Friday, November 29, 2013

Foods Rich in Antioxidants That Can Prevent Cancer


Since my mission is to use this blog to share with everyone not only what I happen to know about cooking in general -- but also how our choices of food can help us to be healthier, and even live longer-- I have been spending a lot of time trying to find out more about the negative and positive consequences of eating certain foods. In one of my research, surprisingly, this is what I have discovered about the formation of cancers and the foods that can really help to prevent these most feared diseases from forming, or even taking over our bodies!

Although researchers believe consuming food rich in antioxidants, vitamins and mineral (selenium) can help to protect the body from oxygen free radicals. In this article, I will be focusing only on antioxidants and its mechanisms of action in cancer prevention.

We will first look at the “bad guys” known as Free Radicals ( the guys to be blamed for cancers). We will then look at “good guys” called Antioxidants (some of the main guys known for defeating these “bad guys”), and the usual strategies used to defeat them. Finally, you will be provided with some examples of foods rich in antioxidants.

What are Free Radicals?

During metabolism most of the oxygen in the human body in converted into stable forms of carbon dioxide and water.  However, a small percentage usually ends up in an unstable form known as oxygen free radicals, which are thought to attack and damage the cell membrane and DNA, leading to the formation of cancers.

What Are Antioxidants?

They are cancer fighting agents

How Do Antioxidants Work?
Antioxidants absorb free radicals before they can cause damage, and they also interrupt the sequence of reactions once damage has begun.

What are Some Good Sources of Antioxidants?

1. Polyphenols - potent cancer-fighting antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables, many grains, and green tea. The antioxidant effect of one of the polyphenols in green tea, epigallocatechin  gallate, or EGCG, is believed to be at least 25 times more effective than vitamin E and 100 times more effective than vitamin C at protecting cells and the DNA from free radical damage that may result in diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and other. It has been said that EGCG is twice as strong as the red wine antioxidants resveratrol that helps prevent heart disease.

Polyphenols are known to do the following:

  • Block the formation nitrosamines and quell the activation of carcinogens(substance that helps to cause cancer) 
  • Turn off the formation of cancer cells 
  • Increase the body’s natural detoxification defenses and thereby retarding the progression of the disease.

2.  Green Tea
Research findings have led some scientists to believe that green tea might be especially helpful in preventing gastrointestinal cancers, including those of the stomach, small intestines, pancreas, and colon. Consumption of green tea also has been linked to a lower incidence of lung, esophageal, and estrogen-related cancers, including most breast cancers. Based on research, in Japan, for example, although people were found to smoke twice as much as people in the U.S, the incidence of lung cancer is surprisingly 50% less than that of the United States. Researchers believe this is due to the fact that the Japanese drink green tea more regular, compared to people in the U.S. For the prevention of cancer, it’s recommended that you drink two or more cups of green tea daily.

3. Phytochemicals
These chemicals are found in abundance in fruits and vegetables. It’s believed that they do exert a remarkably strong effect in cancer prevention by blocking the formation of cancerous tumors and disrupting the process at almost every step of the way.




Video Tags: Phytochemicals, Cancer, Destroy Cancer Cells, Foods, Fight Cancer

Phytochemicals are believed to exert their protective action by:-
  • Removing cancer-causing agents from cells before they cause damage
  • Activating enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing agents
  • Keeping carcinogens from binding onto cells
  • Preventing carcinogens from binding to DNA
  • Disassembling cancer-causing precursors to non-cancerous forms
  • Disrupting the chemical structure of cell molecules that can produce carcinogens
  • Depriving small tumors of oxygen and nutrients by preventing them from accessing small blood vessels



Table below provides a list of Phytochemicals, food you can obtain these from, and their effects.


























Source:Werner W.K.Hoeger et al, Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness, 6th ed.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Poor Food Handling May Lead to Bacillus Cereus Illnesses

Bacillus Cereus is among some of the many species of bacteria that usually lurked around our home kitchens and other food handling or food preparation environment. Because this bacterium can cause severe illnesses, it’s of paramount importance that we know what steps to follow when we are handling foods. In this post, we will be particularly looking at the following:

  • Source of this bacterium
  • Illnesses this genus usually cause 
  • Signs and symptoms of these illnesses
  • Recommended (USDA) primary & secondary medical interventions 
  • Recommended temperatures that hot and cold foods should be kept


Bacillus Cereus 
The bacterium Bacillus cereus, otherwise refer to as B. cereus is a genus usually found in foods. It tends to multiply rapidly at room temperature, and produces toxins that can cause several illnesses.

Sources
Foods that have sat out for an extended period of time at room temperature, in particularly rice and other leftovers are usually one of the main sources of this bacterium. Sauces, soups, and other prepared foods, can also harbor its growth, if they have sat out for too long at room temperature. Thus, prompt refrigeration or maintaining leftovers and other prepared food at the recommended temperature is extremely important.

Two Known types of illness Cause By B. Cereus
1. Diarrheal: characterized by diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 6-
   15 hours.
2. Emetic toxin: characterized by nausea and vomiting with 30 minutes –      
    6 hours.

Immediate Response To Signs and Symptoms
A person who has been experiencing constant or prolong diarrhea and vomiting secondary to consuming toxin produce by Bacillus cereus can become dehydrated very quickly. Thus, it’s very important that he/she tries to re-hydrate himself or herself as quickly as possible, by returning sufficient fluids to the body to compensate for that amount lost. If not, this can lead to a loss of electrolytes, sodium in particular, and an overall disruption of metabolic process.
Based on the advice provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one should drink plenty of fluids and get enough rest. However, if you are unable to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration, you should seek medical attentions immediately.

Food Handling Recommendation
To reduce the risk of becoming ill from Bacillus cereus, hot foods should be kept hot (above 140°F). Similarly, cold foods, should be kept cold (40°F or below). Cooked foods should be stored in a wide, shallow container and refrigerate as soon as possible. It’s best to refrigerate all leftovers within 2hrs.

Conclusion
Bacteria in general, are not visible to the naked eyes; Usually, they can only be seen under a microscope. As a result, there’s no way for us to tell whether or not they are sitting in foods we are about to consume. In fact, if this was the case, we could easily avoid becoming ill from Bacillus cereus.

Often, it’s only after we have gotten ill from eating a bacterium infested meal that we have become aware of the fact that they were indeed present in our foods. For this reason, we should always try to practice safe food handling techniques, but more importantly, try our uttermost best to follow all the recommended precautionary measures provided by the USDA and other food safety related agencies.






Friday, November 1, 2013

The Butter - Margarine Debate --- Which is Really Healthier?

Many people have been switching to using margarine as opposed to butter as a way to reduce their intake of saturated fats. Now researchers are questioning how really healthy a choice is margarine, even though it has far less saturated fat than butter.


A Comparison of Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

To read, open image in a new window  

Butter versus Margarine
Based on findings, the distinguishing characteristic between margarine and butter is not the caloric content, as they are about equal, but the composition of their fatty acids. About 62% of the fatty acids in the butter are saturated compared with 20% in margarine. During the manufacturer of margarine and some other vegetable shortenings, unsaturated corn, soybean, or sunflower oil is partially hydrogenated---a process called hydrogenation wherein hydrogen is added to the oil.

This causes the chemical structure of the original polyunsaturated oil to be arranged to a liquid not found in nature that is more hardened (saturated) but not as hard as butter. When one of the hydrogen atom along the carbon chain moves from its naturally occurring position(cis position) to the opposite side of the double bond that separates two carbon atoms (trans position), the restructured fatty acid is referred to as a trans unsaturated fatty acid. From 17 to 25% of the fatty acids in margarine are trans unsaturated fatty acids, compared with only 7% in butter fat.

The fact that margarine is made from vegetable oil, it contains no cholesterol; butter, on the other hand, is made from a dairy source and contains between 11 to 15 mg of cholesterol per teaspoon. The current controversy over margarine versus butter centers on the possible detrimental health effects of trans, unsaturated fatty acids. A diet high in margarine and other foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils increases LDL cholesterol concentration to about same degree as a diet high in saturated fat. Unlike saturated fats, however, they also decrease the concentration of the beneficial HDL cholesterol. Scientists estimate that the dietary trans unsaturated fatty acids do contribute to increased risk for heart disease.

Conclusion
Since there seems to be a controversy over whether a diet high in margarine can increase LDL cholesterol to approximately the same degree as a diet high in saturated fat, and that it may also cause a reduction of good (HDL) cholesterol, the best advice here is to use margarine in moderation. Better yet, instead of using butter or margarine, you can use olive oil to lightly sprinkle your toast and vegetable oil to cook or bake. You may also baste roasted food with tomato juice, pureed vegetables or fruits, in place of oil.


Chemical Structure of Saturated and Unsaturated Fats


Monday, October 28, 2013

Diverticula and Colon Cancer - Due to Insufficient Dietary Fiber

It’s a fact that diseases or illnesses of the large intestine such as colon cancer and diverticula can be caused by a diet low in fiber. For this reason, we shouldn’t be consuming foods just to satisfy our hunger, but also to prevent the risk of both illnesses. If you have the tendency to eat a lot of processed or refined foods for example, you should be aware that when foods are processed or refined, almost all of the natural fiber are removed. However, one dietary approach that we can take to reduce the risk of diverticula and colon cancer, is to incorporate sufficient dietary fiber in our daily diets.

What is Dietary Fiber
Fiber is a form of complex carbohydrate. A high fiber diet gives a person a feeling of fullness without added calories. Food rich in fiber includes starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grain breads, and cereals,  Because dietary fiber cannot be broken down by human digestive enzymes, it passes down the intestinal tract and adds bulk to the stool which helps us to move our bowels. During the digestive process, it binds water  --- producing softer, bulkier stools, and aids in a more rapid movement of waste materials through the intestines. Thus, it plays an exceptional role in the digestive system.  It’s quite normal for individuals who frequently consume a diet rich in fiber to experience easy bowel movements.

Diverticula 
If a person’s diet is low in fiber, during digestion, there won’t be enough fiber to bind water; hence the stools will be hard. The formation of hard stools can create extra squeezing work for the large intestine. Over time, this excessive amount of squeezing can weaken the walls of the large intestine, leading to diverticula. Most typically this occurs in the descending colon (which lies on the left side of the body). Diverticula can sometimes lead to lower GI bleeding and/or pain, classically in left lower quadrant(diverticulosis). Diverticula can also become inflamed (diverticulitis)

Because the bladder is located next to the descending colon, in severe diverticulosis, the diverticula can rapture and adhere to the bladder, even creating a communication between the two. This colovesical fistula can cause pneumaturia (air in the urine) and fecaluria ( feces in the urine).

Colon Cancer
Studies show that cancer of the large bowel (colon cancer) is very common in economically developed countries such as the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. On the contrary, colon cancer is relatively rare in less developed areas of Africa, where the diet is usually lower in fat and animal protein, and consists of high-fiber, unprocessed plant foods.

Although the recommended amount of fiber intake is about 25 to 30 grams per day. Most people in the United States eat only 10 to 12 grams of fiber daily. Simply increasing your daily intake of  fiber, or in other words, eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and cereals daily, can significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer, diverticulitis, and even breast cancer.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cancer - The Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous Vegetables
Patients undergoing Radiation therapy for cancer have not only known to frequently experience damage of healthy tissues but also several other side effects. However, based on a most recent study featured in an academic journal, dated 10/16/13, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli is believed to contain an anti-cancerous compound that is able to  protect healthy tissues from radiation damage or decrease the side effects often observed in cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

According to this group of researchers, this anti-cancer compound which has first proven to protect rodents from lethal doses of radiation has already shown to be safe in humans also. This compound they call “DIM” has been studied as a cancer prevention agent for many years, but this is the first indication that it can also act as a guard against radiation.

The typical side effects observe in cancer patients who have received radiation therapy, are usually a reduction of :- red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets. However, these scientists also found that mice treated with this anti-cancer compound have shown less loss of the above blood cells and platelets

A few years ago, another compound was also discovered in cruciferous vegetables that allegedly improves DNA repair in cells, which in turn helps prevent them from becoming cancerous.

Definition of Cruciferous Plants
Cruciferous plants are those that produce cross-shaped leaves. Other cruciferous vegetables not mentioned above include Brussels sprouts, and Kohlrabi. They have long shown to contain phytochemicals that appears to exert a powerful effect in preventing cancer by blocking the formation of cancerous tumors and disrupting the process at almost every step of the way. Although the recommended daily consumption of fruits and vegetables is 5-9 servings, many of us have not been eating this amount of fruits and vegetables --- especially Cruciferous vegetables --- on a daily basis

As you can see cruciferous vegetables not only can help to protect cancer patients against the damage of healthy tissues and other side effects of radiation therapy, they also play a very important role in reducing the risk of developing cancer.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Foods That Can Cause Spontaneous Abortion

Being malnourished alone during pregnancy, doesn't lead to spontaneous abortions, premature births, or cause women to lose their babies shortly after birth. In fact, teratogens, lifestyles, consuming the wrong foods or too much of certain foods are all responsible.

The Effects of Malnutrition

In countries ravaged by famine or war, for example, such as Somalia or Rwanda, the effects of malnutrition on child development are obvious. There are usually high rates of miscarriage and failure to thrive. Even in developed societies such as the U.S, a small percentage of all live births have shown indications of fetal malnutrition.  Researchers believe most fetal malnutrition, however, occur in low-income families, simply because during pregnancy, these often economic disadvantaged women cannot afford the right nutrition --- specifically, a balanced diet rich in protein and calcium. In this post however, we will be focusing primarily on some of the foods that are known to cause spontaneous abortion.

A Balance Diet is Important
To minimize the risk of spontaneous abortion, a balance diet is very important. However, it’s equally important that pregnant women also know exactly what foods to avoid.

Foods to Avoid
Excess Vitamins
Ingesting excess amounts of vitamin A, which can become toxic, is not good for the health of a fetus, especially during certain critical stages of development.

Fish
Fish with mercury exposure, such as sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish and others, should be avoided. Even though canned, chunk light tuna has shown to have a lower level of mercury, it still should be eaten in moderation, as it increases the risk of spontaneous abortion.

Other Foods to Avoid
 Any blood borne pathogen that has the ability to cross the placenta may infect an unborn baby. Deli meats for example, have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which has the ability to cross the placenta leading to the infection of a fetus and consequently a miscarriage. It’s therefore recommended that all Deli meats should be reheated to a safe temperature, before eaten (If you are pregnant).


What is Listeriosis
Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium found in soil and water. It can be found on vegetables, meats, and dairy products, as well as in processed foods such as soft cheeses and in cold cuts. Thus, it’s best to always wash all vegetables, avoid unpasteurized dairy products, soft cheeses, and cold cuts; and cook meats to recommended safe minimal internal temperatures, should you ever become pregnant.

Toxoplasmosis
Fetal Toxoplasmosis, caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, can also cause spontaneous abortion if a pregnant woman passes toxoplasmosis on to her fetus. You might ask yourself the question, how will this parasite be able to find its way into her body in the first place? Well, the explanation is simple --- If a pregnant woman unconsciously or accidentally places her hands in her mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat’s litter box, or touching anything that has been exposed to cat‘s feces, she can introduce the eggs of this parasite into her body.

There are other foods that can cause miscarriages such as some fish used in sushi bars, raw shell fish, raw eggs and more. Since restaurants don't usually cook or prepare separate dishes for pregnant women, you have to be careful with your selection of food whenever you dine out, or it's best that you try to prepare your own meals.

One final word of advice, because pregnant women usually experience changes in metabolism and circulation which may increase the risk of food poisoning, infections and consequently spontaneous abortion, they should make it their duties to do their own research, just to confirm the following information shared above, and have their health care providers further validate it.















Friday, October 4, 2013

Protecting Yourself From One of the Most Common Food Bugs

For decades, food poisoning has been a common occurrence globally. In the U.S. alone --- based on data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) --- during January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010, there were 1,527 foodborne disease outbreaks resulting in 29,444 cases of illness, 1,184 hospitalizations, and 23 deaths. Of the 790 outbreaks with a laboratory-confirmed illness, norovirus was found to be the most commonly reported infection outbreaks, followed by Salmonella.

What is Solmonella
Salmonella, is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. It is usually caused by foods such as contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables such as alfalfa sprouts and melons. Other sources include spices, and nuts. Usually, symptoms last for a few days and most people are able to recover without treatment. However, Salmonella can cause more serious illness in older adults, infants, and persons with chronic diseases.

Victims of Salmonella poisoning often experience symptoms ranging from diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting and others, which can last anywhere From 4-7 days. If for some reasons you are unable to receive immediate medical attention, the advice is that you drink plenty of fluids and get enough rest. Fluids will help to prevent dehydration secondary to diarrhea. If your symptoms prevail or are severe, try to see a doctor as soon as possible.

How to Protect Yourself Against Solmonella
You can protect yourself from becoming a victim of Solmonella food poisoning by following the USDA's, CDC's and other related agencies' recommended cooking and pasteurization precautions. One of such recommendations is that, you should avoid eating high-risk foods, such as raw or lightly cooked eggs, undercooked ground beef or poultry, and do not drink milk, unless it’s pasteurized.

Nine Tips On Protecting Yourself from Solmonella
Make sure you practice these few food preparation, storage, and food handling techniques below at all times:

  • Food should be always kept refrigerated at the correct temperature at all times, prior to cooking.
  • Always wash your hands (including between fingers) thoroughly with soap and warm water at all times, prior to handling food.
·        Sanitize all cutting boards and other surfaces used for preparing food before using them.
·        Store cooked and ready-to-eat foods separately.
·        Raw meats and other uncooked foods should not be stored above cooked foods.
·        Wash all knives and other utensils that were used on raw foods thoroughly, before using them on cooked foods.
·        Cooked foods should not be placed on plates where raw foods once were, not before these plates are washed or properly sanitized.
·        Practice using a meat thermometer to test foods to make sure they are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
·        Foods should be chilled promptly after serving and also when transporting from one place to another.
·        If you come in contact with animals, their food/treats, or their living environment, you should wash your hands properly with soaps and warm water before preparing foods for humans.

Whether you are working as a chef in a restaurant/food industry or just cook for family and yourself, if you at least follow the above food handling precautions, you can help to prevent those you prepare meals for and also yourself, from becoming ill from Solmonella -- one of the most common bugs that causes food poisoning in the United States.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cooking - Common Terminologies Used

There are several common terms often used in cooking. The goal of this post is to  provide you with a few of these terms along with their definitions: 

Smoking
Smoking is cooking food indirectly in the presence of a fire. This is done much more slowly than grilling, so meats that are less tender benefit more from this method. Below are two different ways you can smoke meats:

  1. 1. This  can be done in a covered grill with a pan of water placed beneath the meat or poultry on the grill. This method allows a natural smoke flavor to permeate the meat.
  2. You may use a "smoker," which is an outdoor cooker especially designed for smoking foods. The temperature in the smoker should be kept at 250 to 300 °F for safety. 
Pit Roasting 
This is a technique used to cook meat in a large, level hole dug in the earth. A hardwood fire is built in the pit, with wood about 2½ times the volume of the pit. The fire is allowed to burn until it reduces to burning coals that usually fills the pit half-way. It can take up 4 to 6 hours for the hardwood to reduce to coals.

Although  it usually takes anywhere from 10 to 12 hours for the meat to be cooked, it’s not always easy to estimate the time, due to factors such as the outdoor temperature at the time of roasting, the size and thickness of the meat, the toughness of the meat, and how fast the coals are burning. A whole pig for example, would take more time than one half of a pig. For these reasons, a food thermometer is essential to determine the meat's internal temperature for doneness and safety.

 Grilling
To cook food by directly exposing it to an open flame or a hot metal surface is referred to as grilling.

Marinating
A marinade is a prepared savory sauce (a blend of different herbs and seasonings) in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. Foods are to be marinated only in the refrigerator, not on the counter or anywhere else.

Braising
This refers to a technique used for roasting or simmering less-tender meats. The meat is placed in a tightly covered pan with a small amount of liquid and is allowed to roast or simmer.

Brown
A small amount of grease or oil is heated in a skillet or pan and the food is added to it. The meat -- or whatever the food is -- is allowed to cook on both sides until brown in color. Browning adds not only texture but also flavor to the dish.

Broil 
To broil something is to cook it using the direct dry heat source of your oven. You may also use a broiler pan.  Commonly broiled food includes, lamb, steak, fish, chicken etc, or in other words meats, poultry and fish in general. However, some people broil fruits and vegetables also.

Boil
This means to cook foods in liquid or water over a fire. For example, boiling eggs, pasta, etc.

Bake
To bake means to cook food using dry heat usually inside an oven. In some cultures, slow burning fire coals are placed on top and also at the bottom of the baking container.






How to Prepare Healthier Meals

In order for anyone to prepare healthy meals they have to first know what are some healthy foods, where and how to shop for healthy foods, then finally, how to prepare healthy foods. The reason for saying this is simply because even though you might purchase the healthiest food items, such as a potato, it can be made unhealthy after it has been baked, by adding things to it, such as sour cream, butter etc.

How to Shop Healthier
Have you ever taken the time to look at the way food items are usually arranged in most supermarkets? If you haven’t, this is how they are arranged most of the times:- When you enter a supermarket, the first thing you will notice is that there are several rows of canned, frozen, and packaged goods. These products are usually stocked in the center of the store.

What you will find along the walls are foods that have not been highly processed such as meats, poultry, and fish; vegetables and fruits; and milk and dairy products.  Today, more and more supermarkets are adding salad bars, that are also located close to the walls. Unlike the foods located in the center of the store that generally have a much longer shelf life, food items close to the walls not only have a rapid turnover rate, they also required careful handling and refrigeration.

The question is now, how can this help you to shop healthier? Well, the answer is simple; all you have to do to shop along the walls for those foods that have higher nutritional value.  The reason they tend to be more nutritious is simply because they have undergone minimal processing. After you have done this, you may shop throughout the store to find just a few more processed foods that may needed to complement a healthy diet.

Tips on How to Prepare Healthier Meals
·        Prepare as much unprocessed food as possible
·        Bake, steam, or broil food as opposed to frying
·        Rather than using oil or butter, baste roasted food with tomato juice, fruit juices or broth
·        Have a variety of colors on the plate --- green (spinach), red (pepper), yellow (corn), black (beans), brown (bread), beige (chicken), white (rice). This helps assure that there is a full range of nutrients in the meal. This is also a way of guaranteeing that you at least have a wide range of vegetables.

Since most of us have taught ourselves to cook, I know for sure that you don’t have to be a professional cook in order to cook like one, or to cook healthy. In fact, most of the times, all it takes is just for you to be aware of the food items that are healthier or more nutritious. Once you have healthier food items in your pantry or kitchen, as opposed to unhealthy foods, you will be more inclined to cook healthier --- so learn how to shop smarter. Finally, take the time to prepare your meal the right way.   


Friday, September 27, 2013

Grilling – How Safe is it?

In the U.S. grilling is one popular method of preparing  food, especially meat, during the summer time. In fact, today, there is hardly a home without a grill or two. However, grilling over high open flame for too long allegedly  increases the risk of cancer.

Why Grilling Might be Unsafe

According to some researchers, there may be a cancer risk related to consuming food cooked by high-heat source techniques --- such as pan-frying or grilling directly over an open flame --- for too long (especially above 300 °F). They believe that chemicals formed when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugars, and creatine (a substance found in muscle meat) react at high temperatures, these chemicals then drip on the charcoal causing flare-up of flames. These flames containing these chemical then adhere to the surface of the meat.  

How to Play it Safe

Based on present research findings however, eating moderate amounts of grilled meats for example, fish, meat, and poultry that are cooked to a safe temperature does not pose a problem, as long as they are not charred. Below is a list of safe internal temperatures recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).





 SAFE MINIMUM INTERNAL TEMPERATURES
Whole poultry: 165 °F
Poultry breasts: 165 °F
Ground poultry: 165 °F
Ground meats: 160 °F
Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 °F and allow to rest at least 3 minutes.

How to Prevent Charring of Meats

To prevent charring, prior to grilling you should always remove all visible fat that can cause a flare-up of flame. You can also precook meat in a microwave, oven or on stove top immediately before placing it on the grill. Not only will this help to reduce cooking time, this approach also helps to release some of this carcinogenic chemicals formed in the inner portion of the meat that usually drop on the hot coals and cause high flames to flare-up.

Although we are still not sure as to what percentage of this carcinogenic substance ( substance formed  when heat reacts with the muscle cells of meat), we have to consume before it can actually leads to cancer. It's still better to start taking all precautionary measures now--- Don't wait until it's too late! As the old saying goes, "Prevention is better than cure."

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cancer - Blame it on Our Diet

When we prepare our meals, we shouldn’t only prepare food just to satisfy our hunger. We should also try as much as possible to select food items that are very nutritious and can help to reduce the risk of certain illnesses, such as  diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other.  Because cancer is by far the most deadly of all illnesses mentioned above, it’s of paramount importance that we fully grasp the co-relations between nutrition and cancer, and the actions we can take to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of this illness.

Fighting Cancer
No doubt that the most effective approach in the fight against cancer is health education, such as educating ourselves on the importance of negative lifestyle modifications. Since nutrition is believed to be one of the primary causes of cancer, in this post we will be focusing mainly on a few recommended dietary changes that can help tremendously to minimize the likelihood of developing cancer.

Recommended Dietary Changes
The American Cancer society believes that approximately one-third of all cancers in the United States are related to nutrition. It suffices to say that a healthy diet can truly play an important role in reducing the risk for cancer.  Based on RDA(required dietary allowances) recommendation, the diet should be low in fat (particularly from animal sources), high in fiber, and include a substantial amount of foods from plant sources. Protein intake should be limited to the RDA guidelines, and the daily consumption of cruciferous vegetables, fruits, and green tea are also encouraged. Alcohol should only be consumed in moderation.

As far as fat, fibers, proteins, fruits, and vegetables are concerned, let’s take a closer look at the RDA recommendations and the reasons we should limit the intake of the above groups of food within the specified guidelines.

Fat

1Total fat intake should be limited to less than 20% of total daily calories.
Why?

  •  High fat intake has been linked primarily to breast, colon, and prostate cancers.

Fiber

 2. Consume at least 2.5 grams of fiber daily.
Why?

  • Low intake of fiber seems to increase the risk for colon cancer.
  •  Fibers seem to decrease the risk for colon cancer

What is one good source of  fiber?
Example: Grains

Why?

  • Grains are high in fiber and contain vitamins and minerals (folate, selenium, and calcium), which seem to decrease the risk for colon cancer.

Proteins

3.  Eat 2-3 Servings of Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs & Nuts Daily

  • Researchers believe that too much animal protein seems to decrease blood enzymes that prevent precancerous cells from developing into tumors.

Fruits & Vegetables

4. It’s Also Recommended That You Consume 5-9 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Daily. The Following Should be Included:

Fresh fruits such as ( pineapples, strawberries, blueberries) and more
Green and Dark Yellow Vegetables
Cruciferous Vegetables (Cauliflower, broccoli, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, and Kohlrabi)

       Why?

  • Vegetables contain a lot of beta-carotene ( a precursor to vitamin A) and vitamin C.
  • Most fruits and vegetables prevents cancer-causing hormones from locking onto cells.














Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tips on Selecting Healthier Foods

You shouldn’t only learn how to cook; you should also know what food to cook --- more importantly, what food items you should prepare based on their nutritional value.

Selecting foods based on their nutritional value can be a rather tough task, primarily because of two reasons. First, there are many food items out there to choose from, and of course the prices do vary. Secondly, the nutrients differ from one food item to another. Despite this sometimes daunting and time consuming task, shoppers should always make sure they get the best nutritional value for their money, not just a bargain.

When you are trying to decide on which supermarket you should shop, you should ask yourself this simple, yet very important question: Will I be able to get the best quality fruits, vegetables, and meats and a wide selection of foods? No doubt, this question should be sufficient to help you with your final decision.  

Last but not least, if you have a clear understanding or meaning of a few key terms, this can also help to make your food selection much easier. Once you are able to select the right food, ultimately, you will be able to make your diet healthier.  Below are several important terms you should know when shopping for food items:

Processed Food
·        Food cooked, frozen, or otherwise treated to preserve it for a period of time or to improve its taste
·        Often many of the nutrients, such as vitamins, normally found in foods are destroyed

Vitamin Enriched Food
·        Food prepared in attempt to make up for the vitamins that are destroyed when food are processed 
·        On occasion it contains supplement vitamins, or in other words, vitamins that are not naturally found in the food

Organically Grown Food  
·        Grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers
·        Not much difference if any at all in the nutritional value, when compared to the inorganically grown food, but is free of additives and certain contaminants

Fat-Free Food
·        Must contain less than half a gram of fat per serving in compliance of FDA regulation

Low-Fat Food
·        Must contain three grams of fat or less per serving per FDA regulation

Light Food
·        Must have less than half the fat or at least one-third fewer calories than the regular version of the food

Lower, Reduced, or Less Fat Food
·        Required to contain 25 percent less fat than a regular version of the product or some other logical reference food

If you haven’t being doing so, it’s definitely not too late to get into the habit of reading food labels. Simply paying more attention to the list of ingredients that are included in each product, can help you to avoid or limit your intake of certain items such as sugar, sodium etc. With the exception of fresh meat, poultry, fish, and produce, all package foods must be labeled with the correct nutritional information. This is a requirement from the federal government. With this bit of knowledge, hopefully you will be spending less time trying to figure out the best place to shop and food items you should purchase or avoid, the next time you plan on going food shopping.





Monday, September 2, 2013

Welcome

Welcome to Our Kitchen Lab, a community blog where everyone can share, learn or explore new ideas  relating to cooking. The focus is not primarily on recipes, we will also be discussing the following:-

  • Great fresh herbs and spices to use in cooking
  • How to prepare herbs and spices and apply them to food for optimal flavor
  • The health benefits of consuming most herbs used for cooking
  • Some food additives that you should try to avoid or use minimally
  • Shopping for cookware sets and utensils - A beginner's guide
  • Tips for beginners or the less seasoned cooks
  • Basic measurements and calculations for beginners 
  • Common food related illness and precautions
  • Danger of grilling
  • Cancer prevention through the right RDA of foods
  • Methods of food preparation
  • Important and critical research findings
  • How to shop healthier
  • How to prepare healthier foods
  • Common food terminologies and definitions and more....

    As always, my motto is this:- If We Could Help Somebody As We Travel Along, Our Living Will Not Be In Vain!!