Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nutrition - How much do you know about it?

Blogger ate my post.  Its true.  I had an entire entry typed up, proof-read, and spell checked and now its gone.  As such, I am writing this post for the second time and am not certain what effect that will have on my writing.  Thankfully, there is NOTHING going on at work today so I have the time to re-do it all.

After changing over to organic foods and reducing the amount of aminal products we consume, I wanted to make certain that we were still getting the nutrients necessary to be healthy.  I was never that concerned about this before but then I didnt want to turn into the candy and bread fed vegetarian or the stereotypical pasty vegan so I started to look for direction online.  Most of the tips and suggestions I found assumed that meat was a primary contributor to daily meals and the few others were focused on a fat-free vegan diet which just sounds boring as hell if not dangerous.  It seemed there were few places to turn to determine what nutrients a person on a plant-based diet should consume - then I found the book Vegan for Life


I cannot speak highly enough about this book.  It is well researched and well referenced.  It doesnt make any claims without substantial scientific (ie. peer-reviewed publications) support and, best of all, it wasnt too preachy about the whole animal thing. Vegan for Life is broken down into sections based on the primary nutrients any body needs to be healthy.  It discusses what nutrients you need, what happens if you dont get enough, and what food sources contain it.  A lot of health food books tend to provide a list of foods for you to eat, but this one suggests how much of each nutrient you should get on a daily basis.  As such, you can incorporate any food into your diet as long as you know the nutients it provides rather than sticking to a limited list.

One potential issue with nutrition-based meal planning is that most produce doesnt come with food labels on it.  Again I turned to the internet for help and found http://www.nutritiondata.self.com/.  This great website is really a dieting tools associated with Self magazine.  While the Self magazine banner is prevalent on the page, I have managed to navigate the page for weeks now without running into an actual ad for subscribing to the magazine (or its affiliates).  The site is super user friendly and intuitive.  I primarily use the recipe creating tool that allows me to put together a recipe for a meal I made using the extensive list of ingredients.  The site then "analyzes" the meal and provides me with a calorie count, a breakdown of the percentage of fats, protein, carbohydrates, and the levels of vitamins and minerals in each meal.  You can also track all the meals you eat for a day to get an overall calorie and nutrition count. 



If all the numbers sound daunting, the website also provides several graphs that indicate the level of each vitamin, mineral, and amino acid so that you have a quick visual reference for what you just ate.  I wish I could copy and paste the fancy color charts and pyramids into this blog entry, but the folks over at NutritionData know their applications are fabulous and have coded them in such a way that they just WONT copy.  :(  Instead, you will have to go over and see it for yourself. 

One of the other great things about the website is that it saves the recipes you spend time entering so that you can just bring them up again next time you make them.  Now, I dont use this website everyday, but I check in with it every now and them to make certain that what we are eating is fulfilling all our nutrient requirements.  If you wanted to use the site for weight maintenance or weight loss the calorie counting tool would be a great benefit.  For example, I am going to be fairly sedentary today (sitting at my desk, driving to and from work, sitting on the couch and watching tv - its an off day from the gym for me) so the daily needs calculator says I need 1880 calories to maintain my weight.  If I were to do an hour at the gym the calorie count is bumped up to just under 2400.  So, if I were to eat my delicious fava bean salad and two small pieces of bread for lunch and pasta with simple tomato sauce and a glass of wine for dinner then I would have consumed roughly 1654 calories, leaving enough room for a cookie or two for dessert.  Seven percent of the calories for the day would have come from alcohol, 40% from carbs, 43% from fats, and 10% from protein.  I also would have consumed my suggested daily intake of Vitamin A, C, E, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, and Folate.  As for minerals I would have consumed good amounts of Magnesium, Phosphorus Sodium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, and Selenium.  All this data shows that I am not getting enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B, or Calcium so I have started taking a supplement to assist in getting the correct amount of those nutrients to stay healthy. 


Do you know what your daily intake levels are?  Are you where you should be on a regular basis?  More importantly, do you know how many more cookies (or martinis) you can have now that you walked that extra mile?  I recommend checking out both Vegan for Life (since its also useful for non-vegans) and NutritionData.self.com so that you can feel healthy on a daily basis!  

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