Category Archives: health

Sweet Potatoes are Gaining as Regular Potatoes are Losing Ground

U.S. sweet potato use per capita has increased significantly during the last decade and was estimated at nearly 7 pounds in 2012, up almost 50 percent over 2002 levels. People recognize the health benefits of fiber and many nutrients contained in sweet potatoes and, of course, sweet potato fries have become extremely popular.

According to the Univ. of Kentucky, “sweet potatoes gained some popularity as a ‘lower-carb potato’ in the early 2000’s, and high antioxidant levels in sweet potato skins and other health benefits contributed to consumption staying strong after the low-carb diet craze. Sweet potato consumption is highest among Americans over 60, and sweet potatoes may have special appeal to aging, health-conscious baby boomers.”


source: North Carolina Sweet Potatoes

U.S. Sweet Potato per capita consumption has been rising nicely:
4.2 pounds in 2000
5.2 pounds in 2009
6.3 pounds in 2010
7 pounds in 2012

As a comparison, American’s eat about 50 pounds per year of all types of potatoes, including processed and fresh baked.

Do you know where your sweet potatoes come from?

North Carolina has been the number one sweet producing state since 1971. According to NC Sweet Potatoes, “Its hot, moist climate and rich, fertile soil are ideal for cultivating sweet potatoes, averaging at nearly 50% of the U.S. supply. According to the USDA, North Carolina harvested nearly 50,000 acres of sweet potatoes in 2010, the same amount produced by California, Louisiana and Mississippi combined – also top producing states.”

Sweet potatoes were formerly thought of as a poor man’s food, but now are realized to be a nutrient lovers food. I like to put cubed sweet potatoes in Indian cooking dishes with other vegetables such as cauliflower over rice, or, in pasta.

One lady is even reported to have done a sweet potato diet. She claims to have lost 90 pounds while eating one sweet potato per day topped with cinnamon, along with other healthy foods.


References:

1. http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CDBREC/introsheets/sweetintro.pdf

2. http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/foodservice/Sweet-potato-consumption-on-the-rise-228037231.html

3. http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/sweet-potato-industry/

4. http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-humble-potato-falls-from-grace-1407867055

Can one Taste Help You Lose Weight? Perhaps.

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is telling us the chemical glutamate in food is the taste that makes us feel “full”.

Foods which may satiate us better, then, include meat, parmesan cheese, shiitake mushrooms, and… you guessed it… Marmite.

This “fullness” flavor is named umami by the Japanese, and means deliciousness. Expect to hear that word a lot more as people reach for the next magical weight loss solution.


To learn more, read Scientists identify the flavour that helps us eat less.

This Sugar Infographic is Timely Because of the Movie “Fed Up”

This infographic on sugar consumption in the United States is from OnlineNursingProgram.com and it is timely because of the release of the movie “Fed Up” – a movie about obesity and too much sugar in the average American diet.

Nursing Your Sweet Tooth

• Since 1990, sugar intake has increased by 40 pounds a year, and the obesity rate has increased by 20 percent.

• The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar a day. The average adult consumes 22 teaspoons, while the average child takes in 32 teaspoons.

• The average American will consume 3,500 pounds of sugar in his lifetime, or about 3 pounds a week. (That’s close to two tons of sugar in a lifetime.)

Also, sugar has been shown to be a major risk factor in cardiac disease.

Sugar is addictive. I can speak from personal experience. I eliminated it from my diet a few years ago and now I find that the less I have, the less I want. Please join me in eliminating simple sugars from your diet – if you haven’t already.

Finally, the trailer for the movie “Fed Up” is below:

Hardy Perennial Plant Suggestions for your Acreage or Small Farm

There is a very remarkable nursery in Northeastern Nebraska, near the farm where I grew up, called HH Wild Plums Inc. It was founded by the famous (but not as famous as he should be) horticulturalist plant finder, Harlan Hamernik. He passed away tragically in 2012, and I wrote up a brief tribute to him here.

Though Hamernik introduced many new plants to the gardeners across the U.S. over his lifetime, he focused in his later years on neutraceuticals, or, healthy edibles and medicinals, some of which were used by Native Plains Indians. Especially, this interest was from those sources which were in the form of perennials, shrubs, and trees – something the Midwest is not known for in our current day and age, but were key to the health of the nomadic tribes which preceded us.

Today, I interviewed Tammy Melcher of “HH Wild Plums” to get an update on this nursery which was founded by Harlan Hamernik for the purpose of promoting sales and the popularity of these hardy edible plants which he studied and discovered. She and plant propagator-grower, Lori Pfeifer, are instrumental in their small operation.

My impression of Harlan from personal experience, was that he was an incredibly intuitive plantsman, so readers, pay attention.

First, I asked Tammy to list five plants and a couple of trees that she would recommend to farmers/landowners who would like to incorporate edible or medicinal perennials into their farm, either as a hobby, or as a value-added crop or food product. Note that this list works in Nebraska, but most of these plants are extremely hardy and would grow well in much of the U.S., especially the Midwest and Upper Midwest.

Here is her list:
1. Aronia (8-10′ shrub)
2. Crandall’s Clove Currant (6×6′ shrub)
3. Redleaf Rose (7×7′ shrub)
4. Elderberry (7×7′ shrub)
5. Serviceberry (10×10′ shrub)
6. Tree: American Hazelnut (18′ tall)
7. Tree: Dwarf Chinkapin Oak (10-15′ tall)

There was no doubt that Tammy was most enthused about the Aronia plant which produces the common named “chokeberry”. She’d just returned from an Aronia conference in Omaha, and the awareness of this plant is catching on a bit, but, she said, “ninety percent of the public doesn’t know about it.” In general, the dark blue, purple and black berries contain high levels of antioxidants, making them superberries, or superfoods. We all know that blueberries are a superfood, but, according to Tammy, the Aronia berry contains three times the amount of antioxidants that blueberries do. (Note there is a current question about the benefits of antioxidants in this past year’s news and studies.) Indians used these berries as an ingredient in Pemmican. High tannin levels make these berries tart, thus the name “chokeberry”. The bright side of this is that birds tend to leave them alone, as opposed to other berries which you need to cover with netting, or pick before the birds do.

Incidentally, Tammy was not aware of sending Aronia plants to Colorado, and thought they would do very well here on the front range, so Colorado readers take note.

Three varieties of Aronia which Tammy recommends are Black Aronias: Aronia melanocarpa ‘Galicjanka’; Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’; and, Aronia melanocarpa ‘McKenzie’. ‘Galicjanka’ is a cultivar from Poland which tolerates drier soil conditions; ‘Viking’ is from Scandinavia and produces very large fruits; and, ‘McKenzie’ was produced at North Dakota State which has extra-large berries, and is drought and cold tolerant. These shrubs need chill hours so don’t grow in the South. They are drought tolerant once established, and they produce beautiful fall color.

Aronia berries are used in smoothies, salsas, jellies, breads and muffins, and for wine. A supplement form is available which uses a powder to create an extract. A company in Omaha, named “Superberries” owned by Kenny Sailors, uses Aronia berries to make products such as gummy chews, frozen berries, and concentrate. Also, according to Tammy, the Black Squirrel Winery in Council Bluffs, Iowa, makes a great wine using Aronia berries.

The next shrub on Tammy’s list is Crandall’s Clove Currant, or Ribes odoratum ‘Crandall’. This shrub also produces a black medicinal berry which is high in antioxidants and polyphenols. This grows in rich well-drained clay soil to plant hardiness zone 4.

The Redleaf rose is a beautiful hardy shrub rose producing a hip rich in Vitamin C. I have personally grown this in my yard and love the iridescent blue-green sheen to its leaves. If you grow it, as an added bonus you will occasionally have a volunteer pop up in your yard. Also, Rosa Pomifera, or the apple rose, is a good hardy choice which produces good fruit. One can make tea from the rose hips of either plant.

Elderberries, or Sambucus species, are another hardy shrub which produces a black berry that is high in Vitamin C and antioxidants. These grew wild when I was a child and I used to help my grandmother pick them to make jelly. I’ve personally picked them from road ditches to make a pretty darn good pie, if you don’t mind the seeds. Even better, you can make a combination berry pie such as elderberry-cherry. Elderberries grow across the U.S., but are less drought-tolerant.

The Serviceberry, or Amelanchier canadensis, produces large black berries that are loved by both humans and birds. They make delicious jams and pies. A good variety is alnifolia ‘Parkhill’ which is a dwarf.

Next, the two trees on Tammy’s list.

The American Hazlenut is formally named Corylus Americana. It is a small tree which produces an edible nut. It likes afternoon shade and requires two trees for nut production.

The Dwarf Chinkapin Oak is a great native shrub oak. By 3-4 years of age, it produces a nut which is valued by wildlife. These nut producers are about 15-18 feet tall, but can be trained shorter. Hamernik would collect this tree’s seeds from the wild, as is true of many of the plants which Wild Plums sells.

HH Wild Plums Inc. has a great catalogue online plus, they will be happy to send you a nice spiral bound hardcopy, such as the one I have lying next to my computer as I type this. There are many, many more varieties of trees and shrubs, along with unusual varieties of perennials, annuals, and vines available from their nursery.

If you have a favorite hardy native edible, please let us know about it in the comments.

Photo credit: Purple Aronia berries, by Konjica.

World Food Day: Eat and Act Like a Coloradan

Today is named “World Food Day” and numerous online and hard copy publishers have their version of a story about wiping out hunger, what is wrong with the food and agriculture system, and how to fix it.

This is becoming a well-worn story, now that everyone’s come to the realization that there is more than enough food in the world and that hunger stems from other problems such as political mismanagement, economics of individuals and individual nations, waste, storage, distribution, infrastructure deficiencies, requires regional solutions, and the like.

In addition, each day more and more NGOs and institutions announce that they’ve set out to solve the “how to feed the world in the future” problem, as their newly appointed goal, which, while this is a noble cause for those of us suffering of plenty, often the wheel just ends up getting reinvented.

So, I shall go against the mainstream approach to this Food Day 2013 by talking about obesity, which is equally unhealthy for humans.

Since obesity is the number one food problem in America and much of the world, my Boulderite version of World Food Day is to present a newly released book explaining why Coloradans are consistently the thinnest in the nation. The book, “State of Slim: Fix Your Metabolism and Drop 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks on the Colorado Diet” is by James O. Hill and Holly R. Wyatt.

It’s all about lifestyle, activity level, and exercise, says co-author, Dr. James Hill. Add a mind-set to eat healthily, and we’ve got a winning combination of daily values here in Colorado that really works.

The authors advocate adopting the Colorado lifestyle, which means doing physical activity 70 minutes a day, six days a week — for the rest of your life, far more than the CDC’s current recommendation of 150 minutes per week. This, they say, will reset your body’s metabolism.

Since I live in Boulder, and am typical in this lifestyle practice that he’s advocating, I say that this amount of exercise each week simply expends more calories than sitting, and promotes an emotionally healthy attitude which carries over to the way we eat. It’s an overall consistent value system. I also don’t see this amount of exercise or activity as being a punishment; it is one of the highlights of my day.

People living elsewhere who are thin have also adopted this same “Colorado” active lifestyle, the authors conclude.

Sometimes, it seems like media decries personal responsibility when it comes to obesity. While it is an undeniable problem that big-food knows how to create addictive foods rewarding our brains through using too much salt, fat, and sugar; and, food eaten away from home supplies way too many calories per portion, Hill’s book suggests that by adopting an active lifestyle the rest will follow; and, that there are no easy avenues to weight loss.

Unfortunately, the reality is, for those of us living in the industrialized world, to the great detriment of our health, we’ve engineered activity out of our daily lives. We must now work at engineering it back in, and that is my wish and hope for all of us on this “World Food Day.”