From the Author

Snapped this photo waiting in a roadwork queue on the way home from Virginia the other week. One of those mornings you could darn near wring the humidity from the thick, still air.

I can almost feel that radiating heat all over again just looking at it.

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Nutrient Spotlight on Iron

From the Author Get Schooled Nutrient Spotlight

This post is part of the series Nutrient Spotlight... meant to explore the what, why, where, and how of important dietary players, with some culinary inspiration to get you started.

This edition of Nutrient Spotlight highlights iron — an essential mineral found in every cell of the human body.

What is it? // Why do I need it?

Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood, increasing blood supply and promoting tissue growth. Iron also provides energy, and plays supporting roles in immune health, promoting strong hair, skin and nails, as well as female fertility. It is crucial a woman increases iron stores prior to pregnancy, as the female body often uses its own iron to supplement the growing baby, putting the woman at risk of postpartum anemia. Low maternal levels may also increase risk of infections, preterm delivery + low infant birth weight.

Additionally, adequate iron levels help protect against lead absorption, and can help mitigate the effects for those exposed to lead. In conjunction with a diet rich in calcium and vitamin C — two nutrients that improve iron absorption — the body is able to not only limit the absorption of lead but also promote its excretion.

Iron deficiency is not uncommon in the United States, affecting as much as 7% of the population. Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, fast heart rate or sensation of an abnormal heartbeat, shortness of breath, brittle nails, pallor, or a craving for ice and, in severe cases, for other “non-foods” like detergent, chalk, dirt – a disorder called pica. (Learn about the many different types of anemia from the Mayo Clinic.)

Excess iron, from diet and/or supplementation, may cause constipation or result in other forms of mild to serious GI distress. Extremely high iron levels are not too common, but may raise disease risk, most dangerously for a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis (if predisposed), coma or worse.

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From the Author

Any fun plans for the weekend? Here, a continuous August downpour means the yard is springing up at a prodigious rate. We really should mow the “field” + have a go at the weeds (wearing gloves for this demon apparently), but there’s that rain again

With two weeks on the road in separate directions on the horizon for me, shutting in for a slowdown — or at least as much of one as I’m capable of — will be welcome. That, and soup.

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From the Author

There’s something to this sit spot concept. Basically, find a piece of nature nearby that you can regularly return to — preferably close to dawn or dusk when it’ll be just you — and then: sit. Be still, but use your senses to take in and better understand the surroundings and wildlife without being a disturbing presence. I like to think of it as a quiet adventure. An almost meditative ritual that always puts me in a laid back mood.

In our backyard, the formally dressed eastern kingbirds flutter around me at sunset, chattering and chasing off a mourning dove pair, a blue jay, the fig-hungry mockingbirds who dare perch in their sit spots in the pear and sumac. Further afield, our osprey couple continues the confusing fortification of two separate nests. On a particularly calm evening this week 30 minutes slipped by watching the male deftly swoop into the neighbor’s tree, break off dead branches, some nearing three feet, and work each into the nests. I could actually hear his wing beats and the snapping of wood. Instant calm.

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