guys, health problems ensue.
How it works: gut flora and cravings theory #1
One theory for how gut flora influence your gut – and there seems to be reasonable evidence for this – is that your gut flora condition you to continue to feed their own specific populations. Carrot-loving gut bugs beget carrot-loving gut bugs, for example (if a fair bit oversimplified.)
So gut flora from particular foods may make you continue to crave those particular foods. This is great if you eat a lot of natural, healthy foods. This is less good news if you eat a lot of processed foods. The more processed foods you eat, the more bad bacteria will reproduce. They will hijack your cravings, and you’ll crave even more of the same old bad food.
If you are a processed food / sugar junkie, it may be hard to switch your diet, but being sure to include good, natural, healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, animal products and fermented may help you crave those more and more. Read my book, Sexy By Nature or Weight Loss Unlocked for my advice on the healthiest diet.
How it works: gut flora and cravings theory #2
The second theory, which is not exclusive but complementary to the first, is that good gut bacteria like bifidobacterium (these are the famous good guys) cause the body to produce satiation hormones.
Glucuagon-like-peptide-1 is one such satiation hormone. It increases in the “colonal mucus” (sexy, right?) of rats fed oligofructose, a laboratory carbohydrate that resembles the carbohydrates found in many fruits and vegetables. PYY and ghrelin, two other satiation hormones, may also increase in response to oligofructose. Rats that consume oligofructose spontaneously eat less, cease creating fat cells, increase insulin sensitivity, and improved glucose tolerance.
As for humans…we already know that probiotics help with obesity. This happens via biochemical modulation of fat metabolism. Yet it also appears to probably happen via increased satiation and spontaneously reduced food intake.
The more bifidobacteria and other good gut flora you have, the more satiation hormones they will create in response to a meal.
A good probiotic supplement can help with this if you aren’t always able to include raw fermented foods. This is my favorite supplement. And here is my favorite book on fermented foods, if you’re interested in giving it a try!
Moral of the story
There are a lot of different physical and psychological components of food cravings.
For one – you need to eat food. I talk way too much to women who want to reduce food cravings but are eating 1200 calories a day. So be sure you eat when you are hungry all of the time, probably at least 1800 calories a day (though this varies widely), before you address any other issues.
Second, emotional issues should be dealt with. Is food your mother? Your addiction? Your stress-relief? Your boredom? Your celebration? Or do you eat because you spend so much willpower trying not to eat that you end up overeating in the end? Psychological issues with food are also supremely important.
Third, you may consider physiological approaches. Sometimes the issue cannot be resolved psychologically because there’s an underlying problem. Amino acid therapy — boosting serotonin and dopamine levels by consuming precursors 5HTP and tyrosine — can help regulate appetite if your serotonin and dopamine levels are low.
Gut bugs can also help, as we’ve seen. (They can also boost your serotonin levels! Two birds with one stone!)
Consume fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, or grass-fed yogurt or kefir. If those are not available to you, consider a probiotic supplement that contains at least bifidobacterium, as well as other varieties.
You can also try a probiotic supplement. I prefer whole foods since they provide they provide a high degree of variability of bacterial species. Nonetheless probiotics have been shown to improve weight loss and support mental health in studies, so if you go this route (like this option or this one) you can also benefit.
You can also support your gut flora population not only by eating the bugs themselves – which is what you do with the fermented foods – but by consuming their preferred foods. Gut flora love to eat fibrous fruits and veggies, particularly those which contain inulin. These are greens, summer squash, onions, garlic, leeks… and jerusalem artichokes are also a particularly good source. This article demonstrates just how effective this strategy is.
Kombucha (linked to my favorite brand on Amazon) is really helping me. I can’t say if it will help you. Really, I cannot. We all have different bodies and we all have our own unique cures. But I love how much more stable my blood sugar feels and my meals are. I no longer feel so much like I must eat a sweet with every meal. I love my gut bugs very, very much. For this reason, as well as for so many others.
As a woman who has never made more than $12,000 / year, it’s not very easy for me to get my hands on grass fed beef. In recent months that limitation has been further complicated by the fact that I’ve been living in Detroit, Michigan, and just about no one here eats grass fed animals, not even people who shop at Whole Foods.
There is one farmer’s market downtown every Sunday, and I believe they have one or two grass fed stands.
In any case, this means it was an enormous (enormous!) delight, benefit, and pleasure, to be contacted by the incredibly gracious Tx Organics in early March and asked to participate in a grass fed taste test.
Check ’em out @ http://txbarorganics.com
Hell yes, I said.
So a dry-ice packed box arrived for me overnight, shipped from California (!). Two sirloins and two packs of ground beef. Talk about service. (!)
The true intention of the taste test (which is being conducted by some other paleo advocates) is to test grass fed beef from the Pacific Northwest – directly from the Tx Organics farm – against grass fed beef from around other parts of the country. Since I told Tx I hadn’t been able to get my hands on a grass fed animal in quite some time, they were eight million kinds of gracious and sent the animals along anyway, saying I could just compare the grass to the grain fed.
Since I am a n00b, and all.
I knew paleo fx was coming, so I hurried up and cooked the selections ASAP. First up was the ground beef taste test. In the morning I made conventional ground beef, and in the evening I made the good stuff.
No fancy sauces. Just the beef, salt, pepper, and my frying pan.
(I swear I didn’t try to make this look unappetizing… just beef in a pan that happens to look like plain old grocery beef in a pan. I figure there’s no point to dressing it up in fancy food photos for a taste test. I’m not trying to sell you a recipe. Or anything, come to think of it.)
The good stuff:
Another photo I’m not trying to dress up at all. The visual difference? The first meat was definitely grey-ish, while the grass fed alternative has a richer, warmer color. It’s also a very different texture – no pink slime here! – but that is quite possibly due to variations in fat content and in grinding and packing techniques. Nonetheless I can tell you absolutely right now which one has a more palatable and enjoyable texture.
What’s the taste difference?
More than I can possibly say!
In the Tx Organics ground beef, I noticed right away a certain buttery flavor. I don’t know how to describe it better than that. It’s rich and tastes to me what I think a cow should taste like… literally. It tastes like a cow looks.
This is compared to my typical grain fed stuff, which is a little coppery in that bloody kind of way–and I like that, don’t get me wrong–but which lacks pretty much any kind of other natural flavoring. There’s no complexity, and none of that cow-ness that I just don’t have the words for. Sweet, buttery, cow-ness.
The textures were quite different, too. The Tx Organics was soft and sort of melted in my mouth, and the grain fed is rough and dry. The grain was in the grey color spectrum, whereas the grassfed had a richer red-orange-brown color to it. Note that my cooking methods were the same for both and both selections of ground beef were between 85 and 92 percent lean, I’d guess.
So that was it for the ground beef. But the sirloins?
I rested a grain fed and a grass fed cut of meat with some simple salt and pepper.
Rested, thrown in hot pan. Whoopah!
I threw them in the pan. I got from them the exact same taste differences as I did with the ground beef: something coppery and delightful about my grain fed cow–it is still a cow, after all–but something complex and rich and buttery in the grass fed.
Moreover, the color of the Organics steak was vibrantly red and alive, the fat a buttery yellow color rather than pasty white (which means the steak is higher in vitamin A), the steak was thick and dense, the fat made an incredibly rich and sweet au jus, and the steak eight million kinds of softer than the floppy, dull looking grain fed.
More “not prettied” photography. Not selling you a recipe. Showing you my delightful experience… which was inhaled in all of about 14 seconds.
Was all the difference I interpreted a placebo? Did I convince myself the grass fed was better because I wanted it to be?
Well, it’s possible. I guess next time I’ll have to do it with blindfolds. But I don’t think so.
Why might I have been subject to a placebo effect?
Because the other difference between grain and grass fed beef is enormous. It’s for your (and others’!) health.
Here are the benefits of grass fed over grain fed cows:
-So far as we can tell, all beef contains the same amount of omega 6 fat, more or less, but grass fed cows contain more omega 3. Depending on the breed of cow, grass-fed beef contains between 2 and 5 times more omega-3s than grain-fed beef. Says this study, the average ratio of n-6:n-3 in grass fed beef is 1.53:1. In grain fed beef, this ratio jumps all up to 7.65:1. So, that’s a pretty hefty difference. On the other hand, this really isn’t an awesome source of omega 3s regardless, so don’t solely rely on it for healthy omega balance.
-Grass fed beef contains more stearic acid (the healthiest kind of saturated fat that is more or less proved to not raise blood cholesterol levels) than grain fed beef.
-CLA – conjugated linoleic acid – is an incredibly healthy fat that is 2-3 times more concentrated in grass fed than grain fed cows. CLA might be protective against heart disease and cancer and is a potent anti-oxidant that can boost brain function and weight loss. Grass fed beef is arguably the best source of CLA.
-Grass fed beef has a lot of antioxidants, including vitamin A and E, and also glutathione, which is critical for your body’s detox abilities.
-Zinc, iron, phosphorous, and other electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, are all more naturally concentrated in grass fed beef.
So there you have it. Better tasting. Better for you. Better for the animals. Better for the planet (more on which in another post).
And an enormous thank you to Tx Bar Organics for making this possible — both in my own kitchen as well as out in the world at large. It hasn’t been easy getting the grass-fed movement up and running — these heroic ranchers are fighting a steeply uphill battle — so I have nothing but world’s of gratitude and respect for them and am going to start digging deep into my pockets to vote for health with my dollar.
Head over to Tx to check out their shipping programs — you can get a big discount if you order in bulk! Amazing!
Click here for the farm, and to see some beautiful photos and videos of cows and cuts in pasture, like the few featured below!
New York Strip
Thank you Tx Organics!!!
Tx Organics Grass fed Beef and pasture in California