AS WE ARE APPROACHING FLU SEASON…
WHAT FOODS CAN HELP
BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?
Antioxidants and Your Immune System:
Super Foods for Optimal Health
One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong and prevent colds and flu is to shop your supermarket’s produce aisle.
Experts say a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help you ward off infections like colds and flu. That’s because these super foods contain immune-boosting antioxidants.
What are antioxidants? They are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. Many experts believe this damage plays a part in a number of chronic diseases, including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), cancer, and arthritis. Free radicals can also interfere with your immune system. So, fighting off damage with antioxidants helps keep your immune system strong, making you better able to ward off colds, flu, and other infections.Antioxidants for Immunity: Where to Find Them
Adding more fruit and vegetables of any kind to your diet will improve your health. But some foods are higher in antioxidants than others. The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables – especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. To get the biggest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed; don’t overcook or boil.
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids:
Apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon
Berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, green or yellow peppers, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes
Broccoli, carrots, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds
Other super foods that are rich in antioxidants include:
- All berries
- Red grapes
- Alfalfa sprouts
Vitamins aren’t the only antioxidants in food.
Other antioxidants that may help boost immunity include:
- Zinc: Found in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, fortified cereals, and dairy products
- Selenium: Found in Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry and fortified breads, and other grain products
9 Foods That Fight Illness
It takes more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away.
It turns out that eating some pretty surprising nutrients will help keep your immune system on guard.
You can ensure that your body and immunity run smoothly by rounding out your plate with
plenty of colorful servings of fruits and veggies, plus 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, at the very least.
The following ingredients can add extra flu-fighting punch to your winter meal plan.
Probiotics, or the “live active cultures” found in yogurt, are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs. Although they’re available in supplement form, a study from the University of Vienna in Austria found that a daily 7-ounce dose of yogurt was just as effective in boosting immunity as popping pills. In an 80-day Swedish study of 181 factory employees, those who drank a daily supplement of Lactobacillus reuteri—a specific probiotic that appears to stimulate white blood cells—took 33 percent fewer sick days than those given a placebo. Any yogurt with a Live and Active Cultures seal contains some beneficial bugs, but Stonyfield Farm is the only U.S. brand that contains this specific strain.
Your optimal dose: Two 6-ounce servings a day.
2. Oats and Barley
These grains contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than echinacea, reports a Norwegian study. When animals eat this compound, they’re less likely to contract influenza, herpes, even anthrax; in humans, it boosts immunity, speeds wound healing, and may help antibiotics work better.
Your optimal dose: At least one in your three daily servings of whole grains.
This potent onion relative contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria. British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; the garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Other studies suggest that garlic lovers who chow more than six cloves a week have a 30 percent lower rate of colorectal cancer and a 50 percent lower rate of stomach cancer.
Your optimal dose: Two raw cloves a day and add crushed garlic to your cooking several times a week.
People who drank 5 cups a day of black tea for 2 weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who drank a placebo hot drink, in a Harvard study. The amino acid that’s responsible for this immune boost, L-theanine, is abundant in both black and green tea—decaf versions have it, too.
Your optimal dose: Several cups daily. To get up to five times more antioxidants from your tea bags, bob them up and down while you brew.
5. Chicken Soup
When University of Nebraska researchers tested 13 brands, they found that all but one (chicken-flavored ramen noodles) blocked the migration of inflammatory white cells—an important finding, because cold symptoms are a response to the cells’ accumulation in the bronchial tubes. The amino acid cysteine, released from chicken during cooking, chemically resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine, which may explain the results. The soup’s salty broth keeps mucus thin the same way cough medicines do. Added spices, such as garlic and onions, can increase soup’s immune-boosting power.
Your optimal dose: Have a bowl when feeling crummy.
6. Fish Selenium, plentiful in shellfish such as oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams, helps white blood cells produce cytokines—proteins that help clear flu viruses out of the body. Salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich in omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation, increasing airflow and protecting lungs from colds and respiratory infections.
Your optimal dose: Two servings a week (unless you’re pregnant or planning to be)
Zinc deficiency is one of the most common nutritional shortfalls among American adults, especially for vegetarians and those who’ve cut back on beef, a prime source of this immunity-bolstering mineral. And that’s unfortunate, because even mild zinc deficiency can increase your risk of infection. Zinc in your diet is very important for the development of white blood cells, the intrepid immune system cells that recognize and destroy invading bacteria, viruses, and assorted other bad guys, says William Boisvert, Ph.D., an expert in nutrition and immunity at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.
Your optimal dose: A 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides about 30 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for zinc. That’s often enough to make the difference between deficient and sufficient. Not a beef person? Try zinc-rich oysters, fortified cereals, pork, poultry, yogurt, or milk.
You may not think of skin as part of your immune system. But this crucial organ, covering an impressive 16 square feet, serves as a first-line fortress against bacteria, viruses, and other undesirables. To stay strong and healthy, your skin needs vitamin A. “Vitamin A plays a major role in the production of connective tissue, a key component of skin,” explains Preventionadvisor David Katz, M.D., director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Connecticut. One of the best ways to get vitamin A into your diet is from foods containing beta-carotene (like sweet potatoes), which your body turns into vitamin A.
Your optimal dose: A half-cup serving, which delivers only 170 calories but 40 percent of the DV of vitamin A as beta-carotene. They’re so good, you might want to save them for dessert! Think orange when looking for other foods rich in beta-carotene: carrots, squash, pumpkin, andcantaloupe.
For centuries, people around the world have turned to mushrooms for a healthy immune system. Contemporary researchers now know why. “Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection,” says Douglas Schar, DipPhyt, MCPP, MNIMH, director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Washington, DC.
Your optimal dose: Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms appear to pack the biggest immunity punch; experts recommend at least ¼ ounce to an ounce a few times a day for maximum immune benefits. Add a handful to pasta sauce, or sauté with a little oil and add to eggs.
21 Foods to Boost Your Immune System
billaday / flickr
We know stress affects the immune system in a negative way,
and many times we hold up during stress only to let down on vacation and get sick.
Use the following food strategies to boost your immune system for any trip:
1. Take Extra Vitamin C Before You Travel
Adding extra vitamin C to your diet two or three days before you leave for a trip helps your immune system fight viruses before they make you sick and helps breakdown stress hormones. It is best to double what you normally do. This can mean taking supplements or by eating the proper foods.
Foods packed with vitamin C include:
- Red bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
If you have been taking a vitamin C supplement, double the amount and try to choose a supplement with flavonoids for optimal absorption.
2. Mine for Minerals
Activate your immune system with beta glucan-, zinc- and other mineral-rich foods such as:
- Garbanzo beans
- Deep greens (turnip or beet greens are the best)
3. Add Color to Your Plate
To help nourish the thymus gland, which is responsible for much of the immune-system function, eat two servings a day of foods rich in carotenes. Foods high in carotenes include colored vegetables and dark greens, such as:
- Yellow and orange squash
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
4. Boost Your Digestive Tract with Bacteria
The live active cultures of friendly bacteria in the following foods boost your digestive-tract health and are very helpful to the immune system:
- Yogurt or Kefi
SUPER FOODS CHART
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!
IS GLUTEN FREE FOR ME?…
Many of you have been writing in asking about Gluten Free diets…The following information should help answer some of your questions about this new craze. The one common suggestion from most of the articles we researched was to always see your Doctor before starting any drastic new diet or exercise routine. We hope this answers some of your questions.
More and more groceries and health food stores stock gluten-free products. That’s good news for people with celiac disease, who for health reasons should not eat wheat with gluten.
Yet paradoxically, most of the people who reach for gluten-free products don’t have celiac disease and or even a sensitivity to wheat, Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, told WebMD. “The market for gluten-free products is exploding. Why exactly we don’t know. Many people may just perceive that a gluten-free diet is healthier.”
In fact, it isn’t. For people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is essential. But for others, “unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” says Green.
Celiac Disease Serious, Often Undetected
Experts estimate that about 1% of Americans have celiac disease. The condition, caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten, can damage the lining of the small intestine. That, in turn, can prevent important nutrients from being absorbed.
Symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, anemia, bone pain, and a severe skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. But celiac disease often has few or no symptoms. In part for that reason, only about 5% to 10% of cases are diagnosed in the U.S., Green says.
How can you know if you have celiac disease? The only way is to be tested. The first test is typically a blood test that detects antibodies related to an abnormal immune response. If the blood test is positive, a biopsy is performed to confirm inflammation in the lining of the small intestines.
But What If You Don’t Have Celiac Disease?
Some people may be sensitive to gluten but don’t have outright celiac disease. These people may feel better on a diet with less gluten.
So what’s wrong with the rest of us trying a gluten-free diet a try to see how we feel?
For starters, going gluten-free means saying no to many common and nutritious foods. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten also shows up in many whole grain foods related to wheat, including bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). Some celiac disease experts warn patients to steer clear of oats, as well.
Gluten itself doesn’t offer special nutritional benefits. But the many whole grains that contain gluten do. They’re rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber. Studies show that whole grain foods, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that half of all carbohydrates in the diet come from whole grain products.
To be sure, a few whole grains don’t contain gluten, including amaranth, millet, and quinoa. But they are far less common than gluten-containing grains. Meeting the dietary guidelines goal is very tough if you have to eliminate wheat, barley, rye, kamut, and other gluten-containing whole grains.
GLUTEN FREE DIET
Is Gluten Bad for You?
Before you hop on the bandwagon, read this
LAST UPDATED: APRIL 17, 2013 | BY BY KAREN ANSEL, R.D., PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMIE CHUNG
Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. Most of us unknowingly love it, because gluten gives our favorite foods that special touch: It makes pizza dough stretchy, gives bread its spongy texture, and is used to thicken sauces and soups.Gluten-free eating has a basis in science, and it does help a genuine health problem. To people with a chronic digestive disorder called celiac disease, gluten is truly evil: Their bodies regard even a tiny crumb of it as a malicious invader and mount an immune response, says Alessio Fasano, M.D., medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore. Problem is, this immune reaction ends up damaging the small intestine, which causes both great gastrointestinal distress and nutritional deficiencies. If untreated, these responses can then lead to intestinal cancers as well as complications such as infertility and osteoporosis.Experts once thought celiac disease was a rare disorder, believed to affect one in every 10,000 people. But an Archives of Internal Medicine study in 2003 suggests that celiac disease is far more prevalent than anyone had suspected, affecting one in 133 Americans. With increased testing and awareness, more people realized why they felt sick after eating a piece of bread, and food companies discovered a new market.
Now another problem is emerging, and experts are referring to it as nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity can lead to similar celiac symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bloating. But unlike celiac, sensitivity doesn’t damage the intestine. For years, health professionals didn’t believe nonceliac gluten sensitivity existed, but experts are beginning to acknowledge that it may affect as many as 20 million Americans, says Fasano.
The Health Hype
Thanks to the increase in diagnosed celiac and gluten sensitivity cases, and the corresponding uptick in foods marketed to sufferers, “gluten-free diets have emerged from obscurity, and now the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction,” says Fasano. And with this popularity push, people have latched on to avoiding gluten as a cure-all for many conditions aside from celiac, including migraines, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. While some have found relief, that doesn’t mean a gluten free diet will work in all cases.
And then there’s the idea that a gluten-free existence is the ticket to speedy weight loss. But, says Mark DeMeo, M.D., director of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Adult Celiac Disease Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, “there’s nothing magical about a gluten-free diet that’s going to help you lose weight.” What’s really at work: Gluten-free dining can seriously limit the number of foods you can eat. With fewer choices, you’re a lot less likely to overeat, says Shelley Case, R.D., author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide and a medical advisory board member for the Celiac Disease Foundation.
But it can backfire too, because gluten-free doesn’t mean fat-free or calorie-free.
“Without gluten to bind food together, food manufacturers often use more fat and sugar to make the product more palatable,” says Case. Consider pretzels: A serving of regular pretzels has about 110 calories and just one gram of fat. Swap them for gluten-free pretzels and you could get 140 caloriesand six grams of fat.
Should You Go Gluten-Free?
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, the answer is easy: Yes, you have to. But if you just want to give the diet a spin, know this: It’s a giant pain in the butt. Giving up gluten may sound as basic as cutting out bread or eating less pasta, but this isn’t just another version of the low-carb craze. Because gluten makes foods thick and tasty, it is added to everything from salad dressing to soy sauce to seasonings.
Besides the hassle, you can end up with serious nutritional deficiencies. “Gluten-free doesn’t necessarily equal healthy, especially when people yank vitamin-enriched and wholegrain foods from their diets and replace them with gluten free brownies,” says Case. In fact, research suggests that those who forgo gluten may be more likely to miss out on important nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, and fiber.
This is where careful meal planning comes in, which may explain why some people feel so good when they go G-free: They’re eating real food instead of ultraprocessed packaged fare. “If you skip the gluten-free goodies and focus on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy, and gluten free grains like amaranth and quinoa, this can be a very healthy way of eating,” says Marlisa Brown, R.D., author of Gluten-Free, Hassle Free. “But you can’t just wing it.”
Seven Signs of Gluten Sensitivity
More than 2.5 million people may have celiac disease, yet only an estimated 150,000 have been diagnosed. That’s because people can be asymptomatic for years, and the symptoms of celiac disease can also overlap with other medical problems, so it often confuses both patients and doctors alike. That said, if you think you might have a problem, don’t ax gluten from your diet before being screened by a specialist. If you go off gluten entirely before having a test done, your results may come back negative even if you have the disease.
Celiac disease has hundreds of recognized symptoms, according to the Celiac Sprue Association, a nonprofit for those with the disease. Here are some common problems:
> Chronic diarrhea or constipation
> Abdominal pain and bloating
> Unexplained weight loss
Are gluten-free diets healthy for everyone?
Posted by Grace Fjeldberg, R.D.
May 06, 2013
Q. I hear a lot about gluten-free diets – are they healthy for everyone?
A. If you do not have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or dermatitis herpetiformis (a blistering skin condition resulting from gluten intolerance), a gluten-free diet is not necessary and may actually nutritionally compromise your diet. Many processed gluten-free foods are higher in saturated fat and sugar to make products more flavorful. The added sugars and fat can have a negative impact on weight and weight-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, research suggests a diet high in gluten may be beneficial in lowering triglycerides.
Is Contaminated Wheat Gluten in Human Foods?
By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., About.com GuideApril 7, 2007
Is genetically modified wheat causing increases in gluten issues?
By Jane Anderson, About.com Guide
Updated April 23, 2013
About.com Health’s Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board
Is GMO wheat to blame for the rise in celiac disease?Getty Images/Andy Sacks
However, no GMO wheat products are being marketed yet. And that means (contrary to popular belief) that GMO wheat cannot be blamed for increased celiac and gluten sensitivity cases.
Hybridized Wheat May Be To Blame, Though
That doesn’t mean wheat hasn’t changed over the last half-dozen decades, though — it has, as the result of a process called hybridization. And some scientists (although not all) say those changes could be one cause of an increased inability to tolerate gluten.
In hybridization, scientists don’t tinker directly with the plant’s genome. Instead, they choose particular strains of a plant with desirable characteristics, and breed them to reinforce those characteristics. When this is done repeatedly, successive generations of a particular plant can look very different from the plant’s ancestors.
That’s what’s happened with modern wheat, which is shorter, browner and far higher-yielding than wheat crops were 100 years ago. Dwarf wheat and semi-dwarf wheat crops have replaced their taller cousins, and these wheat strains require less time and less fertilizer to produce a robust crop of wheat berries.
Dr. William Davis, author of the anti-wheat best-selling book Wheat Belly, raises questions in his book about whether these changes in wheat have caused the spike in gluten-related health problems, including obesity and diabetes. “Small changes in wheat protein structure can spell the difference between a devastating immune response to wheat protein versus no immune response at all,” Davis writes. Modern wheat has been bred to contain more gluten, he says.
However, a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry cast doubt on part of Davis’ hypothesis when it reported that there’s not really any more gluten in modern wheat than there was in 1920s-era wheat.
So What’s Really Going On?
That’s not clear. Studies do show a significant increase in the incidence of celiac disease over the last several decades. Anecdotally, gluten sensitivity also is rising, although there haven’t been any studies to confirm that (and some blame the current trendiness of the gluten-free diet for reported increases).
Donald D. Kasarda, the U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist who authored the 2013 study on 1920s wheat, says it’s possible that increased consumption of wheat in recent years — rather than increased gluten in the wheat actually consumed — might be in part to blame for increased incidence of celiac disease. He also says the use of wheat gluten as an ingredient in processed foods might contribute.
However, no one really knows why celiac disease (and possibly gluten sensitivity) might be affecting more people. There’s one thing that’s certain, though: genetically modified wheat can’t be to blame.
- Is Einkorn Wheat Gluten-Free?
- Wheat Grass and Barley Grass – Gluten-Free or Not?
- Study: Celiac Disease Still on Increase
The World’s Healthiest Diet
By Nancy Gottesman
What You Get to Eat (and Drink)
Fruits and vegetables: Get your fill of antioxidant-rich choices, which promote heart health. Make a dinner of a green leafy salad tossed with red pepper, chunks of chicken breast, and sunflower seeds. Or have a frozen-fruit smoothie for dessert (blend frozen mangoes, strawberries, or bananas with low-fat yogurt or milk).
How much: 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of veggies per day.
Fish: To get protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, replace at least two meat meals each week with fish or other seafood. Healthiest prep: poaching, broiling, grilling, or sauteing in olive or canola oil. Children and pregnant or nursing women should be especially careful to eat fish that’s low in mercury (find out more at epa.gov).
How much: At least two 3-ounce servings a week.
Beans: All varieties are excellent sources of low-fat protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Include kidney, black, red, fava, garbanzo, cannellini, or any other type in soups, salads, stews, lasagna, or casseroles; or mash with herbs and spices as a dip for vegetables.
How much: 1/2 to 2/3 cup cooked beans at least three times a week.
Herbs and spices: Oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, basil, anise, garlic, and pepper not only add Mediterranean flavor, they also contain healthy antioxidants. “Just half a teaspoon of dried oregano has as many antioxidants as 3 cups of spinach,” says dietitian Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD.
How much: Use liberally, to taste, at every meal.
Nuts and seeds: They’re high in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have a steadying effect on blood sugar and keep you feeling full. Since they’re also high in calories, combine with other foods, for example, by serving almonds with steamed veggies and walnuts with oatmeal.
How much: 1 to 1 1/2 ounces daily.
Healthy oils: The monounsaturated fats in olive and other healthy oils like canola, sesame, walnut, peanut, and grapeseed are good for your heart. Since 1 tablespoon has 120 calories, sprinkle — don’t pour — over salads, grilled veggies, and whole-grain pasta or bread.
How much: 3 to 5 teaspoons daily.
Whole grains: They contain more vitamins, minerals, and protein than white-flour products and have a stabilizing influence on blood-sugar levels. Experiment with nutrient-dense, nutty-tasting exotic whole grains such as barley, amaranth, quinoa, and faro. But watch your intake: One cup of cereal equals two servings, as do two slices of pumpernickel bread.
How much: Four 1/2-cup servings daily.
Wine: It’s a Mediterranean diet staple to have a glass (particularly red) with meals. In moderation, alcohol of any kind may help reduce heart disease risk. “But if you don’t drink, don’t worry,” says Dr. Bazilian. “Alcohol isn’t the diet’s main healthy factor.”
How much: Moderation for women means one glass of wine or one cocktail daily; more raises your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and breast cancer.
6 Reasons to Try It
You don’t just lose pounds –
the Mediterranean diet also helps you feel better and live longer.
1. Lasting weight loss. How can a diet that features nuts, oils, pasta, bread, and wine help you lose weight? Because it makes you feel full and therefore holds hunger at bay. The healthy fats and protein in the Mediterranean diet keep your glucose (blood sugar) level on an even keel, which means you’ll be less apt to hunt down chips, cookies, or fast food to get through the day.
A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet for two years lost more weight than low-fat dieters and maintained their 10-pound loss. “You don’t feel hungry,” explains Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, a coauthor of the study and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston. Don’t believe us about protein’s fill power? Dr. Stampfer suggests this little experiment: “One morning eat white toast and jam for breakfast. The next day have scrambled eggs.” The egg meal, Dr. Stampfer promises, will leave you more energetic and a lot less hungry at 11 a.m.
2. A strong, healthy heart. Eating Mediterranean decreases practically every heart-disease risk factor — high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. When 605 patients who’d had a first heart attack followed the diet for four years, they had a 50 to 70 percent lower risk of having a second heart attack, angina, or a stroke or pulmonary embolism. “There’s no single aspect of the diet that keeps your heart healthy,” says Dr. Stampfer; it’s the synergy of all the diet’s elements. Antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, and beans help prevent the atherosclerosis that can make plaque build up in arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish lower blood pressure, arrhythmia risk, and triglyceride levels. Olive oil lessens LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. And wine and other spirits in moderation may lower heart-disease risk.
3. Diabetes prevention. In a new Annals of Internal Medicine study, 215 type 2 diabetics were asked to follow either a low-fat or a Mediterranean diet. After four years only 44 percent of the Mediterranean group needed diabetes medication — but 70 percent of the low-fat eaters did. The Med dieters also lost more weight. Other research shows that the diet helps people with pre-diabetes lower their blood sugar enough to avoid developing full-blown type 2 diabetes.
4. Better eyesight. The diet could help stave off or prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss after age 54. The condition, which affects more than 10 million Americans, destroys the part of your retina responsible for the clear central vision you need to read, drive, and recognize faces. A recent study linked eating fish and vegetables to a reduced risk of getting it early, and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can lower the risk of the disease altogether. What’s more, the lutein in green leafy vegetables cuts your chance of cataracts and boosts retinal health, says Dr. Willett.
5. Reduced Alzheimer’s risk. Eating Mediterranean may help cut your chance of Alzheimer’s disease by 40 percent, shows a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And people who added regular exercise to the diet were 60 percent less likely to get Alzheimer’s.
6. Longer life. A recent meta-analysis in the British Medical Journal found the diet significantly improved health and led to a 9 percent reduction in death from heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Other studies have found that the diet’s healthy fats may lessen the inflammation and pain of rheumatoid arthritis and cut the risk of getting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) by 60 percent.
For details on how to follow the Mediterranean diet,
we turned to dietician Wendy Bazilian, author ofThe SuperFoods Rx Diet,
who creates nutritious menus for her clients.
1. Know the percentages. Your diet should have about 50 percent carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains; 35 percent fats from healthy oils, nuts, seeds, and fish; and 15 percent protein from legumes, fish, nuts, dairy, poultry, and eggs.
2. Count calories. To lose weight, a 150-pound woman should eat about 1,400 calories a day. For maintenance, up the count to 1,800.
3. Limit red meat and sweets. Get no more than 8 percent of daily calories as saturated fat — that means just 3 to 4 ounces of beef or lamb per week (12 to 16 ounces a month max, if you prefer a few big meals). Limit rich desserts to a few times per week. Otherwise, have fresh or frozen fruit.
4. Eat poultry, eggs, and fish, but not every day. Have chicken, turkey, or eggs every other day; serve fish at least twice a week.
5. Switch to non- or low-fat dairy. Get two to three 8-ounce servings of milk or yogurt daily for calcium and other nutrients. And limit butter.
6. Focus on healthy fats and carbs. ”The lion’s share of fat comes from what’s found naturally in such foods as olive oil, nuts, avocado, and fish,” says Dr. Bazilian. Base your diet on healthy, whole-grain carbs — pasta, bread, cereal, tortillas, and brown rice. Save white flour and white rice for special occasions.
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal, March 2010.
10 Power Foods
By Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD
Among fruits, they’re the champion of antioxidants and, like wine, contain resveratrol, a heart-protecting flavonoid.
A half-cup serving provides as much vitamin C as an orange with about half the calories. A serving also delivers 40 milligrams of calcium. You’ll get more in a cup of milk, but you’ll also get anywhere from 85 to 150 calories. Even skim milk has saturated fat; broccoli, however, has zero fat of any kind.
Grapes are rich in nutrients that protect blood vessels and heart muscle from tissue damage caused by free radicals and the “rusting” they give rise to. Grapes also contain myriad flavonoids, including resveratrol.
Mostly composed of monounsaturated fat, olive oil actually lowers levels of LDL cholesterol as well as blood fats called triglycerides; it also reduces the risk of high blood pressure and inflammation. It contains vitamin E and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, and extra-virgin varieties are particularly rich in antioxidant phytonutrients.
A superb source of iron, these green leaves are a low-calorie, nonfat alternative to red meat. Spinach is also an abundant nondairy source of calcium and vitamin K, a combination that promotes bone health. Spinach is especially rich in folate, a B vitamin that reduces heart-damaging homocysteine. Recent evidence suggests it helps prevent inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Half a cup contains only 25 to 30 calories, but that half cup is bursting with heart-healthy nutrients that minimize the damage caused by LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and help protect against cancer.
While part of their value comes from a rich array of phytochemicals that work together to protect your cardiovascular system, their most powerful component is the phytonutrient lycopene, which gives them their bright color. Research has shown that lycopene reduces the risk of breast, cervix, prostate, pancreas, and lung cancers. To get the full benefit, try to buy vine-ripened tomatoes and eat them fresh, including the skin.
When the nutrient-rich bran, germ, and endosperm are not processed out of the kernel, grains retain their natural fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients. All of these help boost metabolism and control blood sugar; they also lower your risk of diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart disease.
Excerpted from The Sonoma Diet, by Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD. Copyright 2005 Meredith Corporation.
Putting it all together
The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and healthy way to eat.
Many people who switch to this style of eating say they’ll never eat any other way.
Here are some specific steps to get you started:
- Eat your veggies and fruits — and switch to whole grains.Avariety of plant foods should make up the majority of your meals. They should be minimally processed — fresh and whole are best. Include veggies and fruits in every meal and eat them for snacks as well. Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal, and begin to eat more whole-grain rice and pasta products. Keep baby carrots, apples and bananas on hand for quick, satisfying snacks. Fruit salads are a wonderful way to eat a variety of healthy fruit.
- Go nuts. Nuts and seeds are good sources of fiber, protein and healthy fats. Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter, rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added. Try blended sesame seeds (tahini) as a dip or spread for bread.
- Pass on the butter. Try olive or canola oil as a healthy replacement for butter or margarine. Lightly drizzle it over vegetables. After cooking pasta, add a touch of olive oil, some garlic and green onions for flavoring. Dip bread in flavored olive oil or lightly spread it on whole-grain bread for a tasty alternative to butter. Try tahini as a dip or spread for bread too.
- Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and can stand in for salt and fat in recipes.
- Go fish. Eat fish at least twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices. Grill, bake or broil fish for great taste and easy cleanup. Avoid breaded and fried fish.
- Rein in the red meat. Limit red meat to no more than a few times a month. Substitute fish and poultry for red meat. When choosing red meat, make sure it’s lean and keep portions small (about the size of a deck of cards). Also avoid sausage, bacon and other high-fat, processed meats.
- Choose low-fat dairy. Limit higher fat dairy products, such as whole or 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat chee
Mediterranean diet recipes
Experiment with eating the Mediterranean way with these healthy recipes.
People who follow the Mediterranean diet have a longer life expectancy and lower rates of chronic diseases
than do other adults. Indeed, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans point to the Mediterranean diet as an example of a healthy-eating plan.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables,
whole grains, legumes and nuts. It replaces butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil and canola oil,
and uses herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods. Red meat is limited to no more than a few times a month,
while fish should be on the menu twice a week.
The Mediterranean diet is also about enjoying delicious foods — as you’ll discover when you try these recipes.
Salads and sides
FOR MORE GREAT HEALTHY RECIPES
CHECK OUT OUR WHAT’S FOR DINNER PAGE…
THIS MONTH IS ALL ABOUT GREAT GRILLING!
The Best Types of Fish for Health
From Mark Stibich, Ph.D., former About.com Guide
About.com Health’s Disease and Condition content is reviewed by our Medical Review Board
Fish and Mercury
Charlie Schuck / Getty Images
Why Eat Fish?
Fish are a great source of protein. They contain healthy fats that will reduce your cholesterol and improve your health. Fish also contain omega-3 fatty acids that help keep your heart healthy and may even improve your mood. Fish have been shown to be an important diet of many long-lived peoples around the world.
The Problem With Fish
All fish contain trace amounts of mercury. For most people, the small amounts in fish do not pose a health problem. Some fish, however, contain high amounts of mercury — enough to damage a fetus or newborn. That is why pregnant and nursing mothers must be very careful about the amounts and types of fish they eat. Young children should also avoid eating fish high in mercury. According to the FDA, pregnant women and small children (under 6) should not eat more than 2 servings of fish each week — and should only eat those fish with low mercury content (see below).Mercury levels can build in adults too — eventually becoming harmful to health. High mercury levels can cause permanent damage to the kidneys and brain.
Which Fish Have the Most Mercury?
PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY
Consumer Guide to Mercury in Fish
The list below shows the amount of various types of fish that a woman who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant can safely eat, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. People with small children who want to use the list as a guide should reduce portion sizes. Adult men, and women who are not planning to become pregnant, are less at risk from mercury exposure but may wish to refer to the list for low-mercury choices.
Protecting yourself — and the fish: Certain fish, even some that are low in mercury, make poor choices for other reasons, most often because they have been fished so extensively that their numbers are perilously low. These fish are marked with an asterisk (read more below).
This list applies to fish caught and sold commercially. For information about fish you catch yourself, check for advisories in your state.
Enjoy these fish:
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
Eat six servings or less per month:
Bass (Striped, Black)
Croaker (White Pacific)
Weakfish (Sea Trout)
Eat three servings or less per month:
Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
Sea Bass (Chilean)*
Tuna (Canned Albacore)
Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi)*
* Fish in Trouble! These fish are perilously low in numbers or are caught using environmentally destructive methods. To learn more, see the Monterey Bay Aquariumand the Blue Ocean Institute, both of which provide guides to fish to enjoy or avoid on the basis of environmental factors.
** Farmed Salmon may contain PCB’s, chemicals with serious long-term health effects.
Sources for NRDC’s guide: The data for this guide to mercury in fish comes from two federal agencies: the Food and Drug Administration, which tests fish for mercury, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which determines mercury levels that it considers safe for women of childbearing age.
About the mercury-level categories: The categories on the list (least mercury to highest mercury) are determined according to the following mercury levels in the flesh of tested fish.
- Least mercury: Less than 0.09 parts per million
- Moderate mercury: From 0.09 to 0.29 parts per million
- High mercury: From 0.3 to 0.49 parts per million
- Highest mercury: More than .5 parts per million
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish
National Resource Defense Council. Mecury Contamination in Fish.
Centers for Disease Control. Public Health Statement for Mercury. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Fish and Shellfish:
6 to Eat, 6 to Avoid
The Best and the Worst Seafood Choices
A number of environmental organizations have created lists that help identify fish that are sustainable and those that are not. Seafood Watch, the program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, has combined data from leading health organizations and environmental groups to come up with their list “Super Green: Best of the Best” of seafood that’s good for you and good for the environment.
To make the list, last updated in January 2010, fish must: a) have low levels of contaminants—below 216 parts per billion [ppb] mercury and 11 ppb PCBs; b) be high in health-promoting omega-3 fats; and c) come from a sustainable fishery.
Many other options are on the program’s list of “Best Choices” (seafoodwatch.org). The Blue OceanInstitute (blueocean.org) also has sustainability ratings and detailed information.
Here are 6 fish—
that are healthy for you and the planet—
that Seafood Watch says you should be eating.
1. Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
Many tuna are high in mercury but albacore tuna—the kind of white tuna that’s commonly canned—gets a Super Green rating as long as (and this is the clincher) it is “troll- or pole-caught” in the U.S. or British Columbia. The reason: smaller (usually less than 20 pounds), younger fish are typically caught this way (as opposed to the larger fish caught on longlines). These fish have much lower mercury and contaminant ratings and those caught in colder northern waters often have higher omega-3 counts. The challenge: you need to do your homework to know how your fish was caught or look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue eco label.
2. Salmon (wild-caught, Alaska)
To give you an idea of how well managed Alaska’s salmon fishery is, consider this: biologists are posted at river mouths to count how many wild fish return to spawn. If the numbers begin to dwindle, the fishery is closed before it reaches its limits, as was done recently with some Chinook fisheries. This close monitoring, along with strict quotas and careful management of water quality, means Alaska’s wild-caught salmon are both healthier (they pack 1,210 mg of omega-3s per 3-ounce serving and carry few contaminants) and more sustainable than just about any other salmon fishery.
3. Oysters (farmed)
Farmed oysters are good for you (a 3-ounce serving contains over 300 mg of omega-3s and about a third of the recommended daily values of iron). Better yet, they are actually good for the environment. Oysters feed off the natural nutrients and algae in the water, which improves water quality. They can also act as natural reefs, attracting and providing food for other fish. One health caveat: Raw shellfish, especially those from warm waters, may contain bacteria that can cause illnesses.
4. Sardines, Pacific (wild-caught)
The tiny, inexpensive sardine is making it onto many lists of superfoods and for good reason. It packs more omega-3s (1,950 mg!) per 3-ounce serving than salmon, tuna or just about any other food; it’s also one of the very, very few foods that’s naturally high in vitamin D. Many fish in the herring family are commonly called sardines. Quick to reproduce, Pacific sardines have rebounded from both overfishing and a natural collapse in the 1940s.
5. Rainbow Trout (farmed)
Though lake trout are high in contaminants, nearly all the trout you will find in the market is farmedrainbow trout. In the U.S., rainbow trout are farmed primarily in freshwater ponds and “raceways” where they are more protected from contaminants and fed a fishmeal diet that has been fine-tuned to conserve resources.
6. Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
Freshwater coho salmon is the first—and only—farmed salmon to get a Super Green rating. All other farmed salmon still falls on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch “avoid” list for a few reasons. Many farms use crowded pens where salmon are easily infected with parasites, may be treated with antibiotics and can spread disease to wild fish (one reason Alaska has banned salmon farms). Also, it can take as much as three pounds of wild fish to raise one pound of salmon. Coho, however, are raised in closed freshwater pens and require less feed, so the environmental impacts are reduced. They’re also a healthy source of omega-3s—one 3-ounce serving delivers 1,025 milligrams.
6 Fish to Avoid
A number of environmental organizations have also advocated taking many fish off the menu. The large fish listed here are just six examples EatingWellem> chose to highlight: popular fish that are both depleted and, in many cases, carry higher levels of mercury and PCBs. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has also posted health advisories on some of these fish at edf.org.
1. Bluefin Tuna
In December 2009 the World Wildlife Fund put the bluefin tuna on its “10 for 2010” list of threatened species, alongside the giant panda, tigers and leatherback turtles. Though environmental groups are advocating for protected status, the bluefin continues to command as much as $177,000 a fish. Bluefin have high levels of mercury and their PCBs are so high that EDF recommends not eating this fish at all.
2. Chilean Sea Bass (aka Patagonian Toothfish)
Slow-growing and prized for its buttery meat, Chilean sea bass has been fished to near depletion in its native cold Antarctic waters. The methods used to catch them—trawlers and longlines—have also damaged the ocean floor and hooked albatross and other seabirds. At present, there is one well-managed fishery that is MSC-certified. EDF has issued a consumption advisory for Chilean sea bass due to high mercury levels: adults should eat no more than two meals per month and children aged 12 and younger should eat it no more than once a month.
High mercury levels in these giant fish have caused EDF to issue a consumption advisory. Groupers can live to be 40 but only reproduce over a short amount of time, making them vulnerable to overfishing.
This strange fish resembles a catfish in that it has whiskers and is a bottom dweller, but its light, fresh taste made it a staple for gourmets. The fish is recovering some after being depleted, but the trawlers that drag for it also threaten the habitat where it lives.
5. Orange Roughy
Like grouper, this fish lives a long life but is slow to reproduce, making it vulnerable to overfishing. As Seafood Watch puts it: “Orange roughy lives 100 years or more—so the fillet in your freezer might be from a fish older than your grandmother!” This also means it has high levels of mercury, causing EDF to issue a health advisory.
6. Salmon (farmed)
Most farmed salmon (and all salmon labeled “Atlantic salmon” is farmed) are raised in tightly packed, open-net pens often rife with parasites and diseases that threaten the wild salmon trying to swim by to their ancestral spawning waters. Farmed salmon are fed fishmeal, given antibiotics to combat diseases and have levels of PCBs high enough to rate a health advisory from EDF. Recently, however, freshwater-farmed Coho salmon have earned a Best Choice status from Seafood Watch. There is hope consumer pressure will encourage more farms to adopt better practices
Another fish that is becoming popular, but should possibly be avoided:
Opah (also known as Moonfish)
Opah, also known as moonfish, is a tropical species that is caught in Hawaiian waters. It is very high in mercury levels, and adults are not recommended to eat more than one serving of opah per month. Additionally, opah may be contaminated with a tropical marine toxin that causes ciguatera, a serious foodborne illness that improves with time but has no cure. Ciguatera is found in tropical reef fish, and cannot be cooked out of food. Be sure to ask at restaurants whether your tropical fish has been tested for the presence of this toxin. If you choose to eat tropical reef fish, consuming small portions and selecting smaller-sized fish may help you avoid the more serious side effects of this toxin.
Little is known about this wandering fish, and no assessment of the size of its population has been conducted. It has been caught increasingly in the past decade, perhaps due to increased fishing pressure on tunas in the region since they are often found together. Opah is not usually targeted by any major commercial fishery, but rather is caught incidentally in the longline fishery for tunas and swordfish. Its biology and life history are also not well understood.
Recommended alternatives to opah (also known as moonfish):
• Atlantic mackerel
• Barramundi, U.S. farmed
• Black cod, Pacific U.S. (also known as sablefish)
• Cod, Pacific (not trawl-caught)
• Salmon, U.S. wild-caught Alaska
• Snapper, Mangrove or Gray
• Tuna, Atlantic skipjack
• Tuna, Pacific Albacore
11 Best Fish: High in Omega-3s—and Environment-
1. Wild Salmon From Alaska
Fresh, frozen, or canned are all OK. Wild salmon will cost you a lot more than the farmed variety, but salmon farming practices produce waste and can spread parasites and disease to wild fish, among other problems, according to Seafood Watch.Calorie count: 211 per 4-ounce serving.
2. Arctic Char
Farming practices for arctic char aren’t linked to pollution or contamination, so it’s fine to opt for farmed over wild-caught (which isn’t as easy to get anyway). At a sushi bar, you may see it called iwana.Calorie count: 204 per 4-ounce serving.
3. Atlantic Mackerel
Mackerel populations in general are hardy, so wild-caught is A-OK. But because the EDF recommends you limit consumption of the Spanish and king varieties of mackerel because of the potential for mercury contamination, stick to Atlantic mackerel as a staple.Calorie count: 232 per 4-ounce serving.
These tiny fish generally come from the Pacific, where the population has resurged. Because they’re small, they don’t come with the mercury worries of fish higher up the food chain.Calorie count: 232 per 4 ounces of drained, canned, oil-packed fish.
5. Sablefish/Black Cod
(Lisa Levin/Scripps Institution of Oceanography)
Seafood Watch recommends you stick to fish caught off Alaska and British Columbia, where fishing practices have reduced the likelihood of the accidental catch of other species.Calorie count: 220 calories per 4-ounce serving.
Photo Credit Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
Mahi-Mahi has a slender, muscular body and blunt, rounded forehead with a high fin along its back. The flesh is firm and dark, turning white as it cooks, and has a slightly sweet taste. It is often cut into steaks or fillets and can be prepared a number of ways including grilling, baking, broiling and frying.
A 3-oz. serving of mahi-mahi is low in fat, high in protein and delivers 173 calories according to the USDA Nutrient Database. Proteins provide the majority at approximately 160 calories in each serving, while fats offer around 13 calories. There are no significant amounts of carbohydrates in this serving. This same serving of mahi-mahi contains around 9 percent of the caloric intake the average adult needs per day.
The same serving size of mahi-mahi contains several vitamins and minerals essential for good health. This fish is particularly high in niacin and vitamin B6. Other significant amounts of vitamins in mahi-mahi include pantothenic acid, vitamin A, and riboflavin. Smaller amounts of vitamins, including thiamin and folate, are also available in a single serving of mahi-mahi Mahi-mahi also contains several important minerals. including selenium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and magnesium. The same serving also contains lesser quantities of minerals including calcium, sodium, zinc, copper and manganese.
According to the American Heart Association, mahi-mahi contains moderate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These heart healthy nutrients have the potential to help reduce cholesterol and protect the cardiovascular system. There are around 130 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in each 3-oz. serving.
Many people are concerned about exposure to mercury that can come from eating saltwater fish. The American Heart Association states that unlike some fish, such as king mackerel or swordfish, which may contain high levels of mercury, mahi-mahi is relatively low in this potentially toxic metal.
Summer Food Safety Tips
- Make your stop for food the last stop on your list of chores. The sooner you can get home with your groceries, the better. If you have room in the back seat, it might be cooler, after your air conditioner kicks in, than keeping the groceries in the trunk of your car.
- If it takes a while for you to get home from the grocery store, get one of those cooler bags for your frozen items, or bring a full size cooler with freezer packs and put your ice cream, dairy items, meat, eggs, and other perishables in the cooler for the trip home.
- If your kids (or the adults) snack in the car, make them nonperishable snacks, like nuts and crackers or dried fruit. Cheese sticks left in a hot car are pretty ugly.
- If you are on a road trip and you are taking beverages, stay away from cans of carbonated beverages that could explode in the car. Yuk. Stick with plastic bottled, non-carbonated drinks or juice boxes.
- If you are going on a day trip (or even across town) freeze a couple of bottles of water or sports drinks or lemonade for the trip. If you keep them in a cooler, they’ll still be cool for the trip home. We keep a variety of about ten different frozen drinks in the freezer at all times!
- If you use a cooler, keep it full. It will stay cold longer.
If you are eating outdoors in the desert heat, here are some additional reminders:
- Plan just enough so there are no leftovers.
- Try to pick foods that are cooked, like fried chicken, and eat them within a couple of hours.
- Keep all food in a cooler until you are ready to eat.
- Avoid using dairy products at your picnic or at your patio party. Mayonnaise can go bad pretty quickly.
- Any food left outside for more than an hour or so should be thrown out.
More Summer Food Safety
Nutrition News: Tips, etc. Nutrition/Healthy Eating
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Now that temperatures are on the rise, so is your risk of contracting a food-borne illness. These safe food preparation tips are from the American Dietetic Association, in conjunction with ConAgra Foods:
To reduce the spread of bacteria, use hot, soapy water to clean your grill before cooking each meal.
Wash your hands thoroughly before, during and after food preparation. If you are on the go, pack moist towelettes or a hand sanitizer in the cooler.
Thaw frozen foods in the fridge or microwave. Never defrost food on the kitchen countertop or outside.
Marinate foods in the refrigerator, and never reuse any marinade that has touched raw meat or poultry (it’s a good idea to make separate batches for marinating and then basting food!).
Refrigerate all foods immediately below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). Keep your cooler stocked with ice packs or plenty of ice to last during parties. Freeze bottles of water, and use them to keep the rest of the food in the cooler cool. Buy and use a food thermometer to make sure the cooler stays cold. Transport the cooler in your air-conditioned car, not in the hot trunk.
Clean out your cooler with plenty of soap and water after each use.
Keep raw meat or poultry in separate dishes from other foods, to prevent cross-contamination. The same goes for utensils; use different forks, knives and spoons to taste, stir and serve the cooked food.
Use a meat thermometer when grilling, to ensure hamburgers are cooked to 160°F, chicken is cooked to 170°F and hotdogs are reheated to 160°F. Never partially grill meat or chicken for further cooking at a later time.
Don’t leave cooked food outside in hot weather (90°F or higher) for more than 1 hour. Throw away any perishable food that has been unrefrigerated for more than 1 hour.
Bacteria love the hot, humid days of summer, and grow faster then than at any other time of the year. When the temperature is above 90 F, the time perishable food can be left outside the refrigerator or freezer drops from two hours to one hour.
- At the same time temperatures rise, we’re more likely to leave food unrefrigerated for longer time periods. Food sits out at picnics, barbecues and during travel.
- Washing facilities and thermostat-controlled cooking appliances often are not available at picnic sites.
- People may leave their food thermometer in their kitchen when cooking outdoors.
Beat bacteria this summer with these seven tips, tools and travel-safe foods.
1. Chill Out!
Avoid providing a playground for bacteria while enroute to your outing.
Keep perishable foods cool by transporting them to a picnic site in an insulated cooler kept cold with ice or frozen gel packs. Perishable foods include meat; poultry; seafood; eggs; dairy products; pasta; rice; cooked vegetables; and fresh, peeled and/or cut fruits and vegetables.
Pack the cooler immediately before leaving home with foods that have been kept chilled in the refrigerator.
Avoid frequently opening the cooler container containing perishable food. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in another.
Keep the cooler in an air-conditioned vehicle for transporting and then keep in the shade or shelter at the picnic site. To avoid frequently opening the cooler, open it once to remove only the amount of food that will be eaten immediately. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood wrapped separately from cooked foods, or foods meant to be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
Throw away any perishable leftovers that have been kept out over two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90 F).
2. Ice Cream “Egg”-xactly As You Like It!
Don’t let a favorite homemade ice cream made with raw eggs cramp your style with a possible foodborne illness.
Substitute an egg-based ice cream recipe made from a cooked, stirred custard, such as the recipe and variations that follow from the American Egg Board (AEB).
3. No Poking Allowed
Poking and stabbing meat with a fork or knife when placing or turning meat on the grill can cause a loss of juices that keep meat moist and tender. Piercing meat also can affect food safety.
Bacteria normally are found only on the external surface of larger cuts of meat like beef steaks. Steaks are safe if cooked to 145 F (versus 160 F for ground-up meat like hamburgers) since the outside will reach a temperature high enough to kill these surface bacteria. However, if a steak is poked with a fork or knife, these bacteria can be pushed into the steak and then the steak must be cooked to 160 F, the same as hamburger.
Use long-handled tongs to handle meat on the grill. Use a SEPARATE set of tongs for removing COOKED meat, poultry and seafood from the grill.
4. Safe at the Plate
Avoid cross-contamination. Place cooked meat, poultry and seafood on a clean plate, rather than the plate on which it was carried to the grill.
5. What’s Hot, What’s Not!
Rather than worry about keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold, limit the number of perishable foods on your menu, especially if you’ll be at a picnic site for several hours. For example, serve:
- potato chips instead of potato salad;
- washed whole fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, plums, peaches, etc.) instead of a cut-up fruit salad;
- cookies or brownies instead of a perishable cream-filled pie.
6. Get a Handle on Handwashing
Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Whenever possible, wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before handling food. When eating away from home, pack disposable towelettes if no handwashing facilities are available.
7. Shower Power
Though only the inside of melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, etc.) is eaten, their outer rind still must be washed. Bacteria present in the soil can contaminate the skin of the melon. When the melon is cut, these bacteria are transferred to the part we eat and can grow to levels that cause foodborne illness.
Give your melon a shower! Wash the surface of melons thoroughly under clean, running water before eating them.
Cut melons on a clean cutting surface, using a clean knife. If facilities for cleaning melons aren’t available at the picnic site, wash and slice melons before leaving home. Transport them to the site in an insulated cooler kept cold with ice or freezer gel packs. Remove from the cooler just before serving them.
(Image courtesy of Watermelon.org)
For More Information about Summer Food Safety …
For more information about handling foods safely in the summer, check these links:
- Grill It Safely (poster)
- Barbecue Food Safety
- Foodborne Illness Peaks in Summer — Why?
- Food Safety While Hiking, Camping and Boating
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON FOOD PREPARATION
IS YOUR DNA YOUR DESTINY?
According to new research, it may not be. Scientist have discovered that the way you live your life can alter your GENETIC BLUEPRINT.
While it is true that your genes are passed down from ancestors, the old thinking –that your DNA is fixed…no longer seems to hold true. New studies indicate that genes are mutable, and that simple things, such as what you eat, could actually modify them. In other words,..could it be ”You are what you Eat”?…or does Nurture possibly trump Nature?
The answer may lie in a relatively new science called, “Epigenetics”…which unlike genetics which studies genomes(chromosomes and the DNA they contain inherited from your parents)…epigenetics is the study of EPIGENOMES, the cellular material that rest on top of genomes, which CAN BE changed over a lifetime!
Your genomes are like the hardware of your computer, the epigenome is the software that tells your computer what to do says Randy Jirtle, a geneticist in the dept. of oncology at Duke University. Lifestyle factors, including nutrition and exercise can in turn program that software! So even if you inherit mutated genes that may predispose you to a certain type of cancer, developing the disease isn’t necessarily inevitable. Epigenetics Programming appears to switch those genes on or off, without altering the underlying DNA.
The biggest opportunity for Epigenetics occurs BEFORE BIRTH…since a fetus’ tissue actively grows and differentiates. Therefore, a mother’s eating habits, as well as her stress levels, exercise regime and environment…actually have the power to shape the genes that are passed down and may alter the susceptibility of her child to leukemia, lymphoma, and neurological cancers, and possibly adult onset cancers, says Oregon State University’s principal investigator for the Linus Pauling Institute, David Williams.
The compound sulforaphane, found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower did the best job of protecting offspring from gene mutation in a study on Williams’ study on mice. This compound has been shown to not only prevent but possibly treat cancer, says Williams.
On the contrary.. exposure to unhealthy chemicals…such as,…bisphenol A BPA, which is used widely in plastic products,..can cause mutated offspring. Mice that were exposed the BPA were at a greater risk for diabetes, obesity and cancer as adults. But when these mice were fed vitamin B12 and Folic Acid, the epigenetic effect of BPA was counteracted!
Though you can not change what happened to you before you were born,…choosing the right foods now could affect genes associated with the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and other ailments. So EAT THOSE LEAFY GREENS …and CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES! All are good sources of antioxidants and folate, which seem to help tumor suppressing genes stay active. In a 2010 study on lung cancer risk in smokers, 12 servings of leafy greens per month reduced methylation, (a process by which cells can inadvertently silence genes that protect against cancer by 20%). Taking a multivitamin can reduce methylation by 50%!
Since Epigenome have been studied for only the past decade…more research is needed to understand the extent to which environmental factors can influence gene expression in humans…so maybe with a little effort…we can affect our outcome!…and with a little positive Nurturing…Mother Nature may smile upon us!
Here’s to GOOD EATS… and a GOOD HEALTHY LIFE!…GOD BLESS!
For more info on this subject click here: TIME MAGAZINE
Health Matters with Dr. Andrew Weil
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a natural, nontoxic, inexpensive remedy. It works by increasing the mucous coating on the lining of the stomach and esophagus, making it more resistant to irritation by stomach acid. Also, stomach-pain sufferers should cut down on caffeine and drink chamomile tea.
Yoga and other mind-body methods are great alternatives to traditional drugs and surgery.
Try fish oil, practice relaxed breathing, and do aerobic exercise.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, eliminate processed foods, and set up a regimen for proper physical activity.
Astragalus, a Chinese herbal root, has antiviral and immune-boosting effects, and it’s available at most health-food stores. You can take it regularly throughout the flu season. There are also a number of Asian mushrooms you can buy in liquid or capsule form that have similar effects.
Top 5 Foods for a Healthy Diet
- Dark chocolate
- Whole soy foods (such as tofu, tempeh, and edamame)
- Oily fish (such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, and Alaskan black cod)
- Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
More Healthy Foods to add to your Daily Diet!
These foods will keep your immune system strong all season,
to help you avoid catching a cold or the flu.
Allicin, a compound in garlic, fights bacteria and stops viruses from reproducing. For a potent dose, use crushed raw garlic in salads or pasta dishes.
Your immune system weakens as you age, but sulforaphane, a compound in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, stimulates the cells that fight infection.
Red Bell Peppers
About 90 milligrams of vitamin C a day are enough to keep your body on guard against germs. Red bell peppers are the top source — just half of one has 76 milligrams, compared with 35 in half an orange.
In addition to being good for your heart, soluble fiber can help you recover quickly from an illness, one study found. Get your fill from unpeeled apples (the peel contains most of the fiber).
The most common white button type can increase your body’s production of antiviral proteins that work to ward off infection. Try them sauteed or in a frittata.
Employees who had a daily dose of probiotics, the good bacteria in yogurt, took fewer sick days than those who didn’t, one study found. Aim for one cup of low-fat plain yogurt a day.
What do green stalks bring to the table? Most notably, this member of the lily family contains the most folate of any vegetable. Folate helps rid the body of the amino acid homocysteine, associated with cardiovascular disease. It also may aid in the production of histamine, which is necessary for achieving orgasm — making asparagus’s legendary aphrodisiac powers not quite so far-fetched.
Even better, the tasty spears help fight cardiovascular disease, strengthen bones, and may even boost the libido.
What If I’m Already Sick?
Tuck into a bowl of chicken soup — studies show it can prevent inflammation that causes symptoms such as coughing and congestion, says registered dietitian Angela Ginn, of Baltimore. Add a dash of cayenne — it helps reduce nasal stuffiness so you can breathe easier.
Is Your Water Safe? Gulp!
“In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference,” wrote Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring,” her seminal work of environmentalism, in 1962.
Almost 50 years later, this vital resource is still endangered, but the masses are beginning to pay attention — especially to what’s flowing from their faucets. A 2009 Gallup Poll found that 84 percent of Americans said they worried a “great deal” or a “fair amount” about pollution of drinking water.
There’s certainly cause for concern. Our waterways may not be as thick with oil and sludge as they were before the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act were passed in the 1970s, but today’s threats may be even more insidious, precisely because they’re so invisible.
The chemical traces of modern-day consumption and convenience — from pharmaceuticals and personal-care products to solvents, repellents, and more — are now ubiquitous in our waterways. And with hundreds of new chemicals created every year, it’s basically impossible to know exactly what impact this worrisome soup might have on our earth.
Last November, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released an analysis of nearly 20 million drinking water test results that identified more than 300 pollutants in tap water — more than half of which aren’t subject to any regulation. READ MORE>>
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF COFFEE!
DR. MANNY ALVAREZ …
COFFEE MAY HELP PROTECT AGAINST SKIN CANCER…
Could you ever imagine picking up your morning cup of joe, and instead of drinking it, slathering it over your skin?
A new study indicates that caffeine applied directly to the skin may be able to protect against UV-related sun damage and skin cancer.
Rutgers researchers say that the caffeine guards against certain skin cancers by inhibiting a protein enzyme in the skin called ATR,
which in turn slows down non-melanoma tumor growth.
The study found that caffeine worked best at a pre-cancerous stage, as a protective measure rather than a treatment measure.
“Caffeine might become a weapon in prevention because it inhibits ATR and also acts ad as a sunscreen and directly absorbs
damaging UV light,” said researcher Allan Conney.
Prior studies have found that coffee is also associated with a decreased risk of several other types of cancer – only in these cases,
you can drink it, as opposed to rubbing it on your skin for health benefits.
According to statistics from the National Cancer Institute, sunlight-induced skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States.
Every year, more than 1 million new cases are diagnosed.
Though researchers are still uncertain as to why exactly coffee is effective, they hope their findings can be utilized as a method of prevention.
Is it OK to cook with extra-virgin olive oil?
One of the main things to consider when evaluating whether it is OK to heat extra-virgin olive oil
(or any other oil for that matter) is the smoke point of the oil. The smoke point is the temperature
at which visible gaseous vapor from the heating of oil becomes evident. It is traditionally used as a
marker for when decomposition of oil begins to take place. Since decomposition incurs chemical
changes that may not only result in reduced flavor and nutritional value but also the generation
of harmful cancer causing compounds (oxygen radicals) that are harmful to your health,
it is important to not heat oil past its smoke point. Inhaling the vapors can also be damaging.
Oils and their smoke point
The smoke point is a natural property of unrefined oils, reflecting their chemical composition.
When oil is refined, the process increases the oil’s smoke point; in fact, raising the smoke point is one of the reasons
why the refining process is used.
To get a better idea of how refining increases the smoke point of oil, look at Table 1 that shows several examples.
Canola oil, unrefined
Canola oil, semirefined
Canola oil, refined
Safflower oil, unrefined
Safflower oil, semirefined
Safflower oil, refined
Soy oil, unrefined
Soy oil, semirefined
Soy oil, refined
Sunflower oil, unrefined
Sunflower oil, semirefined
Sunflower oil, refined high-oleic
Olive oil and its smoke point
Before I discuss the specifics of the smoke point of olive oil, I want to clarify some terms used to define olive oils
since these terms are often a source of confusion for many people:
- Extra-virgin: derived from the first pressing of the olives (has the most delicate flavor).
- Fine virgin: created from the second pressing of the olives.
- Refined oil: unlike extra-virgin and fine virgin olive oils, which only use mechanical means to
- press the oil, refined oil is created by using chemicals to extract the oil from the olives.
- Pure oil: a bit of a misnomer, it indicates oil that is a blend of refined and virgin olive oils.
Now, unlike the information presented in Table 1, the information on olive oil smoke points is, unfortunately,
not very clear or consistent since different companies list different smoke points for their olive oil products;
this variability most likely reflects differences in degree of processing. Generally, the “smoke point of olive oil”
ranges from 220-437°F. Most commercial producers list their pure olive smoke points in the range of 425-450°F while
“light” olive oil products (which have undergone more processing) are listed at 468°F. Manufacturers of extra virgin oil
list their smoke points in a range that starts “just under 200°F” and that extends all the way up to 406°F. Again,
the variability here is great, and most likely reflects differences in the degree of processing.
In principle, organic, unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil should have the lowest smoke point of all forms of
olive oil since this form of the oil is the least refined, most nutrient dense and contains the largest concentration of fragile
nutritive components. Based upon this, I cannot imagine exposing this type of olive oil to high heat, anymore than
I can imagine exposing fresh organic flax oil or evening primrose oil. For a natural, very high-quality extra virgin olive oil,
I believe the 200-250°F range reflects the most likely upper limit for heating without excessive damage. In other words,
this would allow the use of extra virgin olive oil for making sauces, but not for 350°F baking or higher temperature cooking.
It is best to add it to your dishes after they have been cooked to enjoy the wonderful flavor and nutritional value of olive oil.
Carefully choosing your cooking oil will improve your cooking results, the meal’s taste and your health.
Having several oils handy, if properly stored, will also save time and money.
Use the steps outlined in this article to decide which cooking oils best suit your needs and tastes.
Determine the oil’s purpose. The purpose for which you intend to use the oil will guide your choice of oil,
because different oils have different smoke points, flavors, textures and effects on health. Some purposes
for cooking oils are deep-frying or sauteing, sprinkling on salads, improving health or enhancing a meal’s flavor.
Determine your recipe’s cooking temperature and the oil’s smoke point. Check your recipe to determine
whether the recipe calls for low heat, medium heat, medium-high or high heat. Then pick an oil with
an appropriate smoke point. The oil’s smoke point is the heat at which the oil begins to smoke and its
flavor and nutritional value degrade. For recipes requiring medium-high to high heat, choose an oil
with a smoke point of at least 375 degrees. Options include avocado (refined), 520 degrees; canola (refined),
400 degrees; grape seed, 420 degrees; olive (refined), 420 degrees; safflower (refined), 450 degrees; sesame (semi-refined),
450 degrees; and walnut (semi-refined) 400 degrees. If your recipe calls for a low or medium heat, choose an oil
with a lower smoke point, but more flavor such as olive (unrefined), 320 degrees; walnut (unrefined) 320 degrees;
or sesame (unrefined), 350 degrees. If your recipe does not require heat, choose a flavorful unrefined oil,
such as: extra-virgin olive, which has a peppery-fruity flavor; flax seed with a strong nutty flavor; or
walnut with a delicate, nutty flavor. If you prefer flavorless oil in your cold dishes, try an unrefined safflower oil.
Assume the oil is refined unless its label says otherwise.
Consider the oil’s health benefits. If your aim is to lower your cholesterol, you should choose
polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil. Dr. Earl Mindell, who has authored several books on
nutritional health, herbs and supplements, says that polyunsaturated oils lower both the good (HDL)
and bad (LDL) cholesterol, while monounsaturated oils raise the good and lower the bad. However,
Mindell warns against any hydrogenated polyunsaturated fats; they are linked to a higher risk of cancer.
Olive oil is monounsaturated, and Mindell recommends the extra-virgin variety, which has the best flavor and texture.
Flax-seed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce recurrence of
heart disease and lower cholesterol. Safflower and grape-seed oils contain the highest amount of
linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid and is linked to cancer prevention, relief from cystic fibrosis
and eczema, and reduction of diabetic complications. For antioxidant benefits, try an oil that naturally
contains vitamin E, such as wheat germ, which contains 100 percent of the recommended daily
allowance per serving; and grape seed which contains 45 percent of the recommended daily allowance per serving.
Consider your storage limitations. All oils should be stored in tightly sealed containers in the
refrigerator or a dark cabinet to delay rancidity. Unopened oils generally last a year in a dark cabinet,
while opened oils begin to turn rancid within two weeks to two months after opening,
if not stored in the refrigerator. The darker or more flavorful oils, such as extra-virgin olive, sesame
and flax seed, turn rancid more quickly than others. Don’t worry if the oils become cloudy in the
refrigerator, as they will become clear again once brought to room temperature. If you must store your oils on
the kitchen counter, choose refined oils lighter in color and keep them in dark, tightly-sealed containers
away from heat. Taste them before each use to make sure they are not rancid.
IS CANOLA OIL A HEALTHY CHOICE?
According to the Mayo Clinic…
Canola oil: Does it contain toxins?
I read an article on the Internet that said canola oil contains toxins that are harmful to humans.
Is this true?
from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
Health concerns about canola oil that are being circulated on the Internet are unfounded.
Misinformation about the safety of canola oil may stem from the fact that, years ago, oil was produced from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil contains very high levels of erucic acid, a compound that in large amounts can be toxic to humans. The canola plant was developed by natural crossbreeding from the rapeseed plant. Canola oil is produced from canola plants, not rapeseed plants. Canola plants have very low levels of erucic acid.
Canola oil is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, canola oil is very low in saturated fat and has a very high proportion of monounsaturated fat, so it’s a healthy and safe choice when it comes to oils.
MORE INTERESTING FACTS FROM THE MAYO CLINIC
- Gluten-free recipes
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- Sample menus for the DASH eating plan
- DASH diet: Top 5 tips for dining out
- DASH diet: Top 5 tips for shopping and cooking
- Mediterranean diet: Choose this heart-healthy diet option
- DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure
- Gout diet: What’s allowed, what’s not
- Butter vs. margarine: Which is better for my heart?
- Detox diets: Do they work?
- Water after meals: Does it disturb digestion?
- Gluten-free diet: What’s allowed, what’s not
- Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more
- Glycemic index diet: What’s behind the claims
- Clear liquid diet
- Low-fiber (low-residue) diet
- Diverticulitis diet
- Slide show: The Mediterranean diet
- DASH diet: Guide to recommended servings
- Carbohydrate-loading diet
- Diverticulitis diet: Can certain foods trigger an attack?
- Diverticulitis diet: Should I avoid nuts and seeds?
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- Polymyositis: Can a gluten-free diet reduce symptoms?
- Going gluten-free: Reflections on what works
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
As a specialty editor for the nutrition and healthy eating guide, Katherine Zeratsky helps you sort through the facts and figures, the fads and the hype to learn more about nutrition and diet.
A Marinette, Wis., native, Katherine is certified in dietetics by the state of Minnesota and the American Dietetic Association. She has been with Mayo Clinic since 1999.
She is active in nutrition-related curriculum and course development in wellness nutrition at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and nutrition education related to weight management and practical applications of nutrition-related lifestyle changes.
Other areas of interest include food and nutrition for all life stages, active lifestyles and the culinary arts.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, served a dietetic internship at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and worked as a registered dietitian and health risk counselor at ThedaCare of Appleton, Wis., before joining the Mayo Clinic staff.
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- see all in Healthy cooking
Healthy menus and shopping strategies (7)
- Vegetable juice: As good as whole vegetables?
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ARE PLASTIC BOTTLES SAFE TO USE?
FAQs: The Safety of Plastic Beverage Bottles
The news about plastics has been pretty alarming lately, causing some of us to go dashing for the water bottles to see what kind of plastic they are—and find out if we’ve been unwittingly poisoning our children and ourselves with chemicals leaching into the water from them.
If you’ve been concerned, here is a handy chart that identifies the good, bad, and OK plastics and where they are found. Find out here:
1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Used to make soft drink, water, sports drink, ketchup, and salad dressing bottles, and peanut butter, pickle, jelly and jam jars.
GOOD: Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones.
2 High density polyethylene (HDPE)
Milk, water, and juice bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, and grocery, trash, and retail bags.
GOOD: Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones.
3 Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
Most cling-wrapped meats, cheeses, and other foods sold in delicatessens and groceries are wrapped in PVC.
BAD: To soften into its flexible form, manufacturers add “plasticizers” during production. Traces of these chemicals can leach out of PVC when in contact with foods. According to the National Institutes of Health, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), commonly found in PVC, is a suspected human carcinogen.
4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
Some bread and frozen food bags and squeezable bottles.
OK: Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones, but not as widely recycled as #1 or #2.
5 Polypropylene (PP)
Some ketchup bottles and yogurt and margarine tubs.
OK: Hazardous during production, but not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones. Not as widely recycled as #1 and #2.
6 Polystyrene (PS)
Foam insulation and also for hard applications (e.g. cups, some toys)
BAD: Benzene (material used in production) is a known human carcinogen. Butadiene and styrene (the basic building block of the plastic) are suspected carcinogens. Energy intensive and poor recycling.
Baby bottles, microwave ovenware, eating utensils, plastic coating for metal cans
BAD: Made with biphenyl-A, a chemical invented in the 1930s in search for synthetic estrogens. A hormone disruptor. Simulates the action of estrogen when tested in human breast cancer studies. Can leach into food as product ages.
More on Health & Safety (195 articles available)
More from Annie B. Bond (3248 articles available)
To help assure the safety of our food, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration carefully reviews food and beverage packaging materials, including plastics for beverage bottles, before allowing them on the market.
Most convenience-size beverage bottles sold in the United States are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET has become the material of choice for bottled beverages because it is lightweight and shatter resistant, and PET has been extensively tested for safety. Bottles made with PET are widely used for everything from water and fruit juice to soft drinks and even beer.
When consumers choose to refill and reuse convenience-size plastic bottles, should they be concerned about potentially harmful bacteria?
Not if they clean their plastic bottles between uses just as they would other drinking containers. Plastics are by nature extremely sanitary materials, and plastic bottles are no more likely to harbor bacteria than other kinds of packaging or drinking containers. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments. Once bacteria have been introduced, virtually any drinking container (coffee mugs, drinking glasses, serving pitchers, etc.) becomes a suitable environment for bacterial growth.
Consumers should clean any drinking container with hot soapy water and dry thoroughly between uses. Bottles specifically designed for extended reuse are often made with wide openings that allow consumers to use cleaning instruments and easily dry them.
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What about the University of Calgary study?
A University of Calgary study found bacteria in water samples taken from bottles that were refilled by elementary school students without being cleaned. The author of the study concluded that the source of the bacteria was inadequate personal hygiene practices on the part of students reusing the bottles. The fact that the bottles in this particular study were plastic is irrelevant.
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How do I know that the plastic in my bottle is safe?
Consumers can be confident that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration carefully reviews new substances intended for food contact before allowing them on the market. This includes materials, like plastics, intended for food and beverage packaging. Both plastics and plastic additives are subject to FDA review and regulations.
New packaging materials are permitted for food use only after FDA reviews the submitted test data and is satisfied that they are safe for their intended use. As part of its review, FDA assesses the migration potential of plastics and the substances with which they are made. Scientific tests are conducted to establish that there is a minimal amount of transfer between a plastic package and the food it contains and that any transfer does not pose a risk to human health.
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Will a plastic bottle leach harmful substances into water if I reuse it?
Most convenience-size beverage bottles sold in the U.S. are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The FDA has determined that PET meets standards for food-contact materials established by federal regulations and therefore permits the use of PET in food and beverage packaging for both single use and repeated use. FDA has evaluated test data that simulate long-term storage and that support repeated use.
The toxicological properties of PET and any compounds that might migrate under test conditions have also been well studied. The results of these tests demonstrate that PET is safe for its intended uses. (For details, see The Safety of Polyethylene Terephthalate.)
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What about the student project that claimed to have found unhealthy compounds in water samples from reused bottles?
The subject of a widely circulated e-mail hoax, these claims stem from a University of Idaho student’s masters thesis that was promoted in the media but was not subject to peer review, FDA review or published in a scientific or technical journal.
While the student project may have been suitable work for a masters thesis, it did not reflect a level of scientific rigor that would provide accurate and reliable information about the safety of these products. Fortunately for consumers, FDA requires a much higher standard to make decisions about the safety of food-contact packaging.
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But I read that the student’s project found carcinogens?
The student’s thesis incorrectly identifies di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA), a plastics additive, as a human carcinogen. DEHA is neither regulated nor classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the National Toxicology Program or the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the leading authorities on carcinogenic substances.
In 1991, on the basis of very limited data, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified DEHA as a “possible human carcinogen.” However, in 1995, EPA again evaluated the science and concluded that “…overall, the evidence is too limited to establish that DEHA is likely to cause cancer.”
Further, DEHA is not inherent in PET as a raw material, byproduct or decomposition product. DEHA is a common plasticizer that is used in innumerable plastic items, many of which are found in the laboratory. For this reason, the student’s detection of DEHA is likely to have been the result of inadvertent lab contamination. This is supported by the fact that DEHA was detected infrequently (approximately 6% of the samples) and randomly, meaning that the frequency of detection bore no relationship to the test conditions.
Moreover, DEHA has been cleared by FDA for food-contact applications and would not pose a health risk even if it were present.
Finally, in June 2003, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research conducted a scientific study of migration in new and reused plastic water bottles from three countries. The Swiss study did not find DEHA at concentrations significantly above the background levels detected in distilled water, indicating DEHA was unlikely to have migrated from the bottles. The study concluded that the levels of DEHA were distinctly below the World Health Organization guidelines for safe drinking water.
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Is it true that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only allows plastic beverage bottles, such as those made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET), for one-time use?
No, FDA allows PET to be used in food-contact applications, including food and beverage packaging, regardless of whether the packaging is intended for single or repeated use. PET beverage bottles sold in the United States are designed for single use for economic and cultural reasons, not because of any safety concerns with PET.
In fact, refillable bottles made with the same PET resin as single-use bottles are safely reused in a number of other countries. The only difference is that refillable bottles have thicker sidewalls to enable them to withstand the mechanical forces involved with industrial collection and commercial cleaning and refilling operations.
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Can freezing a PET beverage bottle cause dioxins to leach into its contents?
This is the subject of another e-mail hoax. There simply is no scientific basis to support the claim that PET bottles will release dioxin when frozen. Dioxins are a family of chemical compounds that are produced by combustion at extremely high temperatures. They can only be formed at temperatures well above 700 degrees Fahrenheit; they cannot be formed at room temperature or in freezing temperatures. Moreover, there is no reasonable scientific basis for expecting dioxins to be present in plastic food or beverage containers in the first place.
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Resources and Links
- Packaging Materials: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) for Food Packaging Applications
International Life Sciences Institute, July 2000.
- White Paper on Refillable Plastic Packaging Made from PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
International Life Sciences Institute, 1994.
- Migration of Organic Components from Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Bottles to Water
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, June 2003.
- Food Contact Substance Notification Program
U.S. FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Information
- List of “Indirect” Additives Used in Food-Contact Substances
U.S. FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Information
- Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations
For information on PET, see 21 CFR Section 177.1630 and 21 CFR Section 177.1315.
HELPFUL TIPS FROM THE MAYO CLINIC…
- Packaging Materials: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) for Food Packaging Applications
- Pyramid or plate? Explore these healthy diet options
- Added sugar: Don’t get sabotaged by sweeteners
- Sodium: How to tame your salt habit now
- Alcohol use: If you drink, keep it moderate
- Caffeine: How much is too much?
- Dietary fats: Know which types to choose
- Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet
- New dietary guidelines: How to make smart choices
- Artificial sweeteners: Understanding these and other sugar substitutes
- Water: How much should you drink every day?
- Nutrition Facts: An interactive guide to food labels
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet
- Underweight? See how to add pounds healthfully
- Caffeine: Is it dehydrating or not?
- Grape juice: Same heart benefits as wine?
- Slide show: Healthy meals start with smart meal planning
- Water softeners: How much sodium do they add?
- Fat grams: How to track your dietary fat
- Phenylalanine in diet soda: Is it harmful?
- Low-sodium diet: Why is processed food so salty?
- Healthy diet: End the guesswork with these nutrition guidelines
- Stevia: Can it help with weight control?
- MUFAs: Why should my diet include these fats?
- High-fructose corn syrup: What are the health concerns?
- Juicing: What are the health benefits?
- Taurine in energy drinks: What is it?
- High-protein diets: Are they safe?
- What are functional foods?
- Acai berry products: Do they have health benefits?
- Coffee and health: What does the research say?
- Slide show: Guide to a high-fiber diet
- Calorie calculator
- Slide show: 10 great health foods for eating well
- Energy drinks: Do they really boost energy?
- Alkaline water: Better than plain water?
- Multigrain vs. whole grain: Which is healthier?
- Healthy chocolate — Dream or reality?
- Yerba mate: Is it safe to drink?
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Is it harmful?
- High-fiber foods
- Diet soda: Is it bad for you?
- Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health
- Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
- Cholesterol: Top 5 foods to lower your numbers
- Step up to MyPlate, the new food icon
- Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid tool
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- Slide show: Guide to portion control for weight loss
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HOLIDAY ENTERTAINING TIPS FOR FOOD SAFETY!
Food Safety, Fallacies, and Facts:
Few people want to dwell on the topic of food-borne illnesses, particularly now, during a season so enjoyably and emphatically food focused. But when it comes to the annual November exercise of giving thanks around the table, certainly most people will put continued good health on their lists.
“Some think they have never had food-borne illness,” says Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California-Davis. “But these same people recognize that they have had stomach flu, especially after holiday meals.” This means that people are not properly handling sources of harmful bacteria, she says.
The health risks associated with lax preparation of meat and poultry, stuffing turkeys, and storing and reheating leftovers are real. But Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t need to be approached with a sense of gloom. Many safety measures are a matter of common sense; a few are actually counterintuitive. But all of them are straightforward and, once learned, easy to turn into kitchen habits.
“Yes, it is distinctly safer to cook stuffing outside of the bird,” says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and the author of “What to Eat” (North Point; 2006), but it doesn’t taste the same or as good.” Such is the problem stuffing presents to cooks.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is resolute on this point, advising against cooking stuffing inside the bird. Tightly packed into the cavity, the mixture often lags behind in cooking time. When the bird is ready to come out of the oven, the stuffing may not be 165 degrees, the temperature at which most bacteria are bumped off.
Chefs who can’t do without the flavorful juices the turkey cavity bestows on stuffing, however, do have ways of minimizing bacterial risks. When the stuffing is being prepared, combine warm ingredients, such as sauteed onions or celery, with cold ingredients only right before the turkey is stuffed. The reason: These hotter ingredients can raise the overall temperature of the stuffing mixture to the danger zone, 40 to 140 degrees, where many harmful bacteria thrive.
The bird should be stuffed (loosely) just minutes before it goes in the oven. Finally, the stuffing should reach 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer before it’s brought to the table.
Prevailing wisdom used to be that turkeys required a preroast bath to wash away germs. Fresh or frozen, the bird was rinsed and dried, and then stuffed and cooked. Most food scientists now suggest forgoing this step. “I definitely recommend not washing the turkey,” says Dean Cliver, a professor emeritus in the department of food science at the University of California-Davis. A properly cooked turkey will get hot enough to kill almost all bacteria. But a raw turkey doesn’t have the safety benefits that come with oven time.
“Like it or not, the bird may well carry salmonella,” Bruhn says. “And this bacteria is not to be fooled with.” There are more deaths each year attributed to salmonella (about 600) than any other pathogen. Salmonella and campylobacter, another unsafe bacteria found in poultry, are easily transferred to hands, kitchen surfaces, linens, sponges, and foods. For this reason, it is better to pat the turkey dry with paper towels (that are then promptly discarded) than to give the bird a bath in the sink and potentially disperse bacteria throughout the kitchen.
After working with poultry, hands should be washed with antibacterial soap and then dried with paper towels. Cooks should resist the urge to blot hands dry on dish towels if they’ve come in contact with any meat.
Frozen turkey needs sufficient time to thaw in the refrigerator. A good rule of thumb is to thaw a turkey in its original wrapper in the bottom of the refrigerator in a pan (so it doesn’t drip onto other foods), allowing 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds.
For many of us, not having enough space in the oven to cook everything simultaneously is a chronic holiday problem. So we cook our side dishes in advance, and reheat them just before mealtime. Precooked foods should be reheated until their internal temperature reaches the magic temperature of 165 degrees. “While some bacteria will be killed at much lower temperatures, at a temperature of 165 virtually all are killed,” Nestle says.
If you’re traveling to a holiday meal with side dishes, and it’s less than 40 degrees outside, Bruhn suggests placing your cold dish in the trunk. No need for an insulated box. For a hot dish, wrap it in a towel or a blanket. The key is to avoid the 40- to 140-degree range. In other words,keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
The USDA recommends leaving holiday foods at room temperature for no more than two hours. So before all revelers have lapsed into a tryptophan haze, the hosts should spend a few minutes getting food off the sideboard and putting leftovers in order.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition-advocacy group, in Washington, D.C., estimates that more than half of all food-poisoning incidents associated with turkey are caused by improper cooling (as opposed to improper cooking). To minimize health risks, all stuffing should be removed from the cavity and all meat from the carcass as soon as possible. Refrigerate them separately in resealable plastic containers. Assuming turkey soup is on the horizon, the carcass should be covered in layers of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil and promptly refrigerated.
Side dishes should be transferred to resealable plastic containers and refrigerated as soon as possible. These storage containers should be no deeper than two inches, Bruhn says. (The shallow depth will allow food to cool quickly.) Most leftovers will last three to four days. And that may well be the holiday highlight: the next days’ dabs of cranberry sauce, spoonfuls of gravy, and slices of burnished-skin bird.
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