Safe Food Preservation


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Original Image by Jim Champion via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Fun Fact: Food preservation permeates all cultures.  And they say we’re all different, huh?

How often do you find yourself throwing food out because you didn’t have a chance to use it before it goes bad? Or how many times do you head to the checkout line at the grocery store with the maximum amount of produce allowed due to the great sale? While these conundrums may be a common issue for you, by canning and/or preserving your food, you can have your veggies and can them too! Pun intended!

There are so many preservation methods, depending on the foods, equipment and intentions with the food.  I’m by no means an expert on canning, but I’ve had first hand experience in the food saving systems it can do!

The list below is not an exhaustive list of food preservation, but it’s a good overview of the most common techniques used and a few unique modes of preservation for those more adventurous with their canning abilities.

Preservation Method Commonly Used Foods Fun Facts
Canning Wine; milk; vegetables; fruits; meat With canning, it destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes; the vacuum seal prevents other microorganisms from recontaminating food within jar or can; includes pressure canning and water bath canning
Cellaring Vegetables; grains; nuts; dry cured meats Storing foods in temperature, humidity and light controlled environment
Curing Meat; fish Earliest curing was dehydration; included use of salt to help dessicate foods; uses salts, acid and/or nitrites; may employ secondary method of fermenting, smoking or sealing
Dry Salting Meat; fish; vegetables Fermenting or pickling techniques; 2.5-5% salt concentration promotes fermentation; 20-25% salt promotes high salt concentration;
Drying Often with fish, game, domestic animals, fruits; herbs In ancient times, sun and wind would have naturally dried foods—with Asian and Middle Eastern countries actively drying foods as early as 12,000 B.C. ; in the Middle Ages they built “still houses” for the purpose of drying fruits, vegetables and herbs that didn’t have strong enough sunlight for drying
Fermenting Fruits–>wine; cabbage–>Kim chi or sauerkraut ; legumes; seafood; dairy; eggs; wine; cured sausage; yogurt; meats Fermentation has been used to create more nutritious and palatable foods from less than desirable ingredients; microorganisms that are responsible for fermentation can produce vitamins
Freezing Meats, vegetables, leftovers, fruit; eggs; nuts; prepared foods Common use includes cellars, caves and cool streams; chilling foods to at least 0°F
Jamming  Fruits With use of honey or sugar; in ancient Greece, quince was mixed with honey, dried and packed tightly into jars;
Pickling Wine; ciders; chutneys; mustards; relishes; ketchups and sauces Preservation of foods in vinegar or other acids; first fermented to alcohol and then alcohol’s oxidized by bacteria to acetic acid;
Sealing Legumes; seafood; dairy; eggs; wine; cured sausage; yogurt; meats Covers food to keep out air—delaying the activity of spoilage organisms; used as complementary process to other fermentation methods, i.e. freezing or drying; relatively inexpensive
Smoking Meats Improves flavor and appearance; can be used as a drying agent; by smoking, meats are less likely to turn rancid or grow mold than unsmoked

With all this said, what canning techniques have I left out that you think should be used consistently? Have any kitchen hacks you’re willing to share with canning? We’d love to hear them!

Learn how to preserve specific foods with OSU’s guide!

Sources: http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/

http://nchfp.uga.edu/

http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/safe-methods

http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation

http://www.foodsafety.wisc.edu/preservation.html

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-preservation

http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/food_pres_hist.html

Metabolic Syndrome (MetS)


Original Image by U.S. Army via Flickr
Original Image by U.S. Army via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Metabolic syndrome is not an actual syndrome, but a cluster of risk factors that can raise one’s chances of heart disease, diabetes and/or stroke.  While, the name may be misleading, it’s called metabolic syndrome due to the impact the risk factors have on one’s biochemical processes and the ability for one’s body to function normally.  Other common names for MetS include Syndrome X, Obesity syndrome, insulin resistance syndrome, hypertriglyceridimic waist and/or dysmetabolic syndrome.

While one can have only one of the following risk factors, it’s common for someone to encounter multiple risk factors simultaneously.  One’s considered to have metabolic syndrome if at least 3/5 risk factors pertain to them:

  1. Large waistline:  Also known as “apple shape”; with abdominal obesity, excess fat in the abdominal area increases chances of heart disease, then on hips; for men: 40 inches or larger; for women: 35 inches or larger
  2. High triglyceride levels:  Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood; or if you’re already on triglyceride medications; 150 mg/dL or higher
  3. Low HDL cholesterol level:  When low HDL levels are low, it means the cholesterol from arteries isn’t being removed at ideal rate;for men: 40 mg/dL or lower; for women: 50 mg/dL or lower
  4. High blood pressure: With high blood pressure over time, it can damage the heart and lead to plaque buildup; blood pressure of 135/85 mm Hg or higher
  5. High fasting blood sugar:  Can signify early diabetes; 100 mg/dL or higher

For those living with MetS, it can lead to diabetes, yet the follow recommendations for those with MetS may help:

Original Image by Department of Foreign Affairs via Flickr
Original Image by Department of Foreign Affairs via Flickr
  • Increase  physical activity: while it may be hard at first, start by walking 5 minutes a day and increase time gradually; it’s doctor recommended to do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily
  • Losing 5-10% of your body weight can make a world of difference! It can decrease blood pressure, insulin resistance and one’s risk for diabetes
  • Adopting the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or Mediterranean diet can help one eat healthier: limits intake of unhealthy fats, while highlighting whole grains, high intake of fruits and vegetables and low sodium foods
  • Stop smoking!: Smoking increases one’s insulin resistance and
  • If prescribed, don’t forget to necessary medications to help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels

The more risk factors one has, for example, 4/5 risk factors, the more likely one will develop heart disease and or develop diabetes than someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.  While the above risk factors are often looked at as indicators of heart disease, they’re not the sole risk factors, physical inactivity, smoking, insulin resistance, age and gender can also play a role in one’s heart health.  With 35% of the American adults with MetS, be proactive and talk to your physician.

Sources:http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ms/

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MetabolicSyndrome/Metabolic-Syndrome_UCM_002080_SubHomePage.jsp

http://www.webmd.com/heart/metabolic-syndrome/metabolic-syndrome-what-is-it

http://www.healthnowmedical.com/blog/2012/06/22/are-you-apple-shape-or-pear-shape-learning-your-risk-of-metabolic-syndrome/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20027243

The Ins and Outs of Cholesterol


atherosclerosis_2011

By: Nikki Nies

Often times the words “bad” and “good” are associated with cholesterol, but what defines good and bad you ask?  Let’s rewind a bit and go over what the word cholesterol means.  Cholesterol is composed of a waxy, fat like substance that is made in the liver and can be found in certain foods (i.e. eggs, dairy products and meats).  Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream with the help of an attached protein, called a lipoprotein.

A certain level of cholesterol is needed for the body to function properly: its cell walls, or membranes need cholesterol to produce  vitamin D,hormones and the bile acids  to help digest fat.  However, problems can occur when too much cholesterol builds up, called plaque, in the walls of one’s arteries.  Plaque is a thick, hard deposit and with enough plaque, the build up will make the passage of the blood to the heart harder.

Problems associated with cholesterol:

  • The build up of plaque, called artherosclerosis can then lead to heart disease
  • Angina, also known as chest pain, can occur where there is not enough oxygen carrying blood to reach the heart
  • Heart attack: Can occur if complete blood supply to portion of heart is blocked off by total blockage of a coronary artery

Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream with the help of an attached protein, called a lipoprotein.  There are 3 types of cholesterol, classified depending on the ratio of protein to fat.

Type of Lipoprotein

Description

Very Low Density lipoprotein (VLDL) Similar to LDL; contains mostly fat and not much protein
Low Density lipoprotein (LDL) Considered “bad” cholesterol; can cause the buildup of plaque on walls of arteries; increased LDLàincreased risk of heart disease
High density lipoproteins (HDL) Called “good” cholesterol; helps body get rid of bad cholesterol in blood; decreased HDLàincreased risk of heart disease
Triglycerides Another type of fat; carried in blood by VLDL; derives from excess calories, sugar and alcohol in body are converted into triglycerides; stored in fat cells throughout body

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Those 20 years or older should get their cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years.  A fasting cholesterol test is a common way to gauge one’s heart health. It’s recommended total cholesterol remains under 200.

Ways to Reduce Cholesterol Levels and Prevent Heart Disease:

  • Moderate Exercise:  Can help reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and maintain weight control, which can decrease chances of heart disease
  • Quit smoking: Smoking lowers HDL levels
  • Heart Healthy Foods: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends one limits daily intake of cholesterol to less than 300 mg; if one already has heart disease, it should be less than 200 mg; limit intake of saturated fat; moderate intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Medications and Cholesterol lowering drugs: i.e. statins; niacin, bile acid resins

Remember, your body makes all the cholesterol needed for regular function.  That doesn’t mean you should refrain from cholesterol rich foods (i.e. eggs), but moderation is key.  High cholesterol is leading cause of heart disease, but it is preventable.  What changes can you make to your daily life to stabilize your cholesterol levels?

Sources: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/About-Cholesterol_UCM_001220_Article.jsp

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9152.php

http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/default.htm?names-dropdown=GA

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=866215&show=html

Increase Prices for Change


Psychology of Change

By: Nikki Nies

I found this NY Times article extremely interesting and pertinent to the growing obesity epidemic in America. It talks about the wave of restaurants posting the calories on their menus, but the lack of substantial difference it has made on consumer’s food choices.

So, although on paper it would make sense that people would steer clear of certain items based on caloric content, the article explains why people seem to still opt for unhealthier choices.  Even the author explains he chooses the chicken salad sandwich, which is 213 calories more than tuna salad sandwich, since as he puts it, the taste of mayo trumps the extra calories he’ll be consuming.   Does that mean the future of America’s doomed? No, NY Times highlights how America has decreased the number of people who smoke when it was such a mainstream activity. Even 30 years ago, would you have thought the number of smokers would be down so much?

I decided to copy and paste the direct message from this article because I couldn’t have said it better myself. So…

Healton, an authority on tobacco use in particular, noted that the principal reasons for the remarkable decrease in smoking in New York City and elsewhere over the last few decades weren’t ominous commercials and warning labels. They were taxes and the bans on indoor smoking. People kicked the habit when it became onerous, in cost and convenience, not to.

Farley, the health commissioner, agreed. “The structural things were more effective for smoking than the information was,” he said. And that — not any itch to play nanny — is why he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg support such measures as new taxes on sodas, which may never happen, and a ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces, which is in legal limbo.

The healthcare industry should focus more on preventive care and yes, there’s hope in the future. With the controversy of the soda ban in NY, people flung their arms up, stating if that’s taken away from, what’s next? Perhaps, complete banning of sugary foods and fast food isn’t the answer, but hiking up prices.

I understand increasing the price of fast food is easier said than done. Mega corporations that have gained success with dollar menus are going to fight such changes, but isn’t the health of the nation more important than a business? McDonald’s is not hurting in any way. In the long run, more money would be made in the long run as people will be living longer. There’s a lot to be done to curb the obesity epidemic, but looking to how far we’ve come in the case of smoking is a great step forward.  There’s always going to be those that disregard all the health claims, willing to pay the extra money, but increasing the price of junk food will make people at least second guess their unhealthy purchase.

Again, I can’t get over this connection between those quitting smoking and the increased price. I feel this is a solution to obesity that could work as well. I’m excited.

Addictive Quality of Nicotine


By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Maxwell GS via Flickr
Original Image by Maxwell GS via Flickr

Everyone knows smoking’s bad for you.  Our government and health organizations have gone to great strides to curb the number of people smoking.  However, heart disease is the number one killer of men and many diseases could be lessened or prevented if one does not smoke.  Smokers are the more susceptible to getting lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and asthma, etc.

I was curious to know what makes nicotine, the addictive part of cigarettes.  Many people I know want to kick the habit of smoking, but many succumb to relapse.  So, what is it about nicotine that gets “them.”  To better understand the biochemical aspect of how our bodies react to nicotine, health professionals can better cater to smoking population and work with them to completely quit and hopefully decrease the severity of many diseases.

Too much of anything is never good, but addiction, which is described as the continuation of a habit even though there is evidence of harm has been seen to occur with smokers.  Nicotine gives smokers a quick pleasing feeling, but coming down from the feeling can be detrimental to one health and can cause nicotine dependence–also known as an addiction of tobacco products.

Nicotine’s absorbed through the lungs since cigarette smoke’s acidic.  Conversely, pipe and cigar smoke is alkaline so it is not absorbed.

Although the addiction of nicotine is not associated with the same severity as heroine or cocaine, the impact can be just as powerful.  Nicotine’s considered a “reinforcing” drug, which means even though there are harmful effects, user’s come back for more.  On average, smokers need to smoke every 1-2 hours to “reinforce.”  Possible impact of nicotine on body:

  • May decrease appetite
  • Increased saliva and phlegm
  • May increase activity in intestines
  • Can increase blood pressure 5-10 mm Hg
  • Can increase heart rate 10-20 beats per minute
  • Brain waves altered
  • Constriction of blood vessels, causing a drop in temperature of extremities
  • May cause sweating, diarrhea and/or nausea

Those in defense of smoking, stating I don’t understand the concept of addiction or feel they’re not susceptible to these side effects don’t have to accept this information, but research has shown that these side effects are more common than not.  Just because you haven’t experienced these side effects yet, doesn’t mean you won’t.  Get ahead of the curve! Stop smoking before you develop heart disease and you’re required to change your habits, not because you want to, but because you have to!

Ways to quit:

  • Find a local support group
  • Discover what “triggers” you to smoke
  • Get the patch
  • Nicotine replacement therapy
  • Medications to lessen withdrawal symptoms

What tips have helped you curb your addiction to nicotine? What support do you lean on most?

Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000953.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nicotine-dependence/DS00307

http://www.maxkirsten.com/resources/resource_view.asp?id=6