Recently I have had two separate conversations, both regarding women with low iron levels. In the first case, the Dietician’s recommendation was to drink Milo, because “it is high in both iron and calcium”. In the second case, the Doctor’s advice was to eat Weet-Bix, because “they are a good source of dietary iron”.
We can do better than this. Milo is one of the most greenwashed foods there is, meaning it’s marketed and is masquerading as being healthy when really it’s just a big glass of sugar, with gluten thrown in for not-so good measure. And Weet-Bix? They are a refined, nutrient poor carbohydrate, sprayed with glyphosate, fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals. And whether they have a gluten free version or not, it’s still far from whole food.
You may not have studied it at University but in 2000, Alessio Fassano discovered zonulin, the protein that when activated by gluten, increases intestinal permeability (leaky gut) in the walls of the digestive tract. And what does leaky gut do to iron? Impacts its absorption and therefore availability to the body. Leaky gut is a significant cause of low iron levels, low ferritin stores and diagnosed anemia.
So how do we improve iron levels?
- Avoiding refined, inflammatory foods;
- Healing and sealing the gut, via the addition of bone broth, whether homemade or store-bought;
- Restoring the balance of beneficial bacteria, via prebiotic and probiotic foods, beverages and/or supplements;
- Adding natural whole food sources of dietary iron like chicken liver, beef, chickpeas and dark green leafy vegetables.
Big Food still has a huge influence over our dietary guidelines in Australia, so if someone ever suggests Nestle or Sanitarium products to improve your health, please consider what vested interest may be at play.