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Posts Tagged ‘Kale’

No one wants dirty foods. Before we shy away, what are dirty foods? A little dirt can be washed off, but dirty foods encompass much more. Recently I discussed how kale landed on 2019’s “Dirty Dozen” list. What is that list, and should we have concerns? Should these foods be eliminated from our diets?

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization focused on health and transparency in consumer product labeling, releases lists of the most and least pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables. These are referred to as EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2019 and EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2019.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2019 include the following, in order: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. Some produce may come as a surprise. Most of these fruits and vegetables had residue of two or more pesticides. Kale and spinach averaged 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than other crops.

Red Strawberries

So which fruits and vegetables are safer when it come to pesticide content? The EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2019 include avocados at the headAssorted Vegetable Lot of the list followed by sweet corn. Less than one percent of these two products had any detectable pesticides. More than 70 percent of the remaining list; pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons had no pesticide residues. View the entire listing of both lists at the EWG’s website.

 Farmer spraying pesticide

Does this mean to avoid foods listed on the dirty list? Fruits and vegetables are significant contributions to the diet. It would be a mistake, health wise, to discontinue these foods. For instance, strawberries are low in calories yet have high levels of flavonoid phytochemicals that can deter onset of cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. Strawberries are also excellent sources of vitamin C plus A, E, and B-complex vitamins which have powerful antioxidants.

The modified list below from MedlinePlus summarizes how to protect yourself and family from pesticides on fruits and vegetables.

  • Wash hands with soap and water before preparing food.
  • Wash produce when ready for use. Washing before storing degrades the quality of most fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash produce even those for peeling since chemicals or bacteria may transfer to the inside when peeled or cut.
  • Rinse all produce under cool running water for at least 30 seconds.
  • Buy a produce wash product or use a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda in two cups of water. Avoid washing foods with dish soaps or detergents that can leave inedible residues.
  • Pat produce dry with a clean towel after washing.
  • Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Rinse and eat the inner part.
  • Eat organic sources of foods grown with approved organic pesticides, especially for those fruits with thin-skins. Eating more organic foods may lower risks of cancer compared with individuals who do not eat organic foods.

These guidelines can help reduce exposure to pesticides yet allow continued enjoyment and healthful benefits from susceptible “dirty foods.” When you weigh the odds, the nutrients these foods contain may outweigh harm if you follow precaution in using. Eat well, eat healthy.

 

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Rarely does a day go by without nutrition articles catching my attention. Some explore new research in varied topics. Many regurgitate information with a new twist reported decades ago. As a professional dietitian nutritionist, articles should make sense to me, and if not, maybe its nutrition nonsense. No wonder the public is confused.

Headlines tantalize readers with everything from fried Twinkies to cures from horrible diseases by eating certain foods. Where is the truth, and what can consumers believe? Sadly to say, a few qualified professionals tout foods and products for all the wrong reasons―money.

I don’t know if fried Twinkies still exist. Hopefully, they have met their demise. Because of their high-fat high-sugar content, they’re not recommended by anyone with common sense. On the other hand, valid research continues to enlighten us about healthy foods that may impact cancer development. Some food choices increase the probability of cancer, while other types of foods help the body avoid invasion. And it isn’t just cancer. Research proves relationships between certain types of foods and heart disease. Recent studies have advanced discovery of foods that could thwart the onset of such conditions as Alzheimer’s Disease. These are important issues to all of us, especially when genetics causes a greater propensity for certain disease conditions.

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Separating nutrition sense from nonsense isn’t easy. Think back to the many products labeled with eye-catching appeal to let you know it is free of cholesterol, or more recently, gluten-free. Do advertisers have the best interest of consumers in mind, or are they focused on increased sales? Certainly, if you need foods with no cholesterol or gluten-free, having it boldly printed on the front helps. But really! The majority of the population does not need gluten-free products. Gluten, like cholesterol and many other substances, may not be tolerated by some individuals. But for most of us, foods containing these materials aren’t harmful.

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A recent exaggerated headline proclaimed,“Kale is a Surprise on 2019’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ List.” Well, not really. Acclaimed as one of the greatest foods for health promotion, who wouldn’t want to know why kale has fallen into disfavor? The truth of the article? Kale, like most of the fresh produce we buy, is subject to contamination through harvesting, processing for market, and shipping and handling all along these steps. Yes, kale is exposed to everything from dirt, sometimes pesticides, possibly human waste, plus a myriad of other contaminants. But does that lessen its nutritive value? Caution must be taken with all fresh produce and washed thoroughly, but that’s no excuse to eliminate it from the diet.

The next time you read an astounding news headline about foods and nutrition, take time to read beyond the first paragraph. If truth is important to you, check out reliable sources to verify the most recent claim.

Food is what we eat. It’s necessary to nourish our bodies. Don’t take the latest gimmick as factual. Make sense of what is touted and ignore the nonsense.

I would love to hear your concerns and responses. If you have a question about healthy foods or especially weight-loss diets, let me hear from you. I will make every effort to get the facts―nothing but the facts to make sense from the nonsense.

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As we push beyond the 40-year mark, we detect slight physical changes. Maybe eyesight isn’t as keen. We have difficulty keeping up with that two-year old grandchild, or even our teenager. What other changes draw our attention? Along with our bodies reminding us of creeping age, our brains no longer function as we would like. We notice subtle decreases in our ability to recall names of people or events. Maybe forgetting a friend’s name is far into the future, but for many, by the time 50 rolls around, remembering facts and faces could require more effort.

The 60s may send attacks of panic as we go from room-to-room and wonder why we are there. While memory losses occur with advancing years, many can be slowed and become less frequent. What can we do?

Someone recently asked me if any foods are directly related to health or disease conditions. Well, yes. Let’s start with memory (See “Part 1: Can Diet Affect Memory?” and “What’s On Your Mind?”).

An article published in Neurology on December 20, 2017 reported the effect of green leafy vegetables on the aging brain. Researchers found that one serving daily of green leafy vegetables helped slow cognitive decline―that’s thinking and remembering. For the approximately 1,000 participants over a period of almost five years, that lone serving was equivalent to being eleven years younger mentally compared to those who rarely or never ate their spinach or similar greens. However, eating greens does not guarantee slower brain aging, but it does suggest an association between the two.

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And what are the best choices? Spinach, kale, and collards seem to top the list. As a side note, if you have a yard, kale grows easily among flowers or shrubs. The curly type adds a nice touch to the landscape. Kale prefers a sunny location. Generally, plants die down during the hot summer season but revive in the fall to produce until frost. If you live in an apartment, try sowing seeds in planters or pots. You can enjoy this healthy food for salads or cooked as a vegetable serving. It’s great mixed with other types of greens or in many entrees.

Growing your own kale gives you the option of omitting pesticides and harmful chemicals. To harvest, clip or pinch stems close to the base of the plant. Within several days or a week, new leaves will produce enough for another harvest. While other green leafy vegetables are good, I find kale the easiest to grow. Before using wash thoroughly and remove any thick stems. Store in the refrigerator in a covered plastic container (not bag) for a few days. To leave in the refrigerator longer, place in a covered container and wait until ready to use before washing. This food is not only rich in antioxidants to help the brain, it is also high in vitamin A and other nutrients that are part of a healthy diet.

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While green leafy vegetables aren’t the only foods to thwart aging brains, it is one easy way. Try adding to your diet, regardless of your age. It’s worSee the source imageth a try.

 

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For me, the annual Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo is the highlight of nutrition education. I enjoy seeing long-time friends, hearing the latest nutrition research, and visiting many booths of the more than 200 food-related exhibitors.

Companies represented at the Expo serve a vital purpose as they share information, and often samples, of the latest products introduced to the consumer market. Each year, vendors promote old favorites as well as new products or nutrients.

Artificial sweeteners were among many ingredients repeated at the exhibit. Although I tolerate the taste, I prefer sugar or skipping all sweeteners. Sugar-substitutes showed up in a variety of products. Beverage companies touted the 10-calorie drinks by enhancing flavor with a little sugar. If you, like most, enjoy  the taste of non-nutritive sweeteners and the thought of lower calories, go for it.

Featured this year were numerous products incorporating less-liked vegetables—collard greens, kale, beets, and a variety of other vegetables. Smoothies abounded with these ingredients. As I passed a sign for V-8 juice, I envisioned a refreshing tomato-based drink to quince my thirst. What I found were newer mixtures of vegetables. My palette failed to adjust. I also didn’t care for another vendor’s smoothie heavy on collard greens. Vegetables are a  staple in my diet. Although collards are less familiar in my area, I love turnip and mustard greens from our garden but not prepared into smoothies. I favor fresh tender greens, washed and lightly cooked until tender and served with catfish, ham, white beans, or any number of other great foods. Curly-leaf kale, sowed in my garden to use as garnish, was so tasty that is has become a favorite for cooking like other greens.

Regardless of how you use them, dark green leafy vegetables are an important part of any diet. They are:

  • High in nutrients: Provide Vitamins A, C, and K; folate; calcium; phytonutrients (carotenoids, flavonoids, and glucosinolates); and are a good source of fiber.
  • Low (or no) fat and carbohydrates: They yield from 10 to 30 calories per cup.
  • Versatile: Eat raw, steamed, sautéed, or baked.
  • Available in abundant varieties: Try kale; chard; spinach; collard, mustard, turnip, and beet greens; Asian mustard greens; bok choy (baby, baby shanghai); and others.

Maybe your taste-buds differ from mine. That’s why we have new products on the market—to meet consumer’s preferences and needs. If you like vegetable smoothies—great. It’s always your choice. As for me, I think I will stay with a big bowl of cooked greens with a nice hunk of cornbread served up with unsweetened tea.

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Kale close up in Norddeich, Dithmarschen

Image via Wikipedia

Didn’t want to wear green today? Observe St. Patrick’s Day and celebrate National Nutrition Month’s “Eat Right with Color” with heaping servings of green foods for dinner. Low-calorie, nutritious, and tasty kale makes an excellent choice.

 For many years I was unfamiliar with kale. Cooked greens consumed in my area consisted mostly of turnip or mustard greens. But I knew curly kale made a great garnish for food trays and dishes. I discovered it tastes great, too.

Kale grows abundantly in the warm south during cooler weather. It has become a part of our “green patch.” We mix seeds of kale, mustard, and turnip greens and broadcast (sows liberally) in our small garden. Kale takes little space, even the corner of a flower bed will do. Young tender leaves soon replace those gathered.

Kale, low in calories, has about 18 calories per one-half cup cooked serving. It is a great source of fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Numerous vitamins and minerals found in kale include thiamin, riboflavin, folate, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. A serving of kale provides more than the daily need of vitamin C, twice the requirement of vitamin A, and six times the daily need of vitamin K.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, kale and other green vegetables like spinach, deep green lettuces, bok choy, mustard greens, chard, and mesclun (a salad mix) may protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and stomach.

For a healthier diet, add this mild-flavored, power-pack vegetable to your meals. Go green with kale.

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