One Small Change: A Powerhouse Pairing

eggplant and tofu


Food stylist: Jamie Kimm Prop Stylist: Marina Malchin

Photo by: Antonis Achilleos

Antonis Achilleos

Imagine some classic food pairings: wine and cheese, fruit and nuts, steak and potatoes … iron and vitamin C? For a variety of people, including vegans and endurance athletes, getting enough iron can be a challenge. Even minor levels of iron deficiency can lead to impaired endurance, as well as fatigue, loss of concentration and decreased immune function. While animal-based sources of iron (red meat, poultry, egg yolks and shellfish) tend to be better absorbed than plant-based sources (dark leafy greens, beans, lentils, tofu, some grains and even spices), there are other factors that can improve or inhibit iron absorption.

Things That Inhibit Iron Absorption:

• Natural compounds in some foods called phytates and oxalates can inhibit absorption of minerals. They're present in certain dark leafy greens (spinach and Swiss chard) and in some nuts and seeds (sesame). Interestingly, many of these foods tend to be extraordinarily rich in iron, maybe to combat the effect of the phytates and oxalates.

• Tannins found in tea, coffee or red wine
• Over-consumption of other minerals (zinc, calcium, manganese)
• Overuse of antacids
Things That Enhance Iron Absorption:

• Heme iron and meat protein factor (compounds found in animal sources only)

• Food sources of vitamin C

In general, to maximize the absorption of iron at a meal, aim to have a source of vitamin C with your iron-rich foods, and avoid coffee or tea within an hour of mealtime (before and after).

Here are some flavorful iron and vitamin C pairings:

Food Network Magazine's Tofu and Eggplant Curry (above): To enhance the pairing, add in some bell peppers and a bunch of greens (mustard greens, turnip greens and/or collard greens)

Through his book and blog, Death of the Diet , Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS, empowers people to live the life they want by integrating healthy eating and physical activity habits into their daily routines. You can follow him on Twitter @JMachowskyRDFit .

Next Up

5 Small Changes That Can Help You Eat Healthier

Goodbye, overly ambitious resolutions. Hello, lasting change.

One Small Change: What Causes Cravings?

Ever had a junk food craving you just couldn't ignore? The first step in resisting cravings is finding out what causes them.

One Small Change: Make a S.M.A.R.T Resolution

This year, instead of empty promises, make a SMART resolution that will stick.

One Small Change: Avoid the Health Halo

Healthy-sounding terms like "organic" "low-carb" or "all-natural" don't mean a food has fewer calories than similar foods without labels. Are you guilty of falling for foods with health halos?

One Small Change: The Three Week Challenge

If your New Year's resolution has many different components, consider revising it to include one healthy change; if you maintain it for 3 weeks, there's a good chance it will stick.

One Small Change: Another Old Friend, Corn

Jason Machowsky weighs in on the health benefits of corn.

One Small Change: What Makes Superfoods So Super?

Superfoods have been all the rage for years, but what makes them so super? Should you spend extra money on exotic ones, or can you find them in your grocery store?

One Small Change: Your Old Friend, the Potato

Potatoes often get a bad reputation in the health world, but these spuds actually have some great nutritional benefits. The key is preparing them right

One Small Change: How Often Should I Eat?

When thinking about a healthy lifestyle, we often discuss what we should be eating - but what about when we should be eating?