quinoa-porridge

Pumpkin Porridge with Quinoa 

A delicious, satisfying breakfast high in protein and fiber and heart-healthy meal for lunch or dinner with fresh fruit.

Oats are heart-healthy, nutritious whole grains with their bran intact and signicant fiber content. Half of their fiber is insoluble, aiding digestion, and the other half is soluble, lowering cholesterol.

While not really a grain, quinoa is cooked and eaten as one. Quinoa cooks quickly in 15 minutes or less, is high in minerals and one of the best sources of plant protein. Always rinse quinoa with cold, running water until the water  runs clear to remove any bitter saponins.

Pumpkin Porridge with Oatmeal

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Servings: 4-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-ounce can or 16-ounce carton unsweetened pumpkin
  • 2 cups low-fat milk ( You may substitute almond, rice, soy, or coconut milk)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 cups quick cooking or Old Fashioned oatmeal (not instant)
  • 2 tablespoons raisins, chopped dates, figs
  • Honey or maple syrup for drizzling
  • Chopped (toasted or untoasted) almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. (optional)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together pumpkin, milk, water, spices, and salt in a large saucepan set over high heat. Bring mixture to a boil.
  2. Add oats and lower heat. Stirring often, cook for 20 minutes, or until oats are tender and cooked through.
  3. Ladle porridge into bowls and drizzle with honey or maple syrup.
  4. Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.

Pumpkin Porridge with Quinoa: 

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Servings: 2-4
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • ½ cup unsweetened pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2-4 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • Organic raisins, chopped dates, figs
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Directions:
  1. Place drained quinoa in a 2-quart saucepan over the stove and add 1 3/4 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low, allowing  quinoa to cook for up to 15 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. Stir in pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, honey or maple syrup, adjusting flavors to taste, if necessary.
  3. Serve warm with raisins, chopped dates, figs and/or chopped nuts sprinkled on top.

Variation: For creamier pudding, replace water with low-fat or non-fat milk, coconut or almond milk.

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This recipe is simple, has a delightful flavor and golden color due to wonderful Indian spices, and can be prepared with many combinations of vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (or 1 teaspoon cumin seeds)
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Salt (optional)*
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into medium florets
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into circles or 1-inch chunks
  • 2-3 onions, each sliced into 8 wedges
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Arrange cauliflower, carrots, and onions in a 13 x 9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish or in a single layer on a baking sheet..
  3. In a small bowl, blend spices with olive oil thoroughly. Drizzle this mixture over vegetables in baking dish.
  4. Stir vegetables to coat them evenly with oil and spices.
  5. Roast vegetables on center rack of oven. After 12 minutes, turn over vegetables for even browning.
  6. Bake until browned and tender when pierced with a knife. When the tip goes in easily, remove vegetables from oven.
  7. Sprinkle with, or stir in, chopped parsley and serve.

*I always add more of the spices, instead of salt.

 Variation: Another Indian spice blend for vegetables is as follows:

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

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The Effect of Smoking on Oral Health

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Smoking increases the risk of many dental problems:

  • Bad breath
  • Tooth discoloration, especially yellowing
  • Inflammation of salivary gland openings on the roof of your mouth
  • Build-up of plaque and tartar on your teeth
  • Bone loss within the jaw
  • White patches inside the mouth (leukoplakia)
  • Periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss
  • Delayed healing process following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or oral surgery
  • Lower success rate of dental implant procedures
  • Oral cancer: Smokers are up to 5 times more likely to develop mouth cancer than nonsmokers..

How does smoking or the use of tobacco products promote gum disease?

  • Tobacco products interfere with the normal function of gum tissue cells and attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth.
  • Users of tobacco products and smokers are more susceptible to infections, such as periodontal disease.
  • Blood flow to the gums becomes impaired, resulting in slower wound healing.

Does pipe and cigar smoking increase the risk of oral health problems?

Yes. Just like cigarettes, pipes and cigars can cause oral health problems. A 23-year long study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that cigar smokers experience tooth loss and alveolar bone loss (bone loss within the jawbone that anchors teeth) at rates equivalent to those of cigarette smokers. Pipe smokers have a similar risk of tooth loss as cigarette smokers. Pipe and cigar smokers are also at risk for oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers even if they don’t inhale, as well as, bad breath, stained teeth, and increased risk of periodontal disease.

Are smokeless tobacco products safer?

  • No. Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products like snuff and chewing tobacco contain at least 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of oral, throat, and esophageal cancer. Furthermore, chewing tobacco contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes, making it harder to quit than cigarettes. One can of snuff delivers more nicotine than over 60 cigarettes!
  • Smokeless “Spit” tobacco contains over 2,000 chemicals, many of which have been directly related to causing cancer.
  • Smokeless tobacco can irritate your gum tissue, causing it to recede or pull away from your teeth. Once gum tissue recedes, teeth roots become exposed, creating an increased risk of tooth decay. Exposed roots are also more sensitive to hot and cold or other irritants, making eating and drinking uncomfortable.

Health effects of smokeless tobacco include:

  • Tooth abrasion: Grit and sand in smokeless tobacco products scratches teeth and wears away the hard surface or enamel. Premature loss of tooth enamel may increase sensitivity and require corrective treatment.
  • Gum recession: Constant irritation to the area in the mouth where a small wad of chewing tobacco is placed can result in permanent damage to periodontal tissue, as well as, the supporting bone structure. Injured gums pull away from teeth, exposing root surfaces and leaving teeth sensitive to heat and cold. Erosion of critical bone support leads to loosened teeth that can be permanently lost.
  • Increased tooth decay: Sugars are often added to smokeless tobacco during the curing and processing to improve its flavor. The sugars react with bacteria found naturally in the mouth, causing an acid reaction, which leads to decay. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association notes that chewing tobacco users were 4 times more likely than nonusers to develop tooth decay.
  • Tooth discoloration and bad breath: Very common in long-term smokeless tobacco users. The habit of continually spitting can also be both unsightly and offensive.
  • Nicotine dependence: Nicotine blood levels achieved by smokeless tobacco use are similar to those from cigarette smoking. Nicotine addiction can lead to an artificially increased heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, it can constrict the blood vessels that are necessary to carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Athletic performance and endurance levels are decreased by this reaction.
  • Unhealthy eating habits: Chewing tobacco lessens a person’s sense of taste and ability to smell. As a result, users tend to eat more salty and sweet foods, both of which are harmful if consumed in excess.
  • Oral cancer: With the practice of “chewing” and “dipping,” tobacco and its irritating juices are left in contact with gums, cheeks and/or lips for prolonged periods of time. This can result in a condition called leukoplakia. Leukoplakia appears either as a smooth, white patch or as leathery-looking wrinkled skin. It results in cancer in 3-5 % of all cases.
  • Other cancers: All forms of smokeless tobacco contain high concentrations of cancer-causing agents. These substances subject users to increased cancer risk not only of the oral cavity, but also the pharynx, larynx and esophagus.

Quitting smoking lowers your risk for smoking-related diseases and can add years to your life.

If you currently use cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or smokeless tobacco, or have in the past, be aware of the early signs of oral cancer:

  • A sore that does not heal
  • A lump or white patch
  • A prolonged sore throat
  • Difficulty in chewing
  • Restricted movement of the tongue or jaws
  • A feeling of something in the throat

Pain is rarely an early symptom. For this reason, all tobacco users need regular dental check-ups.

Hookah water pipe smoking: May pose significant risks for oral health, since the water in the pipes does not filter out all of the harmful toxins.

Quit smoking to improve your appearance and overall health:

  • Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, quitting now can greatly reduce risks to your circulatory and overall health.
  • Reducing the amount you smoke appears to help: One study found that smokers who reduced their smoking habit to less than half a pack a day had only 3 times the risk of developing gum disease compared with nonsmokers, which was significantly lower than the six times higher risk seen in those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day. Another study published in the Journal of the AmericanDental Association found that the mouth lesion leukoplakia completely resolved within 6 weeks of quitting in 97.5% of patients who used smokeless tobacco products.
  • As blood flow improves, your skin, gums and internal organs receive more oxygen and nutrients. This can provide a healthier complexion and improved immunity. If you stay tobacco-free, stains on your fingers and nails should disappear. 
  • When you quit smoking: Your skin becomes more resistant to premature aging. In just 20 minutes, blood pressure and heart rate return to normal. Within 24 hours, your lungs start to clear out smoking debris as tiny cilia help sweep irritants out of the lungs. After a year, your risk of a heart attack drops to half that of people who still smoke; after 15 years of being an ex-smoker, risk of a heart attack falls to that of someone who’s never smoked. After 10 smoke-free years, your lung cancer risk drops to half that of a smoker.
  • Quitting eliminates the pervasive smell of cigarettes in your breath, clothes, and hair: This smell is unattractive to nonsmokers and carries health hazards, too. The odor means that people around you are exposed to tobacco toxins (third-hand smoke). These toxins can be especially harmful to small children.

American Cancer Society statistics show why you should quit smoking:

  • About 90% of people with cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat use tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases with the amount smoked or chewed and the duration of the habit. Smokers are 6 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.
  • About 37% of patients who persist in smoking after apparent cure of their cancer will develop second cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat, compared with only 6% of those who stop smoking.

To help you stop using tobacco:

  • Your dentist or doctor may be able to help you calm nicotine cravings with medication, such as nicotine gum and patches. Some of these products can be purchased over the counter; others require a prescription. Other medications such as Zyban require a prescription.
  • Smoking cessation classes and support groups are often used in tandem with drug therapy. These programs are offered through local hospitals in your community and sometimes through your employer or health insurance company. Ask your doctor or dentist for information on similar programs they may be familiar with.
  • Herbal remedies, as well as hypnosis and acupuncture, are other treatments that may help you stop the habit.
  • Engage in new activities, classes, or seek support from family and friends.

References:

  1. American Dental Association. WebMD Medical Reference. Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on May 22, 2014. WebMD, LLC.
  2. Effects of tobacco on oral tissue: Using Smokeless Tobacco is gambling with your health! (Source: www.mintsnuff.com/gamblingwithyourhealth.htm).-
  3. “Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking: Quitting smoking lowers your risk for smoking-related diseases and can add years to your life.” The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tables, Charts and Graphs-Smoking and Tobacco Use. (Source: www. cdc.gov/…/ta…) 02/06/14.

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The 10 Worst Foods For Teeth, According to a Dentist

Credit: Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Prevention is the best medicine for both your health and smile. It’s always better and less expensive in the long run to prevent cavities, stains, and gingivitis by brushing, flossing and eating right. The food and beverages you ingest affect the health of your gums and teeth, due to contact with germs and bacteria that normally inhabit your mouth. While many foods are usually harmless in moderation, excessive ingestion of some can increase the risk of plaque and future dental and periodontal problems.

What is plaque?

  • Plaque is a thin, invisible film of sticky bacteria and other materials that covers all surfaces of your teeth.
  • Plaque produces toxins that attack the gums and bone supporting your teeth.
  • Drinking and chewing sugar-laden or starchy foods promotes plaque formation on your teeth.
  • Plaque thrives on the starches and sugars found in many foods. When ingested sugars and/or starches come in contact with plaque, acids are produced that attack tooth enamel and eventually cause decay. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the acid attacks teeth for 20 minutes or more after you finish eating. Repeated attacks can break down the hard enamel on the surface of teeth, leading to tooth decay.
  • If you don’’t brush and floss, plaque will accumulate on your teeth.
  • How long carbohydrates remain on teeth also influences the risk of plaque formation and tooth decay.
  • While some foods promote plaque formation and tooth decay, others help to reduce plaque buildup.

The best foods and habits for healthy teeth and gums:

  • Drink more water: The best beverage (whether fluoridated or not) to rinse food particles from your gums, teeth, and mouth. Water, like saliva, washes sugars and acid off teeth. It often contains fluoride, a mineral that protects against tooth erosion and is found in toothpaste and some mouthwashes. Fluoride may occur naturally in water, including some bottled spring water. Most tap water in the United States is fortified with fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. If you use bottled water, check the label for fluoride content.
  • Brush your teeth twice daily, preferably 30-60 minutes after every meal and snack.
  • Floss at least once each day.
  • Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste and mouth rinse daily.
  • Eat a balanced diet including a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods from the five major food groups:
    1. Vegetables: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables
    2. Fruits: whole apples, pears, berries, citrus, melons
    3. Nonfat or low-fat dairy products: milk, yogurt, kefir, cheese
    4. Whole grains: whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice
    5. Lean sources of protein: meat, poultry, seafood, beans (edamame provides complete protein) and peas, eggs, quinoa, processed soy products like tofu, nuts, and seeds
  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables: Foods with fiber have a scrubbing, detergent effect in your mouth, notes the American Dental Association (ADA). They also stimulate saliva flow which is your best natural defense against cavities and gum disease. About 20 minutes after you eat something containing sugars or starches, your saliva begins to neutralize the acids and enzymes attacking your teeth. Because saliva contains traces of calcium and phosphate, it also restores minerals to areas of teeth that have lost them from bacterial acids.
  • Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, plain kefir and other dairy products: Cheese is another saliva generator. Calcium in cheese, as well as, calcium and phosphates in milk and other dairy products help replace minerals your teeth might have lost due to other foods.
  • Green and black teas: Both contain polyphenols that interact with plaque bacteria. Polyphenols either kill or suppress bacteria, preventing them from growing or producing tooth-attacking acid. Depending on the water you use to brew tea, a cup of tea can also be a source of fluoride.
  • Chew gum with the ADA Seal: Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals helps reduce tooth decay, because increased saliva flow washes out food and neutralizes acid produced by dental plaque bacteria.
  • Foods with fluoride: Fluoridated drinking water and products made with fluoridated water (powdered milk, juices [as long as they don’t contain much sugar], dehydrated soups), help protect teeth.  Some commercially-prepared foods, such as poultry products, seafood, and powdered cereals, provide fluoride.
  • Avoid snacks and drinks that are high in sugar: Instead, replace one snack a day with a healthier choice.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables at home to offer as healthy snacks, instead of less nutritious carbohydrates: Choose fruits and vegetables containing a high volume of water, such as apples, clementines, melon, oranges, pears, carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, and salad greens. Limit bananas, raisins, and other dried fruits which contain concentrated sugar, or urge your child to brush after such fruits are eaten.
  • Serve cheese with lunch or as a snack: Cheese, especially cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss, and other aged cheeses help increase saliva flow which washes many food particles away from teeth.
  • Avoid or limit sticky, chewy foods: Raisins, dates, dried figs, granola bars, oatmeal or peanut butter cookies, jelly beans, caramel, honey, molasses, and syrup stick to teeth, making it difficult for saliva to wash them away. If your child consumes these types of foods, have him/her brush their teeth immediately after eating.
  • If you give your child a sweet, offer it as dessert right after a meal: The increased amount of saliva still in the mouth after a meal can help wash the sweet away from teeth. Water also washes away food particles remaining on teeth.
  • Limit between-meal snacks: If you crave a snack, choose something nutritious like unsweetened yogurt, celery, carrots, an apple or pear. Rinse your mouth with water or chew sugarless gum afterward to increase saliva flow and wash out food and acid.
  • Get your family in the habit of eating as few snacks as possible: Snacking frequency is far more important than the quantity consumed. Time between meals allows saliva to wash away food particles that bacteria would otherwise feast on. Frequent snacking, without brushing immediately afterwards, provides constant fuel to feed bacteria, and promotes plaque development and tooth decay. Limit snacks to no more than 1 or 2 a day. Brush teeth after consuming a snack, if possible.
  • Eat fewer foods containing sugars and starches between meals: Instead, eat nutritious foods, like cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a firm fruit (apple, pear).
  • Avoid sugary foods that linger on teeth: Lollipops, hard candies, cough drops, and mints all contribute to tooth decay, since they continuously coat teeth with sugar.
  • Buy foods that are sugar-free or unsweetened.
  • Offer your child plain water instead of juice or soda: Juices, sodas, and even milk contain sugar. Water does not harm teeth and helps to wash away food particles clinging to teeth.
  • Include good sources of calcium in your child’s diet to build strong teeth, like milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, beans, and legumes.
  • If your child chews gum, encourage him/her to choose xylitol-sweetened or sugar-free gum: Xylitol has been shown to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth and the chewing action helps increase the flow of saliva.
  • Use fluoride and brush and floss your child’s teeth: The best way to prevent tooth decay is to use a fluoride toothpaste every day. The fluoride seeps inside the tooth to reverse early decay. Brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day and after each meal or snack if possible. If brushing between meals is not possible, at least rinse the mouth with water several times. Floss your child’s teeth at least once a day to help remove particles between teeth and below the gum line.
  • Brush your child’s teeth after giving him/her medicine: Medicines such as cough syrups contain sugar that mouth bacteria use to make acids. These acids can eat away at the enamel, the protective outer layer of each tooth.
  • Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings twice each year: Schedule your child’s first visit to the dentist by age 1 or within six months of the first tooth breaking through the gums. Regular dental check-ups can help find any developing dental problems early.
  • Avoid bedtime bottles: Never put your baby to bed with a bottle filled with milk, formula, juice, or soda. Such bottles at bedtime increase the risk of “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay,” early dental decay in a baby’s mouth. Prolonged exposure of milk or other sugar to mouth bacteria will cause tooth enamel to deteriorate and increase the risk of tooth decay. Find alternative methods to help your baby sleep before bedtime. If your baby needs a bottle at bedtime, fill it with plain water instead.
  • Milk and other dairy products: The primary dietary source of calcium which is essential for healthy teeth. Calcium is the key ingredient in a mineral known as hydroxyapatite that strengthens tooth enamel, as well as bones. Dairy products, especially cheese, also contain casein, a type of protein. Casein and calcium play an important role in stabilizing and repairing tooth enamel.
  • High fiber foods: Leafy green vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds and other high fiber foods often provide calcium, and promote good digestion, healthy cholesterol levels, and healthy teeth, mostly because they require a lot of chewing. Chewing generates saliva, and these foods physically scrub your teeth as they are mashed into little pieces.
  • Strawberries: These contain malic acid, a natural enamel whitener. To make your own at-home whitening treatment: Crush a strawberry to a pulp, mix it with baking soda, and spread it on your teeth using a soft toothbrush. Five minutes later, brush it off, rinse, and see a whiter smile. Be sure to floss, since tiny strawberry seeds may get trapped between teeth.
  • Sugar-free gum: Helps clean teeth by stimulating saliva production. Saliva is nature’s way of washing away acids produced by bacteria in your mouth, and it also bathes the teeth in bone-strengthening calcium and phosphate. Many varieties of sugarless gum are sweetened with xylitol, an alcohol that reduces bacteria. Mint flavors may be best, however, since a 2011 study suggests that the acid used to create certain fruit flavors could damage teeth, though only slightly. Anything that tastes sour is usually more acidic, even if promoting saliva flow.
  • Consume sugary foods with meals: Your mouth produces more saliva during meals which helps to neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.

For healthier gums:

  • Avoid or limit acidic foods like coffee: Bacteria and other pathogenic microorganisms thrive in an acidic environment and can contribute to gum disease, inflammation and receding. Excessively acidic foods can also damage the protective enamel layer of your teeth. Examples of acidic foods and beverages include excessive consumption of meats, citrus fruits, white bread, pasta made with white flour, pickled and fermented foods, alcoholic beverages, coffee and black tea.
  • Avoid sugary foods and beverages which coat the teeth and gums: Sugary foods are highly acidic and provide bacteria with an easy food source, which is why excessive consumption of sugar greatly increases the incidence of dental cavities and gum diseases. Examples include cakes, candy,  chocolate, donuts, muffins, energy drinks, sodas, and liqueurs. Chewy carbohydrates with gluten, like white bread and donuts, may stick to teeth, get caught between teeth and gums when they recede, and contribute to gingivitis or gum-tissue inflammation.
  • Avoid cold foods: Cold foods may cause sensitivity. When gums recede, the nerves that supply your teeth are exposed, which make them more sensitive to cold foods and beverages. Avoiding colds foods such as ice cream, snow cones, popsicles, ice cubes, and refrigerated fruits and vegetables may reduce some of the pain that is commonly associated with receding gums. Crunching on ice cubes, or any hard foods such as nuts, may loosen or crack teeth that have become weak due to receding gums. Instead, eat or drink room temperature or heated items that are soft in texture. Ask your dentist about special toothpastes designed to reduce tooth sensitivity.

The worst foods and habits for teeth and gums:

  • Chewy, sticky candies and sweets: If you eat sweets, choose those that clear out of your mouth quickly. Avoid lollipops, caramels, cough drops, and other sweets containing refined sugar. Effects of chocolate on preventing cavities have been indicated by studies funded by the candy industry, but not conclusively proven. Remember, much commercial chocolate still contains refined sugar.
    1. Chewy candy: The stickier the candy, the worse it tends to be for teeth. Extra-chewy candies (taffy, caramels, Jujyfruits) stick to and in-between teeth for a long time, allowing bacteria in your mouth to feast leisurely on the deposited sugar. Bacteria break down this sugar to make acid which dissolves the protective layer of tooth enamel and causes cavities. Candies that are chewy, sugary, and acidic—a category that includes many “sour” varieties—are especially harmful, since they already contain erosive acid, in addition to that produced by the interaction of sugar and bacteria.
    2. Hard candies: While hard candies don’t cling to teeth as readily as chewy candy, they are still harmful to your mouth. Unlike chocolate-based sweets which are chewed quickly and wash away relatively easily, hard candy dissolves slowly and saturates your mouth for several minutes, giving bacteria more time to produce harmful acid. Additionally, many varieties of hard candy are flavored with citric acid. Some hard candies can actually chip your teeth.
    3. Sticky, sour candy: Sour candy is worse than sweet candy, because sour candy has just as much sugar, plus added citric acid, and tends to cling to teeth longer.
  • Cough drops: Although meant for medicinal purposes, cough drops have a high sugar content. Sucking on them all day to soothe the throat bathes your teeth in sugar. Dental plaque (which contains bacteria) increases in the mouth, creating a higher risk of decay and gum disease. Try to buy sugar-free cough drops instead.
  • Starchy foods that can get stuck between teeth, such as processed carbohydrates: Soft white breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, danish, muffins, potato chips, etc., are all carbohydrates that can get trapped between teeth. Your saliva provides an enzyme called salivary amylase that begins the digestive process in your mouth, turning these carbohydrates into sugar. If you snack on such foods all day, you’re constantly keeping sugar in your mouth. Sugar is bad, because bacteria that are naturally in your mouth eat the sugar and create acid. If you had no plaque (which is impossible!), then there wouldn’t be anything to break down sugars to create the acids which cause tooth decay.
  • Constant snacking throughout the day: Enables food debris and plaque to stay on your teeth for a prolonged amount of time. When hungry, snack on cleansing-type foods such as apples, pears, clementines, carrots, and celery that minimize plaque buildup.
  • Sports and energy drinks: Contain a high amount of sugar and cause more acid damage to teeth than soda (Sports drinks first, energy drinks second, soda third). It depends on the type of sports drink; some contain more citric acid than others. Water is still your healthiest, thirst-quenching beverage.
  • Carbonated soft drinks: The leading source of added sugar among kids and teens. Besides being sugar-laden, most soft drinks contain phosphoric acid and citric acid both of which which erode tooth enamel and can lead to teeth sensitivity. High sugar and acid content are horrible for your teeth! The sugar, often high fructose corn syrup, feeds bacteria which produce additional acid. Sipping may be worse than gulping soda down, since sipping prolongs the low (acidic) pH in your mouth. Frequent soda drinking bathes the teeth in sugar and promotes dental decay. If you must drink soda, lessen the amount and frequency, and drink water instead. Minimize tooth enamel erosion by rinsing with water after your teeth have been exposed to acidic beverages. Sip acidic drinks through a straw to minimize contact with the teeth. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing with a soft toothbrush after acid exposure to avoid further breakdown of your enamel.
  • Fruit juice: Although generally healthy due to it’s vitamin and mineral content, naturally sweet fruit juice still contains a high amount of sugar. For example, apple juice contains approximately as much sugar as the same volume of soda! Diluting fruit juice with water can help reduce sugar content and minimize sugar exposure to your teeth. Choose whole fruit instead of juice when possible to obtain more nutrients and fiber with less sugar per serving.
  • Substances that dry out your mouth: These include alcohol and many medicines. Anything that dries the mouth increases the risk of dental plaque. If medications are the cause, talk with your health care provider about getting a fluoride rinse, or a fluoride gel with which to brush your teeth.
  • Pickles: Acid, typically provided by vinegar, is essential to the pickling process, giving pickles their sour, salty taste. It’s also what makes pickles a potential hazard to tooth enamel. Eating them more than once a day increases the risk of enamel wear by about 85%. Most people don’t eat pickles that often, however. Snacking on them in moderation may not noticeably affect dental health.
  • Alcohol: Saliva is one of our first defenses to dilute plaque and acids. It also has anti-bacterial properties. People who drink a lot of alcohol tend to have very dry mouths. If you already suffer from dry mouth, drinking alcohol will make it worse.
  • Wine: Anything that will stain a white table cloth will also stain teeth. Red wine contains substances known as chromogens that produce tooth-discoloring pigments. Furthermore, tannins in red wine tend to dry out the mouth and make teeth sticky, worsening stains. Even white wine may contribute to staining. Reds and whites both contain erosive acid, enabling stains from other foods or drinks to penetrate teeth more deeply.
  • Crackers and chips: Refined carbohydrates in saltines, crackers and chips are converted to sugar in the mouth very quickly, providing food for cavity-forming bacteria. Crackers also become mushy and sticky when chewed and fill spaces between your molars and teeth. Eating them in moderation is not likely to cause long-term problems, as long as you thoroughly brush and floss afterward.
  • Coffee: The brown stains that accumulate inside of a coffee mug are an example of how coffee drinking can stain your teeth over time. Coffee-stained teeth may become resistant to toothbrushing and more likely to be discolored again following a bleach treatment. Teeth with heavy coffee stains also tend to be sticky and attract food particles and bacteria.
  • Tea: Some black teas stain teeth more easily than coffee. Like red wine, black teas tend to have a high tannin content which promotes staining. Teas with fewer tannins, like green tea, white tea, and herbal tea, are not as likely to discolor teeth.
  • Citrus fruits and juices: A rich source of vitamin C, potassium, and other nutrients and good for you in many ways, but not for your teeth. Grapefruit and lemon juice are highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel over time. Orange juice tends to be less acidic, and many store-bought varieties are also fortified with teeth-friendly calcium and vitamin D. Always brush and floss as recommended after ingesting these.
  • Lemons and limes: The pH of straight lemons is 2. Sucking on lemons or limes with your front teeth hastens erosion of enamel from their front surface, yellowing and sensitivity.
  • Dried fruit: Contains the same amount of sugar as fruit that hasn’t been dried, plus it’s sticky and stays on your teeth.
  • Kombucha: A pH less than 7 is acidic. Kombucha’s pH is very low, about 2.5! Drinking this daily or often is likely to cause dental problems.
  • Vomit/acid reflux/bulemia: Such conditions can erode the insides of one’s teeth in a specific pattern by exposing teeth to an acidic bath of food that has already been digested.
  • Binge eating: This usually involves ingesting large amounts of sugary foods and drinks, which may lead to dental decay. Binge eating may also occur with another eating disorder such as bulimia where food is purged with vomiting. Because vomit is highly acidic, it can erode and damage teeth over time. Medical care and intervention is important to address such eating disorders.
  • Ice and frozen, or very cold, foods: Chewing ice is a seemingly harmless, unconscious habit but not good for teeth, since ice is so hard! It can easily dislodge a large, old filling or cause permanent damage to teeth with tiny cracks. These cracks can grow larger over time and ultimately cause a tooth to fracture. Select chilled water or drinks without ice to resist the urge to chew it. Coldness can also make teeth slightly more brittle. Remember, your mouth is generally warm. If you chew or bite on anything very dense, hard, or cold, like frozen nuts or pastries, etc., you may damage a tooth.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use dries out the mouth and increases the amount of plaque buildup around teeth. Smokers are more likely to lose teeth compared to nonsmokers due to gum disease. Also, tobacco use increases your risk of oral cancer. Seek help from your doctor or a support group to end this unhealthy habit.
  • Playing sports without a mouth guard or protection: Teeth are vulnerable to being damaged or knocked out during high impact sports like basketball, football, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and wrestling, A proper sports helmet or mouth guard can help to cushion blows to the mouth, jaw, and head.
  • Tongue piercings: Highly discouraged by dentists, tongue piercings can negatively affect your health, and cause teeth to chip, break, and require dental work. Mouth jewelry encourages more bacteria buildup in the mouth and may also rub against the gums, causing permanent gum recession which can lead to sensitivity and even tooth loss.

While eating healthy foods and avoiding snacks and drinks that are high in sugar are good ways to prevent cavities, a good dental regime is essential for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. 

Remove plaque by brushing and flossing thoroughly, and visit your dentist regularly to detect any signs of early decay.

References:

  1. Academy of General Dentistry: “Nutrition – Children.”
  2. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: “Diet and Snacking.”
  3. American Dental Association (ADA). Source: www.mouthhealthy.org/.
  4. Columbia University College of Dental Medicine: “Mouth-Healthy Eating.”
  5. “Oral Care: Diet and Oral Health.” WebMD Medical Reference reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS. WebMD, LLC. 03/31/14, 07/30/14.

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Recipe photo: Greek Peas with Tomato and Dill

This Greek recipe (αρακάς με πατάτες, pronounced ah-rah-KAS meh pah-TAH-tes) combines peas, onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes , dill and lemon for a delicious main dish or vegetable side.

While vegetables are generally served as a side dish in America, in Greece it’s common to eat a plate full of vegetables as a main entree. Lathera dishes (oil foods) feature olive oil as the main source of fat. The classic Greek dish known as Arakas Latheros literally translates to “oiled peas,” and includes similar ingredients to those below, except for potatoes. Adding potatoes changes the name to “Arakas me Patates.”

The following traditional way of cooking peas is easy, delicious, heart-healthy, tastes even better the next day, and will most certainly become a family favorite. Just a few simple ingredients make the most delicious sauce imaginable. Try to use USDA organic ingredients when available, in order to reduce your family’s exposure to pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. 

Serve with crusty wholegrain bread and feta cheese for a delightful meal!

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 onions, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 pounds fresh peas, shelled (about 5 cups) or frozen garden peas
  • 8 fresh plum tomatoes, chopped, or 2 jars/cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  •  1 jar tomato paste
  • 4-6 Yukon Gold or other potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 small bunch fresh dill, chopped (about 1+ cup)
  • 3-4 cups fresh water
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh or dried oregano and parsley, as desired 
  • Juice of 2 lemons
Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan or pot, heat the olive oil and sauté onions and garlic over medium heat until translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Do not brown.
  2. Once onions are soft, add tomatoes, tomato paste, potatoes, and pepper.
  3. Increase heat to high and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in peas, dill, oregano, parsley and just enough water to cover ingredients.
  4. Cover partially and simmer over low heat for about 20-30 minutes, or until peas and potato are soft. Stir in lemon juice. Remove lid during last 5 minutes of simmering.

 Variations:

  • Chopped carrots and/or fennel may be added to this recipe.
  • Add additional tomatoes for more sauce.

Stewed peas with carrots added.

 

καλή όρεξη (kah-LEE OR-ex-ee)

Enjoy your meal!

 

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While caffeine occurs naturally in coffee and tea, it is being added increasingly to energy drinks and candy. The only time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the addition of caffeine to a product was for soda in the 1950s. It never anticipated so many caffeinated products would eventually become available, with caffeine now being added to a variety of products, including sunflower seeds, snack chips, and marshmallows.

“Caffeinated products, starting with the energy drinks in the last five to seven years, are now getting into all kinds of products,” said Jim White, a registered dietician and spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I don’t think people are keeping track of the amount” they’re consuming.

The FDA says it’s generally safe to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, the equivalent of 4-5 cups of coffee. However, many people are naturally sensitive to the effects of caffeine and should avoid or minimize it.

The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition issued a consumer warning in July, 2014, regarding powdered pure caffeine marketed directly to consumers and recommends avoiding these products. The FDA is especially concerned about powdered pure caffeine sold in bulk bags over the internet.

Dangers of caffeine powder:

  • These products are essentially 100 % caffeine. Even small amounts can lead to a rapid heartbeat, seizures and death.
  • A teaspoon of pure caffeine powder, which can be purchased online, is roughly equivalent to the amount of caffeine in 25 cups of coffee.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is urging consumers to avoid using pure caffeine powder, a potent substance linked to the deaths of two young men.
  • Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose. Parents should note that these products may be attractive to young people.
  • Symptoms of caffeine overdose can include rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death. Vomiting, diarrhea, stupor and disorientation are also symptoms of caffeine toxicity. These symptoms are likely to be much more severe than those resulting from drinking too much coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages.
  • Calling it “pharmaceutical-grade caffeine,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest has said powdered caffeine is often marketed as an athletic performance enhancer or a weight-loss aid and can be bought for as little as $10 for 8 ounces.

Deaths associated with caffeine powder:

  • Logan Stiner, an 18-year-old high-school senior from Ohio, died in May after taking caffeine powder that his parents later found in a small bag.
  • James Wade Sweatt, a 24-year-old from Georgia, purchased caffeine powder from a supplement company named Hard Rhino on Amazon.com. and died in June after falling into a coma following his use of pure caffeine. He thought the product would help him avoid the sugar in energy drinks and soda.

Who should know about this?

  • All consumers seeking caffeinated products should be aware of the potentially high potency of these powdered pure caffeine products.
  • Parents should be aware that teenagers and young adults may be drawn to these products for their perceived benefits.

What should you do?

  • Avoid powdered pure caffeine.
  • Note that it is nearly impossible to accurately measure powdered pure caffeine with common kitchen measuring tools and you can easily consume a lethal amount.
  • If you believe that you are having an adverse event related to caffeine, stop using it and seek immediate medical care or advice.
  • The FDA wants to know about adverse events associated with powdered pure caffeine and other highly caffeinated products. You or your health care provider can help by reporting these adverse events to FDA in the following ways:
    • By phone at 240-402-2405
    • By email at CAERS@cfsan.fda.gov

Why this advice is important:

  • Pure caffeine products are potentially dangerous, and serious adverse events can result, including death. People with pre-existing heart conditions should not use them.
  • Even small amounts can lead to a rapid heartbeat, seizures and death, the FDA said Tuesday. A teaspoon of caffeine powder, which can be purchased online, is equivalent to 25 cups of coffee.
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, has petitioned the FDA to ban retail sales of pure caffeine as a dietary supplement.
  • The FDA is considering regulatory action to address concerns over pure caffeine powder. Senators Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) have joined the parents of Mr. Stiner and Mr. Sweatt in asking the FDA to ban the substance.
  • Caffeine powder can still be purchased from a supplement company named Hard Rhino on Amazon.com. Hard Rhino and Amazon have not responded to requests for comment. 

 References:

  1. “FDA Consumer Advice on Powdered Pure Caffeine.” Food and Drug Administration. (Source: www.fda.gov/…/SafetyAlertsAdvisories/u…)
  2. “FDA issues warning about pure caffeine powder-WPTV.com (Source: www.wptv.com/…fda-issues-new-warning-about-pure-caffeine-powder-…) 12/24/14.
  3. Hampton, T. “FDA Alert on Pure Caffeine Powder.” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). (Source: jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1899186) 08/27/14.
  4. Tracy, Tennille. “FDA Warns Against Using Caffeine Powder: Potent Substance Linked to Deaths of Two Young Men.” 12/16/14.
  5. “Tragic Deaths Highlight the Dangers of Powered Pure Caffeine.” Food and Drug Administration. (Source: blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/…/rragic-deaths-hi…) 12/16/14.

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Greek beet salad is a delicious combination of beets, garlic, olive oil and vinegar which is easy to prepare, inexpensive, heart-healthy, and often served cold. Most of the work can be done well ahead of serving time. Patzaria Salata is also called “Pantzaria Salata” (παντζάρια σαλάτα, pronounced pahnd-ZAH-reeyah sah-LAH-tah) in some parts of Greece. Here it is shown without onions and parsley.

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2  pounds cooked sliced fresh beets or 2/1-pound cans or containers cut red beets
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • Fresh ground pepper and salt (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients and allow to marinate several hours before serving.
  2. This salad should be spicy, so add enough pepper and salt.
  3. Serve Patzaria by itself, on a bed of baby spinach or other salad greens, with crumbled Feta cheese, or Greek yogurt and warm pita bread.

Tips:

  • To retain nutrients and color, boil, bake or steam fresh beets for the shortest time without peeling first. The skin will easily rub off under cold running water after they are cooked.
  • To remove beet juice from fingers, rub with wet salt and lemon juice and then wash with soap and water. For cutting boards and plastic containers, use a bleach solution.
  • Costco now sells USDA organic, whole cooked beets in 1-pound plastic containers.

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Beet Recipe

Greek-style beet salad, “Patzaria Salata” (pah-DZAR-ee-ah) is a delicious combination of beets, garlic, oil, and vinegar which is easy to prepare, inexpensive, heart-healthy, and often served cold. Most of the work can be done well ahead of serving time.*

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of fresh medium red beets with greens attached
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 small red or white onions, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Chopped parsley
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Salt (optional)

Directions for fresh beets:

  1. Cut off beet tops, not too close to the bulb, leaving about 2 inches of stem on them. Wash beets well. Keep sound, tender beet greens, wash well and pat-dry.
  2. Place beets in a large pot and cover with cold water.
  3. Using high heat, bring beets to a boil. Cover and boil for 20-30 minutes, depending on their size, until tender (Insert a pointy knife or fork into the beets to check tenderness). When ready, rinse under cold water.
  4. Drain the beets. Remove the skins while hot or when just cool enough to handle (The skin usually slips off easily). You can wear disposable plastic or latex kitchen gloves when peeling skins to prevent beet juice from staining your hands red.**
  5. Slice beets into 1/4-inch thick round slices.
  6. When the beets are almost done cooking, boil the beet greens in another large pot of salted water for 5-10 minutes, until tender. Since younger beet greens cook faster than more mature ones, after 5 minutes of cooking, test greens every few minutes until done.
  7. Use tongs, a slotted spoon, or strainer to remove greens from water and drain in a colander. Arrange greens in the center of a large serving plate or add them to sliced beets.
  8. Combine garlic, vinegar, oil, onions, parsley, pepper and salt. Shake well and pour this dressing over the beets and allow to marinate for 2 or more hours before serving.
  9. Serve Patzaria by itself, or on a bed of baby spinach or other salad greens, with crumbled Feta cheese, or Greek yogurt and warm pita bread.

Tips:

  • To retain nutrients and color, boil, bake or steam beets for the shortest time without peeling first. The skin will easily rub off under cold running water after they are cooked.
  • To remove beet juice from fingers, rub with wet salt and lemon juice and then wash with soap and water. For cutting boards and plastic containers, use a bleach solution.
  • If using already cooked, sliced fresh red beets or 2 1-pound cans or containers of sliced beets (discard liquid), skip to #8.
  • Costco now sells USDA organic, whole cooked beets in 1-pound plastic containers.

 *Greek beet salad is also called “Pantzaria Salata” (παντζάρια σαλάτα, pronounced pahnd-ZAH-reeyah sah-LAH-tah) in some parts of Greece.

**Beets should be stored in the refrigerator, if they are to be used at a later time.

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Powerful nutrient compounds in beets help to reduce the risk of heart disease, birth defects, and some cancers.

The beetroot in North America is a colorful root vegetable that includes several cultivated varieties of beet (Beta vulgaris) grown for their edible taproots and greens, food coloring, and as a medicinal plant. The usually deep purple roots of beetroot can be eaten boiled, grilled, or roasted, cold as a salad after being cooked and dressed with oil and vinegar, or raw and shredded, either alone or combined with salad vegetables. Beet leaves are edible, nutritious, and can be prepared the same way as Swiss chard.

History of beets (beetroot): 

  • The wild beet, the ancestor of today’s common beet, is thought to have originated during prehistoric times in North Africa and grown wild along Mediterranean, Asian and European seashores.
  • The beet sugar industry traces its origins to ancient Babylon, Egypt, and Greece, where sugar beets were first cultivated. The tap root was not known until the 2nd or 3rd Century AD. The plant was grown from 2000 BC for its leaves and used by Greeks and Romans as ‘Chard’ or ‘Spinach.’ In these early times, people ate just the beet greens, not the roots.
  • The ancient Romans were one of the first civilizations to cultivate beets to use their roots as food. Tribes that invaded Rome were responsible for spreading beets throughout northern Europe, where they were initially used for animal fodder and later for human consumption, becoming more popular in the 16th century.
  • In the mid-1700’s, the German chemist Andreas Margraff discovered that both white and red beetroot contained sucrose, indistinguishable from that produced from sugar cane.
  • Although beet leaves have been eaten since before written history, the root was generally used medicinally and did not become a popular food until French chefs recognized it’s potential in the 1800’s. While the root was eaten in France and Italy as a vegetable, roasted whole, in England it was used as cattle fodder during the 18th Century.
  • During the Napoleonic Wars, France was deprived of sugar by the English Fleet and Napoleon encouraged research in the use of sugar beet.
  • Beets became more popular in the 19th century, when it was discovered that they were a concentrated source of sugar. In 1801, the first sugar beet factory was built at Cunern in Silesia, Poland. When access to sugar cane was restricted by the British, Napoleon decreed that beets be used as the primary source of sugar. Around this time, beets were also first brought to the United States, where they now flourish.
  • The first successful commercial factory to extract sugar from beets in the USA was constructed by E. H. Dyer at Alvarado (now known as Union City), California in 1879.
  • Today the leading commercial producers of beets include the United States, Russian Federation, France, Poland, France and Germany.
  • Approximately 2/3 of commercial beet crops end up canned.

(Section through taproot)

The “beetroot” is the taproot portion of a beet plant. In North America the beetroot is also called a table beet, garden beet, red or golden beet, or beet.

Botanical name: Beets are botanically known as Beta vulgaris (derived from the Greek letter beta, because the swollen, turnip-like root resembles a Greek B). 

Common names for beets:

  • Garden beet, beetroot, chard, Swiss chard, sugar beet, blood turnip, spinach beet, biet, juurikas, betteraves, rübe, biatais, barbabietola, beterraba, remolacha, betor.
  • Commonly known as the beet in the United States. Outside the United States, beets are usually referred to as beetroot in English-speaking countries.

Beet varieties: 

  • The most common garden beet is deep ruby-red in color.
  • Yellow, white, and candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles) beets are available in specialty markets.
How are beets used today? 
  • Betanin, obtained from the roots, is used industrially as red food colorant to improve the color and flavor of tomato paste, sauces, desserts, jams and jellies, ice cream, sweets, breakfast cereals, etc.
  • Sugar beets are used to make table sugar.
  • Beetroot dye is sometimes used in ink.

When are fresh beets in season? 

  • In North America, fresh beets are available from June through October (mid-summer through early fall). Some markets import fresh beets from opposing climates and sell them year-round. Beets are also readily available canned.
  • Costco now sells USDA organic, cooked beets in 1-pound plastic containers.

When buying fresh beets:

  • To insure freshness, select beets with leaf stems still attached and small leaves that are not yellow or tattered. The greens reflect how fresh the beets are: if they look moist and fresh, the beets will be too. Avoid beets that appear dry, cracked, shriveled, or have scales or spots.
  • Choose small, firm beets with deep maroon coloring, unblemished skin, and bright green leaves that are not wilted. The taproot should still be attached.
  • Avoid large beets with a hairy taproot. The tiny roots (hair) are an indication of age and toughness.
  • Most beets that come to market will be 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Larger beets tend to have a tough, woody center. Smaller beets will be sweeter and more tender.
  • The leaves are edible and nutritious and can be prepared the same way as Swiss chard (also known as spinach beet).
  • Try to purchase fresh, organic beets whenever possible (95% of sugar beets in the United States are genetically modified).
  • Fresh beets are generally inexpensive, but must be washed and boiled. As an alternative, you can use packaged ones in plastic bags which are already cooked and peeled. They make preparation of beet recipes quite easy and can be served as an emergency appetizer for guests.

Beet Storage: 

  • To store beets, trim their leaves leaving 1-2 inches of stem on the beets as soon as you get home, since the leaves will steal moisture from the beet root. Do not trim the tail (taproot). Store the beets and leaves separately in open plastic bags in your refrigerator crisper. While the greens may keep only 1-2 days, the root bulbs should last for at least 1 week. Use the leaves within two days.
  • Cooked or canned beets may be refrigerated up to 1 week.
  • Fresh cooked beets may be frozen whole or in cut pieces up to 10 months. Be sure to peel before freezing in airtight containers or baggies, leaving no air in the container.

To cook beets:

  • Cut off beet tops, not too close to the bulb, leaving about 2 inches of stem on them. Wash beets well. Keep sound, tender leaves, washing them well.
  • Place in a pot of cold water to cover. Bring to a boil on high heat.
  • Cook beet bulbs in boiling, salted water for 20 minutes or until tender: about 20-30 minutes for small beets, 30-40 minutes for medium size beets. Cook leaves separately in salted water until tender.
  • Plunge the beets in cold water and peel outer skin as soon as cool enough to handle, removing stem and tap root (the skin usually slips off easily). Wear kitchen gloves to prevent your hands from becoming stained.
  • Cut into slices or cubes. At this point the beets are ready to use in a recipe.

Steaming: A healthier way to preserve the nutrients and flavor of beets:

  • Cook beets lightly, since their concentration of phytonutrients, such as betalains, is reduced by heat.
  • Steam beets for 15 minutes to maximize their nutrition and flavor: Fill the bottom of a steamer with 2 inches of water and bring to a rapid boil. Add beets, cover, and steam for 15 minutes. Beets are cooked when you can easily insert a fork or knife tip into the beet.
  • Peel beets on a cutting board and rub the skin off with a paper towel. Wear kitchen gloves to prevent your hands from becoming stained.
  • Transfer to a bowl and serve with vinaigrette or other ingredients.
  • Beets’ color can be modified during cooking. Adding an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or vinegar will brighten the color while an alkaline substance such as baking soda will often cause them to turn a deeper purple. Salt will blunt beets’ color, so add only at the end of cooking if needed.

To freeze beets:

  • Prepare, cook, and peel beets as described above. (Do not freeze raw beets, as they’ ll be mushy once thawed.)
  • Cut into slices or cubes.
  • Package into freezer bag or plastic container, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.
  • You can also freeze the beets first in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and then transfer the frozen beets into the freezer bag or container.

Beet Tips:

  • Although beets can be eaten raw, they are generally boiled, baked, steamed, fried, grilled or otherwise cooked before eating.
  • To retain nutrients and color, boil, bake or steam without peeling first. Allow cold water to flow over hot, cooked beets, so you don’t burn your fingers. The skin will easily rub off under cold running water after they are cooked.
  • To remove beet juice from fingers, rub with wet salt and lemon juice and then wash with soap and water. For cutting boards and plastic containers, use a bleach solution.
  • If you eat beets or drink beet juice, be aware that your urine and stools may soon appear reddish. This is normal. The red colour compound in beets, betanin, is not broken down in the body, and in higher concentrations may temporarily cause your urine and stool to become reddish. In the case of urine this is called beeturia. This effect may cause you concern initially, since it resembles hematuria (blood in the urine) or blood in the stool, but is completely harmless and will subside once the food is out of your system.

Nutrients and phytochemicals in beets:

  • Very low in calories (1/2 cup of cooked beets has only 37 calories) and fat, and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and unique plant-derived antioxidants.
  • Raw beets are an excellent source of folate (a vitamin which significantly reduces the risk of birth defects), a good source of B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid (B5) and pyridoxine (B6), and minerals such as manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, and iron.
  • While raw beets are an excellent source of folate, extensive cooking may significantly reduce the level.
  • The root is a rich source of the phytochemical compound, glycine betaine: Betaines may help to reduce the concentration of homocysteine (a homolog of the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine) in the blood. High circulating levels of homocysteine may be harmful to blood vessels and contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease.
  • Beet greens provide about 20 nutrients (listed from greatest to lowest concentration): vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, protein, zinc, folate and vitamin B3.  Just 1 cup of beet greens contains 774.4% of your daily intake of vitamin K and 61.2% intake of vitamin A!

Nutrition Breakdown (5)
Per four cooked, boiled, drained beets (each approximately 2 inches in diameter)
Calories: 88
Fat:  0.36 g
Beta-carotene: 42 mcg
Fiber: 4 g = 16 %* DRI
Folate: 160 mcg = 40 % DRI
Iron: 1.58 mg = 8.8 % DRI
Potassium: 610 mg = 13 % DRI*

*Percentages are for women 31-50 years old who are not pregnant

Health benefits of beets: Powerful nutrient compounds in beets help to reduce the risk of heart disease, birth defects, and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.

  • Antioxidant: The pigments that give beets their rich colors are called betalains. Betalains include two basic types: betacyanins and betaxanthinsBetacyanins are the red-violet pigments that predominate in dark red, crimson, or purple colored beets. Betaxanthins are yellowish pigments that predominate in yellow beets. Many betalains function both as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules. In addition to beets, rhubarb, chard, amaranth, prickly pear cactus, and Nopal cactus are examples of foods that contain betalains. What’s most striking about beets is the unusual mix of antioxidants that they contain. Certain vegetables are rich in antioxidant carotenoids, in particular, beta-carotene; among all well-studied carotenoids, none is more commonly occurring in vegetables than beta-carotene. When it comes to antioxidant phytonutrients that give most red vegetables their distinct color, anthocyanins predominate (Red cabbage gets it vibrant red color primarily from anthocyanins.). Beets demonstrate their antioxidant uniqueness by getting their red color primarily from betalain antioxidant pigments (and not primarily from anthocyanins). Coupled with their status as a very good source of the antioxidant manganese and a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C, the unique phytonutrients in beets provide antioxidant support in a different way than other antioxidant-rich vegetables.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Many of the unique phytonutrients present in beets function as anti-inflammatory compounds. Several types of heart disease, including atherosclerosis, are characterized by chronic inflammation. For this reason, beets have been studied within the context of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, another health problem associated with chronic inflammation. In addition to their unusual betalain and carotenoid phytonutrients, beets are also a source of betaine. Betaine is a key body nutrient made from the B-complex vitamin, choline. (Specifically, betaine is simply choline to which three methyl groups have been attached.) Choline is a key vitamin that helps regulate inflammation in the cardiovascular system, and adequate choline is important for preventing unwanted build-up of homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with unwanted inflammation and risk of cardiovascular problems like atherosclerosis. But betaine may be even more important in regulation of our inflammatory status as its presence in the diet has been associated with lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including C reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. As a group, the anti-inflammatory molecules found in beets may eventually be shown to provide cardiovascular benefits in large-scale human studies, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits for other body systems.
  • Circulatory: Some research has shown that beet juice (about 2 cups daily) may increase stamina, help you exercise longer, improve blood flow, and lower blood pressure. Why? Beets are rich in natural chemicals called nitrates. Through a chain reaction, your body converts nitrates into nitric oxide, which improves blood flow and blood pressure.*
  • Detoxification: Betalin pigments in beets have repeatedly been shown to support the body’s detoxification process, by neutralizing toxins and making them sufficiently water-soluble for excretion in the urine.
  • Anti-cancer: The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules in beets makes this food a highly-likely candidate for risk reduction of many cancer types. Lab studies on human tumor cells have confirmed this possibility for colon, stomach, nerve, lung, breast, prostate and testicular cancers. Eventually, large-scale human studies may show the risk-reducing effect of dietary beet intake for many of these cancers.
  • Fiber: While many people tend to lump all food fiber into one single category called “dietary fiber,” there is evidence to suggest that all dietary fiber is not the same. Beet fiber (along with carrot fiber) are two specific types of food fiber that may provide special health benefits, particularly with respect to health of our digestive tract (including prevention of colon cancer) and cardiovascular system. The fiber found in abundance in beetroots reduces the time the stool spends in the intestines, thereby limiting the colon’s exposure to potential carcinogens. Also the green leafy tops of beets are edible and high in fiber, so don’t throw them away — they can be cooked like spinach. Some beet fiber benefits may be due to pectin polysaccharides that significantly contribute to the total fiber content.
  • Beets are rich in betacyanin, a phytochemical responsible for their intense purple color and colon cancer fighting properties: Studies indicate that betacyanin is highly effective at reducing cancer risk, especially colon cancer. To maximize beets’ cancer-fighting properties, cook them only lightly. Research suggests their anti-cancer activity is reduced by heat.

What about sugar and oxalates in beets?

  • The “sugar beet” is a specific type of beet that is rich in sucrose and has been used as a source of refined table sugar for a few hundred years. However, beets sold in grocery stores are not as sweet, since they contain much less sugar. Even sugar beets do not contain much glucose.
  • Beet greens provide more minerals, vitamins, and fiber than the root (except for folate vitamin), yet are very low in calories, fat, and sugar.
  • The root of a beet is relatively high in sugar, consisting of about 75% water, 20% sugar, and 5% pulp (1). The exact percentage of sugar in a beet can vary between 12-21%, depending on the cultivar and growing conditions. Beet sugar is in the form of sucrose, a disaccharide made of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose.
  • All varieties of beets are high in fiber: About 28 % of beet dietary fiber is soluble and the remainder is insoluble (1 cup of raw beets provides about 15 % of the recommended amount of daily fiber for most adults). High-fiber foods tend to have a beneficial impact on blood glucose levels, by moderating blood glucose levels and preventing insulin spikes.
  • Although beets are considered a medium-high glycemic index (GI) food, they actually have a low glycemic load: The GI measures how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose and ranges from 0 to 100. Foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food, either glucose or white bread. A food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI. The higher the GI, the less favorable a food is for diabetics. The GI of beets is 64. However, beets have a low glycemic load rating of 5. The glycemic load measures the actual amount of carbohydrates in a particular food. Beets do not contain many carbohydrates per serving, a significant proportion of their carbohydrates is indigestible dietary fiber, and meal portions are usually small, about 1/2 cup. In moderation, beets are an appropriate vegetable for diabetics and others who monitor their blood glucose levels.
  • Since beets are high in nutrients, phytochemicals, folate, potassium, manganese, and fiber, they may be included in a diabetic diet occasionally. How much to consume and what effect it will have on one’s blood glucose will vary and need to be monitored. A diabetic person can enjoy beets in moderation, just like potatoes and bananas, but should count the carbohydrate intake from beets.
  • Smaller or younger beets are a better choice than fully grown beets to control the sugar you ingest. Steaming or roasting them is the best way to have them. Avoid overcooking beets, as this will increase their glycemic index.
  • Since beet greens are rich in oxalates, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating beet greens.
  • I would not recommend drinking beet juice often. One should always choose a whole vegetable or fruit over it’s corresponding juice. Juice is more quickly absorbed by the digestive system than a whole vegetable or fruit and directly adds glucose into your bloodstream. Eating the vegetable not only provides fiber, but also takes longer to digest and convert beetroot to glucose (6).

*Cured foods such as bacon, ham, and hot dogs are known to be high in sodium nitrite preservatives which can be converted during digestion into nitrosamines, known cancer-causing compounds. Beets, radishes, and spinach contain naturally-occurring nitrates which are converted to nitrites and nitric oxide during digestion. These naturally-occurring nitrates are not harmful and are very safe when eaten with the antioxidants and other phytonutrients that beets, radishes, and spinach provide. The more dangerous nitrites added to bacon, hot dogs, and cured meats as preservatives should be avoided.

References:
  1. “Agribusiness Handbooks.” Volume 4: Sugar Beets/White Sugar. 1999.
  2. “Beet or Beetroot for Diabetes.” Diet Health Club. (Source: www.diethealthclub.com/diabetic-diet/beet.html) 01/15/12.
  3. “Beetroot.” Wikipedia. (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beetroot) November 2014.
  4. “Beets.” Fresh Food Network. (Source: www.freshfn.com/beets/).
  5. “Beets: The World’s Healthiest Foods.” Wholefoods.org. (Source: www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49) 2014.
  6. “Can Nutrients in Beets Help With Type 2 Diabetes?” Joslin Communications. Joslin Diabetes Center. (Source: blog.joslin.org/2014/01/4718/) 01/08/14.
  7. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI): based on National Academy of Sciences’ Dietary Reference Intakes, 1997-2004.
  8. “Eat Whole Fruits, Not Juice, to Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.” www.dianesays.com. 11/01/13.
  9. “Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding Genetically Engineered Foods.” Dianesays.com. 05/09/14.
  10. “Folic Acid: The Vitamin That Helps Prevent Birth Defects.” Information for a Healthy New York. New York State Department of Health. (Source: https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/1335/) April 2007.
  11. “Guide to Colon Cancer Prevention: Screening tests such as colonoscopy can cut the risk dramatically. Consumer Reports.org. March 2012. This article was originally published in the December 2011 issue of Consumer Reports on Health under the headline “Stopping a Treatable Cancer.” (Source: www.consumerreports.org/cro/…/guide-to-colon-cancer-prevention/).
  12. (Source: http://www.healwithfood.org/colorectalcancer/foods.php#ixzz3JZD3xdSW).
  13. Kapadia, GJ; Azuine, MA; Rao, GS; Arai, T; Iida, A; Tokuda, H. “Cytotoxic effect of the red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extract compared to doxorubicin (Adriamycin) in the human prostate (PC-3) and breast (MCF-7) cancer cell lines.” Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2011 Mar; 11(3):280-4.(Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21434853).
  14. “Twelve Foods Reducing Colorectal Cancer.” Gastrointestinal Specialists, Inc. Contact information: (804) 285-8206/ info@gastrova.com (Source: www.gastrova.com/patient…/12-foods-reducing-colorectal-cancer/). 2013.

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The words “herb” and “spice” are often used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences between the two, depending on what part of the plant is used.

 

What is the difference between herbs and spices? 

  • Herbs: Culinary herbs are leafy portions of a plant, whether dried or fresh (Examples: basil, bay leaves, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, and thyme).
  • Spices: Spices are harvested from any other portion of the plant and typically dried. Popular spices come from berries (peppercorns), flower buds (cloves), roots (ginger), seeds (nutmeg), and the stamen of flowers (saffron).
  • Some plants yield both an herb and a spice: Cilantro is the leafy herb of the same plant that provides the popular spice coriander seed. Dill weed (an herb) and dill seed (a spice) also come from the same plant.

Add herbs and spices to enhance the natural flavor of food, not hide it. How much you add, and when, can influence the outcome of your meal:

  • Ground herbs and spices release their flavor and aroma more easily than whole. Add them near the end of cooking time, to minimize the risk of cooking away their flavor.
  • Whole spices like cloves and cumin and certain herbs, such as bay leaves, release their flavor more slowly, so add them at the start of cooking. Tie them in cheesecloth or place in a tea ball for easy removal.
  • Fresh leafy herbs, such as basil, dill, or parsley, should be added in the last five minutes of cooking.
  • More robust fresh herbs like rosemary can be added earlier in the cooking period.
  • Crumble dried herbs, like basil, oregano, or parsley, just before use to release their flavor.
  • To reduce the heat of hot peppers, remove the seeds.
  • For salad dressings, fruit dishes, or other no-cook foods, add herbs and spices several hours before serving, so flavors can develop and blend. Add seasonings to vinegar first and let stand before adding the oil.
  • Fresh herbs can be added to salads, soups, stews, and sauces to enrich the meal’s color, fragrance, nutrition, and flavor.

A quick reference chart to help you choose herbs and spices for specific dishes 

Beans (dried) cumin, cayenne, chili, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, thyme
Beef basil, bay, chili, cilantro, curry, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
Breads anise, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, oregano, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme
Cheese basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chili, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Chicken allspice, basil, bay, cinnamon, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger lemongrass, mustard, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
Corn chili, curry, dill, marjoram, parsley, savory, thyme
Eggs basil, chervil, chili, chives, curry, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Fish anise, basil, bay, cayenne, celery seed, chives, curry, dill fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, marjoram
Fruits allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mint
Lamb basil, bay, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme
Potatoes basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Salad Dressings basil, celery seed, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, thyme
Salads basil, caraway, chives, dill, garlic, lemon peel, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Soups basil, bay, chervil, chili, chives, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
Sweets allspice, angelica, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, mace, nutmeg, mint, orange peel, rosemary
Tomatoes basil, bay , celery seed, cinnamon, chili, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, gumbo file, lemongrass,

 

Amount to add when no recipe is available:

  • Begin with 1/4 teaspoon per pound of meat, for each pint (2 cups) of sauce or soup, or for a serving for four. Adjust as necessary. For cayenne and garlic powder, start with 1/8 teaspoon.
  • Since the fiery flavor of chili peppers can intensify during cooking, add them in very small increments and taste test frequently. 

To substitute dried herbs for fresh: Use 1/3 teaspoon powdered or 1 teaspoon crushed for every tablespoon chopped fresh herbs.

To reconstitute dried herbs and develop their flavors: Soak them in some liquid to be used in your recipe (water, broth, lemon juice, milk, olive oil, vinegar, or wine) for 10 minutes to 1 hour before using.

Before using herbs and spices, note the expiration date on the jar, if available, and use your senses to determine freshness:

  • Color: Green, leafy herbs will often fade as they age. Red spices such as paprika, red pepper and chili powder will turn brown in color.
  • Aroma: Place a small amount in your palm and gently rub with your thumb. The aroma should be rich, full, and immediate. If not, it’s probably lost potency. For whole spices, break or crush to release their full fragrance. Then scrape with a knife or grater. 
  • If in doubt, throw it out: Herbs and spices are some of the least expensive ingredients in any entree. If their their freshness is questionable, it may be best to replace them.

To prolong the freshness of herbs and spices:

  • Buy quality products with a long shelf life: They will provide the highest concentration of volatile-oils and retain their flavor longer.
  • Protect green herbs from direct sunlight exposure.
  • Fresh-cut herbs: Wrap in a paper towel, place in a resealable plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator until they are to be used.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct light, heat, or humidity: Airtight glass jars closed tightly after each use are best for dried herbs and spices.
  • Don’t shake dried herbs or spices from their respective jars over a boiling pot: Moisture from steam may diminish the potency of spices or herbs remaining in the jar. Pour a small amount into your hand or a ramekin, then add to pot.

Guideline for how long to keep dried herbs and spices:

  • Ground spices: 2-3 years
  • Whole spices: 3-4 years
  • Herbs: 1-3 years
  • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years
  • Extracts: 4 years

Whole foods versus supplements:

  • Whole foods are the best sources of vitamins, minerals, and other plant compounds that help you stay healthy and fight disease.
  • Use herbs and spices in their natural form. Taking them as a supplement may reduce their effectiveness and increase the risk of side effects.
  • If you plan to take any herbs as supplements, consult your health care provider first. 

References:

  1. “A quick reference chart to help you choose for herbs and spices for specific dishes.” Herb and Spice Chart-Recipes for Home Cooking. (Source: www.homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blmisc2.htmC).
  2. Source: http://www.spiceislands.com/spices_and_herbs_education/adding_herbs_and_spices#sthash.ptHAuQvm.dpuf

 

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