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Garlic 101 — The Basics (REVISED)

Garlic 101 – The Basics (REVISED)

About Garlic
Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used around the world for thousands of years as medicine and to flavor food of all sorts. We often think of it as an herb or spice, but botanically it is considered to be a vegetable. Garlic is a member of the allium family, so it is related to onions, shallots, leeks and chives. Although we typically focus on eating the bulb of the plant, the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots of the garlic plant are also edible.

The bulb of the garlic plant is the most used part. The bulb can be divided into portions known as cloves. Garlic cloves can be eaten raw or cooked for culinary and medicinal purposes. The cloves have a tart, spicy flavor that becomes savory and sweet when cooked. The leaves and flowers are sometimes eaten when they are young and tender.

Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated crops, with reference dating as far back as 5,000 years ago. Garlic grows wild in Central Asia, where it is believed to have originated. Throughout history, people traveling through Central Asia harvested garlic and carried it with them to their destinations, where they began cultivating the plants. Garlic is now used and grown around the world, with China producing about 80 percent of the world’s supply, followed by India, South Korea, Egypt, and Russia.


Nutrition and Health Benefits
Garlic packs a nutritional punch with good amounts of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, copper, phosphorus, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin (a carotenoid found in the retina of the eye). Garlic is very low in calories with one average clove having only about 4 calories.

Important Sulfur Compounds in Garlic and Their Medicinal Effects. When garlic is chopped, chewed, or bruised, allicin is formed. It is a type of sulfur compound that gives garlic its classic aroma, and is the active ingredient that appears to help treat so many ailments. However, it is important to know that allicin is an unstable compound and is present only for a short time after a fresh clove has been cut or crushed. Some people take odorless garlic supplements that have the allicin removed. This type of garlic is not as effective for medicinal uses. Enteric coated supplements (that contain allicin) can be used instead of the odorless capsules.

Other compounds in garlic that may play a role in its health benefits include diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine. These compounds enter the body from the digestive tract and are carried in the bloodstream all over the body exerting strong biological effects.

Garlic also contains germanium, an element that has anti-cancer properties. Garlic contains more germanium than any other herb. Garlic now tops the American National Cancer Institute’s list of potential cancer-preventative foods.

Garlic has been used to treat heart disease, various cancers, enlarged prostate, diabetes, arthritis, allergies, flu, fungal infections, oral thrush, diarrhea, and more (a LONG list!). Research has shown that garlic does help to treat many of the ailments that it’s used for. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties help in the treatment of various conditions.

In test tubes, garlic seems to kill cancer cells. Population studies suggest that those who eat more garlic are less likely to get colon, stomach, and esophageal cancers than those who do not eat garlic.

In the Iowa Women’s Health Study involving 41,000 middle-aged women, researchers found that those who regularly ate garlic in addition to fruits and vegetables, had a 35 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer than those who did not regularly eat those foods.

Important Note…Garlic can interact with some medications. If you are taking prescription drugs for any reason, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s OK to take any garlic supplements that you are considering. This is especially the case if you are taking any blood-thinning medications.

Immunity Boost. Garlic can help to protect us from illness, including the common cold. In the July-August 2001 issue of Advances in Therapy, 146 people took part in a 12 week study during the winter months of November to February. The treatment group took one allicin-containing garlic supplement a day for the duration of the study, and both groups recorded any common cold symptoms on a daily basis. The treatment group recorded significantly fewer colds than the control group. Also, the control group recorded significantly more days that they were challenged virally with longer duration of symptoms. As a result, the treatment group was less likely to catch colds and recovered faster if they did catch one. The researchers concluded that allicin-containing garlic supplements can help to prevent attacks by the common cold virus and also lesson the severity of illness if someone does become infected.

Another study reported in the June 2012 issue of Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), researchers found similar results where supplementation with aged garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) enhanced immune cell function by reducing the severity of colds and flu, and reduced the number of days sick by 61 percent.

Antimicrobial Properties. Garlic has long been associated with its benefits for helping to fight cancer, inflammation, and fungal, viral, and bacterial infections. In the July 2021 issue of the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers discussed the various antimicrobial benefits of the organosulfur compounds in garlic. Specifically, these compounds included allicin, ajoenes, and allyl sulfides. They found that these compounds exhibit a range of antibacterial properties, destroying bacterial biofilm, bacterial toxins, as well as activity against a wide range of bacteria including multi-drug resistant strains. These compounds form bonds with specific enzymes, effectively breaking down the bacterial membrane. Drug resistant bacteria have become a global threat to our health and well-being. The compounds found in garlic can help to play an important role in the fight against serious pathogens. Consuming garlic, especially raw garlic that has been freshly cut, chopped or crushed, can help improve your health and aid your immune system whenever you are fighting any type of bacterial or other microbial infection.

Reduced Blood Pressure. It is well established that high blood pressure (hypertension) can be a contributing factor to heart disease and stroke. Numerous research studies have verified that garlic supplements (in doses of 600 to 1500 mg a day) can have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure in people with hypertension. The doses found to be effective were equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.

Improved Cholesterol Levels. Garlic has been shown to lower total and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Numerous studies have tested garlic supplements for their cholesterol-lowering ability and found that in subjects with high cholesterol, garlic supplements lowered total and LDL cholesterol by 10 to 15 percent. When tested, garlic seemed to have no specific effect on HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or triglyceride levels. Study results on the cholesterol-lowering effects of garlic are mixed, but the greatest benefit appears to come from eating raw garlic that was cut or crushed shortly before consuming it.

Antioxidants. Antioxidants are extremely important in helping the body to fight free radical molecules that contribute to disease and the aging process. In numerous studies, garlic has been found to contain antioxidants that support the body’s mechanisms against oxidative damage. High doses of garlic supplements have been shown to increase antioxidant activity in humans, especially reducing oxidative stress in people with hypertension. Researchers have speculated that with the combined effects of reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, plus with its antioxidant benefits, that garlic (including aged garlic extract) may reduce the risk of brain conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Heavy Metal Removal from the Body. At high levels, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from toxic heavy metals. In the May 2012 issue of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, researchers reported that lead levels in the blood were reduced by 19 percent in employees who worked at a car battery plant (who had excessive lead exposure due to their work environment). The subjects were given 1200 micrograms of allicin three times a day for four weeks. The allicin also reduced many clinical signs of heavy metal toxicity, including headaches and hypertension. The allicin supplement was found to be more effective than the drug d-penicillamine (a drug given to patients to remove metals from the body).

According to Anthony William, the Medical Medium, garlic extracts toxic heavy metals from the colon and gives us a powerful immune boost. He says that garlic is most effective when consumed raw.

How to Select Garlic
Look for a solid, healthy looking bulb that is compact with taut, unbroken skin.

Avoid any bulbs that are damp or have soft spots on them. Also avoid bulbs of garlic that have a strong garlic aroma. The strong garlic smell indicates it has been handled roughly and the cloves are starting to break down, releasing allicin. A heavy, firm bulb, with little aroma and no obvious damage indicates one that is fresh and flavorful. If it feels light, it may be old and dried out.

If you see garlic that has begun to sprout, it is on the older side. It will be perfectly safe to eat, but the flavor will be sharper and less sweet than newer heads of garlic. If sprouting garlic is all you can find, buy only what you will use in a month and store it in a cool, dark place, away from heat (not next to the stove).

How to Store Garlic
Garlic keeps longest when stored at 60 to 65°F and in moderate humidity. At room temperature, whole bulbs can be kept hanging in mesh bags or in loosely woven baskets, away from heat, moisture, sunlight, and where there is good air flow.

Garlic can be kept in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. But once put in the refrigerator, it needs to be kept there until it is used. If refrigerated then removed for storage at room temperature, it will soon begin to sprout.

Leftover peeled cloves or chopped garlic will keep in the refrigerator in a small, tightly covered container. Try to use it within two or three days.

About the Different Forms of Garlic
Garlic can be purchased in different forms, including fresh bulbs, jarred minced garlic, dried granulated garlic, dried garlic powder, and even pickled and fermented garlic. Each form has its own applications. The following information helps to clarify the best uses for dried and fresh garlic.

Fresh Garlic Bulbs. Garlic bulbs are the entire head of garlic as it is grown. Each bulb contains segments (cloves) that are encased in a thin papery skin that can easily be separated from the bulb. One bulb can have anywhere from 8 to 20 cloves, depending on the species of garlic.

There are two basic types of fresh garlic that can be found in most grocery stores. Softneck varieties of garlic are the most common type of garlic found in stores. They do not have a center stalk. They often have 10 to 20 cloves. Hardneck varieties of garlic have a clearly visible, thick woody hard center stalk. They typically have 8 to 12 cloves in a bulb. The hardneck varieties of garlic are considered to be more of a delicacy than the softneck type.

Fresh garlic is suitable for roasting, being pounded into a paste, being chopped or minced into fine pieces, or being crushed with a garlic press. It may be included in any dish that calls for garlic.

Jarred Garlic. Jarred garlic may be sold minced or with whole cloves. It may be preserved in water or oil. Sometimes, jarred garlic may be packed with salt or other seasonings to help keep it fresh or impart other flavors. Most, if not all brands, of jarred garlic (whether minced or whole) have been pasteurized, which is a heat process that kills off any unwanted pathogens that may be in the food. This helps to preserve the contents of the jar, making it safe for us to eat.

Jarred garlic is usually sold in the produce section of most grocery stores. Jarred garlic will not have the same potent flavor as does fresh garlic. It will taste milder and will not impart a strong flavor to foods as would fresh garlic. This can be an advantage if you only want a subtle garlic flavor in a particular dish. Also, the pieces of jarred minced garlic will be very small and will soften easily when added to liquid ingredients in a recipe. Using jarred garlic can also be a time-saver if you are in a rush to prepare food that calls for minced garlic.

Dried Granulated (or Minced) Garlic. Dried granulated or minced garlic is minced garlic that has been preserved by drying and is often packaged in a plastic jar. It has a coarse texture, similar to that of cornmeal. It is available in the spice isle of most grocery stores. Using dried minced garlic saves time in food preparation and is often a pantry staple to have available in case you run out of fresh garlic, or if a recipe calls for dried granulated garlic. Dried granulated garlic can be added to dry rub mixtures and vegetable seasoning mixes. Also, it is commonly added to stir-fries, salad dressings, soups, stews, and sauces. Dried granulated garlic distributes well in such foods and adds garlic flavor without adding any extra moisture to the food.

Dried Garlic Powder. Garlic powder is made from garlic cloves that have been dried and ground into a fine powder. It can add an intense garlic flavor to any dish or recipe. Garlic powder is often sprinkled on popcorn, into scrambled eggs, and added to ground meats for a bold flavor.

Fermented Garlic. Fermented garlic has been used in traditional medicine around the world since antiquity. Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician, used garlic as medicine. It was also used medicinally by ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, and Chinese.

Fermented garlic is also known as “black garlic” and is made from fresh garlic that has been fermented. The fermentation process turns the garlic a dark color and reduces the intense flavor that it has in its raw state. Fermented garlic is described as being sweet with a chewy, jelly-like texture.

According to, several studies have shown that black garlic serves numerous functions in the body, including as an antioxidant, antiallergen, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic agent.

How to Prepare Garlic
Peel away as many of the outside papery layers as possible and discard.

If cloves are tight and can’t be easily pulled free, use the ball of your hand to press and roll the garlic against your cutting board to loosen the cloves.

Slice off the end of the clove, where it was attached to the bulb. Then place the clove beneath your chef’s knife and whack the knife with your other hand; this will loosen the papery skin. Remove and discard any skins.

Start by slicing the clove. For a fine chop, hold the tip of the knife with one hand and use the other to rock the blade back and forth over your slices.

For garlic that’s almost pulverized, place a clove into a garlic press and press down until the whole clove comes through the holes.

How to Preserve Garlic
Freezing Garlic. You can freeze garlic, though some people think frozen garlic isn’t quite as good as fresh. Put peeled cloves into a food processor or blender with a little water, pulse until they are evenly minced, and then freeze the puree in ice cube trays. Another way is to spread it out in a thin (and eventually breakable) layer on a silicone sheet. Once frozen, store the cubes or pieces in an airtight container. Be sure to use it within two months for the best flavor.

Dehydrating Garlic. Fresh garlic can be dehydrated. Peel and slice the garlic, then follow your dehydrator manufacturer’s instructions for time and temperature to dry your garlic. Note that this WILL make your house have a strong garlic odor! Some people opt to put their dehydrators outside on a porch during this process to avoid having the house smell like garlic. Store dried garlic at room temperature in an airtight container.

Pickling Garlic. Pickled garlic is an easy way to mellow out the flavor while preserving your garlic until you need it. Recipes abound on the internet for pickled garlic. They are simple to follow and come in different variations that should please just about anyone’s taste preferences.

Freezing Roasted Garlic. If you have lots of garlic available, it can be roasted, then frozen. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Trim the tops off of whole heads and discard. Place each garlic bulb on a piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, as desired. Wrap tightly and place it in a baking dish. Roast until the garlic is golden brown and tender, about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the bulb. Let it cool slightly, then squeeze the garlic out of their skins into ice trays. Cover and freeze. When frozen, transfer the cubes to a freezer bag or container. Label with the date and use it within 2 or 3 months for best flavor.

Cooking/Serving Methods and Tips
Fresh garlic can be roasted, sautéed, added to soups, stews, casseroles and sauces, added to pizza toppings, and added to a whole host of dishes. Also, it can be used to flavor oil, and pickled (as above). It is usually used to flavor other foods rather than eaten alone. Below are some tips on cooking with garlic.

To roast a garlic bulb, lightly grease a casserole dish with olive oil, add some clean bulbs, and bake at 350F until the bulbs are soft, usually about 45 minutes. Cut the tips off the bulbs and cloves and squeeze out the now soft flesh. If needed, freeze the garlic in an airtight freezer container. The high oil content means it never freezes hard, and you can scoop the clove contents out with a spoon as needed. Roasted garlic will keep about a week in the refrigerator.

Another way to roast garlic is to preheat the oven to 400F. Slice the top off of a bulb of garlic and place the bulb on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the bulb with oil and wrap it with the foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast until the bulbs are lightly browned and tender, about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the bulb.

To roast a few garlic cloves, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. Remove the garlic cloves from the bulb. Leave the skins on the cloves and add them to the hot skillet. Allow them to roast for 7 to 8 minutes, turning the cloves over every 2 minutes or so. The garlic cloves should turn golden brown, and may be charred in some areas. Remove them from the pan and allow them to cool before using. The skins should be easy to remove.

Garlic can burn easily and burned garlic is not enjoyable (it’s bitter). To keep from burning your garlic, add it toward the end of sautéing onions or other vegetables. It can be added early in the sautéing process if it’s of a short duration.

To get the most allicin from your garlic, use fresh garlic rather than jarred. Allicin dissipates within days of being stored in water, as in jarred minced garlic. Also, cutting your garlic when you’re ready to use it, then letting it sit for 10 to 15 minutes will yield the most allicin it has to offer. When garlic is cut, oxygen reacts with enzymes in the garlic, which triggers the formation of allicin. Waiting that brief time from cutting to using garlic allows time for the reaction to take place.

Flavor. The more you cut garlic cell walls, the stronger the flavor will be. To get a mild garlic flavor, slice it. To get a strong flavor, crush the garlic. Coarsely chopped garlic will have a flavor in between the two.

Also, the longer your garlic cooks in with other foods, the less flavor it will impart. To get the most garlic flavor, add the garlic toward the end of cooking.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Garlic
* Add garlic to cooked vegetable dishes.

* Add minced garlic to vegetable salads.

* Add finely minced garlic to salad dressings.

* Add garlic to guacamole, salsa, and hummus.

* Add garlic to broths and soups.

* Add minced garlic to cucumber or zucchini noodles.

* Add minced garlic to baked potatoes.

* Add garlic to pizza.

* The more you cut garlic, breaking open cell walls, the stronger the flavor will be. To get a mild garlic flavor, slice it. To get a strong garlic flavor, crush the garlic. Coarsely chopping garlic will have a flavor in between the two.

* To get the most allicin from your garlic, always use fresh garlic rather than jarred. Allicin dissipates quickly when garlic is stored in water, as in jarred minced garlic. Cut your garlic and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before using it to get the most allicin. This allows time for oxygen to react with the enzymes in the garlic, triggering the formation of allicin.

* Garlic can burn easily and burned garlic tastes bitter. To keep it from burning, add garlic toward the end of sautéing onions or other vegetables. It can be added early in the sautéing process if it will be done quickly.

* It’s helpful to know that the longer garlic cooks in with other foods, the less flavor it will impart. To get the most garlic flavor, add it toward the end of cooking.

* If a recipe calls for garlic and you suddenly realize you don’t have any garlic on hand, any of the following can be used as a substitute for 1 clove of fresh garlic: 1/8 tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp dried granulated garlic, ½ tsp dried garlic flakes or instant garlic, ½ tsp garlic salt (be sure to reduce the recipe by ½ tsp of salt), ½ tsp garlic juice, ½ to 1 tsp minced shallots, ½ tsp garlic chives, ½ tsp jarred minced garlic or liquid garlic seasoning.

* 1 head or bulb of fresh garlic usually has 8 to 12 cloves. One average size clove is about ½ tsp minced garlic.

* To remove garlic smell from your fingers, rub them on stainless steel under cool running water.


Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Garlic
Basil, bay leaf, capers, chili pepper flakes, chives, cloves, ginger, herbs (in general), mint, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper (black), rosemary, saffron, sage, salt, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Garlic
Garlic is commonly used with meats, fish and other seafood, beans, vegetables of all types, salads, salad dressings, pasta sauces, quinoa, cheese dishes, garlic bread, and for flavoring butter. The following list may help you in developing recipes and meals including garlic.

Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (in general), beef, chicken (and other poultry), chickpeas, eggs, fish, lamb, legumes (in general), lentils, meats (in general), peanuts, peas, pine nuts, pork, pumpkin seeds, tahini, tofu

Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, broccoli rabe, carrots, cauliflower, chard, chiles, eggplant, escarole, fennel, greens (bitter), kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, shallots, sorrel, spinach, squash (summer and winter), tomatillos, tomatoes and tomato sauce, yams, zucchini

Fruits: Lemon, olives, oranges

Grains and Grain Products: Bread, bread crumbs, corn, couscous, noodles (esp. Asian), pasta

Dairy and Non-Dairy Products: Butter, cheese (i.e., feta, goat, Gruyère, Parmesan, ricotta, Swiss), sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Chili pepper paste, chili pepper sauce, oil (esp. olive, sesame), salad dressings, soy sauce, stock, tamari, vinegar (esp. apple cider, balsamic, red wine, rice wine)

Garlic has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Aioli (i.e. garlic mayonnaise), American cuisine, casseroles, Chinese cuisine, curries, dips, French cuisine, Greek cuisine, Indian cuisine, Italian cuisine, Latin American cuisines, Mexican cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisines, pasta dishes, pesto, pistou, pizza, purees, salads and salad dressings, sauces, soups, Spanish cuisine, spreads, stews, stir-fries, Turkish cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Garlic
Add garlic to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Bread Crumbs + Lemon + Olive Oil + Parsley
Basil + Olive Oil + Tomatoes
Bread Crumbs + Mushrooms + Parsley
Broccoli + Lemon
Chard + Potatoes + Rosemary
Feta Cheese + Oregano
Ginger + Parsley
Kale + Tamari
Leeks + Potatoes + Saffron [in soups and vegetable stock]
Lemon + Parsley
Olive Oil + Parsley
Olive Oil + Rosemary
Parsley + Sage
Potatoes + Rosemary


Recipe Links
4 Tips for How to Cook with Garlic

Creamy Roasted Garlic Potato Soup with Crispy Brussels and Chili Oil

30 Recipes for Garlic Lovers

21 Recipes Every Garlic Lover Should Know!garlic-sauce

25 Garlic Recipes for *Garlicy* Good Dinners

25 Garlic Recipes No One Can Resist

13 Delicious Recipes That Are Heavy on Garlic

27 Garlic Recipes That Put Our Favorite Ingredient Front and Center

12 Great Garlic Recipes to Try

Roasted Garlic

Mashed Red Potatoes with Garlic

Easy Garlic Bread

Roasted Garlic (And 25 Things To Do With It)



Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Fruits and Vegetables

Food Safety 101

Food Safety 101

Food Safety is Important for Everyone. Prevention is key!
Foodborne illness, also referred to as foodborne infections, foodborne disease, or food poisoning can affect absolutely anyone. Researchers have identified over 250 foodborne diseases, with most of them being caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Foodborne illness can also occur from contamination of chemicals or other toxins in food.

Foodborne illness affects as many as 1 in 6 Americans annually. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year 48 million people get foodborne infections, with 128,000 being hospitalized, and 3,000 dying as a result of their illness. The effects can range anywhere from mild digestive distress to death, and many problems in between. It can result in very serious consequences, so foodborne illness should not be taken lightly. Knowing how to avoid foodborne illness, recognizing the symptoms, and knowing what to do if you do encounter such illness can literally be life-saving. It’s something we should all be aware of, with knowing how to ward off any potential problems cannot be underestimated.

High Risk Populations. Some individuals are more prone to developing foodborne illness, and if they do get sick, their health risks become increased. This includes people with a weakened immune system, such as those undergoing cancer treatment, those who have certain illnesses such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, those who have had organ transplants, or HIV/AIDS, or are taking certain medications, children under the age of 5, adults 65 years of age and older, and pregnant women.

Some Pathogens That Cause Foodborne Illness

The most common pathogens that cause foodborne illness in the United States are:

* Norovirus. Norovirus is the most common foodborne illness, and it is a very contagious virus. It can arise from consuming food or beverages infected with the virus. However, it can also be spread from person to person, especially when someone is caring for the infected person. Symptoms of norovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and mild fever.

* Salmonella. Salmonella are bacteria live in the intestines of mammals. People usually come in contact with it by eating food that was contaminated by animal feces. Symptoms of a salmonella infection include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

* Clostridium perfringens. The CDC estimates that this bacterium causes almost 1 million foodborne illnesses in the United States every year. The bacterium produces spores in their inactive forms that can survive heat, dryness, and other environmental conditions. The bacteria become active and multiply when food is kept at an unsafe temperature (between 40-140°F) for an extended period of time. When someone eats the food, C. perfringens produces a toxin that causes diarrhea. Foods typically linked with this type of foodborne illness include poultry (such as turkey and chicken), meats (such as beef and pork), and gravy. Outbreaks of this type of infection tend to happen where large numbers of people are served and keeping food at the proper temperatures is difficult. Such settings include hospitals and school cafeterias, prisons, nursing homes, and large events serving catered food. Most of such outbreaks happen in November and December with many being linked to common holiday foods such as turkey and roast beef.

* Campylobacter. This bacterium causes about 1.5 million illnesses annually in the United States. The infection can happen when people eat raw or undercooked poultry, or something that touched it. It can also be transmitted by eating other foods, including infected seafood, meat, and produce, by having contact with animals, and by drinking untreated water. People usually recover without treatment, but some need antibiotics. Symptoms include diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps. Nausea and vomiting may occur along with the diarrhea. Symptoms often start 2 to 5 days after ingesting the tainted food, and can last about one week. Sometimes complications such as irritable bowel syndrome, temporary paralysis, and arthritis can occur. In those with a weakened immune system, Campylobacter infection can spread to the bloodstream causing a life-threatening infection.

* Staphylococcus aureus (Staph). Food poisoning caused by Staph is a gastrointestinal illness caused by eating foods contaminated with toxins produced by the bacterium. The illness is characterized by a sudden onset of nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Most of those infected will have diarrhea. Symptoms occur quickly, usually within 30 minutes to 8 hours after consuming the item with the Staph toxin. Symptoms last no longer than one day, and severe illness is rare. The illness cannot be passed from one person to another.

About 25% of people and animals have Staph on their skin and in their nose. It usually does not cause illness in healthy people, but Staph makes toxins that can cause food poisoning. Food contaminated with the toxin may not smell bad or look spoiled. Foods that are not cooked after handling are particularly at risk of being contaminated with Staph. Such foods include sliced meats, puddings, pastries, and sandwiches. People who carry Staph on their skin can contaminate food if they don’t wash their hands before working with food. The bacteria themselves are killed by cooking, however, the toxins are not destroyed by the heat and will still be able to cause illness.


Some other pathogens that don’t infect as many people as the most common ones, but their illnesses are more likely to lead to hospitalization include:

* Clostridium botulinum (Botulism). Botulism is a rare, but very serious disease caused by a toxin produced by this bacterium (and also some closely related other types of Clostridium bacteria). The toxin attacks the body’s nervous system, causing difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and even death. The toxin can be produced in food, wounds, and even the intestines of infants. Interestingly, the bacteria that make the toxin are found naturally in many places and it is rare for them to make people sick. The bacteria produce spores that help the bacteria survive in the environment. The spores usually do not cause sickness. However, under certain conditions, the spores can grow and make a potent lethal toxin. The conditions that allow the spores to grow and produce toxins include: low or no oxygen (anaerobic) environment, low acid, low sugar, low salt, a specific temperature range, and a certain amount of water. Improperly home-canned, preserved, or fermented foods can provide the right conditions for this to happen. When the foods are eaten, people can become seriously sick, or even die if they don’t get medical attention quickly.

Symptoms of botulism usually start with weakness of the muscles that control the eyes, face, mouth, and throat. The weakness may spread to the neck, arms, torso, and legs. Botulism may also weaken the muscles involved in breathing, which can lead to breathing difficulty and possible death.

* Listeria. Listeriosis is not very common in the United States, but it is the leading cause of death among those infected with foodborne illnesses. It is caused by eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. About 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, with about 260 dying. Mild cases cause gastrointestinal distress, which resolves on its own. However, the bacteria can become invasive in the body, making its way into the blood and even brain. When this happens, it can cause meningitis, miscarriage, and other fatalities. The bacterium is most likely to cause illness in pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems.

Listeria can hide in many foods. In the 1990s, infections were mostly linked to deli meats and hot dogs. Currently, Listeria outbreaks are often linked to dairy products and produce. Recent outbreaks have been traced to soft cheese, celery, sprouts, cantaloupe, and ice cream.

* Escherichia coli (E. coli). Many strains of E. coli are harmless. However, certain strains that can enter the body from contaminated food or water can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, and other illnesses.

* Vibrio. Vibriosis causes about 80,000 infections with 100 deaths in the United States annually. People become infected by eating raw or undercooked seafood, or exposing a wound to seawater. Most infections happen from May through October when water temperatures are warmer.

Vibrio can cause watery diarrhea often accompanied by abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. The symptoms often occur within 24 hours of ingesting the tainted food, and last about three days. Severe illness is uncommon, and usually occurs in people with a weakened immune system.

The bacteria can cause a skin infection when an open wound is exposed to salt water or brackish water, which is a mixture of fresh and salt water, often found where rivers meet the sea.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Most people with a foodborne illness recover without medical treatment. However, those with severe symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Some common symptoms of foodborne diseases are:

* Nausea
* Vomiting
* Stomach cramps
* Diarrhea

It’s important to note that symptoms may differ from person to person, and may also depend on which pathogen or toxin contaminated the food. Sometimes, symptoms can be very severe, even life-threatening.

Common Food Safety Mistakes
No one intentionally does something to cause foodborne illness among their family and friends. However, some innocent mistakes can cause serious illness when handling food, especially raw meat, fish and poultry. Being aware of simple mistakes that can easily happen can help to prevent serious illness. The following are some common food safety mishaps that can happen when a person is not thinking about food safety.

* Leaving raw meat out of the refrigerator for an extended amount of time. This allows harmful bacteria to breed and can possibly make someone very, very sick. Such a thing can happen when someone is preparing the grill. It’s best to leave the raw animal foods covered and in the refrigerator until everything is ready for cooking or grilling.

* Leaving cooked or raw food uncovered or unrefrigerated beyond safe times, especially when eating outside. This exposes food to insects, debris, viruses, and bacteria, in addition to the food being kept in the temperature danger zone (40°F to 140°F) too long. When left within the danger zone range too long, harmful bacteria can flourish potentially making the food dangerous to eat. Keeping food covered, while keeping hot food hot and cold food cold can go a long way in avoiding foodborne illness. Always put extra food away as soon as possible after serving.

* Not putting leftover foods away in a timely manner. Leftover food should be refrigerated within two hours of being cooked, when dining inside. Note that this is two hours from the time something is cooked, not two hours from when you’re finished eating. This includes take-out foods or leftover foods from dining out that you elect to take home with you. When eating outside on a hot day, the food should be refrigerated within one hour of being cooked. Foods left out for prolonged times may easily allow the growth of potentially harmful bacteria to grow within. Anyone who eats that food later in the day or in the next day or two could possibly become very sick.

* Not properly sanitizing and disinfecting food preparation surfaces and tools. This can accidentally spread unsafe food juices and/or particles on counters, knifes, cutting boards, plates, tongs, and other surfaces or tools used for food preparation and serving.

* Using the same food preparation tools and surfaces for all foods. This can create an environment where bacteria and viruses are not contained to specific areas and are more likely to spread. This is especially true when handling raw, then cooked animal foods along with fresh produce that will be served raw.

* Sitting food out in the sun. This warms the food, increasing the rate at which pathogens can multiply and reduces the time frame for safe food consumption. Being mindful of temperature regulation and the environment prepared food is exposed to, especially when dining outside can go a long way in preventing foodborne illness.

The Importance of Cleanliness

Personal Hygiene
Wash hands and surfaces often! Germs that can cause foodborne illness can live on your skin. Because of that, it’s very important to wash hands often. This is especially important after using the restroom, blowing your nose, touching or scratching a wound, covering your mouth with your hand when you sneeze or cough, working around others who are sick, changing diapers or assisting a child in the bathroom, handling chemicals, brushing your hair, handling money, handling or petting an animal, handling raw meat, seafood, or poultry, chewing tobacco or smoking, eating, using electronic devices, taking out the trash, handling dirty items (no matter what they are), and touching anything that may contaminate your work area or food.

To thoroughly wash your hands, use warm water and soap, and scrub all areas for at least 20 seconds. Rinse hands well and dry with a clean cloth or fresh paper towel.

Utensils and Equipment

Food preparation and serving equipment and utensils should routinely be washed with hot, soapy water (or washed in a dishwasher) after each use. This includes dishes, glassware, pots and pans, cutting boards, preparation knives and serving utensils, reusable straws, lunchboxes, water bottles, and plastic food containers.

Sanitation on a regular basis can be important for preventing foodborne illness, especially if you prepare raw meats, seafood, and/or poultry. Utensils may be placed in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove them with tongs and allow them to cool before being stored.

To sanitize cutting boards, larger equipment, or items that cannot be boiled, prepare a sanitizing solution of one tablespoon of bleach in one gallon of water. Allow items to soak at least 2 minutes, or up to 5 minutes. Remove them from the solution and allow them to air dry. There is no need to rinse them after being sanitized, unless a stronger bleach solution is used. In that case, rinsing with potable water is necessary. Prepare your sanitizing solution fresh, as needed, because it will not keep beyond 24 hours. It is very important to note that bleaches that contain thickening agents, fragrances, or other additives are not considered to be “food grade” and should not be used on food, plates, utensils, or other equipment that will come in contact with food.

When cleaning sinks and all equipment that will be used in food preparation, it’s important to remember that any disinfectants or cleaning agents used in their cleaning (other than the weak sanitizing bleach solution detailed above) must be rinsed very well so all traces of such chemicals are removed after being cleaned. Residues left from such chemicals can be transferred to food during preparation, potentially causing foodborne illness in those who eat the food.

To sanitize kitchen surfaces such as countertops, work tables, refrigerator shelves and door handles, and oven door handles, prepare a bleach solution of 1/3 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water (4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water). Wipe the solution on the surface to be sanitized and allow it to sit for at least one minute before wiping it off with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Important! Do not use bleach on marble, non-stainless steel, aluminum, silver, or chipped enamel. Also, NEVER mix bleach with any other chemicals. Only mix it with water. Be sure to wear gloves, use cloths or sponges that you don’t mind getting bleach on. Wear clothing that would be safe to wear around bleach in case some splashes on you. Make sure you have good ventilation when using bleach products.

Separate to Prevent Cross-Contamination

Biological Contamination. For food safety, it is critically important to keep raw animal products that will be cooked (like raw meat, fish, poultry, and eggs) away from fresh produce or other foods that will be eaten raw. Raw animal products may be contaminated with harmful bacteria that can make us very sick if ingested, even in tiny amounts. Such foods should be kept separate when shopping, bagging, storing, preparing, or working with these foods in any way imaginable.

Using color coded cutting boards and utensils is helpful in preventing biological cross-contamination. Designating a specific color of cutting board to always be used when cutting raw animal foods and another specific color to always be used when preparing raw produce is extremely helpful in preventing such cross-contamination. Washing and also sanitizing your cutting boards and utensils after each use can be extremely helpful in preventing such contamination. Also, never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food, especially raw animal foods. If you must use that same place, wash it in hot soapy water first, and preferably, also treat it with a sanitizing solution before reusing it. Do not reuse a cutting board in this way because some are porous and you may not remove all potential pathogens that are on it.

Also, be sure to also sanitize kitchen counters and work areas after cutting or handling raw animal foods. Even a small amount of raw meat juice splashed on a kitchen counter can be enough to contaminate food that will be consumed raw if it comes in contact with that area. It’s important to be mindful of keeping your work areas and all tools that were used sanitized after working with any raw animal foods and before doing anything else, to prevent possibly harmful cross-contamination.

Chemical Contamination. Chemical contamination happens when food come in contact with chemicals or factors that are not intended to be ingested. The most common causes of such contamination include cleaning products in the food storage or preparation area, and pesticides and herbicides from unwashed fruit and vegetables.

Products such as detergents, sanitizers, and other chemicals you may have in your kitchen are potential contaminants if they come in contact with your food. Such items should always be stored well away from food and food preparation areas. They should be stored in their original labelled containers. Make a point of never storing food in any container that was used for storing chemicals because any residue on the container could possibly leach onto the food. When using chemicals in your food storage and preparation area, always remember to rinse well after cleaning and sanitizing.

When preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, always rinse them well before peeling, cutting, or preparing them in any way. This includes thick-skinned produce that will be peeled and the peel discarded, such as a melon. If a melon is not washed before being cut, any soil, microorganisms, or chemical residues that linger on the outside of the peel can be carried inward to the edible flesh when you cut into it with a knife. This could lead to possible foodborne illness, depending upon what was on the surface. Washing before cutting is critical to preventing such a mishap.

If you are reactive to chemical residues on fresh produce such as apples, and want to remove more residue than simple rinsing with water can do, there is a way to remove most of what was left on the food. Make enough of a solution of 2 cups water to 1 teaspoon of baking soda to completely submerge the food. Place the food in the solution, weighing it down if needed (because some items such as apples will float). Allow the food to soak in the solution for up to 15 minutes. Remove the food from the soaking solution, rinse, then dry well and store them as usual. Wash and rinse your soaking container well to remove any residue. This tactic has been proven scientifically and works well for removing chemical residues from foods. Here is a link to a video I released on this technique…

Physical Contamination
. Raw meat, poultry, and fish may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Such foods should always be kept separate from other foods, especially those that are already prepared or will be eaten fresh. In the refrigerator, fresh foods or those foods that have already been prepared should be stored on shelves above shelves where any raw animal foods are being kept. The raw animal foods should be kept tightly wrapped to help prevent any fluids from leaking out of their packaging. This protects your fresh or prepared food from possibly being contaminated with any drippings from the raw animal foods. If any leaking does occur, be sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize the refrigerator shelf before placing any other items in that area.

Also, it is important to be mindful of keeping designated cutting boards and utensils for use with raw animal foods and raw produce items. Using color-coded utensils and cutting boards designated for such items is an excellent way to prevent cross-contamination and cross-contact of possible bacteria in your kitchen. Designate a specific color, such as green, for use with fresh fruits and vegetables. Another color, such as red or orange can be designated only to be used when cutting raw meats, fish, and poultry.

Common Allergens.
If someone you prepare food for is reactive to any specific food, then extra care should be taken to avoid cross-contact of that food with other foods when preparing any meal. Using color-coded utensils and cutting boards would be helpful in making sure there is no cross-contamination. Also, use care in keeping the allergen away from other foods in storage, or at least wrap it well, so there is no chance it will spread (in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer) in any way onto other foods nearby.

Some highly sensitive people may even react to the aroma of a specific food. If you have someone you prepare food for who is extremely reactive to something, it may be best not to have that food in the home at all. It’s far better to be safe than sorry!

About Washing Food

Fruits and Vegetables. Fresh produce usually should not be washed until you are ready to use it. When in doubt, check the food label or packaging that it came in. Foods with an inedible peel, such as melons, citrus fruits, and avocados still should be washed before being cut. This is because any soil or germs on the outside of the peel can be carried into the edible flesh with a knife as it pierces the skin. To prevent this, always wash all fruits and vegetables before using them, even if they will be peeled first. The US Food and Drug Administration suggests we use a vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as a cucumber.

Meats, Poultry, Fish. The flesh of meats, poultry, and fish should not be washed before being cooked. If there are bacteria on the surface of such foods, washing them first can spread the bacteria onto clean surfaces in your kitchen, greatly increasing the risk of foodborne illness. For instance, if contaminated poultry is rinsed in a sink, the sink will then harbor the bacteria. If any of the rinsing water splashed on the faucet handles or countertop, you greatly increase the risk of spreading the bacteria on other foods, equipment, kitchen cloths, and/or utensils from being in contact with the splashed water. The only way to prevent this is to never rinse such foods. The only way to kill bacteria that are on fresh animal foods is to cook them to the proper internal temperature.

Food Safety When Cooking

When cooking, it is important to heat foods to the proper minimum internal temperature to be sure any bacteria in or on the food is destroyed. A food thermometer is essential for this task. See the next section to find the proper cooking temperature for the food you are cooking. Remember that those temperatures listed are minimum temperatures for safe cooking. Bringing foods to higher temperatures is perfectly fine and a matter of personal preference.

When you are finished cooking and need to hold the food for a little while before serving, it is important to keep it out of the temperature danger zone of between 40°F (5°C) and 140°F (60°C). Bacteria grows very rapidly when held between 70°F (21°C) and 125°F (52°C). If food is held within this temperature range for 2 hours or longer, it may not be safe to eat. To keep hot foods hot, they can be placed in an oven set on its lowest temperature, which should be above the maximum temperature of the danger zone. To keep cold foods cold, place them in the refrigerator or in an ice chest where they can be covered with ice. Of course, if they are frozen foods such as ice cream or sorbet, hold them in the freezer until needed. If they are frozen foods that were softened, they can be held in the refrigerator. But be aware that they will continue to thaw or soften if they were previously frozen.

Minimum Internal Cooking Temperatures for Food Safety

The only way to kill all bacteria in foods, especially raw meat is to cook it to the proper minimum internal temperature. A food thermometer is essential for ensuring your food has heated internally to the appropriate temperature. The chart below lists these temperatures:

* 145°F for whole beef, pork, lamb, veal, and uncooked fresh, smoked ham that was packaged in a USDA-inspected facility (and not previously opened)
* 145°F for fish and shellfish of any type
* 160°F for all ground meats
* 160°F for eggs
* 165°F for all chicken and poultry (whole or ground)
* 165°F for heating leftovers of any type (including cooked ham)
* 165°F for casseroles

Chilling Food
After a meal is finished, be sure to pack any leftovers in an appropriate container and store them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. To help prevent foodborne illness, all leftovers should be stored in an appropriate way (in the refrigerator or freezer) within two hours of being cooked. Note that this is not two hours after getting up from the dinner table. Being mindful of how long food has been sitting out and adhering to this rule can help to prevent serious illness in anyone who will consume the leftover foods later. This is important because the temperature of our homes falls within the temperature danger zone. Food should be kept within this range for as little time as possible.

If you are dining outside in the sun on a hot day, it is important to put food away within one hour of being cooked, not two. Under these conditions, food will be subjected to warmer temperatures (still within the danger zone) than if they were served indoors. The warmer temperatures outside will invite bacteria to proliferate even faster than indoors. Hence, we need to chill the food sooner when dining outside, to prevent possible foodborne illness later.

Temperature Danger Zone
. The Danger Zone is the temperature range at which bacteria can readily grow and multiply. The range is between 40°F and 140°F (5-60°C), with the most vulnerable range being between 70°F (21°C) and 125°F (52°C). If a food is contaminated with harmful bacteria and left in the Danger Zone temperature range, the bacteria can grow potentially causing foodborne illness in those who consume the food, even if it has been cooked before being eaten. Keeping food out of this temperature range helps to prevent foodborne illness (by limiting the growth of bacteria in the food) in those who handle or consume the food. Food is safest when it is either frozen, chilled, or heated beyond the Danger Zone temperature range. The colder it is, the less likely for bacteria to grow and multiply.

Ideal Temperature for Your Refrigerator and Freezer.
The ideal temperature range for a refrigerator should be above 32°F (0°C) and below 40°F (4°C). This keeps food out of the danger zone, deterring the growth of any bacteria that may be on the food.

Freezers should be kept at 0°F (-18°C) or below.

Thawing Food
Many of us keep food in the freezer for convenience and safe storage. The problem can come when we want to use the food and time is short. Some foods, such as frozen vegetables, can be prepared from a frozen state, while others, such as a frozen casserole, will cook better when thawed first. There are different ways that food can be safely thawed.

* Refrigerator. Thawing in the refrigerator is slow, but a food-safe method. It’s often convenient to transfer food from the freezer to the refrigerator before retiring for the night, when you need to cook it the next day. If you are thawing meat, poultry, or seafood, be sure to place it in a pan or plastic bag so any juices will not drip onto other foods in the refrigerator. Because of the potential risk of cross-contamination with thawing animal foods, it is best to place it on the bottom of the refrigerator so there is no chance of any liquid dripping on something below.

* Cold Water. Place frozen food into a leak-proof plastic bag or container for faster thawing than the refrigerator. Submerge the bagged food in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until it is thawed. Cook the food immediately after thawing.

* Microwave. Food may be thawed in the microwave. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for thawing food in your appliance. It is important to cook meat or poultry immediately after microwave thawing.

No matter which method works best for you in a specific scenario, it’s very important not to simply allow foods to thaw at room temperature. Doing so allows the outer surfaces of the food to be exposed to the Danger Zone (40-140°F or 5-60°C) temperature range. In this range, harmful bacteria can multiply and grow, possibly causing foodborne illness. It is best to avoid this and never allow foods to sit at room temperature for any length of time, whether it has been cooked or not. The general rule of thumb is to not allow any perishable food to sit at room temperature for 2 hours or more, even if it was frozen at the start. There is a risk of foodborne illness when eating such food, even if it is cooked after that time. It’s helpful to plan in advance when using frozen food. If it needs to be thawed first, choose the method that will work best for you, based on your circumstances.

Refreezing Thawed Foods
It is not safe to refreeze any plant-based food that has been out of the freezer and at room temperature for two hours or more. If it is a hot day, you do not have air conditioning, and the house is very warm (especially over 90°F or 32°C), it should not be refrozen if it has been at room temperature for one hour. If the frozen food is an animal-based food (meat, fish, poultry, milk-based, or eggs) or contains animal-based foods (such as a casserole or soup), it should not be refrozen if it has been at room temperature for one hour or more. If the house is very warm, then no animal food should be refrozen. It should be cooked or discarded.

Managing Leftovers

* Always practice the 2x2x4 Rule when dealing with leftover cooked food. This is a good rule to remember when storing leftover food of any type. In brief, here is what this means. The first 2 represents 2 hours. This means that all leftover foods should be refrigerated within 2 hours of being done cooking (NOT two hours after you are finished eating). The second 2 represents inches. When placing hot or warm leftover foods in the refrigerator, try not to have them over 2 inches thick. It takes a long time to chill such foods at the core. The thicker it is, the longer it will take to cool down. Limiting the thickness to no more than 2 inches will allow it to cool down faster, helping to avoid foodborne illness from that food. The last number represents 4 days. As a general rule of thumb, use leftovers within 4 days. Of course there are exceptions to this rule and you should let common sense be your guide. Here is a video I released explaining this guideline for handling and using leftover foods…

* Be sure to discard any perishable food that was left out at room temperature for 2 hours or more. Discard any perishable food if it was left out for 1 hour or more when the temperature was above 90°F (32°C).

* If you enjoy a meal out at a restaurant and take any leftover food with you, place it in the refrigerator immediately when you get home, as long as it is within the two-hour time frame of having been served the food. If it has been longer than two hours that the food has been at room temperature, it is best to throw it away. Bacteria readily grow at room temperature and food that has been sitting out for longer than two hours may not be suitable for consumption. Eating it may result in serious foodborne illness, and it’s not worth taking a chance.

* When reheating leftover food, always be sure to bring it to an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C). This helps to ensure that any harmful bacteria in the food have been destroyed by the heat.

* Be sure to use leftover food within 3 to 4 days of initial preparation, unless you know for a fact that it has a longer shelf-life.

* An easy and convenient way to use up leftovers is to take them to work for lunch the next day. If that’s not an option, you could have them for supper the next evening. If they aren’t enough for a complete meal, add a side dish to balance out the meal. A cooked vegetable or a side salad will often be enough to make the meal complete.

* If possible, reinvent the leftovers into a whole new dish for the next evening’s supper. Including them in casseroles, soups, wraps, hash, a rice dish, or even a pasta dish are possibilities based on what you’re working with. Try to prepare enough for one meal, rather than having a large amount leftover, once again. It’s best to eat up leftovers in a short time rather than keeping them going by always including them in new foods, over and over.

* If having your leftovers the next day is not an option, they could be frozen to have later as a lunch at work or a fast, easy supper when time is short.

* If you really don’t enjoy having leftover food, try to prevent them in the first place. Limit the amount of food you prepare to what you anticipate being able to eat in one sitting. Depending upon what you are cooking, that can be hard at times, but it’s well worth the effort rather than throwing away good, edible food.

* If you find that your refrigerator is becoming clogged with leftover foods, make a commitment to finish them up that day. Have a leftover buffet for supper, and make it an “all you can eat” night, if needed.

* Leftover vegetables can be frozen to be used later when making homemade stock. Freeze leftover vegetables the day they are made for the best quality.


Product Dating When Shopping and at Home
“Use By” or “Best By” Dates. These terms are often used interchangeably. They indicate a date when the flavor or appearance of a product may start to deteriorate and not be at its best. However, the food is usually still safe to eat after this date. To enjoy your food at its best, it’s helpful to notice these dates on items when shopping, and choose the one with the date farthest into the future. This is particularly helpful when you are stocking your pantry with extra items that won’t be used right away.

When you get home, be sure to arrange your food items so those with the nearest “Use By” or “Best By” date will be easily accessible and first in line to be used. This way you’ll pick up and use those items first, always ensuring that your pantry items will be fresh and at their best.

Another way to help rotate your food is by using the “FIFO” (first in, first out) method of rotation. Using the oldest of a particular type of item when reaching for food to prepare is an easy and excellent way to help rotate your food supply, ensuring that nothing sits forever forgotten on the shelf.

Expiration Dates. An expiration date is different from the “Best By” or “Use By” dates. The expiration date indicates a date when the product, usually a dairy or meat item, will most likely be spoiled. There may be some leeway with this date regarding spoilage of any one food, but you should probably discard any foods that are past their expiration date. Some foods may not smell bad nor taste bad when they reach this point, but that doesn’t mean that they are free of harmful bacteria. It’s better to be safe than sorry regarding foodborne illness. When in doubt, throw it out!


Tips When Grocery Shopping

* If you intend to run errands during the same outing when grocery shopping, if possible try to make the grocery store your last stop. This is especially important if the weather is warm. The car can get extremely hot when closed up during warmer months. If you have no choice but to leave groceries in a hot car for a little while, bring either a cooler bag or ice chest (complete with ice or cooling agents of some type) with you and place the cold food in there. This will help prevent or at least slow down the growth of any harmful pathogens on the food before you get them stored properly at home.

* Before selecting perishable foods at the grocery store, be sure to double-check the expiration dates, especially on dairy and raw animal products. Be sure there is enough leeway before they expire so you can enjoy them as intended and not discard them because you suddenly realized they are too old to eat.

* When bagging groceries, be sure to bag any raw meat, fish, or poultry items separately. It is especially important not to package them with any foods that will be eaten fresh, such as fruits or salad vegetables. It’s helpful to double bag fresh animal foods so no juices can accidentally drip onto other items in your cart, car, or in your kitchen. Any bacteria on the packaging can get onto foods or other items within the same bag infecting them, possibly causing foodborne illness later.

* When you enter the store, make a point of wiping down the grocery cart handle with sanitizing wipes. Many stores supply the wipes for customers to use as desired. Doing so can help to reduce the transmission of germs from person to person. It can also help to prevent the spread of germs on food that we may handle in the store, such as when we’re sorting through cucumbers to find one we want to buy.

* When using your own reusable grocery bags, make a point of washing them weekly. They come in contact with many different surfaces and food items during any one shopping trip. They can pick up and harbor bacteria that can be transmitted to new items the next time they are used. It is wonderful for the planet to use such bags, but we need to take responsibility to keep them clean, if for nothing else than our own protection.

* Beware of purchasing food in deeply dented cans. Cans with deep dents (like ones your finger can fit into) may have damaged seams that can allow bacteria to enter the can, which can make the contents unsafe to eat. Also, if a can appears to be bulging from within, it could be a sign of botulism, a deadly bacterium growing inside the can. Avoid such cans at all cost. If you find one in your pantry, do NOT eat the food. Discard it immediately.

* If you expect to be in the grocery store for a while, such as when you have a long list of items to buy, try to select your frozen items, cold foods, and raw animal foods last. That will help to keep them from getting warm in your cart as you shop.

* Never buy meat or poultry in packaging that is torn or leaking. If you spot such a package, point it out to meat department personnel in the store.

* Do not buy any food past the “Best by,” or expiration date.

* If you notice a food that is close to the “Sell by” date, it should still be OK to eat. This is the date that tells grocers when a food item needs to be removed from the shelf. It is usually still fine to eat at that point, but it is assumed that the food will be eaten soon thereafter. If you notice a “Sell by” date is close to the current date and you want to buy that food item, it is fine to buy as long as you plan to consume it within a few days. If you need to keep it beyond that, it is best to choose something else.

Tips When Eating Out
There is no absolute way you can guarantee your food is safe when eating out. However, there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself.

* Be picky about where you eat. Check local reviews online on resources like Yelp and Google Reviews. If people have complained about being served undercooked food or getting sick after eating somewhere, it’s a good signal to eat elsewhere.

* Local health inspections are public information and should be available online, depending on your state. Do an internet search to find such information regarding local restaurants in your area. Choose those that have received high ratings from their local inspectors.

* Once you are in a restaurant, look around. Does it look clean? Do the floors have a lot of debris on them? Are tables being wiped down appropriately after patrons? Is the staff wearing clean uniforms? Appearance can tell you a lot!

* Once you are served, check your food. Hot food should be hot, not just barely warm. Food that has been cooked in advance and held warm may or may not have been held at the proper temperature to deter the growth of bacteria. The same goes for cold food. Cold food should be cold, and not room temperature. Again, bacteria can readily grow at room temperature, so the food may not be safe to eat if it was held at room temperature for an extended period of time.

* If you see that a food, particularly meat, fish, or poultry, was not cooked completely. Don’t eat it. Tell your server that the food is raw inside and needs to be cooked more. If you feel like something just isn’t right with any food on your plate, don’t eat it. Discuss the issue with your server and ask that the chef make it right or serve you something else.

* If you believe you got sick from food eaten in a restaurant, report it to your local health department.

* If you want to take leftover food home with you, bear in mind that it should be refrigerated within 2 hours of when the food was prepared. If the food is exposed to high temperatures, like in a hot car or at a picnic, the food should be refrigerated within one hour of being served. If you cannot chill your leftover food down in a timely way, it’s best to not take it home. It’s better to have it thrown out than take a chance on getting seriously ill over it. If you can chill your foods within a reasonable time frame, be sure to eat the leftovers within 3 or 4 days. Throw them away after that.

* Be observant when at a restaurant where you can see the food handlers. Are they wearing gloves or using utensils instead of their hands when handling food? Does anyone appear to be sick? Has anyone been coughing over the food they are preparing? Does the food appear to be kept at appropriate temperatures? If you see any possible means for contracting foodborne illness, it may be best to eat elsewhere.

* Many restaurants will post their inspection scores in plain view for patrons to see. Look for their certificate of inspection. If the restaurant has a poor score, it may be best to eat elsewhere.


Tips When Preparing Food at Home
* Be careful not to use too much of any chemical or sanitizer when cleaning at home. Follow the manufacturer’s suggestions on how to properly use a chemical. Be sure to rinse the area and all tools, utensils, and your hands very well after use.

* Always wash your hands well before and after handling food.

* Only use food-safe storage containers when packing up any extra food. Never pack food in a container that was used for a chemical or any non-food item. Any residue in the container could contaminate your food.

* Marinate meat, fish and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.

* It never hurts to use your nose when opening a closed container. Aroma can tell us a lot about if a food is fresh or not. For instance, we often smell a jug of milk when we open it. The aroma can tell us if that milk has spoiled.

* Clean out your refrigerator at least once a week. Go through the foods in your refrigerator and toss out anything that has seen better days and is no longer fit to eat.

* Any raw poultry or ground meats should be discarded if they have been in the refrigerator for more than 1 or 2 days. If any raw meats are off color or smell bad, they should absolutely not be eaten. Wrap them well and discard them. Disinfect the area in the refrigerator where they were, along with the container(s) they were in.

* Inspect cooked leftovers, especially if they have been in the refrigerator for more than 4 days. They may be fine, but if they are starting to look or smell “off” then it’s best to toss them. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

* Rinse fresh produce with clean, cool water right before cutting or preparing it for a meal. This includes rinsing produce that will be peeled. This is because of the possibility of carrying any soil or bacteria that is on the surface inward to the part that will be eaten when something is peeled, cut, or sliced with a knife.

* Use a food thermometer to help ensure food has been cooked to the proper temperature. If it is not up to the proper temperature, cook or bake it longer, as needed.

* Keep foods at the proper temperature when you’re not able to serve them right away. Cold foods should be kept below 40°F. Hot foods should be kept above 140°F. An oven set at its lowest temperature setting will usually work for holding hot foods until serving time. When in doubt with cold foods, place them in the refrigerator or freezer until they can be served.

* When serving food buffet-style, keep hot food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and/or warming trays. Keep cold food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice, or use small serving trays and replace them often, while keeping the extras in the refrigerator.

* When preparing or serving food, never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food of any type. Always use a clean plate or cutting board that is reserved for use only with cooked food.

* Do not leave food out at room temperature for an extended period of time. It should be refrigerated within 2 hours of being finished cooking, and one hour if the temperature is very warm, such as 90°F.


Food safety is something we don’t always focus on when shopping, storing, or handling food at home. When reading all the dos and don’ts in this article, it can seem daunting and make a novice ready to throw his or her hands in the air and resolve to never fix food at home. However, the principals are not hard, especially when you consider how pathogens can be spread from place to place and allowed to grow and multiply when the conditions are right. Learning this information to the point where practicing good food safety measures becomes habit rather than effort can literally be life-saving. It’s well worth the effort to be mindful of such things until they become second-nature to you. After a while, instincts will take over and you won’t have to labor over what to do when. It will be time well spent and you’ll be glad you did in the long run!


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Onions 101 – Why They Make Us Cry and How to Minimize It

Why Our Eyes Tear When Cutting Onions
And How to Prevent or Minimize It

Why Do Onions Make Our Eyes Tear?

When onions are growing, they use sulfur from the soil to create a compound that can easily turn into a gas. This helps deter insects and animals from feeding on them. When we cut into an onion, the cell walls are damaged. This releases the sulfur compound and enzymes that react, releasing a gas (syn-propanethial-S-oxide) into the air. When the gas comes in contact with the water in our eyes, it is converted into sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid is what causes the eyes to sting, burn, and release tears. White, yellow and red onions have higher concentrations of the enzymes needed to create this gas. Sweet onions and green onions (scallions) have lower concentrations.

Our eyes have nerves that detect anything that’s potentially harmful. When our eyes react to the sulfuric acid, they release tears to try to flush it out. Some people are more sensitive to the gas and sulfuric acid than others. So, some people will tear more when cutting onions than others. But it’s helpful to know that onions pose no serious threat to the health of our eyes.

How to Reduce Tearing When Cutting an Onion
(1) First, place the onion in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cutting it. Why chill an onion? The optimal temperature for the onion enzymes to do their job of protecting the bulb from predatory damage is 104°F. Our normal body temperature isn’t far from that. So, chilling the onion prior to cutting, takes it far below its optimal temperature, reducing its ability to cause tearing when cut.

(2) Refrain from cutting the root end until last, if at all. The root end of the bulb contains the highest concentration of the compound that cause tearing. So, when we cut the onion top first, peel it, then cut from the stem end downward, we’re minimizing the release of the enzyme that causes the tearing.

(3) Sweet onions have less of the sulfur compound in them, which means that cutting them will be less likely to make your eyes tear. If a sweet onion will work in your recipe, considering switching to the sweeter variety as an alternative.

(4) Another alternative would be to buy frozen, pre-chopped onions. This would save the time and possible agony of cutting fresh onions for cooking. If fresh onion is needed, consider using green onions (scallions), Spring onions, or sweet onions, rather than yellow, red, or white onions.

(5) When all else fails, invest in a pair of goggles to protect your eyes. Onion goggles, swimming goggles, or laboratory/safety goggles are all options to consider. Remember to consider the size of your head and if you routinely wear glasses when buying any goggles.



About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fiber 101 – The Basics (About the Types of Fiber and Their Varieties)

Fiber 101 – The Basics
About the Types of Fiber and Their Varieties

What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is sometimes called “roughage” and includes parts of plant foods that the body cannot digest or absorb. Other food components, like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are broken down in the digestive process and absorbed into the blood stream. Fiber, on the other hand, is a type of carbohydrate, but it cannot be digested by the human body. Instead, it travels through the stomach and intestinal tract providing food for our intestinal bacteria.

Researchers have found that increasing fiber intake over a mere two-week period significantly altered subjects’ gut microbiome. Specific species of bacteria that break down fiber were increased. When such bacteria digest fiber, they release short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs then become a source of fuel for the cells of the colon and are also used in cell signaling. Some SCFAs also have anti-inflammatory properties, and may influence insulin sensitivity and body weight.

Fiber has two general classifications: soluble and insoluble. Each type has its own health benefits in addition to providing food for the beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines. The amount and types of fiber found in foods varies, but it is only found in plant foods. Whole, intact plant foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, peas, nuts and seeds) will provide dietary fiber, whereas processed plant foods (such as white flour) will provide little to none. Animal-based foods do not provide dietary fiber.

What is insoluble fiber?
Insoluble fiber remains pretty much unchanged as it moves through the digestive tract. Humans do not have the enzymes necessary to break down insoluble fiber. Since it is not broken down during digestion, insoluble fiber does not provide calories in the diet. In the intestines, it absorbs fluid and binds to other nearby materials, forming stool. This type of fiber helps to move the contents of the intestines forward, warding off constipation and promoting bowel movements. Whole grains, nuts, beans, and vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Types of Insoluble Fiber and Their Food Sources
Cellulose. Cellulose is the main fibrous component of plant cell walls. Many vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower are rich in cellulose. Legumes, nuts, and bran from grains are also rich in cellulose. Cellulose passes through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, binding to food components moving them forward along the tract. Cellulose also helps to keep the digestive system healthy by feeding beneficial gut bacteria and supporting their colonies.

Hemicellulose. Hemicellulose is a type of dietary fiber that can be soluble or insoluble. It is a nondigestible fiber found in plant cell walls that can absorb and retain water in the gut. Despite the fact that it absorbs water, it has little effect on stool size. Hemicellulose can be digested by our gut bacteria. It is sometimes used in foods as an added fiber, thickener, emulsifier, or stabilizer. Green beans are high in hemicellulose. They are also found in cereal grains.

Lignin.  Lignin is another type of insoluble fiber that is part of the plant cell wall structure. Lignin provides rigidity to plants. It is also found in some seeds. Lignin is not broken down by human enzymes, and is also poorly digested by our gut bacteria. It absorbs water in the gut, and gives bulk to stool. Lignin can be found in whole grains (such as wheat and corn bran), legumes, vegetables (like green beans, carrots, horseradish, cauliflower, peas, and zucchini), fruits (like avocado, unripe bananas, peaches, and apples), and nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed and Brazil nuts). It is also found in edible seeds, such as those found in berries and tomatoes.

What is soluble fiber?
Soluble fiber is the type of plant fiber that absorbs water and fluids in the intestinal tract, forming a gel-like substance. The gel moves through the digestive tract and is digested by bacteria in the large intestine. The remainder is excreted in feces. The bacteria release gases as they digest the gel, which is what may cause some people to experience bloating when ingesting fiber-rich foods. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium.

Types of Soluble Fiber and Their Food Sources
Inulin.  Inulin helps to keep you feeling full for longer since it slows digestion. This type of fiber also takes longer to absorb, which helps to prevent blood sugar spikes after a meal. Inulin is not digested in the stomach nor absorbed in the intestinal tract. Instead, it promotes the growth and support of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Inulin is found in chicory root, grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, and fruits and vegetables such as bananas, garlic, onions, and asparagus. Inulin is readily fermented by our gut bacteria. This property may give some people GI distress when eating inulin-rich foods.

Gums and Mucilages. Gums are complex carbohydrates that are soluble in water, forming gels and mucilages. Mucilages are a type of thick, viscous gum in plant roots and seeds. The gelling characteristics of gums and mucilages allows them to be used in many food products as thickening agents, and additives for moisture retention, emulsification, and stabilization. Commonly used food sources of gums and mucilages include guar bean, locust bean (carob), tamarind, seaweed (agar and carrageenan), fenugreek, aloe vera, cactus, and flax.

Pectin.  Pectin is a type of soluble fiber that helps reduce the glycemic response in the body by slowing glucose absorption after a meal. Like other soluble fibers, pectin helps to feed our gut bacteria. It also helps to keep cholesterol down by flushing fatty acids out of the body. Pectins can be found in abundance in foods like apples, strawberries, citrus fruits, carrots, and potatoes. Legumes and nuts also contain pectins, but in smaller amounts.

Beta-Glucan.  Beta-glucan forms a gel in the intestinal tract that is fermentable by gut bacteria. It is considered to be a prebiotic, providing food for helpful bacteria. Beta-glucan may also be helpful in increasing satiety and managing blood sugar levels, thanks to the fact that it has a slow transit time in the stomach and intestines. Beta-glucan is plentiful in oats, barley, shiitake mushrooms, and reishi mushrooms.

Psyllium.  This soluble fiber is the active ingredient in products like Metamucil. It is known for softening stool, helping it to pass out of the body. Psyllium also forms a gel that binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract, preventing its absorption into the body. Psyllium is also a prebiotic, feeding friendly bacteria in the gut. Psyllium is derived from a shrub-like herb (Plantago psyllium), grown mainly in India. It will not be found in any specific food source. However, it is often used in fiber supplements, both in powders and pills. Researchers have studied the effects of psyllium and found that it may help to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, diverticulosis, high blood pressure, and obesity. It may also improve diarrhea, constipation, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and high cholesterol. However, since it is a soluble fiber, those benefits may also be obtained from ample food sources of soluble fiber in the diet.

Resistant Starch. Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine. It travels pretty much intact until it reaches the large intestine. There, friendly bacteria feed on the undigested starch, so it is often referred to as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in the gut. Resistant starch also helps to control the appetite and reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal. Since resistant starch is not broken down during digestion, it does not release glucose, so it cannot raise blood sugar levels. It can also help to increase our feeling of fullness after a meal, and be used to treat and prevent constipation. It also helps to lower cholesterol, improve digestive health, and lowers the risk of colon cancer. Resistant starch is fermented slowly in the gut, so it causes less gas than other types of fiber. Legumes, peas, beans, lentils (with white beans and lentils being especially high in resistant starch), oats, barley, plantains, and unripe bananas are excellent sources of resistant starch.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The Institute of Medicine provides the following recommendations for adults:

* Men age 50 or younger should get 38 grams of fiber.
* Men age 51 and above should get 30 grams of fiber.

* Women age 50 or younger should get 25 grams of fiber.
* Women age 51 and above should get 21 grams of fiber.

Health organizations recommend that both children and adults should get about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories they eat. That usually means that children ages 1 to 3 years should get about 10 grams of fiber a day. Children ages 4 to 8 years should eat about 25 grams of fiber a day.

Research has shown that the amount of fiber typically consumed in the Western diet is merely between 12 and 14 grams a day. Less than 5 percent of Americans consume the recommended amount of fiber. There is ample scientific evidence that indicates that dietary fiber affects normal physiologic function and the onset of chronic diseases and their progression. Therefore, increasing fiber intake offers a prime opportunity to improve our health and ward of serious chronic diseases.

Despite the above recommendations, there is scientific evidence that ancient man consumed as much as 100 grams of fiber a day! Of course, that was from unprocessed plant foods, primarily from fruits and vegetables. Keeping this in mind, we certainly have plenty of leeway for increasing our daily fiber intake with as many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains that we can manage to eat.

Benefits of a High Fiber Diet
To keep things easy and get the most benefit from your diet, focus on simple, whole, unprocessed plant foods. Work as many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as you can into your day without worry about how much soluble vs insoluble fiber you’re eating. Most plant foods have a combination of both in different ratios. What’s important when trying to reap the health benefits from fiber in foods is looking at the total picture and focusing on increasing your overall fiber intake through whole, unadulterated foods. The following are some benefits from enjoying a high fiber diet.

Prevents Constipation. Dietary fiber promotes the movement of the contents of the digestive tract forward. It increases stool weight and size, so it helps prevent constipation and irregular bowel movements. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to the stool.

Helps Maintain Bowel Health. A high fiber diet helps to reduce your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in the colon (diverticular disease).

Aids in Weight Management. High fiber foods tend to be more filling than low fiber foods, so you’re less likely to overeat and more likely to feel full longer. Fiber takes up space in the stomach and intestines, which helps us to feel full after a meal, which in turn helps us to manage our weight. We’re less likely to overeat when the meal has had ample fiber. Furthermore, high fiber foods tend to be lower in calories than low fiber, processed foods or animal products. So, loading up on plant foods can help us to manage weight in more ways than one!

Cancer Prevention. Increased fiber intake may help to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports show that for each 10-gram increase in dietary fiber, the risk of colorectal cancer is lowered by 7 percent. There is also scientific evidence that indicates that a high-fiber diet may also be protective against breast, ovary, and endometrial, as well as gastrointestinal cancer.

Helps Prevent Heart Disease and More. Soluble fiber is especially important because it can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by reducing blood pressure, improving our blood lipid profiles, and reducing inflammation.

Soluble fiber is known to help lower blood cholesterol levels. In the digestive tract, soluble fiber binds with bile acids, carrying them out of the body in the feces. Bile acids are made in the liver from cholesterol, and exported to the gallbladder where it is stored until it is needed. When dietary fat leaves the stomach and enters the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine, the gallbladder receives the signal to release bile into the duodenum to emulsify the fat that just left the stomach. This is important because the emulsification process allows the fat to be disbursed among the watery fluids in the intestines. This improves the breakdown of foods and the absorption of nutrients. Without bile, fatty substances may tend to “float” toward the top of the watery fluids in the intestines, hindering the proper breakdown of foods and absorption of their nutrients.

When soluble fiber binds to bile acids in the digestive tract, it carries the bile out of the body through the feces. This action forces the liver to make fresh bile from cholesterol. This process helps to lower blood cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis, while improving our blood lipid profiles and reducing inflammation.

If our diet does not contain enough soluble fiber to carry the bile out of the body, the unbound bile acids will be reabsorbed into the blood from the intestines, and carried back to the liver to be used again. When this happens, the bile becomes more concentrated with toxins, which in turn, can lead to inflammatory diseases such as gallbladder disease, intestinal inflammation, and even skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Also, research suggests that increasing your dietary fiber intake is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.

Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels. In those with diabetes, fiber (especially soluble fiber) can slow the absorption of sugar helping to improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet with ample fiber may also reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Best Sources of Fiber
Categories of foods that can boost your fiber intake include:

* Whole-grains
* Fruits
* Vegetables
* Beans, peas, and other legumes
* Nuts and seeds

Refined or processed foods are lower in fiber than the fresh foods they were made from. This includes canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and cereals made with refined grains. The refining process of grains removes the bran, or outer coat, from the grain. This lowers the fiber content of the grain. Along with the removal of the bran, the germ layer is usually removed too. The germ is where many vitamins and minerals associated with the whole grain are found. When these two components are removed from grains, the inner starchy endosperm that remains is what is processed into white flour or sold as the refined grain. Many times, the refined grains are enriched where some (but not all) of the nutrients that were stripped away, are added back. However, the fiber content is not added back in the enrichment process. So, the only way to get the full nutritional value of a grain, including the fiber content, is to use only the whole grain.

Fiber Supplements.  Metamucil, Citrucel, and Fibercon are examples of fiber supplements. Some people may need such supplements if they suffer from bowel issues and dietary changes aren’t enough to fix the problem. It is advisable to check with your healthcare provider before starting such supplements.

Some specialty foods have fiber added to them. Some cereals, granola bars, yogurt, and ice creams are examples. The added fiber is usually inulin or chicory root. Before adding such foods to your diet, it is important to note that some people complain of gas and bloating after eating foods with these added fibers.

Generally speaking, whole foods are a better option than fiber supplements. Whole foods naturally provide a blend of soluble and insoluble fibers, along with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients that the fiber supplements don’t have. Consuming whole foods as nature provides, offers complementary nutrients that often have a synergistic effect on the body. In other words, their combined effect is often greater than if the individual components were taken separately. Furthermore, foods have many yet-to-be-discovered components that we will never find in isolated supplements. So, it is best to choose whole foods as nature provides, whenever possible.

Tips for Adding More Fiber to Your Diet
There are a LOT of ways to add more fiber to your diet. The following are just a few points that may help along the way. Try what works best for you for starters. Add more as you’re able to and build from there. Take it slow to allow your body (and gut microbiome) time to adjust to the new foods and added fiber intake. This approach will help you to avoid discomfort, gas and bloating, and possibly even diarrhea.

* Examine your usual breakfast. Are you eating low-fiber foods such as processed cereals, pastries, white bread, juice (pulp-free), and/or an array of no-fiber foods like animal products such as bacon, eggs, sausage, milk, cheese, and even yogurt? Try substituting some of those foods with high-fiber options, like oatmeal or a whole-grain cereal and fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.

* How about your snacks? Are you snacking on doughnuts, pastries, cake, cookies, candy, and a sugary beverage or coffee? Try replacing the calorie and fat-laden, low-fiber pastries with fresh fruit and maybe a cookie made simply from whole oats, bananas, a touch of cinnamon, and raisins. How about snacking on fresh vegetables and a small handful of nuts? Or enjoy a snack of vegetables dipped in hummus. Replace sugary beverages or coffee with a tall glass of lemon water or an herbal tea, sweetened with honey, if desired.

* Make it a routine to add a tossed green salad to either lunch or supper each day. Be mindful of what ingredients are added to the salad. Load it up with lettuce and other assorted fresh greens, and top it with assorted chopped fresh (or even lightly cooked) vegetables. Leave off the croutons, shredded cheese, and added meats. Use the simplest dressing you can tolerate. Even just a squeeze of fresh lemon, lime, or orange juice is extremely healthful, although it may take some time to get used to it if you’re accustomed to fat and/or sugar-laden dressings. Studies have shown that those who eat a salad or a small serving of vegetable soup before a meal not only increases fiber intake, but has been linked to eating fewer calories during the meal.

* Once you get used to enjoying a side salad every day, try increasing that to one meal a day consisting of a very large green salad. As detailed above, load it up with your favorite vegetables, and even fruit if you want. Add some cooked beans, peas or lentils for additional protein if you want. Top it with a simple dressing and enjoy! Work up to making this a daily routine and your health will benefit in many ways in addition to getting a nice fiber boost.

* Lean on legumes. Beans, peas, and lentils are wonderful sources of fiber and added protein. Add legumes of choice to soups or a large meal salad.

* At least once a week, choose a meal of beans, peas, or lentils served over a whole grain of your choice. Brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, or even steel cut oats would all work well. Serve it with a large portion of any vegetable of choice and you’ll have a healthy, filling, fiber-filled meal.

* Try a wrap with cooked beans (pinto or black beans would be tasty), lots of fresh vegetables including leafy greens, served on a whole grain tortilla. Top your filling with salsa before rolling it up, and enjoy!

* Make it a point to load up on fruits and vegetables every day. Strive to eat at least five servings a day. As you get used to boosting your fruit and vegetable intake, try to slowly increase your servings to as many as ten servings a day. To do this, you may find that you need to cut back on other foods (the stomach can only hold so much!). Examine the foods you’re eating and identify the least healthful, most processed foods that you’re eating and strive to replace them with more healthful options. That will not only boost your fiber intake, but also will increase your vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, and other phytonutrient intake as well. Your health can only benefit from such a transition.

* Make desserts count. Instead of indulging in cheesecake, ice cream, traditional cookies, or chocolate cake for dessert, opt for a piece of fresh fruit. If you yearn for ice cream, try blending a frozen banana and making “Banana Nice Cream.” If desired, it can be flavored with a little cocoa powder, cinnamon, added fruit, vanilla extract, or even a little milk of choice for smoothness and flavor.

* Enjoy fruit as a snack. Apples, pears, and berries are examples of high-fiber fruits that make a quick and easy snack. They are easy to transport also, and can be included in a packed lunch, tucked in the car when traveling, or stashed in a backpack when hiking.

* When shopping, always opt for whole grains rather than refined or processed foods made with refined flour. When at home, you’ll be reaching in the pantry for foods to prepare. If you don’t have it, you can’t prepare it. Make it a priority to buy only foods that you know will benefit your health.

* Try adding chia seeds to overnight oats, your favorite smoothie, or pudding.  Use chia seeds as an egg replacer in some dishes like quick breads, pancakes, and puddings. Combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 2-1/2 to 3 tablespoons of hot water in a small bowl. Allow it to rest about 5 minutes to thicken. Chia seeds provide omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, minerals, and about 10 grams of fiber per ounce. They are packed with nutritional value, so it pays to include them in your diet any way you can.

* Flax seeds are another high fiber seed to consider. They provide about 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon. Be sure to enjoy them ground rather than whole since they are very hard to break down in the digestive process. Add ground flax seeds to oatmeal, a smoothie, pudding, granola, breading, and baked goods. Mix it into applesauce as a thickener. Use it in recipes in place of wheat bran, wheat germ, or oat bran. Soups and stews may also be thickened with ground flax seeds. Sprinkle it on nut butter. Add it to homemade crackers. Sprinkle a little ground flax on salads. Add it to sauces as a thickener. Add a little ground flax to your favorite hummus (try 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground flax seed to 1 cup of hummus). Ground flax seed can be used as an egg replacer, just like chia seeds. Follow the same directions as detailed above.

* Replace refined fruit juices with whole fruit. Whole fruit has a lot more nutritional value to offer than refined fruit juices. And, the whole fruit will also quench thirst at the same time. For example, enjoying a juicy, ripe pear can satisfy your thirst, help fill a void in the tummy, and provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber all at once.

* Avocados are very nutritious fruits, and there are many ways to add them to your day. Their creamy flesh is rich in vitamins, minerals, monounsaturated fatty acids, and fiber too. One half of an avocado delivers 5 grams of fiber. Furthermore, avocados have been linked to a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases your chances of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

* When possible, try to enjoy fruits and vegetables with the peel left on. There is often a lot of nutritional value and fiber associated with the peels, and most of that gets tossed in the trash when the peel is removed and not eaten.

* Try to include some type of fiber-rich food (or foods) at each meal. Whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables (cooked or raw), cooked beans, peas, or lentils, and nuts or seeds can be included with meals and snacks throughout the day. Enjoy a variety of fiber-rich foods as often as you can until it becomes habit and you no longer have to think about it. That will help you to develop life-long habit of eating fiber-rich foods. Your body will thank you!

* Snack on fresh veggies with your favorite hummus dip for a fiber-rich snack.

* Try whole grain pasta instead of pasta made with refined flour. Also, there are some new types of pasta available that were made from legumes and no grain at all. They are naturally high in fiber and are at least worth a try to see if they work well for you.

Adjusting to Increased Fiber Intake
Suddenly switching from a low-fiber diet to one with a lot of fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, bloating and cramping, and maybe even diarrhea. Increase your fiber intake slowly over a few weeks or even longer. This allows you time to adjust to the change in food choices and also gives your intestinal bacteria time to adjust to the change as well. This will also give your intestinal tract time to adjust to the increased fiber, especially if you’re going from being chronically constipated to slowly establishing regular bowel movements.

Also, it is VERY important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Fiber works best when it absorbs water in the stomach and intestines. This makes your stool softer and bulky, promoting regular bowel movements. Herbal teas and fresh vegetable juices are also excellent additions, but should not replace adequate water intake.

It’s helpful to make small, manageable changes at a time. If they work well for you, maintain those changes, then find another change you can make and add it to your regimen. Then maintain both of those changes and find yet another. Repeat the process as often as you feel it is necessary to improve your diet and achieve your goals. This process allows you to gradually change your dietary habits as your body and gut microbiome adjust. Make it a point to maintain those changes until they become second-nature. Such changes should be considered to be lifelong adjustments and not temporary for the sake of achieving a goal within some short period of time, then reverting back to prior habits. That’s a recipe for failure. It’s best to think in terms of lifelong changes that you can maintain long-term. Over time, you’ll be so accustomed to your new habits that you won’t yearn for the foods you left behind and you won’t have to give much thought to what you’re doing at the grocery store or in the kitchen.

Fiber is an important component of whole plant foods. It is critical to consume plenty of fiber-rich foods to prevent constipation and bowel issues, along with many other serious diseases and conditions. Chronic constipation (provided you have no otherwise obstructive bowel issues) is a clear sign you need more fiber in your diet. Increasing your intake of whole plant foods is a simple solution to the problem. When you’re not used to eating a lot of such foods, it is helpful to increase your intake slowly over time, especially when increasing the amounts of legumes, beans, and peas in your diet. Gradually increasing such foods will help minimize the risk of gas, bloating, or diarrhea that may occur. Give yourself time to work your way up to about ten servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Eventually, your bowel habits will stabilize and constipation will be a thing of the past. You’ll also greatly increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, and important antioxidants and other phytonutrients in the process. Your body will thank you!



Whitney, Ellis and Sharon Rady Rolfes. (2011) Understanding Nutrition. 12th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Beta-Carotene Rich Food

Beta-Carotene 101

Beta-Carotene 101

What is Beta-Carotene?
Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid found in many foods. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants, algae, and some bacteria. There are over 600 different types of carotenoids, with beta-carotene being one of the more common examples. About fifty carotenoids can be converted into vitamin A. The major carotenoids in humans are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Beta-carotene is yellow to orange to red in color and gives many fruits and vegetables their characteristic bright colors ranging from green to orange, red, and purple. Examples include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, romaine lettuce, red bell peppers, broccoli, butternut squash, and apricots. The color of beta-carotene in dark green vegetables is masked by the chlorophyll in the plants.

Beta-carotene serves as a provitamin (or precursor) to Vitamin A in the body. This means that the body uses beta-carotene to make Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin with a variety of functions in the body. Provitamin A (in the form of carotenoids, with beta-carotene being one of them) is only found in plants, whereas preformed Vitamin A (a group of retinoids) is found in animal foods such as dairy products, fish oils, eggs, and meat (especially liver). The Vitamin A your body makes from beta-carotene does not accumulate in the body to toxic levels, whereas preformed Vitamin A from animal sources can.

All carotenoids, including beta-carotene, serve as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants are critical molecules that help to protect us from harmful free-radicals by neutralizing them, stopping their damaging chain reactions. This helps to protect us from developing a number of chronic diseases and health issues, ranging from cognitive decline to cancer.

Health Benefits of Beta-Carotene
As mentioned above, Vitamin A (that we can make from beta-carotene) has a number of important functions in the body. It helps cells reproduce correctly, is essential for good vision, helps ward off cancer, protects our brain health, and is needed for proper development of an embryo and fetus during pregnancy. It also helps keep the skin and mucous membranes that line various cavities of the body healthy. Vitamin A also plays a role in growth, bone formation, reproduction, wound healing, and the functioning of our immune system.

Vision. Vitamin A is critical for good vision. It is a component of rhodopsin, a protein that allows the eye to see in low-light environments. It is well established that a deficiency in Vitamin A can lead to night blindness.

Vitamin A is also important for proper functioning of the cornea, the protective outer layer of the eye. When Vitamin A is deficient, eyes produce too little moisture to stay lubricated. Prolonged deficiency of Vitamin A can lead to xerophthalmia, the leading cause of blindness among the world’s children in developing countries, many of which die within a year of losing their sight. In this preventable condition, the eyes become very dry, damaging the cornea and retina, eventually making the eyes themselves very crusty and unable to function. Simply ensuring adequate intake of Vitamin A or beta-carotene-rich foods prevents these serious eye problems and possible death, especially among children.

Furthermore, research shows that those who eat a diet rich in beta-carotene (or Vitamin A) are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, and have a lower risk of developing cataracts.

Immunity, Pregnancy Outcome, and Children. Vitamin A deficiency impairs immunity by hindering normal reproduction of mucosal cells. These cells line cavities and openings of the body, including all parts of the digestive tract including the mouth, and also the nose, sinuses, bronchial tubes and lungs, vagina, urethra, and anus.  The mucosal cells form barriers helping to prevent infectious microbes from entering the body. When a Vitamin A deficient barrier is damaged by invading microbes, the function of our immune cells (specifically, neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells) is hindered. These cells function in innate immunity. Vitamin A is also needed for adaptive immunity, where the development of T-cells and B-cells are needed to recognize the same invading microbe in the future. In this function, Vitamin A deficiency reduces antibody-mediated responses, reducing our ability to fight the microbe in future infections.

Because of its role in the immune function, Vitamin A deficiency is believed to account for many deaths among infants, young children, and pregnant women around the world. The deficiency lowers the body’s ability to fight infections, leading to respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, slower growth rates and bone development in children, and a lowered rate of survival with serious illness. Simply eating more beta-carotene-rich foods can prevent such tragedies.

Antioxidant Protection. Beta-carotene, like all carotenoids, as an important antioxidant in the body. An antioxidant is a compound that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules, protecting the body from harmful free radical molecules. Free radicals damage the body by robing healthy cells of electrons. This damage can lead to a number of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants are capable of donating electrons to free radical molecules, stopping their destructive damage. In the process, antioxidants themselves are not damaged. Studies have shown that those who eat at least four servings a day of beta-carotene-rich fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease.

Cancer. A number of research studies have shown an association between diets high in carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, and a reduced incidence of many types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, lung, pancreas, colon, esophagus, cervix and skin (melanoma). The antioxidant properties of carotenoids appear to be the reason for this effect. Also, researchers have found that beta-carotene can lower the rate of chronic diseases in addition to cancer. It is believed that beta-carotene enhances immune cell function, and this effect is especially seen in the elderly.

Healthy Skin.  Beta-carotene can help to boost the health of skin. This effect appears to be most likely due to its antioxidant properties. A study reported in the November 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that an optimal amount of antioxidant nutrients in the skin increases basal dermal defense against UV irradiation, supports longer-term protection, and contributes to overall maintenance of skin health and appearance. However, the researchers noted that dietary antioxidants such as beta-carotene or lycopene can offer some degree of sun protection, although it is lower than that of a typical sunscreen.

Vitamin A compounds (retinoids) regulate the growth and differentiation of many types of cells in the skin. Deficiency leads to abnormal keratinization. Keratinization is a process where cells are filled with keratin, which is a type of protein filament that forms tough, resistant structures such as hair and nails. Keratin also helps to provide structure to and contributes to the function of soft tissues, such as skin and mucosal membranes. Deficiency of Vitamin A leads to abnormal epithelial keratinization, which can show up as dry, scaly, tough skin, and hindered wound healing of damaged tissue.

Cognitive Decline. Researchers have shown that those who have a long-term high beta-carotene intake are far less likely to develop cognitive decline then those who did not consume a lot of beta-carotene. Oxidative stress is believed to be a key factor in cognitive decline. The antioxidant properties of beta-carotene, when ingested in high amounts over time, appear to help prevent the deterioration of brain function, including memory. Antioxidants, like beta-carotene may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
Symptoms of a serious deficiency of Vitamin A include dry eyes (which can lead to xerophthalmia, a condition where the eyes become completely dried and thickened, leading to irreversible blindness), night blindness, diarrhea, skin problems, and impaired immunity. Vitamin A deficiency may also contribute to impaired immune function (leading to gastrointestinal and/or respiratory tract infections), poor pregnancy outcomes, and slow growth and bone formation in children.

Keratinization of the skin can occur in Vitamin A deficiency. Keratin is used by the body to form hair and nails (and feathers in birds). When keratinization of the skin occurs, the skin can develop thick, tough, dry, and scaly areas. Examples include the development of corns and calloses. Keratinization can also occur in mucous membranes in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts from a severe Vitamin A deficiency.

Should You Take Vitamin A Supplements?
Vitamin A supplements may contain only provitamin A (such as beta-carotene), preformed Vitamin A (usually retinyl palmitate, from animal foods or from fish oils), or a combination of both.

Hypervitaminosis A (Vitamin A Toxicity). Hypervitaminosis A is a condition where a person has too much Vitamin A in their body. This can happen when a person takes too many (preformed) Vitamin A supplements or uses some acne creams over a long period of time.

A wide range of symptoms can be indicative of hypervitaminosis A. If a person has taken a large dose of preformed Vitamin A in a short period of time, symptoms of Vitamin A toxicity can include irritability, drowsiness, nausea, abdominal pain, a feeling of pressure on the brain, and vomiting.

Symptoms of chronic Vitamin A toxicity, where a person has taken preformed Vitamin A over a long period of time where it slowly accumulated in the body include mouth ulcers, bone swelling, cracked fingernails, bone pain, loss of appetite, cracks in the corners of the mouth, vision problems, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to sunlight, skin problems (rough, dry, peeling, or itchy skin), jaundice, hair loss, confusion, or respiratory infection.

Taking large supplemental doses of beta-carotene is generally not recommended. Even though large doses are not known to be toxic to the general public, they can be harmful to specific groups of people, including smokers. Smokers who take high doses of beta-carotene supplements have been found to be at a greater risk of developing fatal lung cancer. This same precaution also applies to individuals who have been exposed to asbestos, or who consume excessive alcohol. In such cases, beta-carotene supplements have been linked not only to lung cancer, but also heart and liver disease. Other than the serious risk to these groups of individuals, taking long-term large supplemental doses of beta-carotene may cause the skin to turn orange-yellow. However, this can be corrected by simply discontinuing the supplements.

A study reported in the February 1999 issue of Free Radical Research found that the greatest antioxidant protection associated with beta-carotene and lycopene (a type of carotenoid found in tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruits, and papayas), was at the concentration found in foods. When greater amounts (as would occur from supplementation) of these compounds were tested, researchers found the antioxidant protection was quickly lost and may have actually increased DNA damage, taking on a prooxidant effect. Similar effects were found when testing the protection of cellular membranes. This suggests that supplementation with individual carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, significantly raises blood and tissue levels with little to no benefit, and may actually be harmful.

Conversely, some studies such as research reported in 2000 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that some individuals do not adequately convert beta-carotene from foods into the active form of Vitamin A. This may be due to inadequate enzymes necessary for the conversion, lack of adequate fat intake when beta-carotene is consumed, or a simultaneous zinc deficiency, since zinc is necessary for beta-carotene uptake and its conversion into the active form of Vitamin A.

If a person is not receiving adequate Vitamin A or beta-carotene in their diet, or for some reason cannot adequately convert beta-carotene to active Vitamin A, the Council for Responsible Nutrition considered supplements of 10,000 IU daily of preformed Vitamin A (retinol) to be generally safe. Those who routinely eat liver or organ meats may be getting enough from their diet and should use caution when considering Vitamin A supplements.

Foods That Contain Beta-Carotene
Foods that are rich in color are usually high in beta-carotene. Some examples include dark leafy greens (such as kale, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, arugula, and spinach), sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, butternut squash, cantaloupe, red and yellow bell peppers, apricots, peas, papayas, plums, mangoes, raspberries, and romaine lettuce. Some herbs and spices also contain beta-carotene. Examples include paprika, cayenne, chili pepper, parsley, cilantro, marjoram, sage, and coriander.

Effects of Cooking on Beta-Carotene in Foods
There is a great debate on whether it’s better to eat fruits and vegetables raw or cooked. The true answer is not simple. It depends on which nutrient you’re talking about, which food you’re considering, and also which cooking method you’re using vs eating something raw. Carrots are well-known for their high beta-carotene content.  Whether they are cooked or raw, they supply plenty of beta-carotene. However, cooking carrots actually increases their beta-carotene content, especially when they are lightly boiled or steamed. This is because cooking opens the cell walls and releases more beta-carotene then when the carrot is raw. This same principal applies to raw vs cooked spinach and Swiss chard. Furthermore, we are able to absorb more of the beta-carotene from cooked carrots than we can from raw carrots, since the cell walls in carrots are softened when cooked, making them easier to digest. If you want to enjoy your carrots raw, chopping them well (and chewing them thoroughly) can help to break down the cell walls, releasing more of the beta-carotene then would be available if they were eaten whole.

Increasing Your Absorption of Beta-Carotene from Foods
A Little Fat Goes a Long Way.  Beta-carotene along with preformed Vitamin A, are both fat-soluble nutrients, meaning that they are absorbed along with fats in the digestive tract. Having a little fat in your meal with foods high in beta-carotene (or including a food in the meal that naturally contains some fat) can help to enhance the absorption of the nutrient. This was demonstrated in a study conducted at Iowa State University where graduate students were recruited to eat green salads with tomatoes. Various types of salad dressings were used, ranging from fat-free to traditional Italian dressing made with oil. Students had IV lines inserted so researchers could test blood before and after the meals. Results clearly showed that students who were given fat-free or low-fat salad dressings did not absorb the carotenoids as well as those who ate the traditional dressings.

Cooked vs Raw Foods.
As detailed in the section above (Effects of Cooking on Beta-Carotene in Foods), beta-carotene is better absorbed from foods that have been cooked or finely chopped. This is because beta-carotene is bound tightly within plant cells. Finely chopping or cooking helps to break down the cell walls, releasing the beta-carotene so it can be absorbed more easily during the digestive process. Whether you enjoy beta-carotene-rich foods cooked or raw, be sure to chew them well to further release the beta-carotene from the foods.

Zinc Status.   In the March 2003 issue of The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, an animal study was reported where subjects were fed the same diets, except for the levels of zinc. One diet was low in zinc, whereas the other contained adequate zinc. The findings demonstrated that a low intake or marginal deficiency of zinc resulted in decreased absorption of beta-carotene. The study suggested that adequate zinc status is an important factor in the absorption of beta-carotene. So, ensuring you have adequate zinc intake will help boost your absorption of the very important nutrient and antioxidant, beta-carotene.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Anthocyanins 101

Anthocyanins 101

What are anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are a very large group of water-soluble colored pigments found in various plants, especially flowers and fruits. They are also found in the leaves, stems, and roots of assorted other plants, including foods.

Anthocyanins are types of flavonoids that are formed when their related compounds, anthocyanidins, are coupled with sugars. Sugars can bind at different places on the anthocyanidin molecule. With assorted types of sugars and different binding sites available, many different types of anthocyanins may be formed. In fact, over 600 different anthocyanins have been identified in plants.

The color and stability of the pigment is affected by pH, light, temperature, and its own structure. Acidic conditions make the pigments red, whereas alkaline conditions turn them blue. Diversity of anthocyanins is further increased by the chemical combination of sugars with organic acids. So, from the various potential molecular combinations, the different types of anthocyanins are vast.

Anthocyanins have a variety of functions for the plants that contain them. They serve as antioxidants, protectants from UV-light, and defense mechanisms. They are also used in pollination and reproduction. The colors help attract pollinators, such as bees and hummingbirds. Some anthocyanins also protect plants against some destructive larvae.

Anthocyanins are what makes many foods red, purple, or blue. The amount of anthocyanin found in a food is generally proportional to the depth of color of the skin of the food. The compounds are found mostly in the skin, except for some fruits such as red berries and cherries, which also contain anthocyanins in their flesh.

Plants containing these compounds have been traditionally used as medicine, and natural food colorants, and dyes. More recent research has uncovered various important health properties of these colorful compounds.

Health Benefits of Anthocyanins
Anthocyanins have been found to have potent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, improve eye and neurological health, and also provide protection against various diseases. Some anthocyanin-rich foods, such as black carrots, red cabbage, and purple potatoes have been considered as functional foods, and are often eaten for the prevention of specific diseases. Anthocyanins have been shown to help ward off diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and inflammation.

Antioxidant Effects. Most of the health benefits of anthocyanins are attributed to their antioxidant effects. Antioxidants are critical for health by neutralizing harmful free radical molecules. Free radical molecules are generated in the body through normal metabolism, and also when we’re exposed to toxins of any sort, infections, high blood sugar levels, alcohol, cigarette smoke, excessive or intense exercise, radiation, and more. They are missing an electron and are very unstable. In an effort to gain stability, a free radical will steal an electron from a nearby molecule making themselves stable, while damaging the other molecule in the process. That “robbed” molecule then becomes a free radical, and the process continues until an antioxidant comes along. The antioxidant is able to “donate” an electron to the unstable molecule without itself becoming unstable and turning into a free radical. An antioxidant stops the damaging process.

Free radicals can serve important functions that are essential for health. For instance, immune cells use free radicals to fight infections, destroying viruses, bacteria, and damaged body cells along the way. Then, antioxidants are used to neutralize the free radicals, stopping further damage in the body. The body strives to maintain a balance of free radicals and antioxidants. When free radicals outnumber antioxidants, it leads to a state of oxidative stress, which invites disease.

Excessive free radicals in the body can damage DNA, cell membranes, and other parts of cells. They have been linked to many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, degenerative eye diseases, atherosclerosis, senile dementia, asthma, inflammatory joint disease, and more. Antioxidants stop harmful free radical molecules by the means detailed above. Antioxidants are critical in the body for health and well-being.

The body makes its own antioxidants. However, since the body needs so many antioxidants, it’s also important to obtain them from foods to help the body in its neutralizing efforts. Antioxidants may also be obtained from various foods (especially plant foods), certain vitamins (such as Vitamins C, E, and the Vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene), and minerals (such as zinc and selenium). It is important to note that it is best to obtain antioxidants from food sources, rather than taking very high dosages of supplements because in some cases, such high dosages may actually promote oxidative stress and the formation of free radicals. Foods that are high in antioxidants should be included as a regular part of the diet to help ward off many diseases.

Cardiovascular Disease. Researchers have found that anthocyanins help to relax blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. They also help to prevent excessive blood clotting. Anthocyanins have also been found to improve the blood lipid profiles of healthy subjects by increasing the formation of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), while decreasing the formation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Anthocyanins have also been found to lower the risk of non-fatal myocardial infarction (heart attacks). So, including anthocyanin-rich foods in the diet can be an important part of helping to ward off heart disease.

Anticancer Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to suppress tumor growth, inflammation, and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels that feed tumors). Such effects have been seen in the deterrence of esophageal, breast, colon, and prostate cancers, as well as leukemia.

Antidiabetic Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to increase insulin sensitivity (reducing insulin resistance), thereby reducing blood sugar levels. The improved lipid profiles, enhanced antioxidant capacity, and reduced insulin resistance promoted by anthocyanins all work together to help ward off Type 2 diabetes. Anthocyanins have also been found to improve kidney function by reducing oxidative stress, lipotoxicity (the accumulation of fats in non-fatty tissue such as the kidneys, liver, heart and skeletal muscle), and angiogenesis in the kidneys of diabetics, helping to protect them from the damaging effects of diabetes.

Visual Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to improve the visual function in patients with glaucoma. They have also been found to improve blood flow to the eyes without increasing intraocular pressure. In another research project, anthocyanins reduced inflammation in photoreceptor cells, helping to improve their functioning. Anthocyanins have been found to improve dark adaptation, so this may be helpful in people with poor night vision. They have also been found to prevent the formation of cataracts in diabetic subjects.

Antimicrobial Properties. Researchers found that anthocyanins protected cell walls from damage due to invasive microbes. Antibacterial activity was demonstrated against a variety of gram-negative bacteria, including Escherichia choli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Aeromonas hydrophilia, and Listeria innocua. Therefore, anthocyanins can help to protect us from the diseases caused by these harmful bacteria.

Antiobesity Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to slow weight gain and suppress the formation of fatty tissue, while improving the lipid profiles of obese subjects. Researchers also found that anthocyanins reduced blood and urine glucose concentrations in obese subject. So, if you are striving to lose weight, it would be in your interest to include as many anthocyanin-rich foods in your diet as possible.

Neuroprotective Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to protect against inflammation and degeneration of nerve fibers in mouse models and cell studies. These effects offer protection against Alzheimer’s Disease by preserving memory and synaptic nerve transmission function. The enhanced antioxidant effects of anthocyanins were found to provide extra protection against free radical damage and oxidative stress, improving the functioning of nerve pathways. Anthocyanins were also found to provide protective activity by suppressing dopamine-producing cell death commonly found in Parkinson’s disease.

Foods That Contain Anthocyanins
Deeply colored foods with red, purple or blue hues contain anthocyanins. They are particularly high in berries (such as elderberries, chokeberries, bilberries, black raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries).

Anthocyanins are also found in black currants, black olives, goji berries, red cabbage, black plums, cherries, red and black grapes, strawberries, red raspberries, cranberries, black rice, wild rice, purple corn, red onions, red radishes, pomegranates, purple cauliflower, blood oranges, rhubarb, black beans, eggplant, black or purple carrots, and other foods in lesser amounts.

Although they have high nutritional value in their own way, grapefruits, nectarines, peaches, apples and pears contain some, but not appreciable amounts of anthocyanins.

How to Protect Anthocyanins in Foods
Fresh vs Frozen. Researchers have found that anthocyanins in fresh food degrade relatively quickly after being harvested. When fresh and frozen foods were analyzed, they found that frozen foods, such as berries, contained higher amounts of anthocyanins than their fresh counterparts that spent three to ten days in refrigeration after harvest. Since foods are usually processed and frozen quickly after being harvested, if you want to obtain the highest level of anthocyanins in berries, unless you are picking your own or purchase them freshly harvested at a farm market, frozen berries may be a better choice.

Cooking. In a meta-analysis study published in 2014 in Food Research International, researchers compared the anthocyanin levels in foods that were cooked with various methods, including pressure boiling, pressure steaming, conventional steaming, microwaving, and baking. They found that foods cooked with moist heat methods tended to lose the most anthocyanins. The greatest loss of anthocyanins occurred when foods were pressure-steamed.

Dry-heat methods of cooking, such as microwaving and baking, tended to increase the concentration of anthocyanins in the foods tested. Anthocyanins were increased the most when foods were microwaved.

Based on the results of the above studies, if you must cook a food that is high in anthocyanins, baking or microwaving the food may be your best options for preserving as many anthocyanins as possible. When consuming fresh anthocyanin-rich foods, such as berries, use them as quickly as you can after purchase. When consuming frozen foods such as berries, to obtain the most anthocyanins, use them frozen, or allow them to thaw naturally or very briefly in the microwave.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Vegetable Bean Chili

Vegetable Bean Chili

If you’re looking for an easy and delicious vegan bean chili recipe, you found it! It’s full of vegetables, and the variety of beans can be adjusted to your personal preferences. Add ingredients to a big pot with a lid, bring to a boil, then allow it to simmer for an hour, and supper is ready! Adorn it with any garnish you choose and it’s fit for company. There is a video demonstration below, followed by the written recipe.



Vegetable Bean Chili
Makes About 7 Servings

1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic

2 cups vegetable broth
1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp chili powder (to taste)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 large (28 oz) can OR 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
3 cans beans of choice, rinsed and drained (i.e., black, kidney and/or pinto beans)
6 Tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp red wine vinegar (optional)

Optional garnishes:
Grated cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, tortilla chips, sour cream

Place the first five ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the vegetables are finely chopped.

Place all ingredients except the red wine vinegar in a large pot with a lid. Cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and allow the vegetables to cook for about 1 hour, until the vegetables are soft and flavors are blended. Stir occasionally, and taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. When the chili is finished cooking, remove from heat and add the red wine vinegar. Stir to combine. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish, as desired.

Tip: If you want a smoother, more blended chili, remove some of the finished chili and blend it until smooth. Return it to the pot, stir, and serve. Or, if preferred, an immersion blender could be used to blend the chili in the pot to the desired texture you want.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Herbs and Spices

Glass 101 – Why Switch From Plastic to Glass Food Jars or Containers AND Ways to Use Them

From Plastic to Glass Food Containers
Why Switch, and Ways to Use Them

Why switch to glass food containers?

There is a growing trend with people moving away from using plastic in the kitchen. This includes plastic wrap, plastic bags, plastic utensils, and plastic containers for storing, freezing, heating food, and eating. There are many reasons for this trend including:

* The desire to be more earth-friendly with less waste. Plastic waste is littering the planet in insurmountable amounts. Switching to glass helps to reduce potential plastic waste and is ultimately recyclable, even when broken. Also, the production and reuse of glass products creates less pollution in the environment than does the production of plastics.

* Avoiding chemicals that may be in or released from plastics that could leach into foods. Plastics are made from assorted chemicals, some of which are endocrine disrupting chemicals such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. These chemicals can affect the brain, hormone system, reproductive system, and may also increase the risk of getting cancer. Furthermore, many such chemicals have not been completely tested for their health effects. Research has shown that some of these chemicals can leach into foods and beverages, in addition to possibly contaminating air, creating hazardous dust, and getting onto our hands. Glass does not leach chemicals into food or liquids, nor into the air or surfaces it comes in contact with.

* Durability. Glass lasts longer than plastic, unless of course, it gets broken. Also, plastic containers can melt or get warped when in contact with hot food, whereas most glass can tolerate hot to warm food without being damaged. Also, plastic wears out, becomes scratched or cracked, and breaks down much faster than glass, possibly causing chemicals to leach into the contents of the plastic container.

* Functionality. Glass has more potential uses than plastic containers, and may be reused indefinitely. Plastic containers wear out over time and may develop odors, scratches, a greasy film, and/or cracks.

* Glass is easier to clean. It will not absorb grease nor stain like plastic.

* Odor control.  Glass does not absorb odors, whereas plastic can.

* Glass is microwavable.  Most glass may be used in the microwave, whereas most plastics should not be microwaved. When plastic containers are microwaved, they may soften or melt. Also, the heat from the contents may cause plastic containers to leach chemicals into the contents of the container.

* Oven use. Most glass intended for kitchen use may be used in the oven, whereas plastic may not be used in the oven.

* Flavor. Glass preserves flavor better than plastic and won’t impart its own flavor into food, like plastic can, especially with prolonged storage.

* Glass containers are reusable for a much longer time than plastic containers. When purchasing items like tomato sauce, pickles, jelly, jam, beverages, nut butters, or anything that may be packaged in a glass jar or container, opt for glass packaging rather than plastic, if possible. It will help to reduce waste and the glass containers can be reused at home for many different purposes in the kitchen and around the house.

Uses for Glass Jars and Containers

There are many ways to reuse cleaned out food jars of all sizes and shapes, in addition to using canning mason jars for applications other than preserving food. For instance, glass jars can be used in any of the following creative ways:

* Sort and store assorted hardware such as nuts, bolts, screws and nails in separate jars.

* Store vegetables cut in advance for salads or meal preparation in jars.

* Use a lidded jar as a beverage glass at home or “to go.”

* Use a glass jar for drinking a smoothie at home or “to go.”

* Store small craft or sewing items such as pins, buttons, ribbons, or small tools in a jar.

* Use a jar as a pencil holder. Place pencils, pens, crayons, and/or markers in a jar on a desk.

* Store paper clips in a jar.

* Package your own prepared foods such as a “to-go” lunch in a jar.

* Make (and serve) a layered salad in a jar.

* Store leftover liquid items in a jar in the refrigerator. Examples include soups, sauces, beverages, or baby formula.

* Store leftover foods such as cooked rice, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cooked beans, tuna salad, cut fruit, etc. in a jar.

* Store pre-measured baking ingredients in jars. When you want to measure ingredients in advance to shorten meal prep time, measure baking ingredients in advance and store them in clean, dry food jars.

* Use a jar as a simple vase for cut flowers or a decorative floral arrangement with artificial flowers.

* Use a glass jar as a small vessel for rooting plant cuttings.

* Store extra dried herbs or spices in small glass jars with lids.

* Store extra dry foods such as beans, rice, pasta, flour, nuts, and seeds in jars.

* Store and mix homemade salad dressing in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

* Use a jar as a container for homemade cake, brownie, bar, quick bread, and cookie mixes. Decorate the jar and give it as a gift.

* Make a homemade luminary in a jar.

* Make homemade candles in jars. Decorate and give them as gifts.

* Make a homemade terrarium in a decorative jar.

* Make and store homemade cosmetics in small jars with tight-fitting lids.

* Pack a homemade first-aid kit in a small jar for traveling.

* Store extra matches in a jar for safe keeping.

* Make painted or decorated jars for gift giving.

* Make a decorative, colorful sand art in a jar for your home or gifting.

* Make a decorative holder for a tea light with a pretty jar.

* Make flavored oils or vinegars in jars.

* Make overnight oats in a jar.

* Make a mini planter (such as for one flower bulb) with a decorative jar.

* Make a citronella candle in a jar for keeping mosquitoes away when you’re outside on a summer evening. Simply put the lid on the jar when it’s not being used.

* Store cotton balls and cotton swabs in a jar in the bathroom.

*  Use a glass jar for an easy piggy bank for saving extra change at the end of the day.

* Make a homemade, reusable soap dispenser by putting a pump in the top of a glass jar.

* Freeze food in jars, such as chopped bell peppers or onions, leftover soup in individual servings, or easy to-go lunches made in advance.

* Store extra garden seeds in the freezer in a glass jar.

* Make a decorative table centerpiece with a pretty jar.

* Store extra hair care items such as hair ties, bows, bobby pins and hair barrettes in jars.

* Use a jar as a toothbrush holder in the bathroom.

* Store extra combs in a glass jar.

* Use a small jar as a toothpick holder.

* Decorate a small glass jar to be used as a small planter for succulents.

* Make and serve a parfait in a tall jar.

* Carry “to go” snacks in a jar.

* Store makeup brushes in a jar.

* Store extra granola in a jar so it keeps fresh.

* Make a bug catching jar for children.

* Store extra candy in a jar after the bag/container is opened.

* Organize extra pantry items by placing dry food in jars, especially after the original packaging has been opened.

* Marinate meat in a jar. It would be much easier to clean than a plastic bag, or would save trashing the bag after it was used.

* Store painting supplies in jars. Larger jars can be used for storing paint brushes. Smaller jars can be used to store small amounts of extra paint.

* Display small vacation souvenirs in a jar for a decorative memoir.

The uses for glass jars of any size and shape are only limited to your imagination. So, start saving them when any store-bought food item is finished and you’ll have enough containers for all sorts of uses before you know it!



Glass Bakeware

Glass 101 – About the Types of Glass Used in the Kitchen

About the Types of Glass Used in the Kitchen
Soda-Lime vs Tempered vs Borosilicate Glass

There is a growing trend to move away from plastic food containers and metal bakeware, and there are many good reasons for doing so. However, the more we explore this option, the more it can become confusing. There are different types of glassware available. So, the question remains…Which one is best for me? This article explores the different types of glassware available today, so that you can make an informed decision on what type of glassware is best for you.

About the Different Types of Glass for Kitchen Use
Not all glass is created equal. However, each type has its own advantages and potential drawbacks. Which type of glass is best to buy will depend on your intended use for the item itself. The following should help you when shopping for glass items for your kitchen.

Components of Glass. All types of glass contain silicon dioxide, boron trioxide, sodium oxide, and aluminum oxide. However, the proportions of each chemical vary between glass types. The chemical composition affects the strength and melting points of glass. There are three types of glass that can be found in the kitchen: Soda-lime, tempered, and borosilicate glass.

About the Annealing Process. Annealing is a process of heating and cooling glass at a controlled rate during manufacturing. This step improves the glass’ durability and helps to reduce internal stresses that could cause breakage when the glass is heated and cooled during normal use. Annealed glass may be referred to as non-tempered glass or float glass. Annealed glass is not as strong as tempered glass. When annealed glass gets broken, it breaks into sharp, jagged pieces that could hurt someone nearby. When tempered glass gets broken, it breaks into small, smooth, relatively harmless pieces.

Since annealed glass does not go through extensive processing, it is cheaper to make than tempered glass. Annealed glass has optimal versatility for the manufacturer, so it can be crafted in many styles and designs, allowing it to be customized in many ways.

Soda-Lime Glass
Soda-lime glass is the most common type of glass. It may also be referred to as “soda-lime-silica glass” and may also be referred to as “annealed glass” since it is put through the annealing process. This glass is usually used for windowpanes, light bulbs, and glass containers like bottles and jars for beverages, food, and some commodities. Mason jars are made of soda-lime, annealed glass. Because of its chemical makeup, soda-lime glass is not as strong as other types of glass and will break easily when subjected to being bumped, or sudden extreme temperature changes (also known as thermal shock). While any glass can break with extreme sudden temperature changes or mechanical bumps, soda-lime glass will break the easiest under such conditions. It is relatively inexpensive to make, so it would be the preferred glass to manufacture. About ninety percent of manufactured glass is soda-lime glass. Soda-lime glass does not contain as much silicone dioxide (69%) as does borosilicate glass (80.6%).

Soda-lime glass is smooth and nonporous, allowing it to be easily cleaned. It resists chemicals in water solutions, so they will not contaminate the contents nor affect the flavor of anything stored in the glass. However, soda-lime glass does not tolerate very high temperatures, sudden temperature changes, or being bumped mechanically without cracking, chipping or breaking. For example, it can break when exposed to a sudden temperature change, such as when pouring very hot liquid into a cool glass.

Tempered Glass
Tempered glass is soda-lime glass that has been specially treated to make it stronger and more durable. In the manufacturing process, soda-lime glass is subjected to extremely high temperatures, followed by a few seconds of a high-pressure cooling technique called quenching. Tempered glass can also be created through chemical treatment causing the glass to compress. However, the chemical process is expensive and not used very often. When tempered glass shatters, it breaks into small pieces, making it less likely to cause injury than when untempered soda-lime glass shatters.

Tempered glass is very durable and resists smudges, allowing for easy removal of fingerprints. It is much harder and stronger than untempered soda-lime glass, and can tolerate temperatures up to 470°F. However, despite its strength, tempered glass should not be subjected to sudden extreme temperature changes, which could cause it to shatter. An example would be removing a glass bakeware dish with food in it from a 450°F oven and placing it on a cold marble slab or countertop. After removing a hot glass baking dish from the oven, place it on dry hot pads, towels or trivets that will absorb the warmth of the dish rather than shocking it with a much cooler temperature. A lot of glass bakeware is currently made from tempered soda-lime glass.

Borosilicate Glass
In addition to the other components, borosilicate glass contains boron trioxide. This ingredient makes the glass very strong so it is unlikely to crack when exposed to extreme temperature changes. It is also very resistant to chemical corrosion. Therefore, borosilicate glass is harder, stronger, and more durable than soda-lime glass, tempered or not. This type of glass is used in some bakeware since it can tolerate extreme temperature changes far better than tempered soda-lime glass. It is also used in pipelines, sealed-beam headlights, and laboratory equipment. Interestingly, borosilicate glass is more likely to break when dropped than tempered soda-lime glass. When it breaks, it shatters into large sharp pieces that can cause serious injury to anyone nearby.

So, the question remains…Which brand is made of which type of glass, and which type of glassware is best for me?

You will need to be the judge on which type of glass bakeware is best for you, based on your personal needs, applications, and habits. The following information gives insight to some of the common brands of glass bakeware currently on the market.

Pyrex (World Kitchen) Glassware
Many of us own Pyrex glassware. The company was established in 1915 and originally made its glassware products with borosilicate glass. In recent years, corporate changes took place and newer products have since been made with tempered soda-lime glass. As a consumer, you can easily determine which type of glass your glassware is made from by looking at the brand name. If it is spelled in all capital letters (PYREX), it was made with borosilicate glass. If it is spelled in all small letters (pyrex), it was made with tempered soda-lime glass. Any newer borosilicate PYREX glassware is currently being made in Europe.

Anchor Hocking Glassware
This brand of glass bakeware is made of tempered soda-lime glass.

Libby Glassware
Libby glass bakeware is made of tempered soda-lime glass.

1790 Brand Glassware
This brand of glassware is made of borosilicate glass.

Amazon Basics Glass Bakeware
This brand of glassware is made of borosilicate glass.

OXO Glass Bakeware
This brand of glassware is made of borosilicate glass.

How to Minimize the Risk of Breakage
Glass bakeware comes with instructions for use and care. We should all read the paperwork that comes with such things, and follow the instructions carefully. But many times, the paperwork gets tossed aside and never read. So, here are some general tips for the safe use of glass bakeware.

* Avoid extreme changes in temperature, such as taking glassware directly from the freezer to a hot oven, or from a hot oven to the sink. Care should also be used when placing a frozen glassware item into the microwave.

* Do not add liquid to hot glassware. Allow it to cool down first.

* Do not place hot glass bakeware on cold or wet surfaces, countertops, or stovetops. Instead, place them on a dry towel or hot pads, wooden cutting board, cooling rack, or trivets designed for hot glass items.

* Do not put hot glassware into the refrigerator or freezer. Allow it to cool down first.

* Do not use glassware on the stovetop, under a broiler, or in a toaster oven.

* Do not heat empty glassware.

* Always preheat the oven first before placing glassware (WITH FOOD IN IT) in the oven.

* Don’t use glassware to microwave popcorn or heat food that is in browning wrappers.

* When heating cheese, oil, or butter in glassware in the microwave, don’t overheat it. Heat it only for the minimum time needed.

* Allow glass bakeware to cool completely before immersing it in water.

* Use care not to bump, poke, or scratch glass bakeware with utensils of any type.

* Do not use glass bakeware that has any chips, cracks or other damage, which can cause them to suddenly shatter.

* Do not microwave nearly empty glassware. Be sure it has ample food in it to absorb the heat generated by the radiation from the microwave.




Peaches 101 – The Basics


Peaches 101 – The Basics

About Peaches
Peaches are stone fruits, native to northwest China. From there, the trees spread westward through Asia into the Mediterranean countries, then onward to other parts of Europe. Spanish explorers transported peaches to the Americas, where they were found in Mexico as early as 1600. Large-scale production of peaches started in the United States in the 19th century. Early crops were of poor quality. With improved techniques of grafting, large commercial peach orchards were eventually established.

The color of peach flesh can be white or yellow to orange. There are two main varieties of peaches: freestone, where the flesh easily separates from the one large pit or stone, and clingstone, where the flesh adheres securely to the stone. The freestone varieties are usually eaten fresh, “out of hand,” since the pit almost falls out once exposed. They can also be used in any application, like baking, cooking, canning and freezing. Clingstone peaches are a bit sweeter, smaller, and juicier than freestone varieties. They are excellent options for canning and preserving. Most commercially canned peaches are clingstone varieties.

Thousands of varieties of peaches have been developed over the years. Yellow-fleshed varieties are the most popular in North America.  Europeans enjoy both white and yellow fleshed peaches. Globally, China, Italy, Spain, and the United States are major producers of peaches.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Peaches have noteworthy nutritional value and health benefits. One medium peach contains Vitamin C, Vitamin A, fiber, potassium, niacin, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, copper and manganese. They also have smaller amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and B-vitamins. One medium peach has about 58 calories, so they would make a healthy, low-calorie snack or addition to any meal or dessert.

Peaches also contain a number of antioxidants, compounds that are known to neutralize harmful molecules in the body, protecting us from aging and assorted diseases. It’s noteworthy that the fresher and riper a peach is, the more antioxidants it contains.

Digestive Help. The fiber in peaches is half soluble and half insoluble. This is especially helpful since each type of fiber serves its own purpose and they are not interchangeable. Soluble fiber feeds our gut bacteria, keeping colonies strong and active. Soluble fiber also binds with bile in the digestive tract, removing it in the feces. This forces the liver to make more bile from existing cholesterol, which in turn, helps to keep our blood cholesterol levels in check. Insoluble fiber is important for helping to propel the contents of the digestive tract forward, preventing constipation. This also helps to ward off disorders like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis. It is important to note that much of the fiber in peaches is found in the skin, so to get the most benefit from your peaches, don’t peel them, if possible.

Heart Health. As mentioned under “Digestive Help,” the soluble fiber in peaches helps to keep cholesterol levels down. This in itself helps to ward off heart and cardiovascular diseases. Also, potassium, which is found in peaches, is an electrolyte known for helping to manage the balance of fluids in the body. It also promotes lower blood pressure, by helping blood vessels to relax and expand appropriately, allowing for better blood flow and transport of nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.

Skin Health. The high level of Vitamin A and antioxidants found in peaches helps to promote healthy skin. First, peaches are high in Vitamin C. This crucial vitamin is important in the development and maintenance of collagen in the body. Collagen is vital in providing a support system for the skin, promoting wound healing, and strengthening the skin. It can also improve the appearance of skin by reducing wrinkling, improving elasticity, smoothing roughness, and improving skin color.

Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and the other antioxidants (along with Vitamin C) found in peaches work together as anti-inflammatory agents, helping to protect the skin from sun damage, improving the skin tone, calming inflammation by squelching harmful free-radical molecules, and helping to protect against premature aging. Also, since peaches are largely water, they help to hydrate the skin, giving it a healthy glow and minimizing wrinkles.

Cancer Protection. The skin and flesh of peaches are rich in carotenoids, caffeic acid, and polyphenols. These types of antioxidants have been found to have anticancer properties, limiting the growth and spread of cancer cells and also helping to prevent non-cancerous tumors from becoming malignant. Animal and human studies confirm that peaches may be helpful in preventing breast cancer.

Allergy Symptoms. Peaches may help to reduce allergy symptoms. Studies have shown that peaches may help to reduce or prevent the release of histamines in the blood after exposure to allergens, thereby reducing allergy symptoms. More research is needed in this area, but the findings look promising.

Immunity. The antioxidants found in peaches may help to boost immunity by fighting certain types of bacteria.

Diabetes. Animal studies found that compounds in peaches may help to prevent high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. More studies with humans are needed in this area, but it appears that peaches, along with other foods high in antioxidants, may be helpful in preventing and treating diabetes and insulin resistance.

Eye Health. The powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin found in peaches, helps to protect the retina and lens of the eyes. Along with that, the compounds have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye disorders that hinder the vision of many people. The Vitamin A found in peaches also is important for supporting eye health. A serious Vitamin A deficiency causes xerophthalmia, which can result in eye damage causing problems from night blindness to complete and irreversible total blindness. In fact, severe Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness among children in underdeveloped nations around the world.

Cognitive Health. Antioxidants, like those found in peaches, are known to fight harmful molecules in the body. When affecting the brain, harmful free-radical molecules can cause neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ingesting ample antioxidants from foods in their natural form is the best way to obtain these helpful compounds. Including peaches and other fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet is a simple way to help ensure you lower your risk for serious conditions as detailed above.

How to Select Fresh Peaches
When choosing fresh peaches, bear in mind your personal preference or intended use. The white-fleshed peaches are sweeter and less acidic than the yellow-fleshed peaches, which are more of a sweet-tart flavor.

When buying fresh peaches, look for those that are hard or only slightly soft, with no bruises or wrinkles. Don’t be shy…smell the peach before you place it in your cart. Those that smell sweeter will be riper, sweeter in flavor, and ready to eat sooner than those with little to no aroma. Also, you can tell if a peach is ripe and ready to eat by gently pressing down on its flesh and feeling it slightly give…like you would test an avocado for ripeness.

Avoid peaches that are brownish, damaged, mushy or wrinkled, because they are old, overripe, and will not last long.

How to Store Fresh Peaches
If your fresh peaches are not fully ripe, they can be placed on the kitchen counter in a single layer, away from sunlight and heat. They should ripen within one to three days.

Ripe peaches will last up to one week when kept at room temperature. If you won’t be able to use them within that time, place them in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process. They may be kept in an open area of the refrigerator, or in a crisper drawer to help protect them from damage. If they are placed in the crisper drawer, leave the air vent open, on the low humidity setting.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Peaches
* Try grilling or roasting peaches, then add them to a salad.

* Try grilled or roasted peaches with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cheese.

* Serve chicken with a peach sauce.

* Make a peach salsa to serve on tacos or pork tenderloin.

* On a hot day, try adding some sliced peaches to your favorite iced tea. For the most flavor, smash the peaches in the bottom of the glass before adding the ice cubes and tea.

* Blend some peaches with coconut milk for a “peaches and cream” smoothie or dessert. Add some dates or sweetener of choice, if desired. Add banana for more richness, if desired. Spice it up if you want with a little cinnamon and nutmeg.

* Blend peaches with yogurt or coconut cream and freeze it in popsicle molds. Sweeten it with dates or sweetener of choice, if desired. Add a touch of lemon juice for a little tartness and color retention, if desired.

* Add diced peaches to your morning oatmeal.

* Blend peaches with raspberries to make a sauce, then serve it over ice cream or coconut milk sorbet. Top with chopped almonds and enjoy!

* Try a salad with a bed of mixed greens mixed with cherry tomatoes and peach slices. Top with some fresh basil leaves and drizzle with a balsamic-honey dressing.

* The lighter, white flesh peaches taste sweeter and are less acidic than the traditional yellow flesh peaches. The yellow flesh peaches are sweet, but more acidic which makes them a little tangier.

* Peaches come in two basic varieties regarding their pits or stones. They can be freestone, where the flesh separates easily from the stone. Or they can be clingstone, where the flesh adheres to the stone and is not easily removed. The freestone peaches are easier to work with since the stone comes out easily. They also tend to be larger and less juicy than their counterparts, the clingstones. Clingstone peaches tend to be slightly softer, sweeter, and juicier than freestone peaches.

* Botanically speaking, nectarines are actually a variety of peach. They are so closely related that sometimes nectarines naturally appear on peach trees.

* 1 pound of fresh peaches = 4 medium peaches = about 2-1/2 cups chopped or sliced = about 1-1/2 cups pureed.

* If you need fresh peaches for a recipe and don’t have enough, even though the flavors may be a bit different, the following fruit may be used as a substitute: nectarines, apricots, plums, mangoes, papaya, cherries, and pluots or apriums (crosses between plums and apricots).

* If you need dried peaches for a recipe and don’t have enough, even though the flavors may be a bit different, the following may be used as a substitute: dried apricots, dried nectarines, and dried cherries.

* Top rice pudding (or any other pudding) with diced fresh peaches.

* Try a peach parfait by layering diced fresh peaches, yogurt, banana, pistachios, and granola.

* If you buy conventionally grown peaches and are concerned with pesticide or other chemical residues on your fruit, most of it can be easily removed by a simple (scienced-based!) 15-minute soak in a baking soda solution. Combine a ratio of 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 2 cups of water. Make up enough solution to be able to submerge your peaches. Weigh the peaches down with a plate to keep them under the water and allow them to soak for 15 minutes. Then simply rinse them with clean water and pat them dry. Store them and use them as usual. To see a demonstration on this technique, watch this video …

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Peaches
Allspice, basil, cardamom, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, lemongrass, lemon verbena, mint, nutmeg, pepper, rosemary, saffron, salt, tarragon, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Peaches
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beef, cashews, ham, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, nuts (in general), pecans, pistachios, pork, poultry, prosciutto, pumpkin seeds, salmon (and other seafoods), walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, chiles, endive, fennel, ginger, greens (salad), onions (red), radishes, scallions, tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Apples (fresh, juice), apricots, avocado, bananas, berries (in general), blackberries, blueberries, cherries, coconut, currants, grapes, lemon, lime, mangoes, nectarines, orange (fresh, juice, liqueur, zest), papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, plums, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries

Grains and Grain Products: Grains (in general), oatmeal, oats, quinoa, wheat berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, buttermilk, cheese (esp. blue, burrata, cream, goat, mozzarella, ricotta), cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone, sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Caramel, chocolate, honey, lavender, maple syrup, molasses, oil (olive), rum, sherry, spirits (i.e., bourbon, brandy, cognac, Cointreau, Kirsch), sugar, vinegar (i.e., apple cider, balsamic, champagne, rice, wine), whiskey, wine (i.e., red or white, fruity, sparkling, and/or sweet)

Peaches have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., pies, scones), chutneys, compotes, desserts (i.e., cobblers, crisps, crumbles, Melba, pies), ice cream, salads (i.e., fruit, grain, green), salsas, smoothies, sorbets, soups (i.e., cold and/or fruit), Southern (U.S.) cuisine

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Peaches
Add peaches to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Cinnamon + Yogurt
Almonds + Lemon + Olive Oil + Saffron
Balsamic Vinegar + Lettuce + Spinach + Maple syrup + Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar + Mint + Ricotta
Basil + Mozzarella Cheese
Berries + Lemon
Blueberries + Lemon + Maple Syrup
Blue Cheese + Hazelnuts
Cashew Cream + Balsamic Vinegar
Cherries + Balsamic Vinegar
Cilantro + Ginger + Lime
Cinnamon + Honey + Lemon + Yogurt
Fennel + Lemon
Ginger + Honey + Lemon + Lemongrass
Ginger + Lemon
Honey + Nuts + Oats/Oatmeal
Mangoes + Raspberries
Maple Syrup + Nuts + Orange Juice + Ricotta
Maple Syrup + Orange + Vanilla
Mascarpone + Strawberries + Vanilla
Pistachios + Vanilla

Recipe Links
34 Peach Recipes to Make This Summer

13 Most Delicious Ways to Eat Peaches

Baked Peaches

Peaches and Berries with Lemon-Mint Syrup

39 Perfect Peach Desserts

Peach Pie Smoothie

Savory Peach Chicken

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Peach Glaze

15 Savory Peach Recipes

Fresh Peaches with Blueberries and Yogurt

43 Peach Recipes That Make the Most of Summer’s Juiciest Fruit

55 Juicy Peach Recipes for (an Endless) Summer

70+ Fresh Peach Recipes to Savor This Summer

60 Ways to Use a Farmers’ Market Haul of Fresh Peaches



Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.