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Archive for the ‘FOOD’ Category

No one wants dirty foods. Before we shy away, what are dirty foods? A little dirt can be washed off, but dirty foods encompass much more. Recently I discussed how kale landed on 2019’s “Dirty Dozen” list. What is that list, and should we have concerns? Should these foods be eliminated from our diets?

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization focused on health and transparency in consumer product labeling, releases lists of the most and least pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables. These are referred to as EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2019 and EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2019.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2019 include the following, in order: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. Some produce may come as a surprise. Most of these fruits and vegetables had residue of two or more pesticides. Kale and spinach averaged 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than other crops.

Red Strawberries

So which fruits and vegetables are safer when it come to pesticide content? The EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2019 include avocados at the headAssorted Vegetable Lot of the list followed by sweet corn. Less than one percent of these two products had any detectable pesticides. More than 70 percent of the remaining list; pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons had no pesticide residues. View the entire listing of both lists at the EWG’s website.

 Farmer spraying pesticide

Does this mean to avoid foods listed on the dirty list? Fruits and vegetables are significant contributions to the diet. It would be a mistake, health wise, to discontinue these foods. For instance, strawberries are low in calories yet have high levels of flavonoid phytochemicals that can deter onset of cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. Strawberries are also excellent sources of vitamin C plus A, E, and B-complex vitamins which have powerful antioxidants.

The modified list below from MedlinePlus summarizes how to protect yourself and family from pesticides on fruits and vegetables.

  • Wash hands with soap and water before preparing food.
  • Wash produce when ready for use. Washing before storing degrades the quality of most fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash produce even those for peeling since chemicals or bacteria may transfer to the inside when peeled or cut.
  • Rinse all produce under cool running water for at least 30 seconds.
  • Buy a produce wash product or use a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda in two cups of water. Avoid washing foods with dish soaps or detergents that can leave inedible residues.
  • Pat produce dry with a clean towel after washing.
  • Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Rinse and eat the inner part.
  • Eat organic sources of foods grown with approved organic pesticides, especially for those fruits with thin-skins. Eating more organic foods may lower risks of cancer compared with individuals who do not eat organic foods.

These guidelines can help reduce exposure to pesticides yet allow continued enjoyment and healthful benefits from susceptible “dirty foods.” When you weigh the odds, the nutrients these foods contain may outweigh harm if you follow precaution in using. Eat well, eat healthy.

 

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What do you think about requirements for restaurants to show calorie counts on their menus? Do you use them?

As of May 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stipulated restaurant chains with 20 or more locations must serve essentially the same menu items with calorie counts and do business under the same name. Written nutrition information stating total carbohydrates, added sugars, fiber, and protein must be available for those who request it.

Before requirements were initiated, I often drove through Wendy’s drive-thru for their Frosty when shopping or running errands. Their refreshing drink perked me up. When I noticed the calorie count on the menu board, I was shocked. Now I love Frosty, but it’s no friend to maintaining a healthy weight. It had to go. It wasn’t easy to stop this delightful treat, but it was better than the extra exercise needed to get rid of added weight.

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Americans consume about one-third of their daily calorie intake from food and beverages consumed away from home. These items contain more calories, sodium, and saturated fats than most home-prepared foods. The average person who eats one meal away from home each week will gain about two extra pounds over the course of a year. To abate the problem of extra calories when eating out, consider these three suggestions adapted from FDA.

  • Know your calorie needs. While 2,000 calories a day serves as a guide, needs vary according to sex, age, and physical activity. See the Estimated Calorie Needs Table to determine your needs.
  • Check calorie and nutrition information of menu items. Find information on menus or menu boards next to the name or price of the item. Deli counters, bulk food items in grocery stores, food trucks, airplanes/trains, and school lunches are not required to list calorie counts. Foods with two options or with a side will be listed with a slash―200/300. Multiple food items of three or more choices or different flavors (think ice cream) will be shown as a range of calories―200-300 calories.
  • Choose what is best for you.
    • When you choose an entrée, check the available sides and choose those with fewer calories.
    • If servings are more than you usually eat or want, don’t hesitate to ask for a to-go box.
    • Order salad dressings, gravy, and cream sauces on the side to limit what you consume.
    • Choose foods that are baked, roasted, steamed, grilled, or broiled.
    • Avoid those described as creamy, fried, breaded, battered, or buttered.
    • Try water with lemon for a refreshing beverage with your meal and avoid or limit sweetened beverages.

Eating out should be a pleasant event, not a time of restricting your diet and enjoyment. These simple guidelines will help you choose wisely while enjoying your dining experience.

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Share your thoughts with other readers about inclusion of calorie counts on menus and menu boards.

 

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Nutrition information seems ubiquitous, but is it reliable? Who can we trust? March is National Nutrition Month® (NMM). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, promotes NMM as the valuable and creditable source of scientifically-based food information. The Academy recognizes its 100,000 plus members each year and celebrates Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Day on the second Wednesday of March. This year, March 13, 2019. 

The Academy’s mission is to promote optimal nutrition and well-being for all people. As nutrition experts, RDNs assist Americans as well as people everywhere translate scientific knowledge into practical application for healthy eating. RDNs individualize information to help each person make positive lifestyle changes. 

To improve your nutritional status and choice of healthy foods, see the “19 Health Tips for 2019” from the Academy. If you are a crossword fan, check out this puzzle. Then test your knowledge with the NNM 2019 quiz “Fact or Fiction?” Celebrate this month with healthier eating and make it a lifetime habit. 

 

 

 

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Greetings faithful readers. 

Image result for Free Clip Art Religious Christmas Greeting

Christmas evokes traditions, memories, gifts, and much more. It’s the time of year when foods play a major role in our celebrations. Instead of more information to close out this holiday season, I refer you to a few previous Christmas posts from my blog.

While these food or food-related posts are important snippets of information, let’s not forget the most important aspects of this Holy Holiday.

For those who have forgotten or never knew, Christmas is the observance of the birth of Jesus Christ. In his brief ministry of about three years, Jesus declared many truths about himself. In John 6:48, he refers to himself as the “bread of life.” Indeed, he is. While residents of this world, the foods we eat feed our earthly bodies. Jesus alone is the bread of life for eternity. He proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to [God] except through me” (John 14:6).

Enjoy the holiday and all it has come to represent but don’t forget that Jesus is the real reason for this season. God bless.

Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

 

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June is National Dairy Month. In recent years, cow’s milk has taken a bad rap for several reasons. A few individuals have food sensitivities and more readily tolerate milk from other animal sources. Some people prefer omitting any meat or meat-related products and opt for plant-based forms of milk such as coconut, soy, or almond. These milks lack many of the nutritional values of animal milk and often have added sugars and other substances. (See my blog, “Milk―It’s Your Choice”)

Woman Drinking Milk

Cow’s milk, which most of us drink, is available in four forms: Whole milk has 3.5 percent fat. In an eight-ounce serving, it has 8 grams of fat and 150 calories. Reduced fat milk has 2 percent fat plus 5 grams of fat and 120 calories per eight ounces. Low fat milk contains one percent fat with 2.5 grams of fat and 100 calories per eight-ounce serving. Fat free (skim) milk has no fat and provides 80 calories per eight-ounce serving.

All forms of cow’s milk contain major nutrients but vary in fat content. Each eight-ounce serving of milk provides eight grams of protein. Milk is a significant source of vitamins and minerals including riboflavin, niacin, vitamins A and D, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and others.

Vitamins A and D are found only in the cream (fat) of whole milk. All other cow’s milk must be fortified with 400 I. U. per quart for vitamin D and 2,000 I. U. per quart for vitamin A. Even whole milk with less than the required amount must be fortified to these standards.

A student once asked, “Is skim milk made from whole milk that has been watered down?”  While I stifled a smile, the student was serious. In recent years, I have learned she is not the only one with that misconception. How would you have answered her question?

Milk Terms to Know:

  • Organic: Organic milk is produced from cows without any exposed to hormones or antibiotics. Today, very little milk has these two substances. More recently, guidelines for organic milk require a certain amount of free-range time for cows.
  • Lactose-Free: Some individuals are sensitive to lactose. The lactose-free form is real cow’s milk with the natural sugar (lactose) broken down for easier digestion. Lactose-free milk has the same nutrients and standards of other forms of  milk.
  • Flavored: While chocolate is the best-known flavored milk, it is also available in other flavors and has the same nutritional qualities of unflavored milk. Lower fat choices are available, but most will have added sugar.
  • Raw: The raw form comes straight from the cow without any processing. Federal law prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk across state lines. For health reasons, raw milk is not recommended.

Benefits of Milk:

A few studies have indicated adverse effects from drinking cow’s milk, but the benefits more than outweigh any harm. Milk provides nearly one-third of the daily requirement of calcium. It works conjointly with other nutrients, especially vitamin D, in the development of bones and teeth in children. While significant throughout the life cycle, it is particularly important in aging as a deterrent of osteoporosis and other bone conditions more common to those over age 50. The body also needs calcium and vitamin D for several other functions.

Milk is a major source of protein. The higher quality protein in milk may benefit weight management because it helps to maintain lean body mass. Muscle, as opposed to fat, assists in burning more calories. In addition, higher quality protein increases satiety, reduces hunger, and fits into appropriate weight-loss plans.

What can be more refreshing than a tall glass of cold milk? Well, for me, that may be a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Whatever your choice, milk is a healthy option in any eating plan. During National Dairy Month, enjoy more milk in your diet. It’s good for you.
Cows grazing on a green field.

 

 

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Who knew? May is National Egg Month, and I almost let it slip by. But don’t be deterred from celebrating. This versatile food is great all year.

The poor egg has been maligned for decades. In the 1970s, I taught a nutrition class in New Orleans to nursing students. My office, on one side of the river, required I traverse the old Huey P. Long bridge connecting to the other side. It was scary. The rickety bridge rattled and reaching the other side safely seemed dubious. It revved my adrenalin and blood pressure.

When my class discussed the role of LDL (low density lipoprotein), known to have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, I would say to my students, “If I have a heart attack on my way to class, it isn’t the egg I had for breakfast. It was driving across that bridge.”

Stress remains a factor in heart disease, but eggs? Now some forty years later, my stand on eggs has been vindicated. For many years, researchers have known that cholesterol in the foods we eat has less effect on blood cholesterol levels than does the type of fats we eat. Individuals with diets high in saturated fat (those mostly from animal sources) are more likely to have increased cholesterol blood levels (LDL) than those who consume unsaturated fats (mostly from plant sources).

Many still argue that those who eat the yolk, which contains small amounts of cholesterol, should limit intake to three to four eggs per week. While an egg yolk has about 200 mg of cholesterol, the effects may be more positive than negative.

A nine-year Chinese study of nearly a half-million people compared the risk of heart attacks and strokes of those who consumed an average of a half to one egg per day with those who never ate eggs. Researchers concluded that eggs eaten in moderation had no effect on elevated risks for developing heart disease or stroke.

Naysayers pointed out that the study wasn’t a controlled experiment. They claimed results might not apply to other parts of the world such as the U. S. where westernized diets prevail, and most people are overweight. Other recent research suggests that eggs may block the production of LDL in the liver while at the same time boosting HDL, known as the good cholesterol. The Egg Nutrition Center is one source of more  nutrition information about the value of eggs in the diet. 

A study published in the May 7, 2018 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect of a high-egg diet on the cardiovascular system of people who were pre-diabetic or had type 2 diabetes. Compared to a low-egg diet (less than two per week) the high-egg diet had no adverse effects on the heart. Both diets were weight-loss diets and results from the two diets were similar.

That’s not the only good news about eating moderate amounts of eggs. Besides its many nutrient benefits and its quality protein, studies find more health attributes for this wholesome food. Eggs are significant sources of choline and lutein (a xanthophyll carotenoid). These nutrients may influence cognitive functions. As the number of Americans over age 65 rapidly increases, so does the incidence of cognitive decline. Scientific evidence substantiates the role choline and lutein in brain and neurological development post conception, and it is believed that lutein may influence cognition across the lifespan.

I remain a proponent of eggs as part of a healthy diet. Unless advised otherwise by a qualified health professional, add eggs into your diet with the assurance they are unlikely to affect heart conditions in a healthy person. It just may keep your brain more healthy and active during the latter years of life. Most of us need all the help we can get.

                                                     

 

 

 

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As a preschooler, I loved to traipse behind my Daddy as he strolled our small farm. One of my many favorite places in the early fall was to walk down the hill to the farmer next to us who grew and processed sorghum.

I watched, mesmerized, as the small homemade mill thrashed and transformed sorghum stalks into thick goofy syrup. Most haven’t had the privilege of watching this process of turning healthy molasses into a mainstay at the dinner table. In our family, homemade hot biscuits dripped with the tantalizing tart flavored syrup. As years passed, the old farm mill nearby vanished, but not my acquired taste for its product.

I’m surprised when people outside the south are unfamiliar with our cultural treasure. Grocery stores do not carry the type of sorghum southerners eat. It’s found in select locations, without added ingredients or preservatives. A few places in several states are noted for their production. The true southern cook checks the origin of the product and uses only pure sorghum. At a food trade show in the fall of 2017, I became excited when I saw a booth promoting sorghum. Yes, it was made in one of those acceptable places for southern cooks, but that was all. A closer look revealed it was a sweet sugar cane syrup with slight flavoring of sorghum. Unfortunately, the man at the booth knew zilch about sorghum.

What is so good about this delicacy? The flavor is unique. Don’t mistake this product for syrups made from sugar cane. This tasty sweetness contains a host of nutrients from vitamins to minerals. It has a significant amount of vitamin B6 plus potassium, magnesium, and iron with lesser amounts of riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and zinc. One tablespoon of syrup supplies about 60 calories.

A google search revealed that others, like me, refer to this delectable syrup as sorghum molasses. I wondered why our modern era calls it sorghum syrup. According to varied google responses, the sugar cane industry hijacked the term molasses to use in conjunction with their sweetener―sugar.

I found few internet sources for real sorghum, most with exorbitant prices. When you acquire this “can’t-do-without” product, try these cookies. The recipe is online. Rest assured, coming from my kitchen, the sorghum I used was the real thing. Use this delightful healthy, tangy golden brown syrup in your fall cooking.

Molasses cookies uncookedGinger cookies cookedhttps://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/big-soft-ginger-cookies

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