Author: Cassie Kerr

Fantasy Fruitball

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It has been said “You’re not American if you don’t do Fantasy Football”. This time of year embraces that statement as many are listening to podcasts, searching the web for current fantasy hype, completing mock drafts, and getting together with friends to build the best football team possible.

fruit stadium

What if people put the same passion into selecting their fruit this fall season? Or better yet, use this selection of fruit to incorporate into tailgating snack choices to stay healthy this fall? Of course, just like fantasy, there would be your top draft picks such as super foods like lemon and blackberries. Then moving up on average draft picks you might find other berries, grapes, cherries, bananas, and some higher sugar fruits like pineapple.

 

Don’t forget about the breakouts and sleepers. Dragonfruit, rhubarb, and heirloom apples were trending fruit last year and will likely continue to be popular and relevant this year. The sleepers might include hardy currants and lingonberries. Many might not realize their benefits but these fruits really pack an antioxidant punch!

dragonfruit

When selecting your winning team, keep in mind you will need variety. You may want to select fruits from different teams (or families) and a variety of colors. For example, it may not be in your best interest to eat only apples and pears. You are missing out on certain antioxidant properties from the family of dark berries and some other vitamins and minerals you might find in orange fruits like mango or papaya.

 

It is important to plan ahead if you want to make eating well a priority in your life. Set your winning line up each week with your starters, but make sure you have a strong bench, too. If the starters aren’t working for you, mix it up a little with players on your bench. Always keep a core assortment of fresh fruits in your fridge, but don’t forget to pull the frozen berries from your freezer to blend in a refreshing smoothie for a new twist to your week!

 

My fantasy team will keep me on my toes watching the NFL players, but I know I’ll get just as excited at the grocery store setting my fruitball line-up each week this fall:

 

Starters (8)

Blueberry         Strawberry

Peach                Honeycrisp apple

Rhubarb           Pear

Craisin              Mango

Defense (1)

Lemon

Bench (6)

Banana             Orange

Plum                 Cherry

Kiwi                  Pineapple

 

What does your Fantasy Fruitball team look like this fall? Share your team below!

fruitball

NO to GMO?

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It’s the bottom line that got us in this quandary: higher yields + higher quality = happy consumers. Many thought genetically modified organisms (GMO) would be the missing factor to solve the equation. So why are so many people unhappy?

GMO-Corn

The original plan for GM foods was that it would lead to a greater crop yield and improve quality and nutrition. This in turn would help feed the world with superior quality foods and increase the profits of growers. Naturally, weeds and bugs stand in the way of increased crop yields so biotechnologists used genetic modification to develop seeds that would progress the bottom line.

Some may think this process is just speeding up the breeding process. However, many GM crops are made by mixing different species’ genes in a way that would never occur in nature. For example, GM plants are resistant to bugs because a piece of bacterial DNA, from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt toxin), is inserted into plant DNA to give it insecticidal properties.

Once again, plants are given bacterial DNA to tolerate herbicides like glyphosate, one of the main ingredients in Round-Up. Unfortunately, the excessive amount of herbicides being used on crops, though they are bred to handle them, is causing problems in the environment and in humans. Glyphosate along with all the other chemical components of pesticides either get into the soil and water or remain on the plant awaiting human consumption. Studies show occupational glyphosate exposure, as well as exposure to individuals in close distance to fields being sprayed, may cause DNA damage and cancer in humans.

Furthermore, the reliance on glyphosate has led to the micro-evolution of resistant weed species. By not practicing better weed and pest management, we are setting the stage for the growth of “super weeds” and “super bugs” that can withstand the heavy pesticide and insecticide usage.

There is, however, another way to influence plant DNA. The developing scientific process of TILLING, targeted induced local lesions in genomes, is faster than traditional crossbreeding yet does not involve genetic engineering. Instead of adding foreign DNA, plants are exposed to physical and chemical agents and then screened for beneficial mutations that cause the plant to withstand the harsh experimental environment. With all the backlash on GMO, this new method may provide another option for improving the bottom line. Nevertheless, there are risks and drawbacks with TILLING along with benefits.

One could argue that no matter what you do, whether it is traditional crossbreeding, genetically modifying, or practicing TILLING, there will always be survival of the fittest. Weeds will respond to beneficial changes in plants (natural or human-induced) and only the strongest will reproduce. That is nature. All we can do is work to stay ahead of it. But we need to get ahead in a smart way—a way that will not negatively impact future plant and human life.

I am not necessarily opposed to biotechnology, but I also do not blindly support it. There are too few studies looking at the long-term effects of GM foods.   What I would support is a more environmentally responsible way of doing things. Consider possible repercussions before diving into an idea. For example, do we want to spray chemicals all over the earth to support the crops of biotechnology? Weigh the positives and negatives that would result now and in the future.

If we can modify plant genes in a way that would actually be helpful, not harmful, to mankind, I think there would be more support.  If this technology had more to do with improving the nutrition of people (Golden Rice) and bringing fewer burdens on the environment instead of being driven by profit, people would promote it. Until we carry out more research and implement mindful strategies, people will likely continue to be unhappy with GMO.

Stranded on a Desert Island

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If you only had three foods to eat to stay alive, for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Beans? Eggs? Brown rice? Milk? Spinach? Salmon? Blueberries? Or maybe you would choose the top three in the super foods list.

Now, if I were trapped on a DESSERT island, I would surely be packing the dark chocolate bars, double chocolate brownie ice cream, and peeps. My peeps would keep me company and I would name one Wilson.

peep
^^Wilson^^

You’re just a peep, but let me tell you what I would choose and why.

Each food serves a purpose and a diet full of variety is what keeps one healthy. People often ask me: “what are the very best foods I can eat?”  I sigh and tell them all whole and natural foods on this earth are good for you!  Of course moderation is key.  But Wilson, three foods!  Just think!  If you had just three foods to sustain life, what would you pick?  What three foods would give you the best proportion of essential protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals to meet all the nutrition requirements the body needs to survive?

To start, I would choose a food that has all the essential amino acids, or building blocks of protein.  Essential amino acids (phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine) cannot be made in the body and must come from the diet.  A complete protein contains these nine essential amino acids in the correct proportion.  While most foods contain all the essential amino acids, they do not necessarily have them in the correct proportions our bodies need.  Animal sources like eggs, milk, poultry, meats, and fish are examples of complete proteins.  Plant sources tend to have a lower amount of one or more essential amino acids and therefore need to be paired with a food that can compensate.  For example, combining beans and rice is a popular way to achieve a complete protein.

That being said, I would choose milk to be my source of complete protein.  It has a high protein digestibility score plus it is higher in calcium, magnesium, and B-12 than a serving of egg.  (And I would be so bored on the island I would learn how to make yogurt and cheese.)

Then, it would hit me that I’m on this island alone; I will need a lot of energy to build myself a home and arrange logs to spell out “help.”  Therefore, I need a high-energy food like a starch that will build up my glycogen stores as well as provide immediate energy.  At first one might think potato.  But I’m going to delegate a sweet potato to be my source of energy and added goodies like potassium, Vitamins A, C, and B-6, and fiber.  (I’m totally making sweet potato fries over the fire.  Wilson, you’re next!  You delectable puffy golden brown s’more, you!)

peep smore

Ok, now for my last choice.  (Big puff of air through small opening of mouth.) Man, this is tough.  I have many nutrient holes to fill such as Vitamins E and K, some of the B vitamin family, iron, and the list goes on.

The first food that comes to mind to fill these holes is spinach.  Spinach is high in Vitamins C, A, and K, and folate, and is a good source of calcium, iron, and Vitamins E, B2 and B6.  But even a 10-ounce package of spinach, a half-gallon of milk, and five cups of sweet potatoes, providing a total of 2137 calories, would leave me deficient in Vitamin E, iron, and zinc, and exceeding the safe upper limit for magnesium and calcium, and extremely exceeding the upper limit for Vitamin A.

Really Wilson, I hope this helps you realize you really can’t live off of just three foods and achieve all your daily requirements of every vitamin and mineral.  It would be extremely hard.  But what do you know about hard; you’re a marshmallow.

 

Please, don’t let Wilson and I carry on this ridiculous dialogue alone.  Leave your comments below.  What three foods would YOU take with you on this desert island?

MSG: Hero or Villain?

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Once upon a time, a fair maiden Glutamate and a strapping lad Sodium got together and had a child: Monosodium glutamate, who later became known as Ms. G for short. Ms. G was born in 1908 and had an awesome childhood. She had a magical power that caused taste buds to experience the taste “umami.” Everybody in the United Plates of Food loved her and wanted her in all their dishes. She became quite popular. Not to mention, Ms. G had 1/3 the amount of sodium of her half brother NaCl, or Sir Tablesalt. Everyone in UPF understood the destructive hypertension Sir Tablesalt brought to the land so Ms. G was considered a hero to all who enjoyed the umami flavor and lower sodium alternative.

But as time passed, people started blaming her for symptoms they were having after eating a number of Asian dishes she starred in.  These symptoms included headaches, nausea, flushing, sweating, heart palpitations, and chest pain.  People called it “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”  To make matters worse, people pointed at her for the cause of migraine headaches, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and intolerances.  Soon, she became known as a villain.

Hero-or-Villain-01

Before we delve into the fate of Ms. G I think it’s best to take a brief story time intermission.  So no one confuses fairy tale and fact, I’m going to switch gears here and give it to you straight.  Since many thought MSG was the culprit of the afore mentioned health concerns, scientists carried out research involving MSG and its effects in both animals and humans.  Research has been going on for decades and still, scientists cannot find conclusive data stating MSG is harmful.  In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even classifies MSG as a food additive that is “generally recognized as safe.”  Sure, a few studies have proven MSG to be harmful.  BUT, these were done in mice given extreme amounts of the additive compared to their weight.

Still, scientists agree that some people may be sensitive to the effects of MSG. For this reason, the FDA requires that foods containing added MSG list it in the ingredient panel on the packaging as monosodium glutamate. Of course, MSG occurs naturally in ingredients like hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed yeast, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, protein isolates, and also in tomatoes and cheeses. Even foods with these naturally occurring MSGs cannot claim “No MSG” or “No added MSG” on their label. Moreover, it cannot be listed as “spices and flavoring.”

This is where people get heated. Many food companies don’t necessarily follow these requirements and try to cover up MSG in whatever way they can. It is up to the consumer to recognize MSG’s other common names (these among others) if he really wants to know for sure.

So, does everyone live happily ever after? Keep reading to find out!

 

To this day, scientific evidence shows Ms. G is safe, yet some may need to restrict her in the food they eat to avoid adverse reactions. Thankfully, this is such a small number of individuals and studies of Ms. G and her link to health concerns are inconclusive.

Hero? Villain? Neither? Maybe one day the United Plates of Food will unveil her true identity.

Eggsalad Easter

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The hunt is over. You pat yourself on the back because you just found 25 spectacularly colored hard-boiled eggs! What a champ! So you neatly display them like a trophy in your fridge so that every time you open the door you see beautiful colors splattered across an eggshell canvas. Who would want to eat such beautiful works of art? But finally, if you’re like me, a couple days pass and you begin to get hungry and brainstorm ways to use all these eggs. My search led to a few tasty and creative ideas; but first, let’s spend a little time talking about the nutrition that makes these eggs so golden.

Eggs are kind of a big deal. They are cheap, delicious, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. This goodness is found in both the yolk and the whites, so eat it all up, people! Research shows that eating whole eggs actually increases HDL cholesterol (the good guy who prevents cardiovascular disease) and a growing number of studies show that dietary cholesterol does not impact blood level of cholesterol.

The yolk contains one of the richest dietary sources of choline, which helps with inflammation and neurological function. Lutein and zeaxanthin fight for your vision while sulfur aids in Vitamin B absorption, liver function, and the growth of hair, nails, and skin. Let’s not leave the whites out, though. The whites are a great protein source and top-notch quality as the essential amino acids are easy to digest.

And there you have it: nutrition in an eggshell!

Enough with the nutrition lesson, let’s get cookin’! Here are some eggcellent ways to use up hard-boiled eggs:

  1. Scotch Eggs
  1. On top of Wedge Salad
  1. Garam Masala Deviled Eggs
  1. In a Breakfast Burrito
  1. Smoked Salmon and Egg Canapes
  1. Campanelle Salad
  1. English Muffin Egg Pizzas
  1. Pan Bagnat
  2. Salad Niçoise Lettuce Cups
  3. Eggs Mimosa

 

Food safety tip: hard-boiled eggs kept in the fridge should be eaten within one week and keep the shell on until you are ready to use them.

 

Your Ticket to the Gun Show

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arnold1

Protein. Protein. Protein.  These days it’s allllll about protein.  Want to lose weight?  Eat protein + buy protein shakes.  Want to train for a marathon?  Eat even more protein + get those protein shakes in.  Want to look shredded?  Eat a ridiculous amount of protein + supplement with protein powder.  Want to visit your grandma more?  Eat protein all day and bring her 3 protein shakes!

Wait, slow your roll, buddy!  While protein is very important in your diet, it should be balanced and come from the best nutritious sources: food.  Your ticket to the gun show doesn’t need to cost you a fortune in protein supplements.  Let me tell you why:

The average person needs about 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight.  The average endurance athlete needs about 1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight.  If you are a strength athlete trying to increase skeletal muscle mass, your goal would be around 1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight.  Not only does this protein level range with specific activities, but it also varies greatly with weight.  If you are a female endurance runner weighing 120 lbs, your protein goal will be about 65 g.  However, if you are a male football player training for the upcoming season weighing 240 lbs, you may need 185 g of protein.

Let’s convert these gram numbers to real food.  In order for our 120 lb runner to get adequate protein for the day, she could eat a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 1 cup Greek yogurt (14 g), and ½ cup of black beans (20) = 66 grams of protein.

Our football player could eat 1 cup of quinoa (24 g), 6 oz chicken (42), a four egg omelet (24 g), 1 cup almonds (20), 1 cup lentils (18 g), a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 3 glasses of milk (24 g), and 2 cups broccoli (6 g) = 190 grams of protein.

The recommended range is 10-35% of calories from protein.  It is important to provide your training and healing body with the necessary amount of protein.  However, exceeding this range may be detrimental to health.  There are few studies done on long-term protein intake and therefore we can only forecast that constant high protein intake could be harmful to your kidneys.

I hope I didn’t distract you with too many numbers and ranges.  My main point was to show you that sufficient protein intake can be achieved through food.  No supplements required.   I don’t think protein supplements are the devil; I just think more often than not, they are unnecessary for the average athlete or individual at the gym.*

When you are determining your protein choices, it is important to choose proteins that are easily digested and rich in essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.  These foods include fish, lean meats, eggs, and milk.  Other healthy sources of protein are found in legumes and other plant proteins like spinach, nuts, and seeds.

Remember, your ticket to your very own gun show can be earned by eating some deliciously nutritious plant and animal protein sources.   And if it gets you to visit grandma more, maybe you can bring a couple protein shakes to enjoy together.

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*Note:  Vegetarian, vegan, and extreme intensity athletes may need to supplement.  It is best to seek professional attention or a sports dietitian to go over specific dietary needs as well as the added caloric demands of exercising.

Spotlight on Spices: Coriander

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I hope everyone is ready for some spicy and flavorful posts! My goal is to provide some helpful insight on how to use all those spices sitting around in your cupboard. And, if my rhyming abilities allow, you may get a catchy poem each time, too.

Today we will focus on the bright and fresh plant, Coriandrum sativum, aka coriander. We know the green stem and leaves as cilantro, but when the plant grows and matures, it produces seeds. The coriander spice in our cupboards is the ground up version of the plant’s seeds.

coriander_16x9

Though some people identify the herb as being somewhat bitter, the delicate leaves and seeds of the plant have a citrusy note that go quite well in a multitude of dishes. I encourage you to explore the recipes found below in my nutrition rendition of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham!

Do you like this coriander?

I do not like it, RD Kerr.

Would you eat it here or there?

Would you eat it in soup with pear?

I would not eat it here or there.

I would not eat it in soup with pear.

Say!

Would you, could you in chimichurri?

Or maybe in a spicy curry?

I would not, could not in chimichurri.

And definitely not in a curry!

Would you, could you in a quiche?

In fish tacos on the beach?

Not in a quiche.

Not on the beach.

I do not like this coriander!

I do not like it, RD Kerr!

You do not like it.

SO you say.

Try it! Try it!

And you may.

Try it and you may I say.

RD Kerr!

If you let me be,

I will try it.

You will see.

.green-eggs-and-ham-happy-sam-2

Say!

I like this coriander!

I do!! I like it, RD Kerr!

And I would eat it in chimichurri.

And I would eat it in a curry.

I would eat it in a quiche

And in fish tacos on the beach.

It is so goodm so goodm you see!

So I will eat them here or there.

Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!

I do so like this coriander!

Thank you! Thank you, RD Kerr!