December 1, 2016

Vegan Sundried Tomato Basil Mac & Cheese + Iron

Vegan Sundried Tomato Basil Mac & Cheese + Iron

I feel my womb is about to start weeping, which in turn means cravings are running rampant and iron levels are about to take a plunge. So I’m choosing to be a bit more mindful of my food choices, and loading up on plant-based iron sources in ways that are comforting, nourishing, and satisfying. Like in this sundried tomato basil cashew red lentil pasta with wilted spinach. With lentils, spinach, sundried tomatoes, cashews and chocolate (dessert), this dainty little recipe has over 80% of the recommended daily iron intake. Check it out with a little more I(RO)Nformation below!

Why iron? It transports oxygen, and is crucial for both metabolism and energy. You need it for cognitive functioning, good gut health (read more about this HERE), body temperature regulation, and proper immune functioning. Most notably, iron has a huge effect on energy levels, and so is important for both physical and mental functioning. Individuals who have low iron intake tend to experience trouble focusing with increased irritability and reduced stamina.

During their weeks of weeping wombs, women are at risk for iron deficiencies, as they lose blood and therefore iron stores are depleted. This results in feelings of  fatigue, fogginess, and mood swings. To me, these symptoms sound just like PMS. Combine PMS with iron deficiency and you’d have PPMMSS / PMS^2 (not good at math notation – double the amount of PMS…you get the picture).

There are two types of dietary iron: heme (animal sources like meat, poultry and fish) and non-heme (plant sources). Most animal products contain both non-heme and heme iron, making them easier to absorb. Non-heme sources are things like beans, nuts, vegetables and fortified grains, and need a little assistance from Vitamin C to get the absorption thing done.

Some of the best sources of iron include: clams, white beans, chocolate, oysters, spinach, beef liver, blueberries, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, tomatoes, ground beef, potatoes, cashews, and eggs (I bolded the ingredients included in this dish to be obnoxious). I also had chocolate for dessert so I am feeling like IRON(WO)MAN RIGHT NOW!!!!!!

1 cup of lentils has 37% of your daily iron needs. They are, however, a non-heme iron source, and are better absorbed when you pair them with sources of Vitamin C (hello sundried tomatoes). This dish: lentils (37%) + tomatoes (16%) + cashews (10%) + chocolate (12%) + nutritional yeast (4%) + spinach (4%) = 83% of daily iron intake. Not bad, faux mac and cheese (fac and cheese?). Not fac-ing bad at all. Cravings satisfied, iron attained.

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Get this stuff:

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked until softened (I soaked mine overnight – a few hours is also fine)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 2 tbsp sundried tomatoes
  • 1 cup water (I used what was leftover from the cashew soakage)

Pulse everything in the food processor. Add to pasta (I used Ancient Harvest red lentil rotini). Mixed with wilted spinach, sundried tomatoes, fresh broccoli sprouts, and basil.

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