Sunday, May 31, 2015

6 Tips to Spring into Beautiful, Practical Asparagus

I was in a garden store recently and they had Asparagus roots for sale.  Asparagus it a vegetable that takes several years to establish, but then it will come back year after year. 

As I was reading the package a gentleman told me he does not like Asparagus, because it is too tough to eat.  My husband did not like asparagus either because he thought that it was slimy.  Over time he has changed his mind. 

At our house we purchase asparagus anytime we find it on sale.  We find it easy to prepare and delicious and not slimy.  It is good raw, sauteed, roasted, steamed and in casseroles. 

When selecting asparagus, do not choose bunches that have stems bigger than 1/2 inch round and don't pick skinny spears that look like they are drying out.  The older the asparagus, the tougher it becomes.  Look at the bottoms, if they look really dried out you will need to break them off causing you to lose a lot of the spear.

This blog post shares some great ways to prepare asparagus and store asparagus. 

6 Tips to Spring into Beautiful, Practical Asparagus

eNews: Take the Whole Grains Challenge (Quiz)

As seasons change, so do our eating habits.  Summer is often filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and grilled foods.  Sandwiches are a go to on hot summer days.  Make sure your grain choices during the summer have the most nutritional impact.  Take this quiz from the American Cancer Institute to learn how to identify whole grain foods.

eNews: Take the Whole Grains Challenge (Quiz)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Do you have an advanced directive of health?

The Extension Association of Quay County is interested in learning more about Estate Planning, so they selected some topics for their monthly programs.  In May their topic was living wills and medical powers of attorney.  We decided to offered a public program, so I researched and put together a powerpoint.  During my research I learned that in New Mexico these forms are together in one document called an Advanced Directive of Health.  Here are a few things I learned during my research.

These documents are for anyone over 18.  You never know when tragedy might strike and these forms can help your loved ones know what your wishes are when it comes to issues like life support.  Families are forced to make these decisions during highly emotional times and knowing your wishes can make it easier.

The forms can also help minimize fighting among family members when they disagree about the course of treatment.  Having your wishes in writing and naming one person who has the power to make the decision can help.  Be sure to discuss your wishes with the person you chose and if possible let the rest of your family know your wishes.

The forms are easy to fill out and in NM they just have to be witnessed.  You can get one at a hospital, clinic or online.  You should make several copies of your signed directive and give one to your representative, doctor, hospital, and others you feel need the form.  Be sure to keep one with you when you travel.

You may change your directives at any time as long as you are considered of sound mind.  Make sure when you update or change your directives, you give a new copy to all of the people you gave the original one to.  It is helpful to keep a list of people and places where you filed it.

For a self study course visit the eXtension website Communicating your Advanced Directive

Here is a form that you can fill out on your own from Blue Cross Blue Shield Advanced Directive Form

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Is Coconut a Super Food?

I was watching a cooking show where the cook was using coconut oil for her pastry and to fry her chicken because it would make the meal healthy.  I was thinking about all of the media around coconut products and remembered this article.  Here is some research on the benefits or not of coconut.

Do Coconuts Cure All?
Coconut products have increased in popularity this decade – coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut milk, coconut water, creamed coconut, coconut flour . . . and the list goes on. Though coconut oil was condemned in the 1980s and 1990s, it is now promoted by many as a superfood. Some of the claims include that coconut oil boosts weight loss, immune and thyroid function, blood sugar control, digestion, brain function in those with Alzheimers and that it reduces seizures and improves cholesterol levels. Add to the list that it is a great moisturizer for skin and hair, and it is no wonder that many people have switched from their usual fats and oils to coconut oil. But, are these claims true?
First, let’s look at the difference between coconut oil and other oils and fats. Natural coconut oil contains over 90% saturated fat. The only other oil close to that level of saturated fat is palm kernel oil. Butter is 62% saturated fat, meats and poultry have less, and canola oil contains less than 7% saturated fat. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend reducing saturated fat in the diet to less than 10% of calories because saturated fat raises blood cholesterol more than other kinds of fat. For most people, one to two tablespoons of coconut oil provides 10% of their daily recommended calories in saturated fat.
There is more to fat than saturated versus unsaturated, however. Fats vary in how many carbons they contain and are often classified as short, medium, or long chain triglycerides. Short and long chain triglycerides are usually stored as fat in the body, but medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) go directly to the liver and are likely to be burned for fuel. Most vegetable oils contain only long chain triglycerides, but coconut oil has 45-60% MCTs.
Because of its unusually high content of MCTs, some people equate coconut oil with MCT oil. There are very important differences. MCT oil is manufactured for use in medicine and research. It is 99.9% MCTs, specifically caprylic acid and capric acid, and has been shown in small, short-term studies to result in more weight loss (about one pound more per month) than other oils without a negative effect on cholesterol levels. Coconut oil contains 8% and 6%, respectively, of these two MCTs.
The main MCT in coconut oil is lauric acid (47%), followed by myristic acid (18%). These two fatty acids increase total cholesterol more than palmitic acid, found in meat and dairy products, which is also the next highest fatty acid (9%) in coconut oil. Lauric acid alone does increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol, decreasing the total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio. Still, coconut oil’s three main fatty acids all raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol so that the current recommendation from professional healthcare organizations is to limit coconut oil along with other saturated fats.
The main study cited in advertising coconut oil for weight loss is usually misinterpreted. 40 women with abdominal obesity received either two tablespoons of coconut oil or 2 tablespoons of soybean oil daily for 12 weeks as a supplement to a calorie-reduced diet and exercise four days a week. There was no significant difference in the amount of weight loss between the two groups. Although the study ended with a statistically significant difference in the waist circumference of those who received the coconut oil, the average waist circumference for both groups was essentially the same.
Clinical evidence that supports health benefits of coconut oil gets weaker from there. Most of the support for the health claims being advertised is anecdotal. There are some who say this has to do with whether conventional or virgin coconut oil is used. Conventional coconut oil, which is bleached and refined, is typically blamed for the negative results on cholesterol levels. Virgin coconut oil is touted as healthier and more natural, but it contains the same saturated fats as conventional coconut oil. 
Here a few more points that may be helpful when discussing coconut products with clients. Coconut oil has a melting point of about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so it may be solid or liquid depending on the temperature of the room in which it is stored. Coconut milk or coconut water is being advertised as an alternative to sports drinks. People may use the terms interchangeably, but coconut milk is usually high in calories and fat. Coconut water is the liquid from inside green coconuts and has about 50 calories and less than one gram fat, two grams protein, and 9 grams carbohydrate per cup. It also provides 600 milligrams of potassium and 252 milligrams of sodium. Endurance athletes who drink it instead of sports drinks will need to drink plenty of it and may need to consume additional sodium and carbohydrates (e.g., pretzels). For most exercise workouts lasting less than one hour, there is no evidence that coconut water is better than plain water.
Submitted by Cassandra Vanderpool, MS, RDN, LD, NMSU Extension Diabetes Coordinator
United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, accessed May 2014.
2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, accessed May 2014.
Cunningham, E. Is there science to support claims for coconut oil? J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111:786.
St-Onge, MP, Bosarge A, Goree LL, Darnell B. Medium chain triglyceride oil consumption as part of a weight loss diet does not lead to an adverse metabolic profile when compared to olive oil. J Am Coll Nutr. 2008;27:547-552.
Assuncao ML, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, Cabral CR, Florencio TM. Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. 2009;44:593-601

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Take the Pledge

Each year many children mistaken the laundry and dish pods for candy because of their bright colors.  Learn more about these dangers and take a pledge to keep your kids safe at the Soap and Detergent Association webpage.  Remember all cleaning supplies should be stored on a high shelf out of reach of children.  This include dish soap.

Take the Pledge

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Backyard Barn: Egg Production and Handling

Backyard Barn: Egg Production and Handling
Nancy Flores, PhD
Food Technology Extension Specialist

Some municipalities in NM allow residents to own poultry as pets or for egg and meat
production. Las Cruces City Council recently passed an ordinance that allows six chickens and/or
ducks per property only with a special permit from the Las Cruces Codes Enforcement Office and
Animal Control. Additionally male poultry are not allowed. An application fee is assessed at $25
for the first year and $15 annually thereafter. An animal control officer will inspect the coop to
ensure that is set up correctly and secure, so that is a suitable place to raise poultry. Please
check the rules for animal production that is allowed in your local area. There are several
resources for backyard poultry production including organic practices that can be found at your
local county extension office and online.

So now that you have the hens, what do you do with all those eggs that are piling up? How to collect, wash, store, sell, are all questions that arise once your hens are at full production. First get prepared to have a system that works for your household. Eggs should be collected daily, early and often, and chilled as soon as possible especially during the summer months. Before chilling, eggs should be cleaned from dirt and stains. Extremely dirty eggs covered in feces should be discarded.

Eggs can be dry cleaned with a clean brush or even sand paper. Caution should be taken if using wet cleaning procedures as moisture can transport pathogenic bacteria from the surface into the interior of the egg. Dipping, spraying, or water flowing over the egg can be used for washing eggs. Immersion is not an allowed practice by USDA because it can degrade the egg’s waxy cuticle that protects the egg from contamination. There are egg wash detergents that are useful to remove heavy dirt and stains and also kill harmful bacteria. Additionally wash water temperature must be monitored to be greater
than 20°F warmer than the egg temperature so that surface contaminants are not absorbed into the
egg due to temperature contraction. Cleaned eggs can be sanitized with chlorine-based sanitizers
ranging from 50 to 200 ppm.  Diluting 1/2 tablespoon of household chlorine bleach (5.25 %sodium
hypochlorite) per gallon of water will result in a solution of 100 ppm chlorine.  Free chlorine
level must be checked frequently because chlorine is inactivated by organic material such as dirt.
Chlorine test strips are available in pool maintenance and restaurant supply stores.

Cleaned and sanitized eggs must dry before chilling to prevent moisture and mold build up.
Fertilized egg chick embryos can develop in temperatures above 85°F. Eggs stored at room
temperatures above 75°F will quickly degrade. It’s important to maintain a constant temperature
during storage so that condensation does not cause “sweating” which will allow any surface contaminants enter into the egg. Ideally eggs are packed into clean cartons within 3-7 days of laying. Additionally eggs readily absorb odors from other contents in the refrigerator. Storage limitations of eggs and egg products are outlined in a table below.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Blueberries Good for Your Blood Pressure and Brain

With the domestic blueberry season about to begin, there's no better time to celebrate the bountiful health benefits of Americans' second-favorite berry (after strawberries). New research has linked blueberry consumption to better blood pressure, and Tufts scientists continue to explore how blueberries protect the brain. More than three-dozen current clinical trials are testing blueberries' possible benefits for vision, gout protection, arterial function, blood sugar and more.

"Blueberries are rich in polyphenols called anthocyanins, which give them their distinctive color," says Diane L. McKay, PhD, an assistant professor at Tufts' Friedman School and a scientist in the HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory. "They are also a good source of vitamin C, manganese and dietary fiber."

One of the few fruits native to North America, blueberries reach their peak in June and July. Imports from South America, however, have made the berries available year-round. Research has also shown that frozen blueberries retain most of their anthocyanin content. (Cooking at temperatures above 350 degrees damages these polyphenols, however, so go easy on the blueberry muffins.)

HEART NEWS: The latest study of blueberries' blood-pressure effects, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, compared freeze-dried blueberry powder - equivalent to eating a cup of berries a day - with a placebo powder. The eight-week clinical trial involved 48 postmenopausal women in the early stages of hypertension. Those randomly assigned to the blueberry powder showed improved blood pressure and reduced arterial stiffness; average systolic blood pressure (the top number) declined 5.1%, while diastolic pressure dropped 6.3%.

"These findings suggest that blueberries may prevent the progression to full-blown hypertension," the researchers commented. "The changes in blood pressure noted in this study are of clinical significance, as they demonstrate that blood pressure can be favorably altered by the addition of a single dietary component (e.g., blueberries)."

Other cardiovascular research has suggested that blueberries could help improve cholesterol levels. Blueberry consumption has also been linked to reduced oxidation of the bad LDL cholesterol; this oxygen damage makes the LDL particles more dangerous.

BRAIN BOOST: Because the anthocyanins in blueberries can cross the blood-brain barrier, they might decrease vulnerability to the oxidative stress that occurs with aging, reduce inflammation, and increase signaling between neurons. According to Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, of Tufts' HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, "A growing body of preclinical and clinical research has identified neurological benefits associated with the consumption of berry fruits. In addition to their now well-known antioxidant effects, dietary supplementation with berry fruits also has direct effects on the brain."

Among 16,000 women over age 70 participating in the Nurses' Health Study, researchers found that women who consumed two or more half-cup servings of blueberries or strawberries per week experienced slower mental decline. The association was equivalent to up to two-and-a-half years of delayed aging.

Tufts scientists have found that the addition of blueberries to the diet in animal studies improved short-term memory, navigational skills, balance and coordination. Compounds in blueberries seem to jump-start the brain in ways that get aging neurons to communicate again. Shukitt-Hale and colleagues recently completed a clinical trial in human volunteers to test whether a powdered blueberry supplement benefits cognition and mobility in older adults.

DIABETES AND CANCER: Although blueberries fall in the lower middle of the glycemic index, somewhat higher than other berries, they seem beneficial for blood-sugar regulation. For example, a newly published study of blueberry supplementation in mice reported improvements in glucose tolerance. In humans, a recently completed but not yet published clinical trial at the USDA's Beltsville (Maryland) Human Nutrition Research Center tested the effect of blueberry powder on insulin sensitivity.

Although the evidence for anti-cancer benefits remains limited, the American Institute for Cancer Research <> does include blueberries on its list of cancer-fighting foods. In cell studies, blueberry phytochemicals have been shown to decrease free radical damage to DNA that can lead to cancer and to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. In animal studies, blueberries decrease esophageal cancer and estrogen-induced mammary cancer and DNA damage.

Source Tuffs University Health and Nutrition Update