Doing My Homework

My health coach gave me a pretty easy assignment this week: think about chewing.

Yes, chewing. She gave me a crash course on the digestive system which brought back memories of elementary school, learning about saliva and the esophagus and food’s journey through the miles of intestines. She also gave me a handout with some suggestions- suggestions which have turned out to be easy to read and not so easy to implement.

Do YOU chew every bite 30-50 times before you swallow it? I found out that my average is about 10. I’m now making more of an effort, but I have some work to do.

Why does it matter, you ask? (I’ve been doing some reading, so I’m not sure now what I’ve read and what Rebecca told me. I’ll give all the credit to her unless otherwise noted!) Saliva is alkaline. Alkaline reduces inflammation in the body. Chewing efficiently alkalizes our food before it’s swallowed which prevents inflammation. I guess that explains why eating on the go or “swallowing your food whole,” as my mother used to say I did, usually results in heartburn, indigestion, and/or stomach ache, i.e. inflammation of the gut. Chewing matters more than I realized.

I’m the one who didn’t want to take time to stop for lunch at all, so this is hard! Eating nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day requires more stopping-to-eat than I’m used to, and now I’m adding more chewing to that effort! But I’m already feeling better, so it’s worth it!

Assignment number two was to learn about albumin. I had heard of albumin in connection with eggs, but this time I was seeing the word on some blood work results. My albumin level was low, and Rebecca suggested I find out what it was and why it mattered. Albumen is the white of the egg, but, albumin is “any of numerous simple heat-coagulable water-soluble proteins that occur in blood plasma or serum, muscle, the whites of eggs, milk, and other animal substances and in many plant tissues and fluids,” per Merriam-Webster.

From various medical websites, I learned that albumin is produced by the liver, and it carries substances such as hormones and enzymes throughout the body. If the albumin level is low, it might indicate kidney failure or kidney disease or liver disease. Or it might indicate malnutrition. Well, none of those conditions appeal to me, but malnutrition seems to me to be the easiest one to correct!

My question is, will my nine cups of improved nutrition correct my albumin level? Maybe. Hopefully. According to Registered Dietician Sarah Pflugradt, “increasing the overall quality of the diet may help increase albumin levels in those who are malnourished.” Writing for livestrong.com, she also noted that some recent research indicates that “albumin was not a direct indicator of nutritional health, but rather a marker of the influence of illness on albumin. For instance, inflammation- present in many diseases- causes protein to break down in the body, leading to a decreased albumin.”

Homework results: I hereby promise to make every effort to efficiently chew every bite of nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day, hoping to reduce inflammation and to increase albumin.

Here are a few pictures of some of the delicious and nutrient-rich meals I’ve eaten lately. Recipes don’t seem to be necessary since a picture paints a thousand words, but I’ll be glad to give you the details if you ask.

 

Progress Report

At my first health coaching session, Rebecca gave me some homework: increase my intake of fruits and vegetables to 9 cups a day and start tracking my nutrients.

Background information: I haven’t been eating anywhere close to 9 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. In my last post, I blogged that I had taken the baby step of eating a fruit or vegetable at every meal. Even so, I was eating no more than 1 or 2 cups a day. Nine cups is a BIG baby step!

Rebecca suggested Cronometer, an online tool for tracking nutrition, fitness, and health data. It will track a lot of things, but my focus is on vitamins and nutrients. (There’s a free online version, but I opted for the $3.99 app.)

Cronometer app

Since I started keeping up with my fruit and vegetable intake, I’ve hit the goal once and come very close several days. Even though I’m not consistently meeting my goal yet, I feel better already- more energy, better sleep, and less pain.

I’ve been trying to learn more about nutrition for several years now, but the design of the Cronometer app has helped me to see more clearly what I’m actually getting from my food. I can tell at a glance whether or not I’ve gotten the nutrients needed for the day. That information helps me eat things that will actually nourish me and not just fill me up.

One evening recently, I was going to skip dinner and just eat a bowl of cereal. I searched my intended cereal in the app and discovered that there was almost no nutritional value whatsoever. Even though it’s a gluten-free, organic, supposedly healthy cereal, it would basically be empty calories!

I’ve also been confirmed in my belief in the amazing contribution of SuperMom to my overall health. Here are two screenshots of my breakfast this morning:IMG_9882[1]

IMG_9883[1]

The first is my breakfast before SuperMom. Notice in the bar at the bottom that my nutrient target goal is at 28%. The second screenshot is after taking the SuperMom. Now my nutrient target goal is at 69%. Wow!

Unfortunately, I’ve been relying on SuperMom to make up for the deficits in my diet, and, as super as it is, it just can’t do it all. I can see in my nutrient reports that I’m still not consistently getting enough Vitamin D, Magnesium, or Potassium every day. Those are important nutrients for healthy bones which probably explains why I’ve had issues with arthritis and osteopenia.

So, enough about me! I’m excited about my progress, but my reason for sharing is to encourage you in yours! Please share your own progress in the comments or by email. I’ll be glad to hear from you!