Archive for February, 2013

Yes, healthy foods can make you sick if contaminated with infectious pathogens or toxins.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States 48 million people or one in six get food poisoning. The most common culprits include norovirus, salmonella, clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. Symptoms may range from mild diarrhea to organ failure. From 2009-2010, salmonella resulted in nearly 29,500 illnesses, 1,200 hospitalizations, and 23 deaths.

We rarely consider fresh foods as sources of food-borne illness, but an eleven-year study discovered nearly half (46 %) of reported incidences were from produce. The primarily culprit was the norovirus organism. Here’s how healthy foods ranked in causes of illness and sometimes death.

  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or kale, accounted for 22% of food-borne illnesses. Salads, one of the favored vegetable sources for power-packed nutrients, delivered unwanted organisms that caused gastric distress and worse. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following before eating produce. See the complete list and more at http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=10952
    • Wash all fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy ones, with cool water.
    • Scrub firm produce with a firm brush—remember the listeria outbreak from cantaloupes?
    • Discard outer leaves of lettuce.
    • Remove and discard bruised or damaged spots.
    • Dry produce with a paper towel or clean dish towel.
    • Cook raw sprouts before eating.
  • Dairy products, with 1.3 million cases, caused the second most incidents of illness. They accounted for the most hospitalizations and over the eleven years, resulted in 140 deaths. Although this study did not differentiate between raw and pasteurized milk, unpasteurized milk and their products are subject to contamination from Campylobactor, the organism most responsible, Escherichia coli, and listeria.
  • Meats resulted in the most deaths from food poisoning. In the study, nineteen percent came from poultry, mostly from listeria or salmonella organisms.

Proper food handling from farm to table is the best way to prevent food poisoning. When you eat out, check the restaurant’s health inspection score. The following steps help prevent food-borne illnesses at home.

  • Wash hands often.
  • Clean surfaces and utensils before preparing foods.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using separate areas and utensils for meats and disinfect after use.
  • Cook susceptible foods, such as meats, to appropriate temperatures.
  • Avoid holding cooked foods at room temperature for more than two hours. For longer times, hold foods above 140o F.
  • Chill foods properly. Keep refrigerator below 40o F. For large quantities, such as gravies and soups, store in shallow containers to chill rapidly and prevent spoilage.
  • Inventory refrigerator often and toss cooked foods after four days.

   Take appropriate precautions and enjoy eating healthy foods without becoming a victim of unwanted illness.


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We often give a special gift on Valentine’s Day to those we love. Many send flowers to commemorate this special occasion. Heart-shaped boxes of decadent candies will woo the love of your life. These gifts will last a brief time. To really show love to that special someone, keep your heart healthy.

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. We celebrate emotional feelings on one dayValentine’s, but dedicate the entire month to the body organ that sustains our life—our heart.

The following, adapted from a list by the University of Nebraska Extension, are ways to have a healthier heart.
 Reduce Your Risk. Conditions of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, smoking, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity increase risks for heart attacks and heart disease. Take measures to control any of these challenges that are a part of your life.
 Learn Warning Signs. Although chest pain is a common symptom for men and women, other indications of heart attack or disease differ between men and women.
 Improve Nutrition. Making healthier food choices may extend the length and quality of your life.
 Move Your Body. Inactivity harms health. Find ways to increase activity. Regular exercise is best, but even small changes can make a huge difference.

Show your love to that special someone by looking at lifestyle changes to make you healthier. Start today. It’s the best gift you can give.

For more information, see

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Fast Food

Fast Food (Photo credit: SteFou!)

Typical junk-food meals contain lots of saturated fat—mostly from animal sources such as bacon, sausage, and hamburgers. These fats can have a negative effect on health. Most of us enjoy a juicy fast-food hamburger from time to time. Can you live without junk food? Unfortunately, you may not live as long with it.

According to two recent reports at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto, Canada, even one meal at your favorite fast-food place can damage arteries. Twenty-eight nonsmoking men consumed a Mediterranean-type diet of salmon, almonds, and vegetables cooked in olive oil. A week later, they consumed a sandwich of sausage, egg, and cheese with a side order of hash browns. Researchers checked the inner lining of blood vessels after each meal to determine the degree of artery dilation, which is closely correlated with risks for developing heart disease. Following the Mediterranean-type diet, arteries dilated normally to allow for good blood flow. Those with high triglyceride levels benefitted even more from the diet. Arteries of those eating the high-fat sandwich dilated 24 percent less than when they had not eaten.

In a similar study, participants consumed a fast-food type sandwich of ham, egg, and cheese with a total of 25 grams of fat and 450 calories. Even after two hours, the blood vessels were less efficient in dilation and blood flow. This study failed to compare the results with healthier choices. These two studies imply, but fail to show cause and effect, that foods high in fat, salt, or cholesterol may cause abnormality in blood vessels, a potential risk for developing heart disease.

Fast food may also be linked to asthma, hay fever, and eczema in children. Thirteen and fourteen year-old teenagers and six and seven year-old children from fifty-one countries who ate three or more fast-food meals per week had a thirty-nine percent and twenty percent, respectively, increased risk of asthma. However, fruits added to diets seemed to reduce the incidence and severity.

Added weight is another downside for frequent visits to fast-food restaurants. Of more than 3,000 participants aged eighteen to thirty, those who frequented fast-food places more than twice a week compared to less than once a week gained an extra ten pounds over a fifteen year period and showed an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Does this mean you must give up junk food forever? Science isn’t that exact. To patronize your favorite fast-food hangout and eat healthier, consider the following suggestions.
 Pizza. Get less cheese. Choose low-fat toppings such as vegetables.
 Breads. Select whole grain bread and bagels instead of high-fat croissants and biscuits.
 Hamburgers. Get only one patty. Omit cheese and sauce. Order extra lettuce, tomato, and other veggies. Choose grilled, baked, roasted or broiled meat, fish or chicken.
 French Fries. Order a small serving. Better yet, substitute a salad.
 Salads. Avoid high-calorie additions like cheese, croutons, or bacon. Use low-calorie dressings or vinegar.
 Order small meals, split with a friend, or ask for a “to go” carton.

While fast-food fare can have a negative effect on heart-health, simply changing to more nutritious choices and limiting your number of visits to these sites can help you live longer.

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