Diet File: Eat Smart 1

Diet File: Eat Smart 1

Author: Canadian Living


Diet File: Eat Smart 1

In this Eat Smart section, registered dietician Fran Berkoff discusses the need for more iron in the diets of post-menopausal women, especially vegans and vegetarians. She also talks about a common nutritional deficiency called iron-deficiency anemia in Pump Up Your Iron.

Find out about a Canadian snack bar made from more than 20 organic fruits and vegetables in Fruit by the Bar.

How Do Your Carbs Compare? Some carbohydrates are better than others. Learn which are the best, and how they can make a difference to people with diabetes and improve levels of "good" cholesterol.

If you thought getting enough iron in your diet used to be tough, it just got even more difficult: the new target for iron intake for premenopausal women is 18 milligrams a day – up almost 40 per cent from 13 milligrams a day.

Vegetarians and vegans should be especially vigilant about getting enough iron: they need double the amount of meat eaters (36 milligrams) to meet the new recommendation, which is part of the new dietary reference intakes for Canada and the United States. The kind of iron (nonheme) they get from plant foods is absorbed much more slowly than heme iron, which is found in animal foods. But vegetarians and vegans can enhance the absorption of nonheme iron by adding a source of vitamin C to their meals (for example, by drinking a glass of orange juice with a bowl of iron-enriched cereal, such as bran flakes).

If they're not careful, vegetarians and vegans could be at risk for iron-deficiency anemia, one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in North America. It is a particular concern for women in their childbearing years, people on calorie-restricted diets, teenagers and children. However, only people diagnosed with anemia should take iron supplements because of the risk of iron overload, which can lead to heart problems.

The best food sources of iron are clams, oysters, red meat, organ meat, enriched grains and cereals, dried fruits and green, leafy vegetables.

Here are the updated recommended daily intakes of iron. The upper limit is 45 milligrams.

Men and postmenopausal women:
8 mg

Premenopausal women:
18 mg

Pregnant women:
27 mg

Eating five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day may be a bit easier now thanks to Rebar, a new Canadian snack bar made from more than 20 organic fruits and vegetables. Every bar contains 500 millilitres each of fruits and vegetables, all dried by a process that preserves most of the important nutrients. A single bar has 160 calories, six grams of fibre, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.

Developed in British Columbia, Rebar can be a healthy snack, but it is not recommended as a replacement for fresh fruits and vegetables. It is available at some supermarkets and health food stores across Canada.

Not all carbohydrates were created equal: some are considered healthier than others, partly because of the difference in their glycemic index (GI), a measure of their effect on blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI (oatmeal, yogurt, apples, legumes and peaches) cause a gradual rise in blood glucose, while foods with a high GI (white bread, refined cereals, potatoes, bagels and instant rice) cause blood glucose to spike. A slower rise in blood glucose is preferable because it helps control hunger and appetite and regulates overall blood glucose levels.

Recent research confirms that low-GI foods help control diabetes and improve "good" HDL cholesterol levels. One study looked at 2,800 people with type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes and found that those with lower-GI diets had higher levels of HDL and better blood glucose control.

For more information, check out The Glucose Revolution (Marlowe & Company, 1999) by Thomas Wolever, Jennie Brand-Miller, Stephen Colagiuri and Kaye Foster-Powell, or visit


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Diet File: Eat Smart 1