Quinoa is not a true grain, but rather the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. The seed contains a large germ which has a superior nutritional profile when compared with other grains. Quinoa is non-allergenic, can be used in wheat-free or gluten-free diets, and provides complete protein containing all the essential amino acids*, as recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Seeds range in color from ivory to pink, brown to red, or almost black, depending on the variety. There are over 120 species of Chenopodium, but only 3 main varieties are cultivated .

Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”) is a highly nutritious, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, low-fat whole grain seed, containing all 9 essential amino acids (complete protein)*, yet no saturated fat, sodium, or sugar. Therefore, it is an excellent food for people who wish to reduce their consumption of meat and improve their cardiovascular health. Not only is quinoa’s amino acid profile well-balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but it is also high in the amino acid lysine which is essential for tissue growth and repair. In addition to protein, quinoa offers other health-building nutrients. A very good source of manganese, as well as a good source of magnesium, folate, and phosphorus, quinoa consumption may help to reduce the risk of migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis. The mild, fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and somewhat nutty flavor of cooked quinoa seeds makes it a wonderful substitute for rice or couscous.

Although typically consumed in the same way as cereal grasses (wheat, oats, barley, and rye), quinoa is not a cereal grass at all, but rather a member of the leafy green vegetable family that contains spinach, Swiss chard, and beets. Quinoa is instead considered to be a “pseudocereal,” a food that is not a cereal grass but can still be easily ground into flour. The scientific name for quinoa is Chenopodium quinoa.

A recently rediscovered ancient “grain,” quinoa is native to the Andean mountain region of South America that is currently divided up between the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador,  and Peru, where it has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. Consumption of quinoa became widespread in this region around 3000 BC. Along with maize (corn) and potatoes, quinoa was one of 3 staple foods for the Inca civilization that existed around 1200 AD. Unlike maize and potatoes, quinoa provided a source of complete protein and was called the “gold of the Incas,” due to the way it improved the stamina of their warriors, as well as, the “mother grain.”  Today, it is considered a Supergrain of the Future.”

Quinoa plants can tolerate different growing conditions and thrive in the harsh environment of high altitude mountains, thin and cold air, hot sun, salty or sandy soil, little rainfall, and sub-freezing temperatures. All parts of the plant can be eaten, including not only the seeds that we buy in stores and that may also have been dried and ground into flour, but also the leaves and stems. Betacyanin pigments present in some quinoa leaves produce their bright reddish color, but it’s also possible to find orange, pink, purple, tan, and black quinoa as well. Quinoa leaves taste similar in flavor to the leaves of their fellow chenopods, spinach, chard, and beets.

Most quinoa consumed in the United States still comes from South America. Peru is the largest commercial producer of quinoa and Bolivia the second largest producer. In 2010, these two countries produced nearly 99% of all commercially grown quinoa. Their export sales of quinoa have reached the level of an $87 million dollar business.

The most common type of quinoa sold in stores has an off-white color, but red and black quinoa are becoming more available. Sometimes, a tri-color mixture is offered in packages or bulk bins.

Quinoa is my favorite whole grain because it is:
  • A healthy, nutritious, whole grain food, not just for vegetarians and vegans, but for anyone trying to reduce their intake of meat, lower their cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, and add fiber to their diet.
  • Rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
  • Easy to digest.
  • Simple to prepare and cooks in less time than other whole grains – just 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Economical: A 4-pound bag of “Nature’s Earthly Choice Premium 100% USDA Organic Whole Grain Quinoa” (pre-washed to remove saponins, so you can simply cook and eat, with no need to presoak or rinse) costs about $8.00 at Costco.
  • Versatile: Quinoa is light, tasty, blends well with other ingredients, and can be substituted for most grains in almost any recipe. It looks and tastes great on its own, or in any dish, whether soup, salad, entree, or dessert.
  • Perfect for summer: Many people eat grains only during the colder months, but quinoa’s lightness, combined with its versatility in cold dishes like salads and desserts, makes it ideal for warm weather. 
  • An excellent source of nutrition for infants, children, and seniors.
  • Delicious by itself, unlike other grains, such as millet or teff.
  • One of the best sources of plant protein, containing more protein than any other grain: an average of 16.2 %, compared with 7.5 % for rice, 9.9 % for millet, and 14% for wheat. Some varieties of quinoa are more than 20% protein.
  • Quinoa’s protein is high quality, complete protein, with an essential amino acid balance similar to milk, high in lysine, methionine, and cystine. This makes it an excellent food to  combine with and boost the protein value of other grains (which are low in lysine), or soy (which is low in methionine and cystine).
  • A complete protein providing all 9 essential amino acids and the highest in protein content of all the whole grains, so it’s perfect for vegetarians and vegans.
  • High in minerals and B vitamins, such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, folate, Vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, as well as, fiber.
  • Naturally low-fat and cholesterol-free. The seed contains a small amount of fat:. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 3.4 grams of fat. By comparison, 185 grams cooked lean ground beef provides 33 grams of fat.
  • Gluten-free
  • Kosher for Passover
  • Almost always organic.
Nutrition profile of quinoa: 
  • High in complete protein with all essential amino acids, including lysine and isoleucine (about 24 grams protein and 109 grams carbohydrate per cup). Thus, quinoa is often called a “super food.”
  • Antioxidant phytonutrients, including ferulic, coumaric, hydroxybenzoic, and vanillic acid.
  • Antioxidant flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol.
  • Anti-inflammatory polysaccharides, including arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans.
  • Many members of the vitamin E tocopherol family, including important amounts of gamma-tocopherol.
  • Antioxidant-promoting manganese.
  • Heart-healthy magnesium, folate, and fiber, as well as bone-building phosphorus and copper.
  • Contains both soluble and insoluble fiber: Soluble fiber becomes gelatinous as it dissolves in the digestive tract and has a lower glycemic index because of it’s reduced rate of absorption. Soluble fiber also facilitates the passage of fats through the digestive system and slows down the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose. Therefore, quinoa can help to stabilize your blood sugar while providing slow-release energy over a longer period of time. To maximize the benefit of quinoa’s fiber and minimize the impact on your blood sugar, serve quinoa steamed or boiled in its whole form.
  • One cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, 8 g of protein, 39 g of carbohydrates of which only 3 g are sugar, 5 g of fiber, 3 mg of iron, 118 mg of magnesium, 318 mg of potassium, 78 mcg of folate, 3.5 g of fat and zero.
Quinoa, uncooked
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,539 kJ (368 kcal)
Carbohydrates 64 g
– Starch 52 g
– Dietary fibre 7 g
Fat 6 g
– polyunsaturated 3.3 g
Protein 14 g
Water 13 g
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.36 mg (31%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.32 mg (27%)
Vitamin B6 0.5 mg (38%)
Folate (vit. B9) 184 μg (46%)
Vitamin E 2.4 mg (16%)
Iron 4.6 mg (35%)
Magnesium 197 mg (55%)
Phosphorus 457 mg (65%)
Zinc 3.1 mg (33%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults. Source: USDA Nutrient Database


Basic cooking instructions: To cook, combine one part of quinoa with two parts of liquid (water, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth) in a saucepan or rice cooker. For 8 servings, use 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Cooking is complete when the grains become somewhat translucent and tender, but still chewy, and the white germ has partially detached itself, appearing like a white-spiraled tail around each grain.


Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of unpalatable saponins which protect the seeds from the sun’s strong rays at high altitude, as well as, birds who try to eat the young seeds. Saponin is not harmful to humans but gives quinoa a slightly bitter taste. Always rinse quinoa with cold water in a fine mesh strainer before cooking, to remove saponin, unless the quinoa came pre-rinsed.

  • Quinoa has a light, fluffy, delicate texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a wonderful substitute for rice or couscous. Add a bit of olive oil, pepper, sea salt, and lemon juice to plain cooked quinoa for extra flavor.
  • Add vegetables and seasonings to cooked quinoa to make a variety of dishes. Quinoa goes well with bitter greens like kale, Swiss chard, and turnips.
  • Mix cooked quinoa with cinnamon, raisins, toasted slivered almonds or other nuts, honey, granola, berries or other fruit, for a delicious, high-protein breakfast or dessert.
  • Serve cooked quinoa for breakfast, with maple syrup or honey, and fresh fruit.
  • Combine cooked chilled quinoa with beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions, and coriander. Season to taste and enjoy as a salad.
  • Ladle hot curry, soup, or stew over a bowl of plain cooked quinoa.
  • Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups.
  • Substitute quinoa for bulgar wheat to make a delicious, wheat-free tabouli.
  • Quinoa is often sold as a dry product similar to corn flakes or noodles.
  • Ground quinoa flour can be used in wheat-free and gluten-free baking or added to cookie and muffin recipes.

For a nuttier flavor, dry roast quinoa before cooking it: Simply place uncooked quinoa grains in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir constantly for five minutes.

Storage: Store uncooked quinoa in an airtight container. It will keep for a longer period of time, approximately 3-6 months, if stored in the refrigerator or freezer. If preparing a large batch of cooked quinoa, store it in your refrigerator for up to 1 week.

  How quinoa looks when cooked


Diane’s Easy, Yummy Quinoa (Delicious hot or cold!):


  • 2 cups uncooked, pre-rinsed quinoa
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2-3/4 cup raisins (Chopped dates and/or figs may be substituted for raisins.)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
  • Ground cinnamon


  1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to “low,” and cover pot with lid. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.
  2. Add raisins and almonds.
  3. Add plenty of ground cinnamon, to taste.
  4. Stir to blend thoroughly.
Diane’s Curried Quinoa (Healthy, low-fat, delicious hot as a pilaf or cold as a salad):
  • 2 cups uncooked, pre-rinsed quinoa
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp. curry powder or ginger powder
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup raisins or chopped dates
  • 1 cup toasted slivered almonds, cashew pieces, or chopped pecans
  • 1 cup chopped mint or parsley or combination of both


  1. Bring quinoa and broth to a boil.
  2. Add curry or ginger powder and stir to blend.
  3. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, until quinoa is soft and fluffy.
  4. Stir in red bell pepper, raisins, nuts, and parsley.
Andean Bean Stew With Winter Squash and Quinoa (I adapted the following recipe from one published in The New York Times by Martha Rose Shulman on November 6, 2008. Her recipe was originally based on a Chilean bean stew and uses quinoa instead of the corn called for in the authentic version. Make it a day ahead for the best flavor.):


  • 1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked over, soaked in 2 quarts water overnight or for 6 hours
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 or more medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with liquid (or add fresh chopped tomatoes if in season)
  • 1 pound winter squash, such as butternut, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley


  1. Place the beans and soaking water in a large pot. Add water if necessary to cover the beans by about 2 inches, and bring to a boil. Skim off foam, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 60 minutes, or until the beans are tender but intact.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick frying pan and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, and add the paprika. Stir together for about a minute, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until the garlic and onions are very fragrant but not brown, and stir in the tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and scrape the contents of the pan into the pot of beans.
  3. Bring the beans back to a simmer, add the bay leaf and winter squash, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the squash and beans are thoroughly tender. Add the quinoa and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the quinoa is translucent and displays an opaque thread. Taste and adjust salt. Add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Stir in the basil or parsley, simmer for a couple of minutes more, and serve, with cornbread or crusty country bread.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 generously

Advance preparation: This tastes best if made a day ahead and reheated. The stew will thicken, so you may want to thin it with water and adjust seasonings accordingly. Add the fresh herbs when you reheat. It will keep for at least five days in the refrigerator. It freezes well.


*Essential amino acids: The amino acids regarded as essential for humans are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, lysine, and histidine. Additionally, cysteine (or sulphur-containing amino acids), tyrosine (or aromatic amino acids), and arginine are required by infants and growing children. Essential amino acids are “essential” not because they are more important to life than the others, but since the body does not synthesize them. They must be present in our diet, or they will not be present in our body.



  1. “Quinoa.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa)
  2. Quinoa Corporation: P.O. Box 279, Gardena, CA, 90248-0279, U.S.A. (Telephone: 310-217-8125 and Fax: 310-217-8140). E-mail: quinoacorp@quinoa.net (Source: www.quinoa.net/)
  3. “Quinoa Kale Salad.” Quinoa Recipes-Cooking Quinoa. (Source: www.cookingquinoa.net/)
  4. Shulman, Martha Rose. “Andean Bean Stew With Winter Squash and Quinoa.” The New York Times. November 6, 2008.


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Young ballroom dancers in formal costumes posing against a solid background in a studio Stock Photo - 9621432

Dancing is a wonderful physical and social activity that can improve your fitness and health, lift your spirits, reduce stress, and offer a fun experience, all at the same time! I speak from personal experience, as well as, my public health background. When done properly, dancing:

  • Improves blood circulation throughout the body
  • Helps to reduce your risk of chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression
  • Strengthens your immune system and ability to resist colds, illness, and infections
  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight
  • Raises your metabolic rate, which helps you burn calories faster and lose unnecessary pounds
  • Keeps you fit and flexible
  • Improves muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  • Improves coordination and balance, which can prevent accidents and falls
  • Improves your posture
  • Helps to strengthen your bones and reduce your risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis, since dance is a weight-bearing activity
  • Helps you to meet new people
  • Builds self confidence
  • Increases self esteem
  • Improves your spatial awareness
  • Improves your concentration and ability to focus
  • Improves poise and gracefulness
  • Improves your social skills
  • Enhances an overall sense of well-being, promotes a positive outlook, and makes you happy to be alive
  • Is a moderate physical activity that is generally healthy and safe for your joints and body (According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s [USDA] physical activity guidelines, adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.)
  • Provides mental stimulation and improved oxygenated blood flow for a healthy brain, especially when you take classes to improve your technique, memorize steps, or work with a partner
  • Is a “sport” you can engage in throughout your life, with beautiful music, moderate aerobic activity, and social interaction
  • Provides a temporary escape from normal daily activities, a chance to relax, relieve stress, reduce loneliness, and have a great time
  • Helps you to feel young and energetic, no matter what age you are
Group lessons are an excellent, economical, and fun way to learn how to dance and can be just as helpful as private lessons, depending on the instructor.
Private lessons help to refine your technique, arm movements, footwork, frame, and posture, as well as, provide opportunities to prepare for and engage in competition with other dancers.
For those of you in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or the Delaware Valley, a wonderful place for dance instruction and social dancing is:
Dance Haddonfield
USA Dance Delaware Valley Chapter 3012 
Grace Episcopal Church, 19 East Kings Highway, Haddonfield, New Jersey, 08033
Dancing every Sunday from 6pm-10:30pm
Intermediate lessons (6pm-7pm)
Beginner lessons (7pm-8pm)
Social dancing (8pm-10:30pm)

Ballroom_dancing : Beautiful senior couple dancing cheek to cheek.  Full body isolated on white.

 Wishing you good health and happiness throughout the holidays and New Year!


  1. “Dance Haddonfield- The Cure for 2 Left Feet.” (Source: www.dancehaddonfield.org/2leftfeet.html).
  2. “Dancing: Fitness the Fun Way!” Public Health Category: www.dianesays.com. 02/17/12.
  3. “USA Dance Chapters-Find a Local Chapter.” USA Dance, Inc. (Source: www.usadance.org>chapters. Office: (800) 447-9047; Fax: (239) 573-0946).


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My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was affected by this hurricane

Helping to conserve, preserve, and care for the earth is in everyone’s interest. Global climate change is posing a significant threat to environmental, agricultural, and human health, by contributing to:

  • Melting and receding of glaciers worldwide, as well as, our polar ice caps
  • Unpredictable and often extreme weather patterns
  • Rising ocean levels
  • Risk of coastal and inland flooding
  • Disruption of agricultural practices, crop production and yield
  • Increases in algae, mold, bacterial, and fungal growth
  • Increases in insect populations which transit infectious pathogens

Our politicians, corporations, factories, energy sector including coal/oil/gas/nuclear power, chemical industry, public transportation systems  (e.g., airlines, cargo/tanker/cruise ships, trains, automobiles, buses), and communities all need to do far more to:

  1. Reduce emissions, environmental degradation, pollution, and waste.
  2. Respect and protect nature’s natural flood plains and barrier islands which help to buffer us from the force of storms.
  3. Reduce unnecessary development along the coast and banks of rivers, and protect existing coastal communities.
  4. Protect the quality of our air, soil, water used for drinking and agriculture, oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, and estuaries, in order to protect public health and well-being.
  5. Reduce, reuse, and recycle more.
  6. Provide efficient forms of public transportation in cities, towns, and suburbs, as well as more pedestrian and bicycle paths.
  7. Design communities where residents can safely and easily walk for shopping and work.
  8. Promote safe, clean, renewable forms of energy, such as waste-to-energy, solar, and wind.

The United States could learn much from countries in northern Europe and Scandinavia, such as Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands, who have made environmental and public health a priority:

This region has some of the highest recycling rates in the world, favors safe, clean, renewable energy, and uses 400 state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, waste-to-energy plants that burn only non-recyclable material in their energy-generating incinerators. The incinerators are equipped with modern filters which prevent toxins from entering the air and are relatively inexpensive to build, maintain, and repair. Moreover, they are much safer for environmental and public health than our current coal, nuclear power, oil, and natural gas production techniques in the United States. Europe has greatly surpassed the United States in developing technology to convert residential and industrial trash into heat and electricity, without the release of harmful emissions or environmental degradation.

Waste-to-energy plants have been used successfully for years in Europe and would reduce the need for landfills, as well as, the expense of hauling of urban and residential waste to landfills. New York City alone ships 10,500 tons of residential waste each day to landfills in Ohio and South Carolina.

Please contact your local, state, and federal representatives, as well as, the following organizations by visiting their websites to see what you can do to help make a difference:
  1. Contact elected officials in government (www.USA.gov): Locate e-mail and mailing addresses, phone numbers, and more for your local, state, and federal officials and government agencies.
  2. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (www.nrdc.org/): Works to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth. Offers guidance regarding green living practices, how to choose seafood healthy for you and the environment, a sustainable seafood guide, effects of mercury contamination and how to reduce the risk, how to read labels on produce and determine what is best nutritionally, chemicals commonly used in everyday products and how to stay safe, etc.
  3. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (www.epa.gov/): “After Sandy: What you can do to protect health and the environment after severe weather and flooding.” Address: 1650 Arch Street, #2, Philadelphia, Pa., 19103. Tel. (215) 814-5000.
  4. Earth Island Institute: Focuses on solutions to environmental problems by promoting citizen action and a diverse network of projects.
  5. National Wildlife Foundation (www.nwf.org): The nation’s largest member-supported conservation group, uniting individuals, organizations, businesses and government to protect wildlife, wild places, and the environment.
  6. Rainforest Action Network: Focuses on protecting the Earth’s rainforests and supports the rights of their inhabitants through education, grassroots organizing, and nonviolent direct action.
  7. Tree People: Mission is to inspire the people of Los Angeles to take personal responsibility for the urban forest – educating, training and supporting them as they plant and care for trees and improve the neighborhoods in which they live, learn, work and play.
  8. Rainforest Foundation: Mission is to support indigenous people and traditional populations of the world’s rainforests in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfill their rights by assisting them.
  9. Nature Conservancy: Mission is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.
  10. Trees Water People: Develops and manages continuing reforestation, preserving local trees, wetlands, watershed protection, appropriate technology, and environmental education programs in Central America, Mexico, and the American West.
  11. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (www.worldwildlife.org): An international, non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research, and restoration of the environment. It is the world’s largest independent conservation organization with over 5 million supporters worldwide, working in more than 100 countries, supporting around 1,300 conservation and environmental projects. The group’s mission is to stop degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Much of its work focuses on the conservation of three biomes that contain most of the world’s biodiversity: forests, freshwater ecosystems, and oceans and coasts, as well as, endangered species, pollution, and climate change.
  12. Wilderness Society (www.wilderness.org): Goal is to ensure that future generations will enjoy clean air and water, wildlife, beauty and opportunities for recreation and renewal that pristine forests, rivers, deserts and mountains provide. Address: 1615 M St. Nw, #2, Washington, DC., 20036. Tel. (202) 833-2300 or  1-800-THE-WILD (1-800-843-9453).
  13. Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org): America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization that helps to protect and save America’s forests, Arctic refuges, lakes, rivers, streams, and national wildlife.
  14. Stop Global Warming (www.stopglobalwarming.org/): A non-political effort to bring all Americans together in one place, proving there is a vast consensus that global warming is here, and our leaders must freeze and reduce carbon dioxide emissions now.
  15. Earth 911: Recycling centers in the USA for aluminum, plastic, glass, paper, and hazardous waste such as cell phones, computers, motor oil, etc.
  16. Friends of the Earth: Friends of the Earth International is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 71 diverse national member groups and some 5,000 local activist groups on every continent. This network focuses on today’s most urgent environmental and social issues, challenges the current model of economic and corporate globalization, and promotes solutions that will help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies. It’s decentralized and democratic structure allows all member groups to participate in decision-making.
  17. Green Biz: The leading information resource on how to align environmental responsibility with business success. They provide valuable news and resources to large and small businesses through a combination of Web sites, workshops, daily news feeds, electronic newsletters, and briefing papers. Their resources are free to all users.

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Health Risks of Energy Drinks

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

VIDEO: There are new worries about the amount of caffeine in the popular drinks.

Energy drinks are regularly consumed by 30% to 50% of children, adolescents, and young adults. Research has indicated that they provide no therapeutic benefit and are associated with risks for serious adverse health effects.

Congress is finally demanding greater regulation of the energy products industry which creates drinks like Monster Energy, Monster Rehab, Monster Assault, Monster Heavy Metal, Red Bull, Rock Star, and energy “shots” like 5-hour Energy. These products have been aggressively marketed to teenagers and other young people up until now.

The main ingredients in energy drinks are caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone. Some new drinks on the market also contain opium poppy seed extract or ephedrine. Caffeine is a stimulant which acts on the central nervous system to speed up the messages to and from the brain, so that the person feels more aware and active.

Since energy drinks are categorized as nutritional supplements, they avoid the limit of 71 mg caffeine per 12 fluid ounces that the US Food and Drug Administration has set for soda, as well as the safety testing and labeling that is required of pharmaceuticals. Consequently, energy drinks can contain as much as 75 to 400 mg caffeine per container, with additional caffeine not included in the listed total often coming from additives such as guarana, kola nut, yerba mate, and cocoa.

The caffeine content of some popular energy drinks and soft drinks [per 250 ml (or 8.45 oz.) beverage]:

  • Monster Energy: 84.5 mg (10 milligrams of caffeine per ounce)
  • Impulse: 88 mg
  • Red Bull: 80 mg
  • Naughty Boy: 80mg
  • ‘V’: 78 mg
  • Coca-Cola: 48.75 mg
  • Diet Coke: 48 mg
  • Diet Coke Caffeine-Free: 2 mg
  • Pepsi: 40 mg
  • Diet Pepsi: 44 mg
  • Pepsi Max: 44 mg

Monster Energy, a popular energy drink high in caffeine, may have contributed to the deaths of 5 people during the last 3 years, according to the Food and Drug Administration, including that of Anais Fournier, a 14-year-old Maryland girl, who died of “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity” after drinking this product in December on 2 consecutive days. A 24-ounce can of Monster Energy contains 240 milligrams of caffeine.

An energy “shot” sold by Living Essentials of Farmington, Michigan, 5-hour Energy, has been implicated in more than 30 serious or life-threatening events since 2009, including heart attacks, convulsions, and in one case, a spontaneous abortion, according to the Food and Drug Administration (4).

Unlike Monster Energy, Red Bull, and some other energy drinks that resemble beverages, 5-Hour Energy is sold as a “shot” in a 2-ounce bottle. Living Essentials does not disclose the amount of caffeine in each bottle, but a recent article published by Consumer Reports placed that level at about 215 mg (3).

An eight-ounce cup of coffee, depending on how it is made, can contain from 100 to 150 milligrams of caffeine.

The New York Times has reported that another federal agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, verified that more than 13,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were associated with energy drinks alone.

United States poison centers only recently began tracking the toxicity of energy drinks. However, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand have already reported numerous adverse outcomes associated with energy drink consumption:
 File:Main symptoms of Caffeine overdose.png


Health risks related to energy drinks include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors/shaking
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain/ischaemia
  • Paraesthesia (Tingling or numbing of the skin)
  • Insomnia
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Psychotic conditions
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Tachycardia
  • Cardiac arrhythmias/dysrhythmias (Abnormal heart rate)
  • Hypertension
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Heart failure
  • Death

Instead of reaching for an energy drink, boost your energy the old-fashioned way:

  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of clean, fresh water each day.
  • Go to bed earlier, so you average 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
  • Follow a wholesome, nutrient-dense diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, protein from fish, poultry, lean meats, and non-fat or low-fat dairy foods.
  • Avoid foods high in sugar, salt, saturated animal fat, partially hydrogenated and tropical oils (trans fats), as well as, foods that have been processed or commercially-prepared.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day, in order to concentrate and feel better, reduce stress, and help raise your metabolic rate.
  • Get plenty of fresh air into your lungs by taking a brisk walk outdoors.



  1. “Caffeine: Main Symptoms of Caffeine Overdose.” Diagram from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 10/17/12.
  2. “Energy Drinks Pose Serious Health Risks for Young People.” Medscape Medical News © 2011  WebMD, LLC. (Source: www.medscape.com/viewarticle/737311).
  3. Meier, Barry. “Caffeinated Drink Cited in Reports of 13 Deaths.” The New York Times: Business Day. 11/14/12.
  4. “US Regulators Report Possible Links Between Caffeine Shot,Deaths.” Yahoo!Health. 11/14/12.

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition which tends to become more common as people age. Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the walls of your arteries.

 Your risk of hypertension is influenced by heredity, lifestyle habits, and gene/environment interactions.

Terms used to define various ranges of blood pressure:

  • Normal blood pressure: Blood pressure below 120/80. The higher number (systolic) indicates the pressure when your heart beats. The lower number (diastolic) measures the pressure at rest between heartbeats, when the heart refills with blood.
  • Prehypertension: Blood pressure just above the normal level, between 120-139 for systolic pressure and 80-89 for diastolic pressure. This range places you at twice the risk of developing cardiovascular disease than a lower reading. Almost one-quarter of Americans have prehypertension. Increasing your level of physical activity, being more careful about what you eat and drink, following a more healthful diet, and losing extra weight can help to restore normal blood pressure within a short time.
  • Hypertension: Blood pressure averaging 140/90 or higher, for either number. Speak with your doctor or nurse about how to control your high blood pressure.
  • Hypertensive crisis: When blood pressure reaches 180/110, a hypertensive crisis can occur leading to an increased risk of a stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, or loss of consciousness. Symptoms of a hypertensive crisis may include a severe headache, anxiety, nosebleeds, and feeling short of breath. An adverse reaction to certain medications can sometimes bring this on.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is dangerous and often called a “silent killer.” Approximately 1 in 5 people have this without realizing it. The condition is often associated with:

  • Few or no obvious symptoms
  • An increased workload for the circulatory system, causing the heart and arteries to work harder than normal to pump blood throughout the body and it’s organs
  • An increased risk of damage to organs such as the blood vessels, lungs, brain, and kidneys, cardiovascular (heart and artery) disease, stroke, kidney disease, and kidney failure
  • An increased risk of glaucoma

More than half of the American population between the age of 55 and 74 has blood pressure higher than 120/80. However, good lifestyle habits can reduce this risk and promote a healthy blood pressure.

Complications of chronic hypertension: 


Tips to maintain a healthy blood pressure:

  • Exercise frequently: Try to include 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Brisk walking, hiking, gardening, dancing, swimming, bicycle riding, tennis, gym workouts, as well as aerobic, Pilates, and Zumba classes, are all wonderful forms of exercise to improve your overall health, maintain a healthy weight, sleep more soundly, and lower your blood pressure. If you haven’t been active, increase your exercise level gradually. This can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks.
  • Quit smoking and avoid smoke-filled environments: Whether from cigarettes, cigars, automobile exhaust, factory emissions, or other sources of pollution, smoke is an irritant which promotes inflammation of the intima, the internal lining of the lumen of blood vessels. This inflammation facilitates fat deposition and fatty streak (plaque) formation within the intima, and eventually calcification and loss of elasticity of the blood vessel, resulting in hardening, or sclerosis, i.e., atherosclerosis. Your heart will have to work harder to push blood through stiff, clogged vessels. Furthermore, nicotine in tobacco products can raise blood pressure by 10 mm Hg or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day may keep your blood pressure elevated constantly.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all: Excess alcohol consumption increases the risk of high blood pressure throughout the body. The maximum for a woman is one drink daily and for a man, two drinks daily. The American Heart Association (AHA) defines a drink as one 12-ounce beer, four ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, or one ounce of 100-proof spirits.
  • Maximize your intake of potassium- and magnesium-rich foods: Good sources of potassium include bananas, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, prunes, papaya, mango, green vegetables, herbs like basil, mint, and parsley, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, watercress, and seeds. Good sources of magnesium include halibut, almonds, cashews, soybeans, spinach, oatmeal, peanuts, wheat bran, potatoes with the skin, avocados, lentils, beans, and yogurt.
  • Eat a healthful, low-sodium diet including lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, non-fat or low-fat dairy, fish, and poultry products, and minimize your consumption of foods high in salt, saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol (e.g., red meat), and sweets: The traditional Mediterranean Diet and DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) both provide such an eating plan. Fruits and vegetables are especially heart-healthy, as they are naturally low in fat, sodium, calories, and high in fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium which reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. Those high in potassium and magnesium include broccoli, carrots, green leafy vegetables, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apples, apricots, bananas, papayas, mangoes, grapefruits, oranges, peaches, melons, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, and raisins. Calcium-rich foods include low-fat and non-fat dairy products like skim milk, kefir, fat-free yogurt, reduced-fat cheese, as well as, legumes, green leafy vegetables like bok choy, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, turnips, broccoli, whole-grain cereals, and fruit juices and soy milk that have added calcium.
  • Buy fresh, plain frozen, or if necessary, canned “no-salt-added” vegetables.
  • Buy fresh fish, poultry, and all-natural lean meat: Avoid cold cuts or “deli” foods which tend to be high in cholesterol, fat, and salt.
  • Use natural, salt-free herbs and spices, as well as citrus juices (ex., lemon) to season food.
  • Avoid instant or flavored foods (cereal, pasta, rice, etc.), packaged mixes, commercially-prepared condiments, salad dressings, and sauces.
  • Drain and rinse canned foods, such as salmon and tuna, to reduce the amount of salt in them.
  • Don’t add salt: Sodium, a major component of salt, can raise blood pressure by causing the body to retain fluid which places stress on the heart. One level teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium. Reducing salt intake helps to reduce the amount of fluid retained by the body, as well as, blood pressure. The AHA recommends eating less than 1500 mg. of sodium per day. Always read ingredient lists, nutrition labels, and menus carefully. Use herbs, spices, citrus juice, fresh fruit, garlic, onions, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, or vinegar, rather than salt, to add more flavor to your foods.
  • Avoid processed, refined, or junk foods: Processed foods contribute up to 75% of our sodium intake. Usually the more processed or refined a food is, the higher the sodium and the lower the potassium concentration. Limit your intake of canned soups, potato chips, deli lunch meats, bacon, sausage, frozen dinners, condiments, sauces, crackers, and breads which all tend to be high in sodium.
  • Avoid or reduce your intake of foods containing simple carbohydrates such as sugar, dextrose, maltose, maltodextrin, and high fructose corn syrup, as well as, partially-hydrogenated oils, tropical oils, and trans fats: These promote fluid retention, inflammation of the lumen of blood vessels, the development of high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. (“Trans fats” are trans fatty acids found in animal products and chemically processed vegetable oils.)
  • Drink plenty of water, in order to keep your blood at the right viscosity, enhance blood flow to your muscles before engaging in exercise, and flush excess sodium out of the body. 
  • Avoid energy drinks and limit coffee intake: Caffeine is a diuretic which promotes water loss and elevates blood pressure. While some energy drinks offer about the same amount of caffeine per serving as a cup of coffee, their container may include two or three servings. A number of energy drinks, like “Monster Energy,” contain far more caffeine per serving, thus posing serious health risks to an individual. Limit your coffee intake to less than 3 cups per day. Research has correlated coffee ingestion greater than 3 cups per day to an increase in intraocular pressure and risk of exfoliation glaucoma (EG). Water is always the best fluid to consume, along with a well-balanced diet.
  • Watch your weight: For each pound that you are overweight your heart must push blood about one mile further! Being overweight generally raises blood pressure, whereas losing weight tends to lower blood pressure. Drink 8-10 glasses of water each day. Eat smaller portions of food. Replace high calorie foods with fruits and vegetables. Choose fresh fruit, instead of desserts and snacks. Select non-fat or low-fat dairy products (e.g., milk, kefir, yogurt), instead of full-fat, and fruits canned in their own juice, rather than heavy syrup.
  • Get enough sleep: Getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night has been associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure. Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Daily exercise will help you to feel less stressed and more relaxed and sleep more soundly.
  • Reduce stress: Exercise on a regular basis, spend time with family, friends, a pet, and nature, listen to soothing music, learn a new hobby or how to play a musical instrument, go dancing, simplify your obligations and life, get enough sleep each night, remember to make the best of each new day, and laugh often.
  • If you have high blood pressure, talk with you doctor about medicines and supplements that may affect blood pressure: Cold and flu medicines that contain decongestants are one of several classes of medicine that can cause blood pressure to rise. Others include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, pain relievers), steroids, diet pills, birth control pills, and some antidepressants.
  • If your doctor prescribes and monitors medication to lower your blood pressure, take it exactly as directed: Report any side effects such as muscle weakness, malaise, dizziness, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, dry cough, skin rash, etc., experienced while taking blood pressure medicine to your doctor as soon as possible, so that an adjustment can be made to eliminate the symptoms.


  1. Edney, Anna. “Monster Energy Drinks Cited in Death, FDA Says.” Bloomberg News. (Source: www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-22/monster-energy-drinks…). 10/22/12.
  2. “Hidden Sources of Sodium in the Diet.” Dianesays.com.
  3. Jae Hee Kang“The Relation between Caffeine and Coffee Consumption and Exfoliation Glaucoma or Glaucoma Suspect.” The Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. Harvard School of Public Health. 10/03/12.
  4. “Reduce Dietary Salt and Sodium for Good Health.” Dianesays.com.
  5. “The Mediterranean Diet: Delicious, Nutritious, and Heart-Healthy.” Dianesays.com.
  6. “The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.” National Institutes of Health (NIH) Publication No. 03-5230, National High Blood Pressure Education Program, May 2003.

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Avoid Bedbugs When Traveling!!!

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

bedbug life cycle
The best way to prevent bedbugs is to act preventively and remain vigilant, both during travel and once you return home, according to Missy Henriksen, Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Pest Management Association. The following advice may help reduce the risk of bringing them into your home:
  1. Thoroughly examine your room for signs of infestation: Pull back bed sheets and inspect mattress seams, especially at the corners, look behind the headboard, inside chair and couch cushions, behind picture frames, on and around window treatments and in-between folds of material, and electrical outlets, and inspect carefully for pepper-like stains, spots, or the insects themselves. Adult bedbugs resemble a flat apple seed.
  2. If you notice any sign of insects, request a different room: Notify management, ask for a room far away (definitely not adjacent, above, or below) from the suspicious one, or go to a different hotel, if necessary.
  3. Never place luggage or any of your belongings on a hotel bed or floor: Bedbugs can hide in the tiniest crevices, inside of the bed’s box-spring, behind woodwork, in cracks, lamps, fabric window treatments, bedskirts, wooden furniture, wall sockets, hardwood floor cracks, etc., and are often looking for ways to hitchhike to a new victim’s home.
  4. Use luggage racks when available: Put your luggage on a luggage rack placed inside, or as close to the bathroom and far away from the sleeping area as possible. The bathroom is often ideal due to it’s hard, flat surfaces and ceramic tile. Bedbugs usually cannot find a place to hide there.
  5. Protect your belongings: Even if there is no sign of bedbugs, cover your bags with a protective cover, such as a clean, plastic trash bag, to reduce the risk of anything entering the suitcase.
  6. Avoid placing your personal belongings on the floor of an airplane, bus, restaurant, taxi, or train: Keep your purse on your lap at all times, for security, as well as, to prevent anything from crawling onto it. Protect larger items and luggage inside a protective plastic cover before checking them in at the airport or placing them in an overhead bin.
  7. Separate used or dirty belongings from clean items with Zip-Loc bags or plastic bag: Using separate, sealable plastic bags, sort your laundry as you would at home, i.e., light-colored from dark-colored clothing, delicate items requiring special care from regular wash items that can withstand high temperatures, and “dry clean only” items. This will make it quicker and easier for you to place items into the washing machine when you return home, as well as reduce the risk of bedbugs escaping. Contain all items suspected of possibly carrying bedbugs in plastic bags until they can be laundered, washed by hand, heated, or frozen. Note that if heating or freezing is used, the item(s) must be heated or frozen thoroughly to the core, in order to kill any bedbugs or eggs.
  8. Take precautions to avoid bringing bedbugs into your home when you return: 
    • Inspect all luggage pieces before bringing them into your home.
    • Vacuum and wipe luggage (using a clean, white or light-colored damp rag) before storing.
    • Use a hand-held garment steamer, if possible, to kill any bedbugs or eggs that still might be inside the luggage.
    • Immediately wash and dry all of your clothes, including those not worn, using the highest temperatures.
    • Keep items requiring dry-cleaning in a sealed plastic bag, until you can take them to the dry cleaner.
9. If you develop bite marks or suspect that your home may have bedbugs: Thoroughly and frequently examine, clean, and vacuum every surface and crevice, including baseboards, woodwork, underneath beds, cushions, and furniture. Always dispose of a used vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag, as soon as you complete vacuuming, to prevent any insects from escaping. Contact a pest control professional with bedbug experience as soon as possible. The longer you wait to treat a bedbug problem, the worse the infestation will become and the harder to eradicate. Red, itchy bites on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders, are often the first signs of bedbugs. Bedbugs tend to leave straight rows of bites, unlike some other insects that leave bites here and there:Bedbug bites on person's arm
10. If your home does requires treatment for bedbugs: Continue to be vigilant, thoroughly cleaning and vacuuming your home frequently. Always dispose of a used vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag, as soon as you complete vacuuming. Work with your pest professional until the problem is eradicated or under control.
Anderson, John; Hamid, Bonnie. Photo of “The Life Cycle of a Bed Bug.” BedBug Life Cycle Guide and Pictures: The Bed Bugs Handbook: Practical Tips and Advice. (Source: www.bed-bugs-handbook.com/bedbug-life-cycle.html)

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Wheat Berries: Nutrition Profile

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

Wheat berries are whole, unprocessed wheat kernels that contain all three parts of the grain, including the germ, bran, and endosperm (starch). Only the hull, the inedible outer layer of the grain, has been removed. Consequently, wheat berries contain all of the grain’s minerals (manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, copper, and iron), vitamins (B1, B3, and E), and phytochemicals (antioxidants, phenolics, phytoestrogens, plant lignans, etc.).

Cooked wheat berries are delicious, chewy in texture, very nutritious, high in protein and complex carbohydrate, low in calories, and an excellent source of whole grains and dietary fiber, both of which help promote digestive health, regular bowel movements, lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight and satisfy your appetite for long periods of time. They are an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet, because they contain:

  • No cholesterol
  • No saturated fat
  • No trans fat
  • No salt
  • No sugar
  • High amount of dietary fiber

Note that one cup of uncooked wheat berries will yield about 2-1/2 cups cooked wheat berries.

One-half cup of cooked wheat berries contains about 150 calories, 0.5 gram (g) total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g monounsaturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, about 29-32 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 0 mg salt, 6 g protein, 6 g fiber, and 2 mg potassium.

All wheat products, including white and whole wheat flour, are made from wheat berries.

Since wheat berries contain gluten, they must be avoided by individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Nutritional Analysis


Nutritional Breakdown

Daily Values

Daily Values (based on a 2000 calorie diet)

 Fat  Protein  Carbs
 Alcohol  Other

Calories in Wheat Berries Per Serving Size: 1/4 cup dry  (Source: The Daily Plate)

Amount per Serving

Calories 150 Calories from Fat 5

% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0.5g 1%
Saturated Fat  0g 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 11%
Dietary Fiber  6g 24%
Protein 6g 12%

Calcium 2%
Iron 8%

Estimated Percent of Calories from:

Fat 3.0%

Carbohydrates 85.3%

Protein 16 %

*The Percent Daily Value on the Nutrition Facts label is a guide to the nutrients in one serving of food. For example, if the label lists 24% dietary fiber, it means that one serving provides 24% percent of the fiber you need each day.

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet for healthy adults. Even if your diet is higher or lower in calories, you can still use the Percent Daily Value as a guide. For example, the Percent Daily Value can help you determine whether a food is high or low in specific nutrients:

  • If a food has 5 percent or less of a nutrient, it’s considered to be low in that nutrient.
  • If it has 20 percent or more, it’s considered to be high in that nutrient.


  1. “Calories in Nature’s Earthly Choice-Wheat Berries, Red Winter…” Source: caloriecount.about.com.Foods>Cereal Grains and Pasta>Grains)
  2. Liu RH. “New finding may be key to ending confusion over link between fiber, colon cancer.” American Institute for Cancer Research: Press Release, November 3, 2004.
  3. Liu S, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB, Rosner B, Colditz G. “Relation between changes in intakes of dietary fiber and grain products and changes in weight and development of obesity among middle-aged women.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003 Nov ; 78 (5): 920-7. 2003. PMID: 14594777.
  4. “The World’s Healthiest Foods: Whole Wheat.” WHFoods: Whole Wheat. (Source: www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=66)
  5. www.whfoods.org

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Be Creative With Wheat Berries!

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

Wheat plants

Wheat berries are whole, unprocessed wheat kernels that contain all three parts of the grain, including the germ, bran, and endosperm (starch). Only the hull, the inedible outer layer of the grain, has been removed. Consequently, wheat berries contain all of the grain’s minerals (manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, copper, and iron), vitamins (B1, B3, and E), and phytochemicals (antioxidants, phenolics, phytoestrogens, plant lignans, etc.).

Cooked wheat berries are delicious, chewy in texture, very nutritious, high in protein and complex carbohydrate, low in calories, and an excellent source of whole grains and dietary fiber, both of which help promote digestive health, regular bowel movements, lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight and satisfy your appetite for long periods of time. One-half cup of cooked wheat berries contains about 150 calories, 0.5 gram (g) total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g monounsaturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 0 mg salt, 6 g protein, 6 g fiber,  and 2 mg potassium.

All wheat products, including white and whole wheat flour, are made from wheat berries.

Since wheat berries contain gluten, they must be avoided by individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

The most popular varieties of wheat berries include: 

  1. Hard Red Spring and Hard Red Winter: Brownish in color, hardy, high in protein, and often used to make bread and baked goods.
  2. Hard White: Has a light pale color and a hard kernel; often used for bread and brewing.
  3. Soft White: Resembles hard white wheat berries in color and contains a softer kernel; often used to make pastry flour.

Wheat berries are generally available in large grocery stores, either in the bulk food section or pre-packaged (e.g., Bob’s Red Mill brand). To obtain the freshest wheat berries, shop at stores with a high bulk product turnover, as well as, a clean, dry, and well-sealed storage container for the berries, and aways check the expiration date on any pre-packaged ones.


Uncooked wheat berries, like all grains, should be stored in a clearly labeled, airtight container with the date of purchase in a cool, dry place, away from light, heat, and moisture. To keep wheat berries fresh and extend their shelf life, store them in the refrigerator for up to a year.


Wheat berries are generally prepared by soaking the kernels for a period of time and then cooking them in water, broth, or milk. Wheatberries labeled “soft” will cook more quickly. One cup of uncooked wheat berries will yield about 2-1/2 cups cooked wheat berries.

  1. Rinse wheat berries well with cold water.
  2. Soak 1 cup of wheat berries at least 8 hours, or overnight, in 3-1/2 cups cold water in a covered pot. (I keep the pot in the refrigerator overnight.)
  3. Drain. Add fresh, cold water, bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes for parboiled wheat berries or 45-60 minutes for fully cooked (tender but chewy) wheat berries.
  4. Add water if necessary during cooking.
  5. When done cooking, remove wheat berries from heat, drain excess water, and fluff with a fork.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

For unsoaked berries, bring water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Stir in wheat berries, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until tender, but chewy, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours. Drain if necessary.

Cooked wheat berries can be used, hot or cold:

  1. On their own as a whole grain side dish.
  2. Mixed with sliced fruit and drizzled with honey.
  3. Layer cooled, cooked wheat berries in parfait or serving dishes with low-fat or non-fat yogurt, fresh blueberries and/or strawberries, slivered almonds, chopped pecans, peanuts, or walnuts, for a healthy breakfast, snack, or dessert. Add cinnamon and/or honey, if desired.
  4. Tossed with fresh, grilled, or steamed vegetables, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar, or your favorite vinaigrette, for a delicious and hearty salad.
  5. As a pilaf tossed with sautéed vegetables and plenty of fresh herbs.
  6. In place of rice, noodles, or pasta, in a curry, soup, stew, or stir-fry recipe.
  7. As a nutritious stuffing for vegetables, poultry, and roasts.
  8. Wheat berries are also delicious cooked with dried fruit and served with milk or yogurt for breakfast.

For a delicious chilled or warm salad, select your favorite ingredients from the following list and combine them with cooked wheat berries: 

Cheese (Vegan cheeses may be substituted for the following cheeses.)

  • Feta
  • Goat
  • Ricotta
  • Mozzarella
  • Blue
  • Gorgonzola
  • Cheddar

Dried and Fresh Fruits

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Pear
  • Pitted prunes
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Currants
  • Raisins

Nuts and Seeds (Chopping and toasting improves their flavor)

  • Almond slivers
  • Cashews
  • Flaxseeds
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pepitas
  • Pine nuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnut pieces


  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Bean sprouts
  • Peas

Beans and Legumes

  • Black beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Edamame
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Soybeans


  • Eggs
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu

Additional Salad Combinations:

For each recipe below, mix approximately four cups cooked wheatberries with 1/2 cup of each ingredient listed. To enhance flavors, add seasonings such as pepper,  cinnamon, curry powder, dried fruit, herbs, honey, etc. Toss and serve the following combinations over fresh mixed greens:

  • Cannellini beans, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and mozzarella balls
  • Roasted brussels sprouts, walnuts, and feta cheese, with or without cooked tofu, and served warm.
  • Pears, pine nuts, and gorgonzola cheese, served with baked chicken or fish.
  • Corn, black beans, and shredded cheddar cheese, served cold or warm
  • Steamed kale, low-fat cottage cheese, and kidney beans

Bon Appetite!


  1. “Calories in Nature’s Earthly Choice-Wheat Berries, Red Winter…” Source: caloriecount.about.com.Foods>Cereal Grains and Pasta>Grains)
  2. Liu RH. “New finding may be key to ending confusion over link between fiber, colon cancer.” American Institute for Cancer Research: Press Release, November 3, 2004.
  3. Liu S, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB, Rosner B, Colditz G. “Relation between changes in intakes of dietary fiber and grain products and changes in weight and development of obesity among middle-aged women.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003 Nov; 78 (5): 920-7. 2003. PMID: 14594777.
  4. “The World’s Healthiest Foods: Whole Wheat.” WHFoods: Whole Wheat. (Source: www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=66)
  5. www.whfoods.org

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Wheatberry Salad


  • 1 cup uncooked wheat berries
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, or juice of 2 large lemons
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons ground cumin or medium curry powder
  • 1-2 red and yellow bell peppers, diced
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped or shredded
  • 1-2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup toasted, slivered almonds (You may substitute finely chopped pecans, walnuts, or other nuts, if almonds are not available)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained or 1 cup frozen edamame (without shells), cooked and cooled (optional)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar to taste, about 2-3 tablespoons


  1. Soak berries at least 8 hours or overnight in 3 cups water.
  2. Bring berries, with soaking liquid, to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender but chewy, about 45-60 minutes.
  4. Drain if necessary. Transfer wheat berries to a large mixing bowl.
  5. Lightly toast chopped or slivered nuts.*
  6. Stir in cinnamon, cumin or curry powder, and lemon juice. Add vegetables, fruits, nuts, parsley, beans or feta cheese.
  7. Season with pepper and balsamic vinegar to taste.

*To toast nuts:

  • In oven: Spread nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in a 325 F. degree oven for 3-6 minutes, depending on size of the nuts, checking and stirring often to prevent burning.
  • On stovetop: Place nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring or shaking pan frequently to prevent burning, until nuts just begin to release their fragrance, about 4 minutes.

Avoid over-toasting nuts, since they will continue to cook for a minute or more after removal from heat and darken and become crisper as they cool. Transfer hot nuts to a dish or cool baking sheet immediately after toasting.


May you live many years in good health!

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents to avoid using benzocaine products to reduce teething pain in babies and children under two years of age, unless their use is recommended and supervised by a health professional.

What is benzocaine?
Benzocaine is a local anesthetic found in many over-the-counter (OTC) gels and liquids including Anbesol, Oragel, Baby Oragel, Orabase, and Hurricaine, as well as sprays and lozenges which are popular with adults. Such products have been used for years to relieve gum, mouth, and teething pain. Doctors and dentists often use benzocaine-containing sprays to numb the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat during procedures such as transesophageal echocardiograms, endoscopy, intubation, and feeding tube replacements. However, the use of benzocaine products can lead to a rare, but potentially deadly, condition called methemoglobinemia.
What is methemoglobinemia?
Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder characterized by the presence of a higher than normal level of methemoglobin (metHb, i.e., ferric[Fe3+] rather than ferrous [Fe2+] haemoglobin) in the blood. Unlike hemoglobin (the molecule in red blood cells that has an increased affinity for oxygen and ability to distribute and release oxygen throughout the body), methemoglobin is an oxidized form of hemoglobin that has a decreased affinity for oxygen and reduced ability to release oxygen to tissues. When methemoglobin concentration is elevated in red blood cells, tissue hypoxia (lack of oxygen in body tissues) can occur. Since methemoglobin cannot bind to and deliver oxygen effectively to body tissues, the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream is greatly reduced. Children are at greater risk of methemoglobinemia than adults, and those under two years of age are especially at risk of this condition.
While some forms of methemoglobinemia are inherited or congenital, acquired methemoglobinemia (discussed in this article) is far more common.
Acquired methemoglobinemia may occur after exposure to certain chemicals, drugs, or foods, including:
  • Anesthetics such as articaine, benzocaine, and prilocaine
  • Benzene
  • Certain antibiotics, including dapsone, chloroquine, sulfonamides, and trimethoprim
  • Nitrites (used as additives to prevent meat from spoiling)
  • Aniline dyes, metoclopramide, chlorates, and bromates

The condition may also occur in infants who are very ill or fed too many vegetables containing nitrates (such as beets).

Symptoms of methemoglobinemia include:

  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, and nail beds (cyanosis)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue, lack of energy
  • Confusion
  • Light-headedness
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate
These symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after benzocaine use, and after using the drug for the first time or after several uses.
If you or your child have any of these symptoms after using benzocaine, stop using the product and seek medical help immediately by calling 911, or the local emergency number if outside of the United States.
Call your health care provider if you have a family history of methemoglobinemia and develop symptoms of this disorder.
Conditions which increase your risk for complications from methemoglobinemia include a history of:
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Breathing problems such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema.
 Treatment and Prognosis:
Methemoglobinemia caused by benzocaine may require treatment with medications and admission to a hospital. Serious cases should be treated immediately. If left untreated or if treatment is delayed, the insufficient amount of oxygen in the blood due to methemoglobinemia may result in shock, seizure, permanent injury to the brain and body tissues, and even death in the most severe cases, according to FDA pharmacist Mary Ghods, R.Ph.
 When were warnings about benzocaine first issued?
The FDA first warned of the potential dangers of benzocaine in 2006. Since then, 29 cases of benzocaine gel-related methemoglobinemia have been reported. Nineteen of these cases involved children, with 15 of them in youngsters less than 2 years of age, according to FDA pharmacist Kellie Taylor, Pharm.D., MPH.
The agency repeated the warning in April 2011 due to concern about the continuing use of OTC benzocaine products in children, says Taylor. Parents may have difficulty recognizing the signs and symptoms of methemoglobinemia when using these products at home and often are unaware of the serious potential outcomes. Symptoms may not always be obvious or attributed to the use of a benzocaine product or the onset of methemoglobinemia.
 The FDA advises consumers to:
  • Store any products containing benzocaine out of the reach of children.
  • Use benzocaine gels and liquids sparingly and only when needed. Do not use them more than 4 times a day.
  • Read the label to see if benzocaine is an active ingredient when buying OTC products. Labels on OTC products containing benzocaine are not currently required to carry warnings about the risk of methemoglobinemia. If you have any concerns, talk to your health care professional before using them.

To relieve teething pain in a crying baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers this advice:

  • Give the child a teething ring chilled in the refrigerator.
  • Gently rub or massage the child’s gums with your finger.
Contact your health care professional for advice regarding other treatments for gum, mouth, or teething pain. 
Always speak with your health care professional before using any product containing benzocaine.
  1. “Benzocaine and Babies: Not a Good Mix.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Consumer Updates Page. Published 05/31/12. Updated 07/17/12.
  2. DeBaun, M.R.; Frei-Jones, M.; Vichinsky, E. “Hereditary methemoglobinemia.” In: Kliegman, R.M.; Behrman, R.E.; Jenson, H.B.; Stanton, B.F. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 456.7.
  3. “Methemoglobinemia.” A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. A.D.A.M., Inc. Review Date: 4/16/2012. Reviewed by: A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital (8/24/2011).

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