Does farmed Atlantic salmon have enough omega-3 to be worth eating?

It is definitely worth eating salmon, in whatever form, whether you can afford wild or Atlantic, fresh or canned.  Farmed salmon and canned salmon are both very good for our hearts.  USDA recently published a study they’d sponsored at the Human Nutrition Research Center.  They fed people salmon twice a week for 4 weeks, then 4 to 8 weeks no salmon, then salmon again, and kept checking the omega-3 and omega-6 fats in their blood.  The balance of those -3 to -6 fats is one measure of amount of risk of a heart attack a person has.  Even after just 4 weeks of salmon, 3 ounces each time, people’s blood fat balance showed definite improvement.  Canned salmon is also just as helpful as frozen or fresh.  And if you’re concerned about the mercury that might be in fish, canned salmon is likely to have less of it.  Smaller fish are the ones that end up in cans, and they’re the ones that have spend less time swimming in possibly contaminated waters.  They’ve also eaten fewer smaller fish.  So they are usually carrying less contamination themselves.  But in whatever way you (or your budget) likes it, eat more fish, and salmon is an especially good fish to choose.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Nutrition

Is Green Coffee Extract Really So Great?

As far as medical evidence goes, just drink your coffee! The reasoning behind the green coffee extract (or CGE) industry is that one of the compounds in coffee that might have health benefits is something called chlorogenic acid.  It is a polyphenol, one of the groups of plant compounds that are antioxidants.  Roasting green coffee beans to develop what we consider the characteristic flavor destroys some of the chlorogenic acid.  Dark roasting destroys even more.  So, extracting CGE from  green coffee beans gives a higher concentration.  That’s true.  But past that, there is more theory and speculation than good, solid evidence.  There are lots of claims about the extracts lowering blood sugar, reducing fat accumulation, reducing inflammation, etc.  Unfortunately, most of the studies have been done on lab animals, or in test tubes, or by computer.  The few that have used real people have been very small and so poorly designed that they really don’t show any effect at all.  Another part of the problem is that the different extracts on the market are all different.  There’s no way to tell exactly how much chlorogenic acid, caffeine, or any other chemicals from the beans are in them.  And there is no way to tell how much you need of any of them to get a desired health effect.  Plus, some of the things in the extracts do interact with common medications.  They do have side effects.  So, if you like coffee, go ahead and drink it.   And use the money you saved by not buying the extract to buy a better coffee.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Nutrition

Do We or Don’t We Need More Vitamin D?

      A few months ago a major news report suggested that we don’t need vitamin D supplements. There has been debate for several years over whether extra D, with or without calcium, really makes a difference in our health. But the US Preventive Services Task Force still recommends that older people, at least, should be taking additional D. There is agreement that we need D to get calcium into our bones. Most experts, including the Task Force, agree that supplements of vitamin D make a significant difference in the strength of hip bones in older adults. In addition, many agree that extra D also helps maintain muscle strength and balance. Those all help prevent broken hips and falls which often have serious consequences for the elderly.

     There are studies going on now that hint it may help people with MS, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers and more. Stay tuned!  Here in Florida we can get out throughout the year to get a daily dose of  the sunshine vitamin. But the older we are and the darker our skin, the less we make. Taking 800 to 1,000 IU a day of vitamin D is probably a good idea if you’re older, darker-skinned, or don’t get outside much. When the current studies are done, they may find more reasons to take it.


Categories: Nutrition

Why you find Soy in so many foods.

Soy is in hundreds of foods because it has hundreds of very useful characteristics.  Soy protein, like wheat or milk protein, is used for multiple reasons.  It can simply be an extender in ground meats, adding less expensive protein to more costly meats for example.  But soy protein is also very useful in prepared foods such as frozen beef patties and many sausages because soy helps them hold onto moisture.  The meat won’t lose as much juice or fat, or shrink as much with the soy. Soy protein also helps baked goods hold moisture, as well as decrease the crumbling and breakage.  Soy helps keep fat from oozing out, creates the skin on hot dogs, and helps make dough more elastic for kneading.  It’s used as a whitener in non-dairy creamers, both to provide color and to make your coffee feel creamier in your mouth.  It whitens flour too, but paradoxically helps baked goods brown.  Soy protein and lecithin both help whipped toppings stay whipped. And they prevent the cream from separating from the water in these and other products.  Ironically, some products that obviously contain soy are usually the least problematic for people with allergies.  Soy oil or margarine and soy lecithin are so highly purified that they don’t have enough protein left to cause allergic reactions in most people.   And soy isoflavones in food help reduce our cholesterol, lower blood pressure and may reduce women’s risk of breast cancer.  They’re being studied as potential medications.  But all of this says nothing about the uses for soy in cosmetics, medications, clothing, carpets, paint, ink and hundreds if not thousands of other products in our daily lives.  Don’t try to diagnose yourself with a soy allergy, see a doctor for a reliable test.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Nutrition

Why Are You Eating Fiber?

There are many sources of fiber, various kinds of fibers, and several major benefits to eating fiber. There are also many, many products on the market now that specifically advertise their added fiber, or their high fiber content. But the only line in the Nutrition Facts food label is one lump sum: “Dietary Fiber.”
We need different kinds of fiber for different health reasons. The good news is you can usually get an idea of what kinds of fiber are in a food, especially if it is added fiber, by reading the ingredient list. Depending on why you eat fiber, here’s what to look for in that list.
For lowering Cholesterol or Blood Lipids, look for these: Oats, oat bran and oat beta-glucan; Barley; Chitin/chitosan (from fungi or shellfish); Guar gum (from guar beans); Pectin (from apples or oranges); Psyllium (such as Metamucil®); Resistant Dextrins (from corn or wheat); Inulin, oligofructose and fructooligosaccharide. These all absorb cholesterol and bile acids and carry them out. Used daily they will lower blood cholesterol.
Inulin, oligofructose and fructooligosaccharides are extracted from chicory root or Jerusalem artichoke, or made from sugar. These fibers are long chains of sugar that we cannot digest. They are not fructose or high fructose syrup. And like other fibers, they don’t have calories.
For managing Blood Glucose look for these: Oats; Barley; Guar gum; Pectin; Psyllium; Resistant dextrins and resistant Starch (from many plants); Soluble Corn Fiber
For laxation (regularity) look for these: Cellulose; Inulin; Oligofructose; Resistant Starch; Wheat bran.
No matter why you want to increase your fiber intake (which most of us should) start gradually. If your gut bacteria are not used to a lot of fiber you’ll be spending extra time in the restroom until they adjust!

Pickled Green Tomatoes?

Too many green tomatoes, and looking for ways to use them? You cannot simply substitute green tomatoes for cucumbers in a dill pickle recipe safely. The only way you could do that and be sure you’re safe would be to keep the tomatoes refrigerated. If a recipe hasn’t been tested for tomatoes, the acid might not be enough to keep them safe from botulism poisoning. If you kept them on the shelf they could become deadly. But in the refrigerator the cold would be the safety factor, and the pickling would be just for flavor. So you could make the dill pickle brine for flavor, or be super simple and just marinate washed tomatoes in the brine from a jar of commercial dill pickles. Those would be good to add to a salad or serve on a relish plate. I’d recommend poking each tomato once with a fork to help the brine get into the middle faster. Even then you might not like the flavor as much as you expect. Because green tomatoes don’t have the same acidity as cucumbers, they’d need a different balance of vinegar to sugar to salt. There are however recipes for dill pickled green tomatoes and spiced tomato pickles that have been tested and are safe for canning. Green tomato pickle relish is another option. For relish the green tomatoes are ground or chopped along with peppers and onions, then the vinegar and spices are cooked into them. It’s similar to hamburger relish. Email me, or check the USDA Guide to Home Canning for tested recipes. And if you want to go a different direction, there are recipes for green tomato pie.

What’s a Poolish in a bread recipe? Does it mean Polish? Polish what?

Some food historians think the word might have originally meant Polish but no one is really sure.  Now poolish is the French term for a quickly made starter for yeast bread.  It’s made from about equal amounts of flour and warm water, with added yeast.  The mixture is allowed to sit for up to a day.  It will get bubbly, rise up to double the size or more, then gradually collapse during that time.  The yeast is multiplying in the mixture, so when you add it to the rest of the bread ingredients there is more yeast to raise the dough.  The growth of the yeast, the acid it produces and the way it changes the proteins usually means dough made with poolish is stretchier and rises more.  The extra advance rising gives a better flavor development too.  Poolish is different from sourdough starter in that you make the poolish the day ahead, let it rise, then use all of it for your batch of dough.  With sourdough you make a starter several weeks in advance, use some of it and keep the rest to start the next batch.  Also poolish is made with added yeast, whereas many sourdough starters use wild yeasts and depend on bacteria for the characteristic sourness.  Another term you might find is biga.  This is similar to poolish, but bigas are usually thick while poolish is pretty runny.  Biga is the Italian term.  And I guess sourdough is the San Francisco term!  Either way, they make good bread!