Reversing high iron levels can stop middle-age spread in its tracks and help you lose weight fast and forever. This plan also provides a wealth of health benefits, including increased energy and relief from joint pain. To get results, anti-aging expert Joseph Mercola, D.O., author of Fat for Fuel (Hay House, 2017) recommends simple strategies that naturally lower iron levels, heal the cellular damage caused by excess iron and fire up metabolism.
Dial back iron levels
► Consider donating blood. “If you have iron overload, one of the quickest, easiest ways to help correct the problem is to become a regular blood donor,” says Fred Pescatore, M.D., author of The A-List Diet (Ben Bella, 2017). Studies show that donating blood even just once every two years lowers blood-iron levels by 37 percent, plus increases insulin sensitivity by 54 percent. Another benefit: Scientists at the University of California at San Diego estimate that for every pint of blood donated, the body burns 650 calories replenishing the lost supply.
For best results, Dr. Mercola suggests postmenopausal women donate blood at least twice a year. Note: The Red Cross tests iron levels in the blood (not stored iron) before each draw. If your iron levels are too high, they may reject your donation. In that case, you can visit your health care practitioner and ask about a therapeutic blood draw, which can be done at a doctor’s office, urgent-care center or blood lab.
►Check your multivitamin, “Take a look at your diet and supplement regimen,” advises Dr. Pescatore. “If your iron levels are too high, you definitely shouldn’t be taking an iron supplement–or any supplements that contain iron. Check your multivitamin in particular.”
► Limit packaged carbs. The amount of iron we get from “fortified” bread, cereal and crackers can really add up-and Dr. Mercola cautions that this particular type of iron may be more harmful: “The iron used in these products is a low-quality inorganic iron. It’s far more dangerous than the natural iron found in meat.”
► Cook pasta sauce in a lightweight pan. A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that cooking pasta sauce in a cast-iron pan increases the iron content of the sauce by 850 percent. The reason: Acidic foods and flavorings (like tomatoes, eggs, vinegar and lemon juice) leach iron from castiron skillets, dramatically increasing the foods’ iron levels. Instead, opt for enamel-lined or stainless-steel pans when cooking with these ingredients.
► Sprinkle on turmeric. “Curcumin, which is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, naturally binds to iron molecules in the body-and it can even help flush them out through the kidneys,” says Dr. Pescatore. To get the benefits, aim to add 1 tsp. of the earthy, peppery spice to meals each day. (It goes great in marinades and rice dishes.) If you prefer a supplement, Dr. Pescatore recommends taking 500 mg twice per day.
► Close the kitchen at 7PM. To help keep iron levels in check, consider eating all your meals within an 11-hour period (say, between 8 AM and 7 PM). Restricting mealtimes at least five days each week has been shown to decrease serum-iron levels by 37 percent–and studies show women who follow this approach have 86 percent less belly fat compared with women who follow a standard low-calorie diet. If you get hungry in the evenings, Dr. Mercola suggests sipping chamomile tea. The floral flavor helps quell cravings, plus the brew is proven to calm the mind and improve sleep.
But…what if have LOW iron levels? While high iron levels are a greater concern as we get older, iron deficiency is still fairly common among younger women–and it’s nearly as harmful, says Dr. Mercola. Common symptoms include low energy, unexplained shortness of breath, brittle nails, cold hands and feet, pale gums, swollen or shiny tongue and a crawling sensation in the legs. To test for low iron levels, ask your health-care provider for a ferritin blood test. If your levels are low, experts recommend adding at least 2 cups of iron-rich foods (like leafy greens) to your daily diet. These plant-based picks deliver a form of iron that is easy for the body to absorb and less likely to build up in the body and cause iron overload.
Enjoy up to 2 fat-rich snacks each day, like 2 Tbs. of almond butter with veggies, /4 cup of pecans or macadamia nuts, 4 oz. of dark-chocolate pudding or coffee with 1 Tbs. of cream.
dinner Stuffed chicken Serve 4 oz. of panroasted spinach and feta-stuffed chicken alongside /2 cup of wild rice tossed with 4 cup of sautéed sliced yellow peppers and onions.