Tuesday, July 28, 2015

There's an App for That

Food allergies can be life threatening, especially if they involve anaphylactic shock.  Not only is an allergic reaction scary for the person with the allergy, it is also a frightening experience for those around them.  If you’re a person with a food allergy, you know that you have to be prepared for the worst at all times.  This is especially true when eating out. 

During the summer months, it is not unlikely for some people to vacation in a foreign country.  The problem is—everything’s foreign!  Explaining how to safely prepare a meal to a foreign speaking waiter is no easy task.  Fortunately, we are now able to utilize the incredible technology we have at our fingertips.

A new app, called Allergy FT, gives users the ability to create a profile indicating the foods they are allergic to.  At this point in time, the app offers 80 different items to choose from.  With the push of a button, the app amazingly translates this information into a desired language.  Allergy FT is currently able to translate into a number of languages that are understood in 50 different countries.  To feel confident that your allergy is understood, simply show the phone to the waiter.  Now, everyone can safely enjoy cuisines from around the world.

Friday, July 24, 2015

When To Toss

It’s your typical weekday routine: you wake up in the morning and have exactly 2.5 seconds to fix something to eat before work.  Naturally, you pick up a box of your favorite cereal and just as you reach for the carton of milk, you notice that it expired…yesterday.  The question is, do you pour yourself a bowl or is it time to put it down the drain? 

We’ve all been faced with a similar situation at some point in our lives.  Whether we want to admit it or not, the majority of people will use an item after it has passed the date stamped on the carton.  Take a deep breath; because the fact is, expiration dates do not have to be followed to a T, rather they are more along the lines of loose guidelines.  The only item that The Food and Drug Administration does regulate the expiration date on is baby formula.

If you can’t see anything growing on it or it doesn’t smell, it should be okay to eat, right?  Not so fast, just because you can’t see or smell anything doesn’t mean that the food is safe.  According to Robert B. Gravani, a professor of food science at Cornell University, “foods spoil at different rates, depending on their type and growing conditions, as well as how they were harvested, transported and distributed, and how they have been stored after being purchased.”  Bottom line, if it’s slimy, has a funny smell, has something clearly on it, or you can’t remember when you purchased the item, it’s time to throw it out.

Here’s a quick guide to what the numbers mean:

Sell by-this date lets the store know how long it should keep it on it’s shelves.  If the food is stored properly, it is totally safe to eat a few days after the printed date.

Use by (or best if used by)-straight from the manufacture, this date is strictly for taste and texture.  Since it has nothing to do with safety, it is completely acceptable to consume after the date listed.

Expiration-this date is the one you should pay special attention to, as it is the only date directly related to the safety of the food.  Don’t chance it on this one, if the date has passed, it’s time to toss!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Free Radicals 101

Free radicals are naturally occurring molecules that can have major negative effects on the human body. In order to prevent the production of free radicals, one must first understand what a free radical is. A free radical is a molecule that has an odd, unpaired electron; usually created from the splitting of a weak bond. They are very reactive and unstable substances that bind with the first stable molecule they come in contact with. This causes a chain reaction in which that once stable molecule, loses an electron and becomes a free radical itself. Free radicals are most commonly created by the metabolic system and immune system in order to help fight off viruses and bacteria. The presence of small amounts of free radicals in the body is natural and beneficial, but an accumulation or overabundance of them can cause harm to important cells and systems.

Free radicals will feed electrons off of any molecule, which unfortunately includes DNA. This can ultimately result in the formation of cancer and other life-altering diseases such as atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Free radicals also attack proteins and lipids found in the body. They attribute to about 80% of all skin aging because of their effect on collagen and elastin fibers that plump the skin and keep it vibrant. Causes such as metals from pollution, smoking, and stress can put a person at an increased risk for free radicals.

One of the easiest ways to help prevent the accumulation of free radicals is to eat foods that contain a lot of antioxidants, specifically Vitamins C and E. Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant in the body, and Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in the body. Antioxidants willingly donate one of their electrons to the unstable free radicals, thus ending both the constant stealing of electrons and production of more free radicals. The best way to ensure your body is getting a healthy dosage of antioxidants is by eating 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The link below has a list of foods rich with antioxidants, such as, nuts, dark green veggies, and blueberries.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bittersweet Reality of Chocolate

            Chocolate originates from the Central and South American regions where the Mayan population viewed it as the “food of the gods”. This divine sweet was first produced using cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Now we have companies such as Hershey to thank for our decadent dose of chocolate.
            Cocoa beans are the base of chocolate, although sugar is among one of the first ingredients. Cocoa beans are rich in antioxidants, such as flavonoids and flavanols, which destroy cancer causing free radicals in the body. Cocoa beans also contain more than 300 other compounds that are beneficial to health, and when it comes to chocolate, dark chocolate exceeds other varieties due to the greater amounts of these health-promoting compounds.
            Although chocolate has ingredients that are rich in nutrients it should be known that there are health risks and other issues that can emerge from excess chocolate consumption: gum disease, cavities, and weight gain are a few.  Chocolate is rich in sugar. Consuming just one full size bar of Hershey’s milk chocolate will provide 24 grams of sugar, which is a vast majority of the recommended daily sugar intake of 25 grams for woman, and 37.5 grams for men. Dietitian Alison Hornby reinforces the bittersweet reality of chocolate by saying that, “As an occasional treat, chocolate can be part of a healthy diet. Eaten too frequently, it is an unhealthy choice.” What it comes down to, is consuming cherished foods with self-discipline and a level head.

Monday, July 13, 2015

July's Just Picked

Break out the grill, make some cool lemonade, and catch some lightning bugs; it’s definitely summertime.  Don’t miss out on the bounty of summer foods available now!  When food is picked in season, it provides the best and most flavor.  In-season produce is usually significantly less expensive as well!  Beat the heat and try some cool new recipes with July’s tastiest foods.

Figs: Fresh figs are nothing like it’s dried counterparts.  They taste delightfully sweet, and have a chewy texture from the skin and crunchy texture from the seeds.  Figs are high in fiber as well as a good source of potassium.  Excellent on their own, but fantastic in salads and sliced over breakfast cereal or oatmeal.  If you’ve never tried one before, make sure you pick some up before they’re gone! 

Cherries:  These teeny stone fruits come in both sweet and sour varieties.  Cherries boast a wonderful nutritional profile and may reduce muscle soreness, help with sleep, and reduce stroke risk among other benefits.  The sweet ones are great for snacking and the sour variety are perfect for baking.

Peas:  Whether snow, snap, or English, these green pods have the best flavor when the weather’s warm.  Peas are packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients and they also may help with blood sugar regulation, heart health, and provide some protection against stomach cancer.  Their characteristically sweet taste and crunchy texture make for a perfect summer salad.

Peaches:  When I think of summer, I think of ripe peaches.  This fuzzy stone fruit is fantastically sweet and juicy and a good source of vitamins A and C.  There are two well-known varieties: clingstone, in which the stone is stuck to the flesh, and freestone, in which the flesh is easy to remove from the stone.  Peaches are known for having a yellow flesh, but they can also be white in color.  Whether you enjoy it on it’s own, in with some mixed fruit, or in a pie, be sure to grab a napkin!

Rhubarb: Often an essential component of a strawberry rhubarb pie, this celery like plant has a slightly bitter taste.  Please don’t make a mistake and eat the leaves, as they are toxic!  Rhubarb is known to be high in fiber as well as vitamins C and K.  The reddish green food is best baked or stewed and also makes great jams as well as sauces.