Health

Monday 22 September 2014

Got a nutritional question? Our expert has the answer

Daniel Davey BSc MSc, CSCS, NEHS is a performance nutritionist

Milk, yoghurt, almonds, cheeses, broccoli, salmon, and avocado are good sources of calcium

Question: What foods provide a good source of Iron?

Iron is an essential mineral that is used for many biological functions in the body. One of the primary functions of iron is in the formation of haemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen from our lungs to all parts of the body.

A deficiency in iron can have a variety of effects, but perhaps the best-known condition is called anaemia, which can cause tiredness, weakness and sometimes even symptoms similar to depression. Hence, getting your daily requirement for iron is essential.

Iron can be found in both plant and animal foods. It can be obtained in the diet in the form of heme and non-heme iron, which generally reflect animal and plant sources respectively. The body is better able to absorb heme sources, but plant sources of iron also make an important contribution.

Beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, and organ meats like liver, heart and kidney are all rich sources of heme iron. Vegetarians can choose spinach, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, spirulina and white beans as some of their iron sources. A simple and effective tip for increasing the absorption of iron is to combine it with a source of vitamin C.

In practical terms this could be as easy as having a chicken salad with nuts, seeds, freshly chopped orange and chicken – a delicious meal.

QUESTION: I DON'T EAT DAIRY, WHAT OTHER FOODS PROVIDE A GOOD SOURCE OF CALCIUM?

Dairy is the best-known source of calcium in the diet but it's not the only source, and in fact there are numerous sources that can provide similar amounts per serving.

Vegans and those who avoid dairy products because of allergies, intolerances, or personal preferences, can choose from a range of alternatives to meet their daily calcium requirement. Okra, kale, spinach, white beans, broccoli and celery are good vegetable sources of calcium while sesame seeds, Brazil nuts and almonds are nut and seed sources of calcium.

Many of the dairy alternatives such as coconut milk and almond milk are also good sources, but be sure to choose products that don't contain added sugar, sweeteners of preservatives.

QUESTION: IS IT REALLY BAD IF I EAT BEFORE I GO TO BED?

This is a very common question but the answer very much depends on your personal goals and your exercise and activity patterns. A simple rule of thumb is to eat your last meal two hours before you go to bed.

For example, if you usually go to bed at 10.30pm, it is best to have your last meal finished by 8.30pm. This will allow your body to properly digest your food and relax before you go to bed. This approach is important if you have body composition goals around reducing fat mass, and importantly your sleep is less likely to be disrupted.

One exception would be for those who train intensely in the evening, who should therefore unquestionably have a meal that contains an appropriate blend of protein, essential fats and carbohydrates to facilitate recovery. An immediate recovery snack (water, nuts and a piece of fruit) and a light meal such as a quinoa salad with chicken when you get home would be a smart approach.

In short, the simple answer to the question is avoid eating late in the evening (particularly processed foods with added sugars) unless you have completed a gym workout, intense run or sports training session that afternoon or evening.

Email editor@fitmagazine.ie or tweet @foodflicker

Irish Independent

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