You are what you eat?!

The recent articles over the inefficacy of low-fat diets has me in a tizzy.

I have my son on a wholesome food diets - lots of unrefined grains, lentils, beans, fruits, vegetables and a lot less of cakes and biscuits and other junk food. Despite all this, he was been diagnosed with borderline anaemia.

Feeling a wealth of fear for his well being and guilt over my ineptitude as a mother, I read a gadzillion pages on increasing iron content in his meals and improving iron absorption. I also spent sleepless nights worrying he has thalessemia of the mildest kind. Finally, I brought out a excel spreadsheet, tracking what I buy and what I cook, ensuring we eat a different lentil/bean everyday and have the required quota of fruits and veggies.

Some of my research findings:
  • You need 10 dates just to get 1.8 mg of iron, but getting a kid to eat more than 3 is a Herculean task.
  • Half a cup of cooked lentil/Daal has anywhere from 3 - 6 mg of iron, depending on the lentil used. There is a negative co-relation between the tastiness of the lentil and the iron content.
  • Spinach doesnt have much iron and what it does have is not that easily absorbed. The traditional "paruppu chadham, keerai masiyil" (rice, lentils and some greens) kids probably did well more because of the daal than the greens. Or they used a lot less spinach and a lot more not as tasty greens.
  • Soybeans have a lot of everything but the jury is still out on how good they are for you atleast according to this website: Newest Research On Why You Should Avoid Soy and the observations of a few very watchful mothers like Mythili. (Drinking soymilk everyday causes her 12 year old daughter to have irregular periods. Twice weekly seems to work fine).
  • Everyone agrees citrus fruits boost iron absorption
  • Dried fruits like apricots and figs are rich in iron but the drying process leaves behind some sulpher , harmful to kids prone to wheezing.
  • Breakfast Cereals are good source of iron but we avoid processed foods, prefer traditional south indian breakfasts and I think it is too expensive here in India. I also have some doubta on the bio-availability of these fortified cereals.
I took a deep breath and started recording our food habits in my infamous spreadsheet when I came across the Go with your gut in the NYT.

The gist of the article is, certain studies show our bodies absorb the most nutrients from food we enjoy. Our brains help along in the digestion by kicking in more saliva, digestive enzymes etc... when we enjoy the sight, smell and flavour of food. The real culprit in the floodtide of obesity and Type II diabetes is probably the tendency to NOT savour food.

What does all this translate down to? Do I just give my son whatever he asks, ensuring there is not much junk food that he can demand, in the house? I still have to pay some attention to ensure the meals I cook are balanced (Atleast until some one publishes an article claiming the route to excellent health is savouring a large order of mac fries over a 1 hour period ;) . But perhaps, forcing down sprouts adai down the throats of my unwilling husband, child and FIL is not the way to go.

Sorry Mahanandi , I might have actually messed up your recipe and hence ended up with unappetizing adai.

Perhaps adding sprouted horsegram was not such a hot idea.

Or perhaps their (unwilling husband, child and FIL) brains didn't send the right signals to their tongues and guts since they are not used to pesarattu type foods :)

Perhaps You are HOW you eat.
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