Billions of years ago, across the galaxy, a precious stone was formed of stardust. The stone was destroyed but fragments have since found their way to earth, where – if you are fortunate enough to find a piece - it can be consumed to grant good health.
It sounds ridiculous.
It sounds like it belongs in a comic or Marvel film.
But it is true.
The stone is iron, whose formation requires forces so great, it can only be formed in the heart of a giant star, or in the supernova of a dying one. Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and can be found in stones around the world. And though we have between just 3-4 grams, it is also an essential building block of our bodies and the production of haemoglobin. Iron deficiency is called anaemia, and it can leave us unable to effectively pump oxygen around our bodies. If anaemic, we become fatigued, and our brain functionality, immune systems, skin, hair and nails are all adversely effected. Ultimately it can lead to heart failure.
When the body is low in iron, it has a way of telling you. This is one of the reasons we have occasional cravings for tastes or particular foods.
In Gituamba, there exists a myth that a stone can grant good health. It is both entirely true and completely fallacious.
Iron-rich stones, a particular favourite of anaemic pregnant women, are sold and consumed as though a nut. They are ground with teeth until the pieces are small enough to swallow. But teeth are not designed to crush stone and are regularly broken and can become infected. This effects the wider diet, as chewing other foods can become ineffective or too painful. Despite the satiating metallic taste, our guts cannot extract sufficient iron from rocks and worse still, it can cause blockages resulting in kidney or liver damage.
A good diet is essential for our health and development. This is one of the reasons we are beginning to explore how we can support communities to produce and prepare more nutritious food.
Watch this space.