Scrub by Scrub: The Importance of Washing Your Produce

Strainer of asparagus

As we transition from winter to spring, many fruits and vegetables—like asparagus and strawberries—start to be in season! It is very important to remember to wash fresh produce prior to eating in order to remove any harmful bacteria like E. coli or listeria. The next time you reach for a fruit or vegetable, use these strategies to ensure it’s clean and fresh:

  • Wash your produce immediately before eating. Washing some produce—like berries—before storing actually hastens spoilage.
  • Wash all produce in cold water; do not use detergents or soap to clean the outside of your fruit.
  • Try using a vegetable brush for fruits and vegetables that have a thick skin.
  • Produce that has tiny nooks and crannies—like cauliflower and broccoli—should be soaked in cold, clean water for one to two minutes.
  • You don’t need to rewash products that are labeled “ready to eat” or “triple washed.”

For visual demonstrations of other ways to select, store, and prepare food, check out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/videos).

Eat Right, Bite by Bite

March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s theme is Eat Right, Bite by Bite.

The first “bite” is knowing portion sizes. Use common items to help guide your portion sizes:

  • Baseball or fist = 1 cup salad greens or cereal
  • Deck of cards = 3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry
  • Four stacked dice = 1 1/2 ounces of cheese
  • One die = 1 teaspoon of margarine or spread
  • Ping pong ball = 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Spoonful of yogurt, fruit, and granola

Do you like to bake breads, muffins, or cookies? Another “bite” to consider is increasing your whole grain intake. Simply substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour. Start by substituting one-fourth of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, then one-half, three-fourths, and possibly all!

Another “bite” to consider? Replace some or all of the oil in breads, muffins, or cookies with fruit canned in 100% juice. This will help limit fat intake. Pureed fruit, like applesauce, works best. Use the same approach as the whole wheat flour—start by substituting one-fourth of the oil with fruit and work up to one-half or three-fourths.

Small changes do have a positive effect on your health, and every little “bite” is a step in the right direction!

Sources:
Eat Right (www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month)
National Health, Lung, and Blood Institute (www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/servingcard7.pdf)

Safe Walking on Snow and Ice

Walking in snow

Winter wind, snow, and ice can be scary to walkers. Even a short stroll is hard. Strong winds and icy sidewalks can make you fall and freeze your nose.

How to enjoy good winter walks without getting hurt:

  • Check the wind chill before you go outside. It should be more than 10°F. You can get frostbite in 30 minutes when the windchill is -18°F!
  • Equip yourself for the weather. Bundle up. Bulky clothing could break a fall.Walking poles help gain traction on snowy ground.You can wear shoes with studded soles or boots with grooved soles. You could buy elastic slip-on snow cleats. They are like snow tires for your feet! (Take the cleats off when you go inside. They can make you slip on inside floors.)

Watch the video 5 Ways to Walk Safely in Icy Weather for more tips, www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/video/icy-weather-safety-tips

Sources:
WebMD, www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/weatherproof-your-workout#1 National Weather Service, www.weather.gov/bou/windchill

Handling Avocados Safely

sliced avocados

Bacteria love avocados almost as much as people do. Unlike most fruits, the avocado is low in acid. That makes it good for bacterial growth. In addition, we like to eat avocados raw, which means we don’t kill the bacteria by cooking.

Based on a 2014–2016 study, the FDA found that about 18% of avocados had Listeria monocytogenes on their skins. In small amounts, this germ isn’t dangerous for healthy adults. However, it can cause serious harm to young children, older people, and pregnant women.

  • To prepare an avocado safely, you first need to wash your handscarefully.
  • Then rinse the avocado’s skin thoroughly before you cut it open.Otherwise, the blade will carry the germs on the skin into the pulp.
  • Throw away the skin and the pit promptly.
  • To avoid bacterial growth, eat the avocado as soon as possible aftercutting and peeling.

Source: Colorado State University: Food Source Information, fsi.colostate.edu/avocados/#food-safety

5 Reasons to Love Avocados

Avocado on toast

We Americans are eating more avocados than we did a generation ago. In 1985, the average American ate only 1 pound a year. Now it’s more than 7.5 pounds!

Why do we love avocados? It’s not because avocados are cheap. The average price of a Hass avocado reached $2.10
in 2019.

  • Avocados are a luxury that is actually good for us.
  • Avocados are rich, creamy, and high in fat. However, this fat is mostly monounsaturated—so, heart healthy! People who eat avocados every day can raise their HDL (good) cholesterol and lower their LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  • Avocado-eaters get 20 vitamins and minerals in one fruit! They also get the nutrients that most Americans need more of—magnesium, potassium, and vitamins K and E.
  • Avocados have many phytochemicals. These help protect our cells from damage. In fact, eating avocados may keep your eyes healthy and lower your cancer risk.
  • Talk about versatile! You can use avocados in dips, sandwiches, and salads. They can make smoothies creamy. You can even use them instead of butter on toast.

Find out about preparing avocados from Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/produce-item/avocado.

Source: Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/

Be the Food Safety MVP on Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching. The big game is a big day for food. When food sits out at room temperature for long periods of time, the door is open to uninvited guests—bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Every year 48 million people become ill from foodborne illness! Don’t be the cause of a foodborne illness penalty flag! Follow these game day rules:

  • Keep hot food HOT and cold food COLD: Hot food needs to be held at 140°F or higher. Use slow cookers and warming trays. Cold food needs to be held at 40°F or lower. Nest dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them as needed.
  • Follow the two-hour rule: Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Between the pre- and post-game shows, you may easily have food sitting out 4–6 hours; temperature control is required.
  • Handle food safely: Always wash your hands before handling food, and clean all surfaces. Use different utensils for each food item and ask guests to use new plates when returning to the food table.
bowl of chili

For more information on food safety and cooking temperatures, visit ISU’s food safety website or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.

The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is not just for your bones! It’s also important for the health of your nerves, muscles, and immune system. Research suggests it can even help combat depression. Many Iowans have difficulty maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in the winter months, 40–75% of us being deficient.

It is recommended those up to the age of 70 years consume 600 International Units (IU) and those over the age of 70 consume 800 IU of vitamin D. We get vitamin D three ways: through our diet, our skin, and supplements. Yes, vitamin D is so important your body makes it with a little help from the sun!

In order to reach therapeutic levels described by research requires a supplement. You should always speak with your health care provider before taking any supplements. Eating vitamin D-rich foods during the winter months is especially important. Try these vitamin D-rich foods:

  • Fatty fish (e.g., tuna, wild salmon, sardines canned in oil; canned fish is just as good as fresh or frozen)
  • Eggs (yolk)*
  • Beef liver*
  • Fortified foods (e.g., milk [skim, 1%, 2%, or whole], yogurt, cereals, etc.)
Vitamin D rich foods including oil, butter, eggs, cheese, milk, fish

*If you avoid these foods because of the cholesterol content, don’t worry. A review of science revealed dietary cholesterol intake doesn’t significantly impact your cholesterol levels.

Sources:
Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951)
Vitamin D: Finding a Balance—Harvard Health Publishing (www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-d-finding-balance-2017072112070)

Try A New Winter Sport

Skiing

Have you always wanted to learn how to ski? How about ice skating? Snowboarding? Snowshoeing? Now’s the time! There are a variety of winter activities right outside your doorstep that are affordable and fun. The best part—you can burn calories while enjoying yourself! A 150-pound person can burn approximately 415 calories per hour cross-country skiing. Check out the DNR website for trails and other winter activities!

Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources (www.iowadnr.gov/About-DNR/DNR-News-Releases/ArticleID/457/Iowa-Winter-Treks-and-Trails-to-Test-Those-Fitness-Trackers)

Make Fitness Fun Again

Are you bored with your current fitness routine? If so, try these ideas to make fitness fun again.

  • Download a fitness app that works as your own personal trainer.
  • Go to your local library and check out some fitness DVDs or go online and find free videos to move along to.
  • Make it a social time by inviting a friend or coworker to exercise with you.
  • Make a playlist that excites you and gets you moving faster.
  • Buy some new workout clothes that make you happy and excited to wear them.
  • Try new classes at a local gym, recreation center or community center.

Holiday Food Safety Hacks

Food is a big part of holiday celebrations. Follow these safe food handling tips to prevent unwelcome foodborne illness from ruining your holidays!

  • Safely thaw food in the refrigerator, in the microwave or in a cool water bath (change water every 30 minutes).
  • Wash hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during and after food preparation.
  • Use hot, soapy water to wash countertops, cutting boards, refrigerator door handles and utensils.
  • Use two cutting boards, one to prepare raw meats and one to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Use separate spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve food.
  • Place leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of serving.
Washing hands in sink

Adapted from 10 Holiday Home Food Safety Tips (www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/safety-tips/holidays/10-holiday-home-food-safety-tips)

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