I’m Not All That and a Side of Iron

I thought it was about time I dug my head out of a book to let you know I’m alive and well and up to my ears in quizzes, exams, foods lab, papers, and all kinds of analysis (read: math *cough*). I’ve been exercising my right brain more than my body these last few weeks, but it hasn’t been all work and no play.
There was Gettysburg:

I climbed this tower, despite my fear of heights.

Colton and I climbed Big Round Top where I stopped to climb into one of the stone fortresses lining the mountainside. It was eerie and sad to think about the men who’d fought and died in that space.

The tower and the fortress were spaces I could only have experienced from a tour bus or in books and photos when I was at my heaviest. Every time I add things to my list of things I can do now that I couldn’t do then, I thank and honor the woman who made the decision to lose weight nearly 7 years ago.

Halloween was successful:

Police officer Claire

Pirate Luca

“I don’t want to be a monster!” Mae

I consumed only one small roll of Whoppers malted milk balls and one (only one) candy corn, which Claire shared with me after I begged a little.

I’ve also watched three seasons of “Mad Men.” Don Draper is my non-caloric eye candy reward for working so hard in school. Yummy!

I also completed the second part of the 3-day intake analysis assignment I first wrote about October 5 (see “Knowledge is King & Breaking Bad…A Tale of Bread Addiction”).

We were asked to take a look at the complete nutritional picture, not just the energy nutrients (carbs, protein and fats) from the previous assignment. What did I learn? That I need a big serving of vitamin D, with a little iron, fatty acids, and B12 on the side. Oh, and a sprinkle of thiamin and niacin on top. Hold the sodium.

We were to write about where we were lacking and how best to improve our diet without supplementing. I won’t bore you with the report I wrote, but here are the highlights.

My essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega 6) intake fall short of the DRI (daily recommended intake). Because I don’t eat fish (although I did try fish oil tablets a year ago and did not tolerate them), I need to pay closer attention to my consumption of flaxseed and walnuts, and use sunflower, safflower or soybean oils in my cooking.

Thiamin and niacin will get a boost if I eat more pinto beans, soy milk, and tofu, and I can improve my vitamin E intake through an increased intake of seeds and nuts (which will help with the Omega-3 issue, too).

Because of B12s importance in maintaining nerve cells and a whole lot of other things, I need to improve my average daily intake. On the day I recorded a cup of soy milk and a serving of cheese, I exceeded the DRI by a fraction. On the two days I didn’t eat these, my B12 intake was miniscule at best.

My biggest vitamin concern is vitamin D. I am at 27% of the DRI. Given its relationship to calcium and phosphorus in maintaining blood concentrations of these minerals, 27% is clearly not adequate. While I’m sure I get enough vitamin D during the summer because I spend a lot of time outdoors, this isn’t the case now. I need to rethink my egg-whites-only diet mindset and begin to consume more yolks with my morning omelet and look for products that are fortified with vitamin D, particularly in the winter. The only way I can drink cow milk is in a Starbucks latte and I’m not paying for one of those every day. So I bought a container of cottage cheese. I only like cottage cheese as a dip for potato chips (no, I’m not kidding) and on lasagna, but I’ll give it a try by itself. Mixing it with fruit will…trust me…only make it worse for me.

Regarding minerals, I’m pleased with my calcium, magnesium and potassium intake. While the 3-day average had my potassium slightly lower than the DRI, on a broader average, my intake of potassium-rich foods puts me above the DRI most days.

Where I’m lacking is iron. My iron levels have been low most of my adult life, except when I was taking a multivitamin with added iron. I stopped taking supplements a few years ago, and while my doctor hasn’t been too concerned about my lower-than-normal iron levels, it doesn’t mean I should ignore the fact that I consume less than 50% of the DRI for iron every day. According to our text, “Vegetarians need 1.8 times as much iron to make up for the low bioavailability typical of their diets.” Again, increasing my consumption of soy, legumes and seeds would help, but so, too, would cereal such as cream of wheat, a favorite of mine from childhood. I have begun to consume wheat products again on a very minimal level, but I will give the cream of wheat a try a few times a week to see if my levels improve when I see my doctor in early December.

It was an enlightening assignment, to say the least. Not that I’m going to go all hog wild and stress myself out to get it all perfect, but knowledge is power, and I’ve got the power to change a few things to improve my diet. Why not? I might discover I actually like cottage cheese by itself.

10 thoughts on “I’m Not All That and a Side of Iron

  1. I tend to eat one thing at a time, and cottage cheese is–for me–one of those foods that is always and forever eaten by itself, amen and amen.

    I love love love it, but the sodium levels don't love me. 😦

  2. Wrong season, but I find tomatos with cottage cheese and healthy dose of black pepper is the only way I can take it. Fruit + cottage cheese = ick.

  3. Thanks for this post. I've recently given up taking any and all supplements (or any other medication, for that matter), to see if I can get it all from diet.

    My main concern has been iron. I know it is a lot harder for vegetarians, but even with heme iron from the red meat I eat a few times a week, I still fall short of what I need.

    So I started eating chicken livers once a month (which I love), but I couldn't imagine what I would do if I were vegetarian. I remember once looking at a box of raisins, and calculating I needed to eat 6 cups a day to meet the minimum (and as a long distance runner, I probably need more than the minimum).

    At my annual checkup in spring, I'll see if my levels are better. I'm also curious to see that my vitamin D levels are, after winter in Seattle. Like you, I have light Nordic skin, so I probably take in a lot of D during the brighter months, and I do spend a lot of time outside. I wonder, though: since vitamin D is fat soluble, can my body can make enough in the summer to last through the winter? My excess body fat has to be good for more than just keeping me warm.

  4. Have you tried mixing low or sugar free jam (I love Smucker's strawberry) into cottage cheese? I really like it that way – kind of like a “textured” yogurt.

  5. Like you, I don't much care for cottage cheese, even mixed with fruit, but I can eat it when mixed with a bit of lime sugar free jello mix and some pineapple canned in its own juice. If I add a tablespoon of light Cool Whip, it tastes pretty good. I also can't drink milk by itself, so I need to find ways to get my calcium.

    I have difficulty keeping my potassium up when dieting, and I can always tell when I start getting muscle cramps in my legs and feet. How do you keep your potassium levels at a normal level?

  6. E. Jane, here's a website I found that lists potassium rich foods: http://www.vaughns-1-pagers.com/food/potassium-foods.htm

    I used to get foot cramps, especially in the middle of the night, but once I started eating more potassium, they went away. My feet are more than happy to remind me when I don't!

    Thanks for the cottage cheese suggestions. It's on the menu today, so I'll start with the jam idea 🙂

    Ivana, I don't think we store enough D to last more than a few weeks to a month. I'll be curious how your levels measure after your iron experiment. I really resist iron supplements because they upset my stomach and there are so many rules about how best to take them for best absorption. Same goes for calcium and D.

  7. Well there you are! I AM really glad to hear from you. And this was all very interesting to me. My brother has been encouraging me to take a B12 supplement daily…

    Cottage cheese lover here! Is it the texture that bugs you? What about putting it through the blender? Also I noticed that it melts really well on top of hot stuff, like a baked potato. Or maybe some of your vegetarian chili (I've got chili on the brain…)

  8. When I was pregnant with my second, I went to a La Leche League meeting where they served a dip made from cottage cheese, with celery and carrot sticks and pepper strips for dipping. It is so simple and so good. You just put your cottage cheese in a bowl and sprinkle it with Mrs Dash (any kind, but my fave is the Garlic one) and mash it in with a fork. Let the flavors mingle in the fridge for 20 min or more. It is really yummy. I was never a cottage cheese fan before that.

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