This is Part IV of a three-part-series on what I learned in fifteen days of logging my food.

(Yeah, it took more posts than I expected it would.  You can go back and read Part I, Part II and Part III if you haven’t already.  In them, I cover my behavioral lessons, some general nutritional information I gleaned from the process, and then reviewed two vitamins where I regularly did not get the DRI.)

In today’s concluding post, I want to talk a bit about minerals and about one key underlying assumption.

As With Vitamins, I Met the DRI With Two Exceptions

I met the DRI for all the minerals that Cron-O-Meter tracks save for two: potassium and calcium.  I averaged 88% of the DRI of potassium and 63% of calcium.

I’m not too concerned about the potassium level, mainly because it’s pretty darn close to 100% and also because I know I eat many foods high in the mineral, such as sweet potatoes and chard.  Additionally, potassium has a tendency to lower blood pressure and I happen to have very, very low blood pressure.  I include extra salt in my diet as per my primary care doc’s advice (and my own personal experience) to balance out the effects of my naturally low pressures.  I find when I consume a lot of potassium, like when I was on a big coconut water kick, I tend towards light-headedness.

The lower calcium levels come as no surprise to me.  I consume zero dairy, save for some grassfed butter and a butter oil.  I don’t eat almonds because nuts break me out, and I don’t want to get my calcium from fortification or supplements.  So why am I not alarmed?

First of all, I drink bone broth daily.  Although there is some disagreement as to how much calcium bone broth contains, and the amount will vary depending on the bones used and the manner of preparation, it is still a mineral-rich superfood, and one that Cron-O-Meter could not accurately capture.  (Sally Fallon’s Broth is Beautiful is a great read.)

Second, I am not sure that the current recommendations for calcium truly reflect what the body needs.  Mark Sisson had this to say on the subject:

The fact is calcium recommendations are the subject of ongoing debate. The tide of expert opinion, however, is more recently steering toward lower intake of calcium itself and higher intake of those vitamins and minerals that work in concert with calcium and/or are independently supportive of bone health.

Liz Wolfe, NTP, has a great explanation as to why the issue of bone health is bigger than just “consume dairy”:

The most important thing to understand is this: the way your body uses calcium – including how your bones maintain density and quality – is entirely dependent on co-factors.

These co-factors include hormonal balance, hydration, drugs, digestion, other vitamins/minerals, fatty acids and exercise.

In other words, there is a much bigger picture out there and I am not sure that the DRI captures it fully.

Which Leads Me To A Larger Point About the Underlying Assumption of This Whole Exercise

I’ve written for four posts now about whether my food intake measured up to the DRI, as if that were the undebatable true account of what I should be taking in each day.  I’m not sure that it is.  I don’t believe that the DRI takes into account key food synergies, like the relationship between Vitamins A and D.  Nor does it take into account the other food synergies that surely must exist, but about which we are still uncertain.

I fear by focusing on the DRI, I fall into the trap of reductionist eating.

So, make no mistake, I take everything that I learned with a grain of salt.

(You know what?  Make that a heaping teaspoon of salt.)

It’s good information to have.  I plan to repeat the experience again in the spring/summer months for comparison’s sake.  But I am not going to allow myself to get caught up in the data to the expense of my self-awareness and general pleasure in eating.

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I’d love to hear from any of you who have undertaken similar experiments.  Or, if you have any thoughts and reactions to what I learned, comment away!

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