Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Iron Overload

Just read an interesting article on iron in The Seattle Times. In the nutrition world we hear quite a bit about iron deficiency (we especially hit this one up a lot at WIC with all the young kids and pregnant mamas). However, you don't usually hear a lot about the other end of things, iron toxicity or even just getting above the recommended levels.

While this isn't a problem for young kids or moms (the pregnant, lactating or menstruating ones) - which is usually my focus for this blog - it may be an issue for others and one that isn't really thought of.

Here is a snippet that I found the most interesting:

"These health consequences (organ damage from excess iron deposits) can develop even in people without hemochromatosis, the genetic disorder, who accumulate very high levels of stored iron. For example, among 32,000 women followed for 10 years in the Nurses' Health Study, those with the highest levels of stored iron were nearly three times as likely to have diabetes as those with the lowest levels. Likewise, among 38,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, those who consumed the most heme iron had a 63 percent greater risk of developing diabetes."

Heme iron is the iron found in animal meats which is most easily absorbed by the body.

Now I don't think everyone should avoid iron and be worried about iron overload (especially not for young moms and kids) but it is something to be aware of, especially if you have a family history of diabetes and you've ever had higher iron levels.

Anyways, just another reason to diversify your palate, reduce meat intake and increase plant food sources of iron. See NIH fact sheet for sources of iron, heme and non-heme.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quick Study tidbits

There are a few studies that have caught my eye with interesting things:

The February issue of the American Journal of Public Health had a study that showed that putting calorie information as an exercise equivalent may reduce the likelihood of purchasing a sweet beverage by as much as half. I think this is brilliant, I think they should do this with jelly-beans and chocolates. I know if I saw that it would take me thirty minutes of straight jogging to burn off a 1/2 cup jellybeans I would be a lot more careful with quantity. Calories can sometimes be an abstract thing to think about, telling me how much physical activity it would take to burn those calories makes them a lot more real.

The August issue of Journal of Consumer Research had a study that showed using larger plates resulted in serving 9-31 percent more food. However, using plates that had a high color contrast with the food reduced how much participants served by 21 percent. So if you are really interested in portion control take a look at your plate size and the color of plates vs the color of your food. I am always fascinated by these subconscious factors that can really play a big role in the foods and amounts of food we consume.

And another reason to develop a good relationship with your kids was found in the January journal Pediatrics. A study in this journal showed that children who lack secure relationships with their mothers face more than double the risk of obesity at age 15 vs those who had warmer ties. Not saying that those with obesity don't have good relationships with their moms but it is interesting to me how many non-food factors there are in the obesity epidemic.

Note: summaries of these studies were found in the Spring 2012 edition of the Food & Nutrition magazine, a publication by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A hub

So I've decided that instead of posting time-intensive posts all the time (because obviously I'm really good at that) that I'd like this blog to be a sort of hub connecting you to good websites and resources as well. As my mom would say "why reinvent the wheel?" There are a number of websites/blogs out there that dedicate much more time to the nutrition info/tips than I am able to. I currently have a toddler who is only taking one nap long enough to cover a daily shower and is very clingy the rest of the day. I think we have some more teeth coming in...

I've come across a number of good articles recently. Here a couple of my favorites:

1. This website is run by a couple of registered dietitians (yay for dietitians). I need to explore more but I really liked this article. Especially as I was wanting to post something on here regarding the division of responsibility of parent and child at meal-time. I also love their idea of a non-food based after dinner privilege as an incentive for trying foods. One thing I have learned over and over is that dessert should not be used as a reward or a punishment. Read more here:

2. If you are trying to lose weight or trying to maintain a healthy weight it can be tricky to feel full and satisfied when you are trying to cut back on calories. I'm a believer in healthy snacks being an important part of a balanced diet and achieving weight loss goals. When you skip meals or snacks and approach a dinner meal in a hunger-crazed state you will really have a hard time keeping your head and remembering your eating goals. This is why I love this list of healthy snack ideas (100 snack ideas! ONE hundred!). I'm always in need of healthy snack ideas to give to my little guy to try to branch out his repertoire so this is a great resource for me.

Okay, that is it for today. I really will try to post more often now that we are post holidays. REALLY!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Eating Healthy-er

I thought I'd just jot down a few ways that we try to eat healthy in my family. And I put try on purpose because we don't eat perfectly all the time but we do try to do some small things to make sure we are taking care of our bodies. My philosophy on healthy eating is that it is definitely important but it needs to be something that isn't going to take hours of my time because I have things to do. While I do enjoy cooking, I enjoy a lot of other things more - so I strive to find ways to include vegetables, whole grains, and fruits while cutting down on added sugars and fats.

There is a lot of great counsel in the Word of Wisdom. This past year or so I have reflected again and again on the scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 89:12-13:

 12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;
 13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.
In order to try to follow this counsel better we have tried to cut down on the meat that we use. I am not yet ready to go vegetarian or vegan but my goal is to just have meat a couple times a week. The meats that we do choose are leaner cuts; we use chicken and we use ground turkey in place of ground beef. I also do try to keep in mind where my food is coming from and being thankful for that which we do have.

I also decrease the amount of meat I use in my recipes. In my chili I only use 1/2 -3/4 lb of ground turkey and lots of beans. In spaghetti, the same, and then I add vegetables in to add bulk (onion, bell pepper, and I love putting grated carrot into my tomato sauces). If I'm short on time, throwing in some frozen veggie mixes into tomato sauces also works. I tried this recently with some meatballs by adding in some frozen peas. It looked a little weird but tasted good.

Another way I try eat less meats is my having it be less in amounts on my plate (see my below post on the Plate Method). So I try to have the protein of my meal be just 1/4 of the plate. So I try to have enough other things to fill up the plate so I'm not filling up on meat. For instance when I make oven fried chicken, I make roasted sweet potatoes, spinach salad, and some whole grain biscuits to help fill out my plate and fill up our tummies.

So what about the meals that we have that don't have meat in them? They are usually filled with beans or lentils, which are a great source of protein & fiber among other things. This is still a work in progress, a lot of my meatless recipes are soups (vegetable chili, taco coup, lentil soup, garbanzo bean soup, etc) which doesn't always sound good in the summer. My body doesn't do well with a lot of raw vegetables, so large amounts of salads are pretty much out. So again, we are trying but still working on things.

Roasted Tomato Soup
Well, I think I'll leave this post at that and add some other ideas in future posts.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Balance in Diet and Posting

So turns out I burn out rather quickly. I can't believe it has already been two months. I've had lots of things on my mind which I would like to post about it but it takes quite a bit of time assembling those posts. That, and motivation. I have sort of lacked in these departments lately but I'm going to try, try again.

This blog, it appears, is symbolic of the average person. We try to eat healthy, we fall off the horse now and again, but the trick is to keep trying. So today my post is about balance and how to best balance different foods. Often when people ask me about how to eat healthy I like to use what is called the "Plate Method". Turns out the USDA has gotten on board with this method and have created to help people plan healthier diets.
I think the plate method has its origins in helping those with diabetes plan their foods better by balancing out their carbohydrates. So in the past the plates have had half of the plate filled with non-starchy vegetables and the fruit serving has been on the side, when it was planned.

I am fine with either graphic as the emphasis is that half or more of your plate would be best dedicated to fruits and vegetables. I love how this method helps you visualize better how you should be eating. None of this trying to mentally measure out cups and ounces of food that the website tries to get you to do. This is much simpler and therefore, much easier to adapt to real life. 

And I think that is going to be it for right now. Z just woke up and I have a house to clean up and a cold to recover from. I'll try to post soon a follow-up on other tools available at some of the USDA websites that are helpful for going more in depth into your diet. But I do like the visual plate as a starter tool to help you look at your own plates and see how they measure up.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Soaking Whole Grains

I had a great question from Christie posted on my other blog as I apparently had the comments on this blog a little more restricted that I had thought. I think I have fixed that. So this week's post will be based on the question. It's a good thing too otherwise it would be on the validation and calibration of semiquantitative Food Frequency Questionnaires. Just kidding, I don't think I could actually write a whole post on that. That is just what my week's article was on that I read for some continuing credits.

I will post Christie's question here again so I make sure I answer it:

"Do you know anything about soaking whole grains before baking them? I like to make my own granola and have found several sources that advise soaking the oats in whatever liquid the recipe calls for, plus an acid medium (vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk) before baking them. allegedly it breaks down the antinutrients and makes them more easily digestible. but it's kind of a pain because I have to start the process 24 hours in advance to allow adequate "soaking" time. just wondering if you recommend this or if it's worth the extra time. "

Okay, so I wasn't super familiar with the soaking of whole grains (I'm somewhat familiar with sprouting) but after doing some researching and brushing up on my phytic acid knowledge here is the low down.

So the "antinutrients" that Christie refers to in whole grains is mainly just phytic acid (side-note: Christie, I thought you were totally making up that word; turns out that it is an actual word I was familiar with the concept just not that term).

Whole grains (as well as legumes, seeds and nuts) have phytic acid in them, which is how plants store phosphorus. Unfortunately, this phytic acid binds with some of the desirable minerals in whole grains (iron and zinc mostly, with calcium and magnesium being affected to a lesser extent). This binding makes these minerals nonabsorbable by our bodies.

Is this a problem? Only if you are concerned you are not getting enough of those minerals in other places in your diet. This is the case for those in developing countries who live on diets that are composed mostly of whole grains. It might be the case for those following vegetarian diets if they are counting on the whole grains, legumes, nuts or seeds to be the source of their iron and zinc.

Another thing to know about phytic acid is that it is not all bad. It appears to have some antioxidant and anticancer effects. It isn't fully understood either (you'll notice this a lot when you are in the nutrition world). You would think if it binds minerals that those who eat a lot of phytic acid wouldn't get the calcium they need and would have more cases of osteoporosis. But one study found just the opposite, that those who ate more phytate had less osteoporosis (1). Interesting, huh?

However, if you are concerned about phytic acid there are ways to reduce it in your foods. Just cooking the grains will decrease the amount some. Soaking them (especially if you use an acid medium) will reduce the levels even more and increase the amount your body absorbs. Also, if you make sure you get some foods with vitamin C in them at the same time this helps your body absorb iron and to some extent zinc in plant foods such as whole grains.

For more on how to soak whole grains, try this website:
For more on iron:
For more on zinc:

My overall take on phytic acid is that you only need to be concerned about it if you are a pretty strict vegetarian (don't eat any meat or dairy*) and you aren't getting iron and zinc from other sources (i.e. a multivitamin).

Whether you want to get into soaking grains and sprouting legumes, I'll leave that up to you. If it was me I'd just make sure I got a good variety of food in a variety of preparations (some cooked, some raw, etc) and include fruits and vegetables with my whole grains to give me the acids to help my body absorb those minerals. I'd probably try some soaking on the occasion but not as an every day thing. But if it was me I wouldn't be a vegetarian, because I like eating me some meats - although I do try to follow the Word of Wisdom's counsel to keep that more to a rarity.

Doctrine & Covenants 89:12
"Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;"

Oh, also, as far as granola goes I don't think the whole soaking thing would work as it would make it all mushy, right? Soaking works for oatmeal or if you are cooking the oats in like a bread or something, as far as I understand. I can't imagine using soaked oats in my granola recipe but I could be wrong.

I'd like to apply that last statement to anything I say - because I know you are thinking I am always right (ha!), but just ask Ammón - I'm not. For instance I always get Encyclopedia Brown stories wrong, although my answers could totally work too. Ammón however, always seems to get them right, darn him.

*Post edit: I took eggs out here as they really aren't a good source of iron or zinc, I'm not sure why I included it in the first place. Also, just for your reference:

1 slice of whole wheat bread has 0.54 mg of zinc (this doesn't tell us how much your body might actually absorb considering the presence of phytic acid)
8 oz of low-fat vanilla yogurt has 1.88 mg of zinc
3 oz hamburger patty has about 5.5 mg of zinc

1. Phytate and risk factors for osteoporosis. J Med Food. 2008 Dec;11(4):747-52. 
3. Roberta Duyff. Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 2nd ed. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2002 (p. 133).
4. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:1266-1282.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Welcome World & about Choline

Well, first off, this blog isn't going to be one of those in-depth ones with tons of information. I'll be frank here and tell you my goal with this blog is mostly selfish; I hope to encourage myself to stay on top of new nutrition information and keep my dietetics brain working as I keep moving forward as a stay-at-home mom. I am going to try to update here at least once a week but don't be offended if I miss here and there. It has taken me months to get to this first post.

However, I hope the information will be helpful in making nutrition research and headlines more understandable and more applicable to the every day mom. Being engrossed in motherhood and a young child, that will obviously be my focus. I also hope to have helpful links to those blogs and websites that put a lot more effort into these things. I simply don't have the time, I have too much playing to do with my toddler :)

Okay, on to the first topic: Choline. Ever heard of it? It's not a nutrient that you hear about a whole lot but it does play its own important role. Choline is a vitamin-like micronutrient. In our bodies it is found in cell membranes, involved with fat transport and helps with liver, brain and nerve (memory) functions. I have recently been seeing more of it in the news and research studies as it is a starting point for some of the processes in fetal development. More especially it seems to be important in the brain development of babies, even being a factor in neural tube defects. When moms don't get enough choline during pregnancy the risk of neural tube defects increases 2x.(1)

This is a concern because according to NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-04 data) research about 90% of US pregnant women eat less than the recommended amount of choline(2). The AI (Adequate Intake) being 426 mg/day and the average intake being 338 mg/day.  However, the increase in neural tube defects was noted at or below the level of 290 mg/day. There is also something you should know about when they say AI (Adequate Intake) versus RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances).

RDA's are much more scientifically sound whereas AI comes from observing how much of different nutrients the average healthy person gets. The reasoning is that if the person is healthy and that is how much they eat, then about that much is probably what is needed for most people to stay healthy. As you see, a much looser way of recommending things versus the RDA where they have research that shows them what the level is for optimal health.

Okay, blah, blah. On to the application. So in summary choline is important for normal baby development. Women may not be eating enough whilst pregnant and as breastfeeding moms. But we don't really know for sure because the recommended levels aren't really known. Also, as far as I can tell the average intake according NHANES is still above the level where they noticed the neural tube defect increase.

Here is my recommendation, make sure you are getting choline in your diet - especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Choline is not often in prenatal supplements. Maybe it will be more now as more information comes out about its importance, but it is something to check out. Here are some of the top food sources of choline(3):

For more food sources you can check here also:

1. Shaw GM, Carmichael SL, Yang W, Selvin S, Schaffer DM. Periconceptional dietary intake of choline and betaine and neural tube defects in offspring. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;160:102-109.
2. Caudill MA. Pre- and Postnatal Health: Evidence of Increased Choline Needs. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110:1198-1204.
3. Marcia Greenblum. Choline: The Unknown Essential Nutrient [Internet]. Version 3. Knol. 2008 Oct 2. Available from: