I love a great steak. Over the years, my relationship with red meat has dramatically changed. For 4 years my parents used to poke fun at my being an adamant vegetarian who couldn’t stand to look at red meat, let alone smell it! In 2006 while training for a marathon I experienced both an iron deficiency and protein deficiency, requiring me to reintroduce meat including red meat in my diet. Three years later in 2009 I was diagnosed with systemic nickel allergy syndrome (SNAS) or a nickel food allergy. Why do I bring this up? Since my SNAS diagnosis, I’ve often questioned whether the lack of iron in my diet negatively contributed to my severe nickel allergy.
Scientifically both iron and vitamin c have been shown to reduce our body’s absorption of nickel. The question is how do we add more iron to our diet without always eating red meat? Eating too much red meat, or others foods high in purines, can cause gout flare ups, which happens to be genetic in my family.
Many people take supplements when they want to replace something from their diet. However, supplements can make systemic nickel allergies worse, as many contain undisclosed ingredients, including heaving metals. When it comes to iron deficiencies, I caution taking iron supplements unless you’re under the direct care of a medical professional. I’ve heard some horror stories regarding using iron supplements. Personally I don’t take any iron supplements.
Using cast iron cookware is an easy way to supplement your diet whenever you cook in the oven or stove. When heated, cast iron cookware adds a far amount of iron to your food. I love using Lodge’s cast iron products. They’ve told me they contain “a trace amount less than 0.001%” nickel.
In addition, some low nickel foods that contain higher amounts of iron include:
- Enriched egg noodles
- Beef or chicken liver
- Chicken and Turkey
- Fish – halibut, tuna, salmon, perch, sardines
- Raisins, dried apricots, dried peaches and dried prunes – I avoid purchasing dried fruits with sulfur dioxide.
- Fortified cereals – nonheme iron, which our bodies less efficiently absorb (also found in beans, lentils and spinach) – I like to eat Kix cereal and Rice Chex cereal, both of which are fortified with iron with 45-50% of your daily recommended value.
- Quinoa – as a seed, technically quinoa contains nickel, yet the quantity varies. I’ll eat quinoa about once a month. Sometimes it causes me to react and other times not, whereas I’ve heard from others they cannot tolerate it at all. If you do eat quinoa, it’s recommended you soak it for 1-2 hours and then rinse it after soaking. If you try quinoa, keeping a food journal that corresponds your symptoms is a great tool to identify how your body reacts.
To improve your body’s absorption of iron, it’s recommended you also eat foods rich in vitamin c, like papaya, kiwi, brussel sprouts, oranges, broccoli, or strawberries.
Are there other foods you eat regularly to ensure you naturally get enough iron? Or perhaps foods you eat when you choose to eat something higher in nickel during the same meal? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.
This article was originally in my monthly newsletter.