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Ask the RD: Alison Ozgur

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October 2, 2012

Alison is a Registered Dietitian specializing in health and fitness nutrition. She has nearly twelve years of experience helping clients reach their nutrition and weight loss goals. Alison is now working for the T. Colin Campbell Foundation as an instructor for the Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition Course through eCornell and is the co-author of ďGo Beyond Good: The Trail to a Lifetime of Health and Vitality!Ē which focuses on plant-based nutrition and fitness. Do you have a question for Alison? Email us at

Q. A friend at work failed an iron test when attempting to give blood. The attendant told her she needed to eat meat. What would you say to her about that?
A. Your friend should first check with her healthcare provider to make sure there isn't an underlying medical condition for her low iron storage. Secondly, your friend does NOT need to eat meat for iron! Fortunately there is no shortage of iron in plant foods. Choices such as sprouted mung beans, beans, barley, tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, potatoes, lentils, and garbanzo beans are excellent sources. There are also a variety of iron-fortified foods like cereal. Don't rely on spinach as an iron-rich source, as it contains oxalates that may inhibit absorption. Additional ways to increase iron intake include:

  • Eat a vitamin C rich food at the same time as the iron rich food. This allows your body to absorb the iron more efficiently
  • Use cast-iron cookware
  • Eat foods that are sprouted, soaked, fermented, and roasted
  • Avoid tannins, found in tea and coffee, at the same meal as iron rich foods. Tannins can reduce bioavailability of iron by up to 60%

Q. Iíve had hypothyroidism for 17 years, and itís never been stable. Since Iíve been a vegetarian for 13 years and vegan for 2 years, Iíve decided to go off my meds for a couple of months. So far itís been goodÖmy goiter has gotten smaller and the other symptoms (cold, tiredness, hunger) have lessened. Is there a case that thyroidism has actually been reversed or cured, instead of being incurable as the medical world suggests?
A. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough of the hormones that are essential for a wide variety of functions in the body. This condition affects about five million Americans and is commonly found in people with celiac disease.

As far as I know, there are no known case studies of reversing hypothyroidism. Following a whole food plant-based diet does support your health across the board. So, Iím glad your symptoms have lessened. On a professional note, please be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before adjusting prescription usage.

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