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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!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Muchas Gracias! I'm glad you enjoyed the blog.

    JULIEPIZZ: I had anemia once, 20 years ago, and it sucked. I have tried getting enough iron without fortified cereals, but according to SP, I only succeeded once. So it's Kellogg's Mini-Wheat cereal some days, and plenty of spinach! It must be working: I gave blood yesterday, and felt well enough to go for a run this morning.

    Our bodies do store iron, at least, so I don't worry about having low levels a couple of days a week.
    1768 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/15/2013 9:20:27 PM
  • 68ANNE
    I do so love your blog.
    No wonder you lost so much weight, you are eating all the right things in the right way. You have found a diet that you can sustain and enjoy. Since joining SP I also have added skim milk and greek yogurt to my regular diet. I give you kudos for taking it ac step further with the nutrients. Way to go!
    1768 days ago
    Great job! That is an impressive blog! I am also finding the same results with my trackers... I do have to take suppliments per my doctor...because my levels have been dangerously low- iron and more recently my vitamin D for several years. I was always convinced that I ate very well and strived to infuse my meals with foods to help me. After tracking my new impectable diet thanks to sparks meal planners...I am still short in these areas unless I focus on them! So my goal is lose the weight but like you, I have learned so much about nutrition that im improving my life for the long term.
    1768 days ago
    I learn every day here .. emoticon on the loss but emoticon on using the tools here to help you. Knowledge is a great tool, but you have to apply it.. Glad to see you doing that..
    1768 days ago
    Thanks for the feedback! I have always been interested in nutrition--I read a lot of articles and discuss them with friends. But trying to put these things into practice is not always as easy as it might seem.

    It's immensely helpful to think about nutritional needs when deciding what to eat, or if. For instance, if I have calories to spare and the SP tracker shows I have met all my needs for the day, I might have some lowfat ice cream. But if I see that I'm low on fiber, then an apple cut into slices and dusted with cinnamon is a better choice.
    1768 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/15/2013 2:50:46 PM
  • COOP9002
    Glad to see that you're being empowered with knowledge. You are doing a fantastic job on getting healthy. Congratulations on your weight loss.
    1768 days ago
    Your 10 pound weight lose is amazing. You have made incredible changes. I'm very impressed how informed you are regarding your daily nutrient intake. You should do a daily team blog with one daily nutritional fact. xoxo
    1768 days ago
    You're going to learn something new every day here :-). SP is a fantastic motivator, teacher and perfect place to be held accountable for the changes we're making. I love it and I love that I get to do this with committed people like you! have a great day!

    1768 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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