Learning about nutrition with SP
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I've been on SparkPeople for just over one month now. Along with thrilling success at weight loss (10 lbs!) I've learned a great deal more than I ever expected.
One SparkPeople feature I've found most useful is the ability to track individual nutrients. It can be tough to meet the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) while restricting calories, and I strongly prefer to get my nutrients from real food, not supplements. Besides the basic Calories, Carbohydrates, Fat and Protein, I've opted to view my daily intake of Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Iron, Calcium, Potassium, B-6, B-12 and Sodium.
I follow a Mediterranean-style diet that is rich in whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and milk, along with some fish and lean meat. And lots of colorful fresh vegetables and fruits. No soda, no fast food, a little coffee, and very few processed foods. So my diet is beautifully in balance, right?
Surprise! Iron, Calcium and Potassium are vital nutrients for which I rarely seem to reach the minimum RDA when limiting calories to under 1600 per day. So I resolved to tackle that. The next thing I learned about this challenge: it's delicious!
I've had success with Iron thanks to fortified cereal in the morning...and occasional dark chocolate at night. Trader Joe's Fair Trade Organic 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate contains 40% of the RDA. Note: a serving is 3 squares and a lotta calories, so I stick to one square a few nights a week. But I love it when a treat happens to be a nutritional powerhouse.
For Calcium, I now drink 2-3 cups of skim milk per day, add Greek yogurt to more dishes, and seek out more non-dairy sources such as dark leafy greens (kale, spinach), white beans, canned salmon, almonds and oranges.
Potassium is improving, but still elusive. Most of us fail to reach the RDA of 3500 mg, according to studies. I now average more than 2700 mg daily, which usually means a banana plus a few other sources, such as yogurt, avocado, salmon, mushrooms, white beans, dried apricots or asparagus.
I've been keeping Sodium levels in check, too--under the RDA of 2300 milligrams. A new study out today, however, throws into doubt whether that threshold is valid at all. It seems that lower sodium levels may create many of the same heart-related problems as very high levels. Sometimes we have to take guidelines with, well, a grain of salt.
After one month, I feel healthier and more energetic than before. Losing weight is a big part of it, but I feel that doing it the right way--through proper nutrition instead of severe restrictions or some crazy fad diet--is just as important. (Not to mention tastier than any pill supplement.) Plus, I want to create a lifestyle I can maintain indefinitely.
I'm looking forward to learning much more in Month Two!