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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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September is National Mushroom Month. Mushrooms add a pleasant touch and taste to many dishes, but they provide so much more. These unique food items constitute a class of their own. Mushrooms are fungi that are commonly placed into the vegetable category because of their nutritive value.

What do you know about this distinctive food?

  • Mushrooms are one of few foods in the American diet that is a natural source of Vitamin D.
  • They are naturally high in umami, the fifth taste sense along with salty, sweet, bitter, and sour.
  • They are low in sodium and calories.
  • Antioxidants in mushrooms help the immune system.

Mushrooms can be used in varied ways to help incrMushroom, Nature, White, Raindropease the nutritional value of many dishes. Consider these tips.

  • Replace part of the ground beef in dishes with mushrooms to lower fat and calories.
  • Replace sour cream and cheese on that baked potato with sautéed mushrooms with herb seasonings.
  • Make dishes more filling and increase the flavor with the addition of mushrooms.
  • Add spinach and mushrooms to scrambled eggs to increase vegetable portions in your diet.

Mushrooms are versatile as an ingredient or served as a side dish in place of vegetables. They are wholesome and rich in B vitamins and minerals, especially selenium which works as an antioxidant to protect body cells. Mushrooms contain about as much potassium as a small banana.

Mushrooms have shown potential in decreasing tumor growth in cancer. They help with weight loss because they are low in calories yet give a sense of fullness. They also blend well with many foods, especially meats.

The most popular mushroom is the white button. It makes up about 90% of mushrooms consumed. It has a mild flavor which intensifies with cooking. Other varieties include:

  • Crimini:     Richer and deeper in flavor. Great with wild game, beef, and mixed with cooked vegetables. High in antioxidants and low in calories with about 23 calories per serving.
  • Portabella: Deep meat-like texture and flavor. Often served as appetizers, entrees, or as side dishes.
  • Maritake:   Rippled and fan-shaped, called “Hen of the Woods.” Distinctive aroma with a woodsy taste.
  • Shiitake:    Needs to be cooked before eating. Brownish color with a meaty texture and rich, woodsy flavor. Slightly higher in calories with about 41 calories per serving.
  • Other choices with mild flavors include Enoki, Oyster, and Beech.

While most of us use mushrooms in favorite dishes, increasing the use may result in greater physical well-being when used in place of high sodium or fatty foods. At the same time, substitutions just may help us as we combat our personal battle with excess body fat.

Before September fades away, resolve to add this nutritious and versatile food to your meals.

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June is National Dairy Month. In past times, the mention of milk referred to dairy or that white liquid produced by mammals. Not so anymore. Controversy continues as to whether drinks from almonds, soybeans, coconut, and other plants constitute milk. While these products may be healthy, they definitely aren’t the same as milk from animals.Glass, Milk, White, Cow'S Milk, Pour A

Test your knowledge about dairy (with 1% fat), unsweetened almond, soy, rice, and coconut milks by taking the quiz below.

  • What milk listed above has the highest amount of protein?
  • Which one is highest in calories?
  • Which milks are fortified with calcium and vitamin D?
  • Which milk is highest in fat, based on the above criteria?
  • Which one(s) is/are lactose-free?

Protein in milk. Cow’s milk by far has the highest content of protein. In doesn’t matter if the product is skim, reduced fat, whole, organic, or inorganic, it contains the same amount of protein, about 1 gram per ounce or 8 grams in 8-ounce servings. Coconut and rice are the lowest with 0 grams of protein while almond has 1 gram, and soy 7 grams.

Calories in milk. Dairy milk (1% fat) also contains the most calories with 110 per serving. The most popular non-dairy milks usually contain added sugar, increasing the calorie count. When served unsweetened, plant milks have a calorie count as follows: almond― 40, soy― 80, rice― 70, and coconut― 45.

Fortified milk. A fortified food indicates that manufacturers have added micronutrients to the product. Federal regulations mandate fortification of cow’s milk with 2000 International Units (IU) per quart of vitamin A and 400 IU of vitamin D. Cow’s milk is naturally high in the mineral calcium, and the vitamin D improves calcium absorption. The federal government does not regulated fortification in plant milks, but many do add vitamins and minerals to simulate cow’s milk.

Fat content. Coconut milk, with 4.5 grams per serving of mostly saturated fat, has the highest content of the milks listed. Controversy continues regarding the pros and cons of the healthfulness of coconut milk. Current research confirms that saturated fat is less healthy than unsaturated types of fat whether from animal sources or plant sources. Soy milk is second highest in fat content with 4 grams per serving. The amount of fat in cow’s milk depends on whether it is skim―with minimal fat, whole―full-fat content, or somewhere in-between for reduced fat milk. Based on the 1 percent criteria, dairy, almond, and rice all have 2.5 grams of fat per 8-ounce serving.

Lactose. Lactose is a sugar found only in milk. Some people who have trouble digesting cow’s milk may be lactose intolerant.

Consumer Reports compared these milks and identified pros and cons.

  • Almond milk. These drinks contain few almonds, sometimes no more than the equivalent of three to four whole almonds. The nuts are ground and added to water. Drinks may contain some vitamin E and are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Panelists preferred “Almond Breeze Original” of the eight tasted. This drink has sugar added and possibly other additives.
  • Coconut milk. This drink is not the same as coconut milk found in cans. It is watered down to match the consistency of dairy milk. Added nutrients may include calcium and vitamin D, and some may have B12. Of the five brands tasted, the panel chose “Silk Almond-Coconut Blend Original” as the most flavorful.
  • Soy milk. This product is a good source of protein, but not the quality protein found in cow’s milk. It is made with ground soybeans and water, and is often fortified with B-vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D. Consumer Reports panelists tasted four products and selected “Silk Soymilk Vanilla” as the best. It, too, has added sugar.

With these facts, you can make more informed decisions about the type of milk you choose for you and your family. Dairy is usually the most economical and packs in more nutrients than any of the plant sources. All dairy milk has nine essential nutrients and high-quality (complete) protein. Non-dairy milks have no federal standards and may contain as much as ten different added ingredients including salt and sugar plus stabilizers and emulsifiers like locust bean gum, lecithin, and other gums.

Let me know what you think. Should these non-dairy drinks continue to be labeled as milk?

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It’s strawberry season, my childhood favorite time of year. I grew up on a small farm where my dad grew strawberries. Fond memories linger of those days when fresh-from-the-field strawberries were often a part of every meal. I ate all the berries I wanted throughout the growing season plus unending amounts of frozen berries during the year.

It never occurred to me how healthy thImage result for free clipart strawberriesose bright red fruits were or the many nutritious benefits from eating them. Today, researchers assure us that strawberries are a part of a healthy diet and may contribute to well-being in many ways. They are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, and phytochemicals. Flavonoids, a type of phytochemical, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antimutagenic properties. Strawberries have been associated with many health conditions and may help or prevent the following:

  • Reduce total cholesterol, LDL oxidation, and cell inflammation: These factors influence risks of heart attacks. A diet high in strawberries significantly lowers cholesterol levels. Researchers found that women who ate three servings per week of strawberries or blueberries reduced their chances of heart attacks by nearly one-third.
  • Prevent weight gain: According to studies in the British Medical Journal, flavonoid-rich foods like strawberries may help manage weight more easily.
  • Improve insulin resistance: Anthocyanins, responsible for berries’ bright red color, may improve insulin sensitivity. Researchers found that women who ate strawberries at least once a month were at a lower risk for diabetes.
  • Improve cognition: Strawberries and blueberries may help prevent age-related cognitive decline. They offset negative effects of cell oxidation and inflammation in the brain and protect women’s memory. Eating strawberries may delay mental aging in older women by as much as 2.5 years. In one study, women who ate more than two servings a week experienced less deterioration than those who ate one or fewer servings.

As a bonus, strawberries also seem to improve motor skills in women. What a delicious way to improve health and keep our brains intact. Make it a point to include ample servings in your diet. During this plentiful strawberry season, remember you are helping your overall health and brain function while enjoying a tasty treat.

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March is National Nutrition Month, and today, March 8, 2017, is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day. Why is that significant? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy represent more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners, primarily registered dietitians nutritionists, who are committed to improving the health of individual patients/clients, families, and the community.
I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month

In 2008, the Academy created a special day for Registered Dietitians Nutritionists. According to their website,  key messages for the public about these leading nutrition and dietetic experts encompass the following:

  • Acquire degrees from Academy-approved programs in colleges and universities in specific fields of nutrition, food service, and dietetics plus additional internship training or plans of study,
  • Translate the science of nutrition into practical application for healthy living,
  • Help individuals achieve positive lifestyle changes,
  • Advocate the advancement of nutritional status of Americans and people around the globe.

The Academy distributes nutrition related educational materials, and for National Nutrition Month has posted a word game for adults. Try it to refresh your memory and challenge your brain.

Celebrate this month with wise food choices. Should you need help with diets or food issues, remember to contact a registered dietitian nutritionist.

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