One Small Change: A Powerhouse Pairing
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.
• 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.
• Heme iron and meat protein factor (compounds found in animal sources only)
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)