The Hype about Coconut Oil

July 1st, 2015

Many claims tout the health benefits of coconut oil, including weight loss, cancer prevention, and Alzheimer’s disease. So far the scientific evidence does not support these claims. The three types of coconut oil—virgin, refined, and partially hydrogenated—are all high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, tends to raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, and comes mainly from animal food products. Some examples of saturated fats are butter, lard, meat fat, solid shortening, palm oil, and coconut oil.

The two main types of coconut oil used in cooking and baking are “virgin” coconut oil and “refined” coconut oil. Virgin is considered to be unrefined. Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut pulp that is often chemically bleached and deodorized. Since coconuts are a plant and virgin coconut oil has some antioxidant properties, some individuals may view it as healthy. However, virgin coconut oil is high in lauric acid, a type of fatty acid that can raise both good and bad cholesterol levels. Manufacturers may also use another form of coconut oil that has further processing—“partially hydrogenated” coconut oil, which would contain trans fat. Some research suggests coconut oil intake may be associated with a neutral, if not beneficial, effect on cholesterol levels.

Tips for using coconut oil:

  • Use “virgin” or unrefined coconut oil.
  • Use it in moderation.
  • Limit foods made with partially hydrogenated coconut oil like baked goods, biscuits, salty snacks, and some cereals.

Allergy Alert: Coconut is considered a tree nut. Individuals with tree nut allergies should talk with their health care provider before using or eating foods containing coconut oil.

Source: Jody Gatewood, MS, RD, LD, Assistant State Nutrition Program Specialist, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

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Make physical activity a regular part of the day

June 24th, 2015

adult woman running outside fitness active exerciseFitting activity into a daily routine can be as easy as walking the dog after work or adding a 10-minute walk at lunchtime. Choose activities you enjoy and mix it up.

  • Join a walking group in the neighborhood or at the local shopping mall.
  • Get the whole family involved—enjoy an afternoon bike ride with your kids, grandkids, or great-grandkids.
  • Push the baby in a stroller.
  • Clean the house or wash the car.
  • Do stretches, exercises, or pedal a stationary bike while watching television.
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower.
  • Plant and care for a vegetable or flower garden.
  • Walk, jog, skate, or cycle.
  • Swim or do water aerobics.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Most important—have fun while being active!

Source: www.choosemyplate.gov/physical-activity/increase-physical-activity.html.

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Grill Food Safely

June 17th, 2015

grilling vegetables meals summerThaw safely. Completely thaw meat, poultry, and seafood before grilling so it cooks evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water.

Marinate food in the refrigerator. If you use a marinade to enhance flavor, marinate the food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Do not reuse marinade on cooked meat that was used on raw meat. If you want to add more marinade after the meat is cooked, make up a fresh batch.

Cook to the correct temperature. Grilling browns the outside of meat, poultry, and seafood quickly, so you can’t rely on color as an indication of doneness. Always use a food thermometer to ensure that the food is cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.

Keep hot food hot. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F, in a slow cooker (135°F or higher), or on a warming tray.

Use a different plate for serving cooked meat. When taking food off the grill, don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Any harmful bacteria in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.

Source: www.fsis.usda.gov.

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Pan Fried Tilapia with Orange Sauce

June 10th, 2015

pan-fried-tilapiaServing Size: 1 fillet of fish (about 3 ounces)

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 small frozen tilapia fillets (about 1 pound total)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1–2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram or Italian seasoning
  • 1 orange

Instructions:

  1. Defrost and pat tilapia dry with paper towel.
  2. Put flour, garlic powder, pepper, and salt in a plastic bag. Add fillets one at a time and shake to coat.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot.
  4. Add fillets to skillet and fry until golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes). Turn fish over, sprinkle with marjoram or Italian seasoning, and finish browning (heat fish to at
    least 145°F).
  5. Heat orange for 10 seconds in microwave. Cut in half. Squeeze half the juice and pulp from the orange on the fish. Use the other half for garnish.
  6. Place fish on a platter. Scrape the pan juices on top of the fish to serve.

Nutrition information per serving:
160 calories, 5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 45mg cholesterol, 190mg sodium, 10g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 4g sugar, 18g protein. Daily Values: 35% Vitamin C, 6% Iron, 4% Calcium.

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart Eat Smart website, http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings.

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Biggest chunk of calories comes from processed foods, study finds

June 3rd, 2015

Highly processed foods, such as prepared meals, white bread, cookies, chips, soda and candy, account for more than 60 percent of the calories in products Americans routinely buy in grocery stores, according to a new study.

This study found that many Americans have strongly held opinions and beliefs about processed foods. Some consider processed foods to be tasty, convenient, and affordable choices, while others contend that the combination of sugar, fat, sodium (salt), and flavoring in these foods promotes overeating and contributes to obesity.

Not only are highly processed foods a stable part of U.S. purchasing patterns, but the highly processed foods households are buying are higher in fat, sugar, and sodium on average than the less-processed foods (e.g., fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, fresh meat, milk, eggs, and dried beans) they buy.

The biggest contributors to unhealthy diets and chronic disease are added sugars, excessive fat, and sodium. Too much sugar and fat may result in weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, and aggravation of other health issues. Excess sodium can lead to fluid retention and high blood pressure, putting extra stress on the circulatory system and increasing the risk for heart disease, heart or kidney failure, stroke, and other health problems.

Add a little spice to your life!

Eating less sodium, sugar, and fat may seem challenging but using herbs and spices can help! Herbs and spices help flavor foods when you cut back on dietary fat, sugar, and sodium.

You can reduce or eliminate sugar with these sweet-tasting spices: allspice, cloves, ginger, cardamom, mace, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When reducing sodium, improve the taste of recipes by adding savory flavors such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, basil, and onion. Instead of using salt for your pasta, try basil, oregano, parsley, and pepper or use an Italian seasoning blend.

Sources: American Society for Nutrition, news release, March 28, 2015; www.lancaster.unl.edu/food/spiceherbshandout-color.pdf.

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Health Benefits of Bicycling

May 27th, 2015

adults bike fitnessBicycling increases one’s physical activity and can reduce weight. In addition, cycling has been shown to have a positive effect on emotional health. It can improve levels of well-being, self-confidence, and stress while reducing tiredness and sleep difficulties. As the weather continues to improve, enjoy the outdoors on your bike. The Iowa DOT’s “Bikes HomePage” provides an interactive map showing the surface type and length of various bike trails at http://bit.ly/1PHCj9B.

If you want to know how many calories you burned on your bike ride, check out the “MapMyRide” calculator or find out information on how to download the “MapMyRide” app at www.mapmyride.com/improve/calorie_calculator/.

Sources: http://bit.ly/1PHCthd

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Home Food Safety Mythbusters

May 20th, 2015

washing lettuceMyth: “It is OK to wash bagged greens if I want to. There’s no harm!”

Fact: Rinsing leafy greens that are ready to eat (those labeled “washed,” “triple washed,” or “ready to eat”) will not enhance safety and could actually increase the potential for cross-contamination. This means harmful bacteria from your hands or kitchen surfaces could find their way onto the greens while washing them.

Myth: “I don’t need to rinse this melon for safety. The part I eat is on the inside!”

Fact: A knife or peeler passing through the rind can carry harmful bacteria from the outside into the flesh of the melon. The rind also touches edible portions when cut fruit is arranged or stacked for serving and garnish. Rinse melons under running tap water while rubbing with your hands or scrubbing with a clean brush. Dry the melon with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Myth: “Be sure to rinse or wash raw chicken, turkey, or other poultry before cooking it!”

Fact: Rinsing poultry is an unsafe practice because contaminated water may splash and spread bacteria to other foods and kitchen surfaces.

Myth: “Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator…it’s too cold in there for germs to survive!”

Fact: Some harmful bacteria can survive and even grow in cool, moist environments. Keep fresh produce separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. For tips on how to clean and disinfect your refrigerator, go to http://bit.ly/1DeqVeO.

Sources: http://bit.ly/1FQlpQp

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Fruit Smoothies

May 13th, 2015

Serving Size: 1 cup  | Serves: 3Fruit Smoothie

Ingredients
2–3 cups of fresh or frozen fruit
1 (6–8 ounce) carton vanilla, plain, or fruit-flavored yogurt
1/4 cup milk
3 ice cubes

Instructions
1. Wash hands.
2. Put all ingredients in a blender.
3. Blend on high speed until smooth.
4. Pour into glasses.

Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 1.7g total fat, 0.9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5.5mg cholesterol, 61.3mg sodium, 31.5g total carbohydrate, 2.8g fiber, 22.6g sugar, 4.9g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart Eat Smart website (www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings).

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A Look at Energy Drinks: Paying the Price for Caffeine?

May 6th, 2015

energy drinkEnergy drinks (e.g., Red Bull®, Monster®, Rockstar®, and Full Throttle®) are among the fastest growing beverages in the United States, with half of these highly caffeinated drinks being sold to youth. The caffeine content of an 8-ounce serving can range between 72 and 150 mg. However, most energy drinks come in cans or bottles with 2–3 servings, amounting to 450 mg of caffeine (general recommended intake is no more than 200–300 mg caffeine daily for adults)! There are no guidelines established in the United States for youth regarding caffeine consumption. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits caffeine content in soft drinks because they are categorized as “food,” caffeine in energy drinks is not “monitored” because they can be categorized as “dietary supplements.”

Energy drinks are promoted as a means to increase energy levels; however, there is little evidence to support this. With the large quantity of caffeine comes serious nutritional consequences. Large quantities of caffeine can hinder how well the body is able to absorb and use calcium, which can impact bone health. Additionally, high caffeine intake is associated with increased irritability, anxiety, tremors, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has expressed concerns for youth because of caffeine’s effect on their developing neurological and cardiovascular systems, as well as the risk of physical dependence and addiction. Many of the “specialty” ingredients (e.g., guarana, taurana) found in energy drinks are also ingredients in over-the-counter diet drugs. This raises significant health concerns because it is unclear what combined health impact these ingredients may have.

Because of the potentially high caffeine content, it is recommended youth avoid energy drinks and healthy adults should limit their use. Teach youth to ask for and enjoy water as the thirst quencher of choice.

For more ideas on better or healthier beverage choices, please look at the MyPlate Better Beverage Choices Handout available at
www.choosemyplate.gov in English http://1.usa.gov/1k0nH4D and Spanish http://1.usa.gov/1IIhb0V.

Sources: http://bit.ly/1aOlBF1, http://bit.ly/1xYGmSp, http://bit.ly/1IIh05J, and http://1.usa.gov/Pog5yZ

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The Garden: Mother Nature’s Gym

April 22nd, 2015

Boost your activity level, burn some extra calories and lower stress by gardening. Gardening activities are great ways to boost physical activity. Experts recommend a minimum of 2 1/2 hours of physical activity per week.

activity chart WOW

Reference: William D McArdle, Frank Katch, Victor L. Katch, Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) (2001); taken from eXtension.org

Don’t have a garden yourself? Offer to help a neighbor or volunteer in a community garden. Go dig in the dirt and enjoy the healthful benefits of gardening!

To learn more about gardening, contact your local county ISU Extension and Outreach office or visit the online ISU Extension store at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ to check out these and other gardening publications:

PM 870B—Container Vegetable Gardening
PM 819—Planting a Home Vegetable Garden
PM 534—Planting and Harvesting Times for Garden Vegetables

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