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)

Autumn Soup

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups sliced apples
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 ounces Neufchatel cheese, cubed

Instructions:

  1. Prick squash skin 6–8 times. Microwave for 5 minutes.
  2. When the skin is cool enough to touch, cut off the top and bottom of the squash. Peel and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Cut squash into cubes.
  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add squash, apples, and chicken broth. Heat to boiling and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook for 25 minutes until squash and apples are tender.
  5. Blend soup until smooth using a blender.
  6. Return soup to saucepan and add cheese. Cook and whisk until cheese is smooth.

Nutrient information per serving:

210 calories, 7 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 440 mg sodium, 35 g total carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 6 g protein

Bowl of soup with vegetables, fruit, and milk

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart. (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu).

Herbs and Spices Have an Expiration Date

Herbs and spices do not spoil; however, they do lose their flavor and potency over time. Next time you go through your spice cabinet, look at the expiration dates!

Rows of spices

Typically spices last 2–3 years, but make sure to check the “best by” date. Try the fresh test:

  • Smell: aroma should be strong
  • Taste: flavor should be potent
  • Color: should look vibrant and not dull

Average Shelf Life of Common Fresh, Ground, and Dried Household Spices

SpiceFreshGroundDriedWhole
Allspice2-3 Years2-3 Years
Basil5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years3-4 Years
Bay Leaves5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years3-4 Years
Black Pepper2-3 Years2-3 Years5-6 Years
Cayennne
Pepper
5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Celery Seed5-7 Days2-3 Years1-2 Years2-3 Years
Chili Powder2-3 Years2-3 Years
Chives7-10 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Cilantro5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Cinnamon2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Cloves5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Coriander5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Cumin2-3 Years

Sources:

Eat by Date (www.eatbydate.com/other/how-long-do-spices-last)

McCormick (www.mccormick.com/toss)

Croutons

Serving Size: 1/2 cup | Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola, olive, or vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut bread into one inch cubes.
  3. Stir bread and oil together in a medium bowl.
  4. Sprinkle garlic powder and dried basil on top of bread cubes. Stir until the bread is evenly coated with garlic and basil.
  5. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread croutons evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake for up to 5 minutes more or until croutons are golden brown.
  6. Let croutons cool and store in an airtight container for up to one week.

These croutons are wonderful on top of your favorite soup or salad. To add extra tang to your salad, add some fresh herbs to the mix like basil or mint. They add extra flavor and are a great way to use up those herbs!

Nutrition information per serving:

70 calories, 3g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 85mg sodium, 8g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 2g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.

Smartphones in the Kitchen

washing handsA 2016 FDA survey showed 49% of consumers use their smartphones while preparing food. However, only one-third washed their hands with soap after touching the devices! Why is this a big deal? Whenever you touch a phone, the bacteria on that phone travel to your hands. If your unwashed hands then touch food, you transfer those bacteria to the food. This can cause foodborne illness.

Here are three tips to keep your phone from contaminating your food:

  • Clean and sanitize your phone regularly with a lint-free cloth.
  • Avoid taking your phone into the bathroom.
  • Scrub your hands at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after touching a phone and before handling food.

Sources: FDA, National Institutes of Health, Phys.org

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