You could say that Britain’s celebrity nutritionist Martin McDonald is something of an ironman.
He’s helped many TV stars and sportspeople, including Irish Olympian David Gillick, boost their fitness and get their diets on track.
Now he’s in Ireland to highlight the importance of including iron in our diet.
“Iron,” he says, “is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.”
The figures certainly back that up. The most recent National Adult Nutrition Survey found that six in 10 Irish women aged between 18-50 don’t get enough iron in their diet.
But men need it too.
“People don’t realise how important iron is to health,” he tells Feelgood.
It’s vital for the production of haemoglobin, plays a key role in the proper functioning of the immune system and helps muscle and brain function.
“At this time of year, it’s particularly important to help your immune system. If you get enough iron in your diet, it will help you to stay fit and healthy,” he says.
While people are aware that insufficient iron intake can cause fatigue and anemia, McDonald believes that there isn’t enough focus on the role it plays in overall health.
To change that perception, he has joined the Avonmore Slimline Milk #StartStrong campaign to highlight the importance of incorporating iron into your daily diet.
He says people who are trying to lose weight should also be very careful not to exclude fortified or iron-rich foods.
“Many people will have failed in their New Year’s resolution to lose weight simply because they just felt too exhausted.
"As well as cutting out the ‘junk’, they will probably have cut out a range of other good foods based on some guru’s advice, but eating less does not mean eating nothing,” he says.
He says there is no such thing as a “bad food” and demonising certain foods will make you crave them even more.
“Eating healthily or for weight loss does not mean eating like a rabbit! Simply try limiting the heavily processed foods — the crisps, chocolate and alcohol — and see how you go.
“After that, you could try decreasing portion sizes of other foods but aim not to completely eliminate any. It’s really important to have as varied a diet as possible,” he says.
Another key to lasting success is to incorporate small changes into your daily routine.
“If you make them into a daily habit, like brushing your teeth, it will make a big difference.”
Those changes can be as simple as ensuring you get enough water, or including a portion of leafy green veg with each meal and a serving of protein.
But, whatever you do, make sure to include enough iron, he adds.
Symptoms of inadequate iron levels include exhaustion, weakness, a pale complexion and an inability to concentrate. It can also cause headaches.
McDonald warns that low iron levels can produce symptoms similar to other health conditions and advises anyone with signs of iron deficiency to consult a doctor.
In the meantime, if you’re wondering how to boost your iron levels, here are McDonald’s tips:
Mighty meat: Iron from different foods is absorbed differently by the body. Iron in meat (haem iron) is more easily absorbed than the iron in grains and vegetables (non-haem) iron sources.
While red meat and spinach contain similar amounts of iron, the type of iron contained in spinach (non-haem) contains compounds that make it difficult for the body to absorb.
Cereal killers: Phytates, which are found in plant foods such as grains, beans and nuts can reduce iron absorption significantly. However, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water by stopping your consumption of these foods.
Instead, incorporate foods containing vitamin C into the meal to help counteract the effect.
Vitamin C: This vitamin increases iron absorption from both haem and non-haem iron sources. Eating foods that naturally contain vitamin C, such as peppers, peas, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, will boost absorption.
Fortified milk: A glass of fortified slimline milk can provide up to a third of your daily iron requirements as well as protein, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin C. It’s also fat free.
Martin McDonald and Avonmore’s iron-boosting recipes
Start Strong with Avonmore Slimline Milk Recipes created by Nutritionist Martin McDonald #StartStrong
Nutritionist Martin McDonald has teamed up with Avonmore Slimline milk to highlight the role and importance of iron in the diet, particularly for women, and to give Irish people tips on how to incorporate iron into their diets to help them start each day strong.
Check out Martin’s range of delicious recipes using Avonmore Slimline milk!
For more information on Avonmore Slimline Milk and recipes visit www.facebook.com/AvonmoreMilk
120g fresh or frozen mango
120g fresh or frozen pineapple
1 small banana
125ml Avonmore Slimline milk
50g fresh mango
1 kiwi Mixed nuts
Blend the mango, pineapple, banana, and Avonmore Slimline milk until smooth.
Transfer to a bowl and top with the fresh mango, kiwi, mixed nuts and Enjoy!
1 small cauliflower
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ shallot, chopped
100g mushroom chopped
100g asparagus chopped
a few basil leaves, chopped
250ml Avonmore Slimline milk
40g parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Using a food processor, gently pulse the cauliflower so that it creates a rice like consistency.
In a large pan over medium heat, cook onion, garlic and shallot for about 3 minutes.
Add mushroom and asparagus and cook for about 3-5 min or until soft.
Add cauliflower rice, salt, pepper, dried basil and Avonmore Slimline Milk and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once you get a risotto like consistency (about 5-7 more minutes) turn off heat. Add the parmesan and fresh basil and stir.
Plate and enjoy!
2 medium courgettes
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 rashers lean back bacon, snipped into pieces
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
150g lower-fat soft cheese with garlic and herbs
1 large egg
150ml Avonmore Slimline Milk
40g reduced fat mature cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Ground black pepper
Allow one trimmed medium courgette per person. Using a spiralizer, cut the courgette into strips.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the bacon and spring onions and cook them for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Beat together the soft cheese and egg in a mixing bowl, then add to the pan. Add the Avonmore Slimline Milk, half the cheese and the parsley (if using). Season with some pepper.
Heat gently for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly, until the mixture cooks and thickens. Add the courgetti, toss well with the sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.
180g old fashioned oats
500ml Avonmore Slimline Milk
25g raw cacao powder or cocoa powder
25g pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons chia seeds
Banana or other fruit of your choice
In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together until well combined.
Divide into smaller containers such as mason jars, cover and place in refrigerator overnight.
Top with fresh fruit and enjoy!
230g low-fat cream cheese
250ml Avonmore Slimline Milk
150g fresh or frozen blackberries
In a blender, add cream cheese, honey, Avonmore Slimline Milk and blend just until combined.
Pour about 1 cup of mixture into a measuring cup or bowl. Set aside.
Add blackberries to the blender and blend just until combined. Pour blackberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup or bowl. Use a spoon to help it through if needed.
By the tablespoonful, add a small amount of the blackberry mixture to popsicle molds. Place in freezer to set for about 10 minutes. Remove from freezer and alternate adding the plain cheesecake mixture and the blackberry mixture.
Place full popsicle molds in the freezer for at least 6-8 hours to set, best overnight.
When frozen, briefly run popsicle mold under warm water to release the popsicle.
120g wholegrain flour
1 large egg
250ml Avonmore Slimline Milk
2 ripe bananas mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt Honey (optional)
Fresh berries (optional)
Place all ingredients into a blender until mixture is smooth.
Scoop ¼ cup of batter per pancake onto a pan lightly coated with oil.
Allow the pancakes to cook for 2 minutes on each side, flipping once. Turn pancakes when bubbles appear and the edges are golden.
Serve with fresh berries and honey
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