Which Basmati Is Best?
BEST OF FOOD | DECEMBER 4, 2012
Basmati rice has a famously nutty fragrance and extra-long grains, but there are lots of brands to choose from. Walk into an … Read more
By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
Oil and water, toothpaste and orange juice—some things just don’t go together. But, while you’re not likely to get sick from downing a glass of OJ after brushing your teeth, other, seemingly safe, combinations can be harmful.
Take for example, nutritious foods and prescription medications. Seems like a match made in healthful heaven, right? Not necessarily. According to Stephen Dahmer, M.D., of the Continuum Center for Health and Healing, food and drinks can affect how much of a
medication gets absorbed into the body and how fast it gets metabolized. These interactions can render a prescription ineffective, or increase the risk of experiencing dangerous side effects.
Wholesome foods may have unwholesome effects
It can be hard to spot an imperfect food-prescription pairing. Here’s a list of five healthy foods that can interact dangerously with common prescriptions:
Grapefruit juice: Vitamin C, fiber and potassium are just a few of the health perks of grapefruit juice. However, just one glass of grapefruit-y goodness can interfere with important intestinal enzymes, making it easier for some 85 different prescriptions to
enter the blood stream, including: statins (Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor), immunosuppressants, calcium-channel blockers (Plendil, Sular, Procardia), and benzodiazepines (Valium, Triazolam, Halcion). Dahmer says that this may increase the risk of experiencing side
effects from these medications. Kelly O’Connor, R.D., of Mercy Medical Center, warns that certain sodas (Squirt, Fresca, etc.) can also contain grapefruit juice, so it’s important to check the labels of these beverages closely. She also offers a straightforward solution
for obtaining the health benefits of grapefruit without the risk: swap it with another sour citrus—the orange. Orange juice offers similar advantages, without the risk.
Bananas: A potassium powerhouse, the banana is typically a good choice for those seeking to reduce their risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. However, eating too many potassium-rich foods (bananas, oranges and green, leafy vegetables) can be problematic if a person is taking ACE inhibitors. Designed to lower blood pressure, these medications also elevate the levels of potassium in the body. According to the FDA, people taking ACE inhibitors (Lotensin, Capoten, Zestril, etc.) may develop dangerous heart palpitations if they over-indulge on foods that are high in potassium. Bananas also contain Tyramine, an amino acid (also found in red wine, soy and certain cheeses) that can negatively interact with MAO inhibitors (Nardil, Parnate)—commonly prescribed to treat depression. O’Connor says that a low-Tyramine diet is typically recommended for people taking MAO inhibitors.
Cranberry juice: A go-to natural remedy for urinary tract infections, cranberry juice contains chemicals that may dangerously amplify the effect of Lipitor and other statin medications, according to recent research.
Spinach: Along with its cruciferous cousin—broccoli—spinach receives high praise in health food circles for its vitamin K content and minimal calorie count. But, for people taking blood thinners, including warfarin (Coumadin), munching on too much green can be bad. Dahmer warns that foods high in vitamin K—praised for its ability to promote blood clotting—may nullify the blood-thinning benefits of anticoagulants. This doesn’t mean that going on blood thinners means that you have to forgo your favorite spinach salad. According to O’Connor it’s okay for people on these medications to consume a moderate amount of spinach (for example: a onehalf cup serving, two to three times a week).
High-fiber foods: Dietary fiber, the kind found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, is a nutritional powerhouse. Fiber has been proven to play a role in reducing a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes. It can also help relieve constipation and promote healthy weight management. But, because fiber slows the rate at which the stomach empties, Dahmer cautions that it may also slow the rate at which medications are absorbed into the blood stream as well, resulting in lower-than-anticipated blood levels of certain prescriptions, such as antibiotics.
You don’t always have to swear off a particular food (or food group) just because it may interact with your medications.
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about how your diet may impact your prescriptions and be sure to thoroughly read the labels on all medications to learn what foods to avoid.
One last tip, offered by Dahmer: take medications with plenty of water to help aid absorption and reduce stomach upset.
Garlic is a great way to add bold taste to your cooking without extra calories or sodium. But did you know that garlic offers more than big flavor? It’s such a common ingredient in so many dishes that it’s easy to overlook its health benefits.
Garlic is a member of the Allium family, along with onions, leeks and shallots. Like a tulip or daffodil, garlic grows from a bulb underground, producing leaves and a flower stalk. The underground bulb, with its individual cloves, is what humans have cooked with for more than 6,000 years.
Garlic originated in central Asia. Although Gilroy, Ca, calls itself the garlic capital of the world, China is the world’s dominant garlic producer. Garlic shows up in many world cuisines, from garlicky Asian sauces, to Italian pasta dishes, to the classic French sauce, aioli.
Ancient Greeks and Romans embraced garlic for its health benefits; the Roman physician Galen praised its cure-all properties. Today, the National Institutes for Health notes that garlic is used as medicine for many conditions involving the heart and blood system, and for treating the immune system. Garlic also has anti-inflammatory and infection-fighting properties. According to the NIH, garlic is ”possibly effective” when used as treatment for high blood pressure, fungal infections of the skin, hardening of the arteries, and colon, rectal and stomach cancer. When used medicinally, garlic is typically concentrated into extract or powder and given as tablets or capsules.
Garlic comes in hardneck and softneck varieties. Softneck varieties have a flexible flower stalk (which can be braided) and smaller cloves; most commercially available garlic is of this variety. Hardneck garlics have a firm, edible flower stalk (called a scape) and larger cloves. Increasingly, small farmers are growing heirloom hardneck varieties, some of which date back hundreds of years. You can find these varieties at many farmers markets.
Garlic has been shown to moderately reduce cholesterol, and its sulfur compounds have been shown to reduce blood pressure. It’s also low in calories (4 calories per clove) and high in vitamin C, selenium and magnesium. Very preliminary research has suggested that garlic may inhibit the production of fat cells in the body.
Buying and Storing
Look for garlic bulbs that are undamaged, with their papery skins intact. Choose bulbs that have larger cloves, as these are easier to peel. Garlic can be stored in a cool, dark place for three to six months; discard any cloves that have dried out or begun to sprout.
Garlic can be eaten raw or cooked. Cooking tempers the flavor (and lessens garlic breath). To prepare garlic for cooking, remove the papery skin and the hard root end from each clove, then chop according to recipe directions. (Some research has shown that cutting or crushing garlic activates its enzymes and that it’s beneficial to wait five minutes before continuing with the recipe.) You can infuse olive oil with garlic by simmering a half cup of oil in a saucepan with 2-3 chopped garlic cloves. Garlic can be roasted, which creates a soft, caramelized texture and sweet, rich flavor.
Note: Garlic is also sold in powdered or granulated form, which is appropriate for use in recipes like dressings, sauces or dips. Garlic powder is not a good substitute in recipes that call for sautéing or cooking fresh garlic. Granulated garlic, garlic powder and garlic salt are three different ingredients and shouldn’t be used interchangeably, so pay attention to your recipe. Avoid garlic salt if you’re watching your sodium levels.
Healthy Recipes that Feature Garlic
Chef Meg’s Favorite Ginger-Garlic Sauce
This versatile recipe can be used to add bold flavor as a marinade or sauce for grilled meats or vegetables.
Low-Fat Slow-Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Perfect for a crowd, this recipe can be made ahead for family gatherings.
Chef Meg’s Grilled Citrus Garlic Flank Steak
Garlic adds a ton of flavor to this healthy, lean cut of beef.
Chef Meg’s Herb-Roasted Garlic
Sweet, softened roasted garlic is terrific on toasted bread slices, or in soups and stews.
So, what are you waiting for? Start adding more garlic to your meals–the flavor and health benefits will be worth the garlic breath!
Posted June 21, 2012 | 0 comments
By Howard Seltzer, National Education Advisor, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
The good news is that the National Weather Service says that competing climate factors suggest a less active hurricane season this year compared to many in recent years. The bad news is that it doesn’t take a hurricane to knock power out. Spring and summer storms often do it very effectively.
But, even when the power goes out, your refrigerator and freezer can help you and your family avoid food poisoning, but only if you are ready for the emergency and know how to react.
For more information about food safety in an emergency, check out these resources:
If you thought that sorbet and sherbet were the same things, think again! Here’s the quick lowdown: Sorbet is made of pureed iced fruits, along with other ingredients (like sugar), but doesn’t contain milk. Sherbet is made of fruit juice and sugar, plus some milk, egg white, or gelatin (or all of the above). These two iced treats are both low-calorie and often fat-free alternatives to ice cream and are sold at most ice cream shops. Which cold and fruity treat is lower in fat: Cold Stone’s Sinless Raspberry Sorbet or Baskin Robbins’ Strawberry Lemonade Punch Sherbet?
The Winner: Cold Stone’s Sinless Raspberry Sorbet!
Cold Stone’s sorbet wins by a nose! This creamy raspberry dessert contains zero fat and a moderate 160 calories for a 142-gram “Like It” size (the smallest size offered). That’s a great treat for any dieter who wants the sweet, cold taste of ice cream but can’t afford the fat and calories. Watch out for the sugar content, though–even this small size contains 36 grams, which is equal to about nine teaspoons!
Two small scoops (142 grams) of Baskin Robbins’ Strawberry Lemonade Punch Sherbet contain the same amount of calories as the Cold Stone sorbet (160). The sherbet contains a bit more fat than the sorbet, but it is still a low-fat choice with just 2 grams. However, it also contains 34 grams of sugar–2 grams less than the sorbet, but still quite a bit!
Both of these fruity options are much healthier than most choices offered at ice cream shops, but an even better option is to make your own sorbet at home using natural fresh fruit. Try making this pina colada sorbet for a splash of island flavor, or this simple fat-free and no-sugar-added blueberry sorbet. Check out SparkRecipes for more simple and better-for-you sorbet recipes to make all summer long!
Do you eat sorbet? What’s your favorite flavor?
By Diane Van, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
Questions received to USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline about grilling meat and poultry increase during spring and summer months. In anticipation of the unofficial beginning of the summer grilling season on Memorial Day weekend, I have put together some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive about grilling.
Refrigerate or freeze fresh meats and poultry as soon as possible after purchase. This preserves freshness and slows the growth of bacteria. They can be refrigerated or frozen in the original packaging if you plan to use them soon.
Meat and poultry should be cooked to a safe temperature to destroy harmful bacteria that may be present. Color of meat and poultry is not a good indicator of safety. Use a food thermometer to make sure meats have reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Safe Cooking Temperatures
No, to prevent food borne illness, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food. You can either use a clean plate for the cooked meat or wash the one that held the raw meat.
Yes, if you refrigerated them promptly after cooking (within two hours; one hour if the temperature is above 90 °F), they can be safely refrigerated for about three or four days. If frozen, they should keep good quality for about four months.For more information on the safe preparation, handling and grilling of meat and poultry, check out these resources in English and Spanish: