Take a Big Fat Break this Mardi Gras Because Carnival Means “So long” to Meat

– Meatless Monday campaign offers delicious recipes for the lean days ahead-

Mardi Gras, also called Carnival, celebrates the last day of indulgence before the start of the Lenten season. During Lent, millions of households will cut back on meat and other rich foods. Meatless Monday offers recipes with photos to help observers through the “lean” weeks of Lent and beyond. With the simplicity of Meatless Monday, reducing meat in our diets is easier than you think and the health benefits can be huge.

Newswise — For centuries, Mardi Gras – or Fat Tuesday, also called Carnival – has celebrated the last day of indulgence before the start of the Lenten season. During Lent, millions of households will cut back on meat and other rich foods during this period of purification. The word Carnival itself stems from the Latin carne vale, or “farewell to flesh.”

Today, there are more reasons than ever to take the occasional break from meat. Reducing the amount of meat in our diets can benefit our personal health, the environment and even our wallets. Meatless Monday, a public health initiative produced in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, advises foregoing meat just one day a week as one way to reap these benefits. “It’s easier than you think and the payoff can be huge,” says Robert Lawrence, MD, director of the Center for a Livable Future. “Eating less meat not only helps lower cholesterol and decrease cancer risks; it reduces your carbon footprint and helps conserve water. Plus, plant-based meals cost less, an added bonus during these economically tough times.”

Many Americans are heeding the call for a healthier diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that we will be eating about 12% less meat in 2012 than we did five years ago.

The simplicity of Meatless Monday has turned the initiative into a global movement. The campaign is now flourishing in 22 countries and counts among its followers such celebrities as film director James Cameron; co-host of ABC’s The Chew, chef Mario Batali; hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons; and former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney.

A poll conducted by FGI Research for The Monday Campaigns found that more than 50% of Americans were aware of the Meatless Monday movement, with 27% of those aware actively participating.

Meatless Monday offers hundreds of recipes in its online database to help observers through the “lean” weeks of Lent and beyond, including Smothered Mushrooms (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/smothered-mushrooms) and Spicy Rice with Kale (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/spicy-rice-with-kale).

Released: 1/25/2012          Source: The Monday Campaigns

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/take-a-big-fat-break-this-mardi-gras-because-carnival-means-so-long-to-meat

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To Turn Up the Heat in Chilies, Just Add Water!

Newswise — Biologists have learned in recent years that wild chilies develop their trademark pungency, or heat, as a defense against a fungus that could destroy their seeds. But that doesn’t explain why some chilies are hot and others are not.

New research provides an answer: Hot chilies growing in dry areas need more water to produce as many seeds as non-pungent plants, but the Fusarium fungus is less of a threat in dryer environments so chilies in those areas are less likely to turn up the heat. In wetter regions, where Fusarium thrives, wild chilies build up their reserves of spicy capsaicin in self-defense.

“Despite the reduced benefit of pungency in dry environments, hot plants still occur there, as does the deadly fungus. That suggests that the greater presence of non-pungent plants that produce substantially more seeds is the result of a fitness-based tradeoff,” said David Haak, lead author of a paper describing the research published Wednesday (Dec. 21) inProceedings of the Royal Society B. The Royal Society is the United Kingdom’s academy of science.

Haak, a post-doctoral researcher at Indiana University, conducted the research as part of his doctoral work at the University of Washington. Co-authors of the paper are Leslie McGinnis of the University of Michigan, who did the work while a UW undergraduate; Douglas Levey of the University of Florida and Joshua Tewksbury, a UW biology professor who leads the research group.

The scientists examined pungency differences by comparing the proportion of pungent plants with that of non-pungent plants in 12 populations of wild chilies in southeastern Bolivia along a 185-mile line that gradually progressed from a relatively dry region to a wetter region. They conducted plant censuses in focal populations five times between 2002 and 2009, and tagged plants in each census so they could determine new seedlings the next time.

They found that, starting in the dryer northeast part of the section, 15 to 20 percent of the plants had pungent fruit, and pungency increased along the line toward the wetter southwest, where they never found a single plant that did not produce pungent fruit.

They also selected three populations of chili plants that each produced both pungent and non-pungent fruit and spanned the range of rainfall and pungency differences. They then grew seeds from those plants in the UW Botany Greenhouse to examine what affect water availability had on pungency.

The 330 plants that resulted from those seeds were grown under identical conditions until they reached their first flowering, then were separated into two groups – one that received plenty of water and one that was stressed by receiving only the amount of water available to plants in the driest area of Bolivia from which seeds were taken.

The scientists found that under water-stressed conditions, non-pungent plants produced twice as many seeds as pungent plants. That suggests the pungent plants trade some level of fitness for protection from the Fusarium fungus, Haak said.

The researchers determined the pungent plants have developed a reduced efficiency in water use, so in dryer areas they produce fewer seeds and are more limited in reproduction. In wetter areas, non-pungent plants are at a reproductive disadvantage because they are much more likely to have their seeds attacked by the fungus.

“It surprised us to find that the tradeoff to produce capsaicin in pungent plants would involve this major physiological process of water-use efficiency,” Haak said.

He noted that over the entire range, 90 to 95 percent of the chili fruits had some level of fungal infection, and pungent plants were better able to defend themselves.

The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation; the National Geographic Society; Sigma Xi, the scientific research society; and the UW Department of Biology.

Released: 12/20/2011

Source: University of Washington

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/to-turn-up-the-heat-in-chilies-just-add-water

Fast-Food…..What The Doctor Orders

Order what the doctor orders at your favorite fast food place - Loyola physician and nutrition specialist helps you navigate the menu to order smart.

Newswise — Counting calories doesn’t have to end when facing a fast-food menu. Between shopping excursions to the mall, juggling school activities or taking long car trips, swinging into a convenient burger or taco joint doesn’t have to mean you are entering a nutritional wasteland. “The average american consumes close to 50% of his or her meals outside of the home and fast- food restaurants are abundant,” said Dr. Jessica Bartfield, internal medicine who specializes in nutrition and weight management at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System. “By following a few rules, you can keep any fast food meal in calorie check.”

Dr. Bartfield likes sandwich shops that allow customers to load up on vegetable toppings, which adds nutritional value, and also pass on higher-calorie ingredients like cheese and dressings. “I am also a fan of fast-food places that offer soup or even chili as soup can be a terrific option, particularly ones loaded with veggies, lean meats and beans,” she said. “Be careful to avoid the cream- or cheese-based soups and beware the bread bowl, which can increase the calories by up to 1,000.”

Dr. Bartfield’s Fast-Food Favorite Five:

1 – “Select grilled rather than fried. A fast-food grilled chicken sandwich has 470 calories and 18 grams of fat while the fried version has 750 calories and 45 grams of fat.”

2 – “Hold off on cheese, mayonnaise and salad dressings unless low-fat options are available. Cheese can add an additional 100 calories or more per serving, as does mayonnaise and, often, you won’t miss the taste when ordering the plainer versions.”

3 – “Order the smallest size available. Go for the single burger rather than the double and for the small fry rather than bonus-size.”

4 – “Skip sugar-sweetened drinks, which are usually absent in nutritional value and don’t make you feel more satisfied. These calories quickly add up leading to excessive calorie consumption, especially at restaurants offering free refills on drinks.”

“5 – Save half of your order for your next meal. You save calories, save time and also save money.”

Released: 12/14/2011

Source: Loyola University Health System

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/fast-food-picks-that-won-t-wreck-your-waistline

15 Ways To Go Green This Holiday Season

Newswise — The holiday season is traditionally a time of plenty, but it can also be a time of excess. The average American household generates 25 percent more trash during the holiday season. And who has never thrown away freezer-burnt leftovers because nobody got around to eating them? Add in all the energy use from extra travel and hospitality, and last six weeks of the year end up having quite an impact on our natural resources.

The Sustainability and Environment Management Office at Vanderbilt University has put together a list of 15 actions everyone can take to reduce holiday waste and make the season a little greener.

Food:
• Choose to serve meat and vegetables that are locally and sustainably grown.
• Consider serving less meat and more vegetables. Meat requires more resources to produce than veggies.
• Plan for fewer leftovers to minimize food waste.

Travel and entertaining
• Carpool, encourage guests to carpool, and offset the carbon footprint of any air travel at carbonfund.org, coolpass.com or e-bluehorizons.com.
• Turn your thermostat down when you are traveling or having a party—extra guests generate more heat.
• Send e-cards and e-vites or make holiday phone calls instead of mailing paper greetings and invitations.
• Use reusable, recyclable or recycled plates, napkins and utensils.
• Provide recycling containers for your guests. Recruit the kids to collect and sort items.

Decorating:
• Buy a live tree with a rootball and replant it after the holidays if you can. Or use your town’s tree chipper service to recycle your tree into mulch.
• Swap ornaments and decorations with friends instead of buying new ones.
• Decorate using items you already have or items that can be reused and enjoyed after your event, such as whole fruit, small plants, and herbs.
• Decorate with fewer lights—consider alternatives like popcorn strings.
• Put your holiday lights on a timer. If you buy lights, choose LED lights, which use less energy.

Gifts
• Consolidate shopping trips to save time, gas, and hassle and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
• Give gifts that require minimal packaging or wrapping—tickets, gift cards, antiques, charitable contributions or even just the gift of your time. Consider placing gifts in packaging that can be reused, such as baskets, bags, or fabric wrappers.

Released: 11/15/2011

Source: Vanderbilt University

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/15-ways-to-go-green-this-holiday-season

Move Over Vegetarians, Make Way for the Flexitarians

Newswise — CHICAGO- While the number of consumers who follow strict vegetarian or vegan diets in the U.S. is relatively small, research shows that the number of consumers who are reducing their consumption of animal-based products is on the rise.

These “occasional” vegetarians (also called flexitarians) can be categorized into two groups, semi-vegetarians and meat reducers. Semi-vegetarians follow a vegetarian diet part of the time, but still eat some meat and dairy products. Meat reducers are not trying to follow a vegetarian diet, but are just trying to reduce the amount of meat they eat. In the November 2011 issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Associate Editor Karen Nachay writes about how manufacturers are increasingly targeting these groups with better-tasting products, attractive packaging and product variety.

Due to the increasingly popular flexitarian lifestyle, large food manufacturers like Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, and others have acquired smaller vegetarian food producers or launched their own lines of vegetarian food products. Three-quarters of MorningStar Farms’ consumers are flexitarians; therefore the company is constantly developing new flavors and products that appeal to these consumers.

In the past, processed vegetarian burgers were bland and tough, and usually only die-hard vegetarians were the targeted consumers. There are an increasing number of people who are interested in eating healthier or want to reduce their meat intake without sacrificing taste. Whereas today, updates in processing technologies, food flavors and sauces are making it possible for vegetarian food manufacturers to create foods with more meat-like textures, better flavor and convenience that are more appealing to flexitarian consumers.

Up until recently, soy and wheat protein were the main proteins used in vegetarian meal options. But today with so many people having soy and wheat protein allergies, vegetable protein, from sources such as peas, are being used. Beans and chickpeas are especially popular in vegetarian restaurant items as well.

Released: 11/16/2011

Source: Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/move-over-vegetarians-make-way-for-the-flexitarians

Allergists Report That Wine May Please the Palate but Not the Immune System

Alcohol, smoking can trigger reactions or make allergies worse, allergists say

Newswise — BOSTON— While the health benefits of drinking wine in moderation continue to make news, for some with allergies even a glass a day may be difficult to swallow. At the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Boston, Nov. 3-8, allergists share the latest buzz on allergies to alcohol and tobacco.

“Although it’s rare, allergies to alcohol can cause symptoms such as red, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, upset stomach and difficulty breathing,” said allergist Sami Bahna, MD, ACAAI past president, and chief of Allergy and Immunology at Louisiana State University Medical School in Shreveport. “In most cases, simply understanding what triggers the allergic reaction will help the person find an alternative drink to enjoy.”

Reactions can be triggered by naturally occurring ingredients in beer and wine, including barley, ethanol, grapes, histamine, hops, malt, oats, tryptamine, tyramine, wheat, and yeast. Other potential allergens may be introduced to beer and wine during processing, including egg whites, which are sometimes used as a filtering agent, and sulfites, which occur naturally in wine but also may be added as a preservative.

Allergic reactions to alcohol can produce minor symptoms such as rash, or life-threatening reactions including asthma attacks and anaphylaxis. In his presentation, Dr. Bahna discusses case studies of patients who experience symptoms of asthma and anaphylaxis after drinking wine or beer. He points out that wine, particularly red wine, contains chemicals called tyramines that commonly cause headache.

“Individuals can be allergic to the alcohol itself or an added ingredient, but even when people are not allergic, they may not realize that alcohol can worsen existing allergy symptoms, particularly food allergies,” Dr. Bahna added.

Similar to diagnosing a food allergy, Dr. Bahna explains, once an allergist helps someone pinpoint which allergens are causing a reaction, simply avoiding the beverage is the best solution.

Dr. Bahna also shared research related to tobacco smoke and its effect on allergic disease. While it may seem like common sense that tobacco smoke as a strong irritant worsens asthma, it can also affect seasonal allergy sufferers. Studies show that exposure to smoke can enhance sensitivity to airborne substances like pollen and mold spores, which wreak havoc during spring and fall allergy seasons each year.

“The health risks of tobacco smoke are widespread whether your exposure is a result of active smoking, passive exposure through second-hand smoke, or indirect exposure from pregnant mother to her unborn child,” said Dr. Bahna. “People with allergies and asthma should be especially careful to avoid any exposure to tobacco smoke.”

Studies show that tobacco smoke:

• enhances sensitivity to airborne substances like pollen or spores
• increases bronchial sensitivity to specific irritants
• paves the way to the development of asthma
• worsens asthma
• increases the risk of developing COPD
• increases the risk of emphysema and lung cancer.

Allergists have the training and expertise to treat more than just the allergy symptoms. Those who suspect they have reactions to alcohol, food, or tobacco should be evaluated by an allergist—a doctor who is an expert in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma. To learn about allergies and asthma, take a free relief self-test or find an allergist near you visit http://www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.

Released: 10/26/2011

Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/wine-may-please-the-palate-but-not-the-immune-system-alcohol-smoking-can-trigger-reactions-or-make-allergies-worse-allergists-say-alcohol-smoking-can-trigger-reactions-or-make-allergies-worse-allergists-say

 


Low Vitamin B12 Levels May Lead to Brain Shrinkage, Cognitive Problems

Newswise — ST. PAUL, Minn. – Older people with low levels of vitamin B12 in their blood may be more likely to lose brain cells and develop problems with their thinking skills, according to a study published in the September 27, 2011, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Foods that come from animals, including fish, meat, especially liver, milk, eggs and poultry, are usually sources of vitamin B12.

The study involved 121 people age 65 and older living on the south side of Chicago. Their blood was drawn to measure levels of vitamin B12 and B12-related metabolites that can indicate a B12 deficiency. The participants also took tests measuring their memory and other cognitive skills. An average of four-and-a-half years later, MRI scans of the participants’ brains were taken to measure total brain volume and look for other signs of brain damage.

Having high levels of four of five markers for vitamin B12 deficiency was associated with having lower scores on the cognitive tests and smaller total brain volume.

“Our findings definitely deserve further examination,” said study author Christine C. Tangney, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “It’s too early to say whether increasing vitamin B12 levels in older people through diet or supplements could prevent these problems, but it is an interesting question to explore. Findings from a British trial with B vitamin supplementation are also supportive of these outcomes.”

On the cognitive tests, the scores ranged from -2.18 to 1.42, with an average of 0.23. For each increase of one micromole per liter of homocysteine—one of the markers of B12—the cognitive scores decreased by 0.03 standardized units or points.

Tangney noted that the level of vitamin B12 itself in the blood was not associated with cognitive problems or loss in brain volume. She said that low vitamin B12 can be difficult to detect in older people when looking only at blood levels of the vitamin.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 24,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Released: 9/20/2011      Source: The American Academy of Neurology

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/low-vitamin-b12-levels-may-lead-to-brain-shrinkage-cognitive-problems2

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