Iron Building Soup

It has been about a year and a half on a vegan diet and I was very curious about what my blood tests would show. I recently went to get new blood tests it showed my iron levels were lower than last time – a bit below ‘normal’.

I am a big believer in diet first, then medicine, and my experience has been that correcting my diet eliminates the need for pharmaceutical drugs. Even though I am not on a raw food diet, my main reference book is Becoming Raw – The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina so I went to look up the section on iron. I learned that iron transports oxygen throughout the body and carries away the waste product carbon dioxide. Iron also improves immune system functioning. I would probably benefit from taking a multi-vitamin (I do once in a while) I wondered what would happen if I conciously set out to create a soup or stew to build iron-rich blood.

There are many vegetarians sources of iron so that is not a problem. Did you know though, that by combining an iron rich food and a calcium rich food, you can increase the iron absorption? Iron absorption doubles with at least 25 milligrams of vitamin C. My goal is to reach about 8 mg of iron per day (the RDI range is 8 to 18 mg: younger women from 18-50 years of age will need to be in the upper limit).

My high iron vegetable ingredients choices include:

  • lentils –  ( 17.3 mg in one cup, dried)
  • quinoa – (15.7 mg in one cup, dried)
  • sun dried tomato – (4.9 mg in one cup, dried)
  • parlsey, chopped – (3.7 mg in one cup)
  • pumpkin seeds, (20.7 in one cup)

My vitamin C vegetable incredients choices include:

  • bok choy, shredded (32 mg in one cup)
  • cauliflower (46 mg in one cup)
  • kale (80 mg in one cup)
  • red cabbage (51 mg in one cup)
  • broccoli (75 mg in one cup)
  • green peas (58 mg in one cup)
  • bell pepper, yellow (273 mg in one cup)
  • avocado (from 15-53 mg depending on size and type)

Of course your list might be different. There are certainly more choices – flax seeds for instance are a great source of iron. But uou can make a lot of different combinations with these ingredients by changing the base, the vegetables, the spices and condiments. Condiments high in vitamin C include hot green chiles (364 per cup!) of course probably less than a teaspoon would be used in a recipe so it is minimal. Parsley packs a punch with 80 mg per cup.

Here is the Recipe I made today:

Soup Stock/Base
In a large pot I browned chopped onion in about a teaspoon of olive oil and when it became soft I added 1 clove of minced garlic, a couple of bay leaves and a tablespoon of dried parlsey. I added a half of chopped turnip and 6 chopped carrots and put them on low to cook until almost tender. You could puree this if you want but I left mine chunky.

Add to the Stock

  • 1 cup dry brown lentils
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomato
  • 1 cup califlower, chopped
  • 1 cup of bok choy, chopped.

I added the lentils, tomato and cauliflower to the pot with enough water to cover.  You could hydrate the dried tomatoes before adding them to the soup and chop – add the liquid you used to soak the tomato in to the stock too – but I just cut them up dry and tossed them in. Simmer until the vegetables are almost tender. The bok choy will take about 15 minutes to cook so I added them last.


Salt and pepper to taste. 1 also added a tablespoon of lemon juice and a quarter teaspoon of pureed chilpotle chili pepper. Here is how to make chilpotle puree by Alan Roettinger.


  • avocado slices
  • pumpkin seeds

Serve up in large bowls with garnishes on the side. This made enough for4 to 6 meals as a main course.

© Deborah Redfern 2012.

First Aid Course

On Saturday I retook my First Aid training. This time I decided to train with Alert First-Aid and their Fitness First Aid and CPR Level A. I chose this company because they are associated with the Canadian Red Cross and BCRPA – and – though I may not have mentioned it, I am taking the YMCA Group Fitness Certification training and afterwards, working to become BCRPA certified. It was a one day training and I found it quite confusing because the Instructor kept saying things like ‘you’ll learn this tomorrow’.

It turned out there were only 3 of us out of about a dozen who were taking the one day Fitness First Aid course. Most of the others were coming back on Sunday for more training and writing an exam. I was beginning to think I had read the course description incorrectly. I would have been more comfortable if the instructor had explained at the beginning that people were taking different certifications all in the same class.

Compared to the St. John Ambulance course I took last time, the equipment at Alert First-Aid was more minimal. The St. John Ambulance ‘Annie’ responded to CPR (i.e. the chest rose when doing CPR and breathing in into it); they may have had those at Alert First-Aid but the ones we worked on only gave feedback on chest compressions.  But still, it gave me quite an appreciation to remember how much effort it takes. My brain tells me that I could keep on doing CPR for a long time, but realistically I probably wouldn’t be able to go for more than 5 rounds – a round being 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths. Of course in an emergency with the adrenaline flowing, who knows? But my wrists were aching by the time we finished the CPR portion of the course.

It was also the first time I learned how to use an AED, an Automated External Defibrillator. It wasn’t a functioning unit we were practicing on, but seemed very realistic – it made all the sounds but no shock was delivered. I was very nervous about using it. There were only the 3 of us fitness teachers left at the end of the day taking this part and I was paired with the Instructor so I got to practice it twice. I was more confident the second time through, but that is when I really started to feel my wrists and shoulders. I was earnestly counting the 30 compressions doing CPR earlier in the day, but I was sore and distracted enough doing the AED that I kept losing count. The AED units do talk you through every step however, and tell you when to begin doing the compressions again, even giving you a beat to follow, and when to stop. I learned that the likelihood of reviving someone if you have an AED unit available is about 60%. With CPR alone the likelihood of reviving someone is low – however keeping someone’s blood circulating until medical attention arrives is crucial to their survival.

This is a fascinating video taken at Bondi Beach, Australia of lifeguards using AED to resuscitate a man found unconscious in the water.

Overall I was quite pleased with the course, though the building was cold and the room we were in was really dismal. It was originally a school, and I found myself wondering what classes were taught there and how bleak it must have been. But there was free coffee and tea offered at least. The instruction was quite fast paced and interactive without being intimidating. The instructor took the time to relate what we were practicing to the occupations the students were in – though the only one that came up for a fitness instructor was someone falling off a treadmill – not too likely to happen in a Nia class!

Of course a medical emergency like fainting, dizziness or disorientation (for whatever reason) can happen anywhere to anyone. It isn’t always life threatening but almost always requires some help. One time when I was singing with The Avalon Singers, a woman fainted right at the end of the concert, just after the closing song and before we took our bows. Thank goodness it was nothing serious and she regained consciousness. There was a someone in the audience with medical training and 911 was called immediately.

Really, my wish is to never need to use this first aid training – I suppose most of us feel the same – but on the other hand if anything happened to me I would be very grateful if there was someone close by who knew what to do to help. It is a karma thing.

© Deborah Redfern, 2012. All rights reserved.