Grading Meat: What’s Healthy and What Isn’t

Grading Meat: What’s Healthy and What Isn’t

A little while ago, we talked about the grading of vegetables. How confusing the system was, and what was constituted as healthy. Well, this time, we are looking into the rules and regulations for grading meat. If the policy is completely voluntary or at least a little lax for vegetables, then surely it would be the same for the meat industry, right? Not exactly.

Thanks to a failed attempt at getting America to embrace socialism by Upton Sinclair, regulations in the meat industry was a must from the 1920’s onward. People were concerned if the handling of meat was considered safe and healthy. So, the meat grading system, compared to the vegetable grading system is far more complex and is taken more seriously by the government. There are different grading levels for each type of meat. Most of which are not interchangeable with meat because each type of meat has its own properties based on what is healthy for that animal. So, we are going to look into the grading system for two of the three types of meat that are predictably harvested and bred in the United States. Beef, and Chicken.

Grading Beefbeef, prime

Beef, meat from a cow, has officially 8 grades. Each grade takes into consideration both the marbling and the age of the meat from when it was initially killed and harvested.

1.  U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime. This would be the creme de la creme where beef is concerned and has the most fat attached to it.

2.  U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in the foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total. The difference between Choice and Prime is largely due to the fat content in the beef. Prime typically has a higher fat content (more and well distributed intramuscular “marbling”) than Choice.

3.  U.S. Select (formerly Good) – This is lowest grade commonly sold at supermarkets, acceptable quality, but is less juicy and tender due to leanness.  The cutoff for this grade of meat, as well as the other two grades above,  is when the cattle is 30 months old or younger.

4.  U.S. Standard – Lower quality, yet economical, it lacks marbling so you would need to add some fat for cooking.

5.  U.S. Commercial – Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from older animals. If you are using this type of meat at all, then you would want to utilize a cooking method meant to tenderize the beef, like boiling. The age of this cattle is in between 30 to 40 months old.
The three grades below are the kind of beef that can’t cut it as a steak.  Instead, the meat from older cattle is utilized for things like ground beef, sausages, hotdogs, and canned meats. This cutoff in age is past 40 months.

6.  U.S. Utility

7.  U.S. Cutter

8. U.S. Canner

 

grading chicken, health standardsGrading Chicken

The quality of chicken, like beef, does have a grading system. However, there are only three grades. This is because the grading system does not rely on the age of the chicken, so much as it relies on the condition of the meat and bones. The meat and muscular definition of the animals vary according to species, so they rely on checking the fat content, the condition of the flesh, and the condition of the bone. All to make sure which is more healthy.

1.  Class A –  This type of class is at the top. This is with no deformities, bruises, broken bones, or discoloration. This bird better be in perfect condition to make this grade. There should be no exposed flesh or at least as little as possible. This is the type of chicken that is good for roasting.

2.  Class B –  This type of class allows for moderate deformities. It should still have flesh, at least enough so that the wings or the drums don’t look too thin. The amount of exposed flesh can be no more than one-third of the carcass.  This type of chicken is great for frying.

3. Class  C – This is the lowest grade for poultry. It is allowed more room for error with the occasional feathers still unplucked, little fat attached to the flesh, and mostly exposed skin. The meat is going to be tougher, so this grade of chicken is best for stuff like stew meat or used in the making of stock.

Which Grades are Healthy?

The way that we grade meat is far more meticulous than vegetables, and it is outright fascinating how meat is graded on their own merits. However, what do we know is the healthiest? The trick is, you don’t want the fattest cut, but you don’t want the leanest cut either. Fat is still good for adding flavor and tenderizing the meat, but too much of it can go to your waistline. Stick with midgrade unless you want to go lean for things like stews.

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Healthy Activities for the Summer Season

Choose  A Healthy Workout for the Summer Season

Though it is only the beginning of May, outside temperatures are steadily rising in Huntsville, AL. That means that the summer season is just around the corner. Kids get out of school, swimming pools are getting ready to open up, and many critters are running around the outdoors.  Interestingly enough, this is also the time of year where a lot of physical activities take place. And while not everyone has a “bikini body” they are proud of, there are still plenty of ways to get fit and enjoy the summer season. Here are a few ways you can get fit with some healthy workout in the summer season.

workout cycling

 

Cycling

Do you want to feel the rush of wind against your face? Do you want to develop leg strength while performing cardio? Then cycling is the way to go. While most kids have hopped on a bike once in a while, most people don’t really take that with them into adulthood. However, you should reconsider if you haven’t done it in a while since it is tremendous for your heart health and muscle activity. It is also low impact, so your joints will less likely suffer from permanent damage. So hop on that bike and ride like you never forgot to learn how!

Swimming

Maybe you want to keep the weight of the world off your shoulders. Gravity, after all, can be a hefty burden especially to your joints, including your knees and hips. The weightless sensation makes you less likely to feel like your body has expended too much effort. It is great for people who suffer from physical disabilities. And, it also counts as a cardio activity, as well as an important life skill to learn in case of emergencies. So, grab that suit and dive right in!

Walking

This is a form of exercise that anyone can know how to do instinctually from the time they were a toddler. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other for a long enough time, and eventually, you will get in shape. This activity is a little more high impact compared to something like swimming, so if you have joint pains, you might want to take it a little easy on this one. Nevertheless, if you want something that does not cost money in accessories, grab a pair of your old tennis shoes and get to walking.

Gardening

This form of workout can give you a “two for one” kind of benefit. For starters, the act of gardening itself can be considered a somewhat strenuous activity. Gardening involves things bending, lifting, pulling, and several other forms of physical movement. So, the first physical benefit is exercise. The second benefit would be fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as pretty flowers in your yard for yourself and others to enjoy. If you have the tools, the plot of land, and a floppy hat, then you can get out there and garden. If you don’t have the land or supplies, there are plenty of co-op and volunteer gardens that could benefit from your help. This can add a third benefit to this kind of exercise, helping your community.

workout, dancing

Dancing

What if you have a sudden urge to move. Or maybe you want to indulge your artistic side or understand your heritage? Then you might want to consider picking up dancing. The rapid yet graceful movements of the human body are enough to get in a hardcore workout. Especially if the beat of the music runs at a faster tempo. This is a great activity for socializing since most dances require a partner, and it can certainly help in boosting confidence after a difficult yet rewarding performance.

Yoga

What if you are more concerned with your spiritual practices? Maybe you are suffering from extreme anxiety and are worried about the judgment from others when working out? Then, maybe you ought to consider yoga as part of your workout regimen. The exercises are great for stretching out your limbs, clearing your mind, and decreasing blood pressure all around. Also, most of the time, when you are working out in a class, everyone else is too preoccupied with their own stretching to even notice what is going on with you. There is even a period in which you can close your eyes and come down from the intensity of the workout.  Pick this up if you feel like this is the right one for you.

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Grading Produce

Grading Produce

I might have mentioned in a previous article about organic food that the term “organic” wasn’t always what people thought it was. They were not that much healthier compared to their pesticide grown counterparts. However, there is the occasional nagging feeling of ” What if what I am doing is not enough? ” Maybe,  you are still worried about the quality of groceries you are getting. Or maybe you don’t know what it is you are looking for because you haven’t cooked in a while. So, what do you do?

Well, thankfully, we can get some sort of idea on what qualifies as good food based on a rating system set up by the USDA. Right?

The Grading System for Food

Surprisingly, not all fruit, vegetables, or cuts of meat are created equal in the grand scheme of our production obsessed economy. Unfortunately, much like every other part in our lives, like housing and luxuries, it all boils down to money. The grades of meat and vegetables are reflected as a statement of quality and are distributed among what buyers can afford. So, chances are you will not see super grade vegetables in a gas station any time soon. However, if we look at the system, we can get some insight into just how produce and meat are sorted and what farmers are looking at in terms of sorting out quality.

How does it Work?

Produce is sorted into multiple categories against their own version of an “ideal” standard. So, a mushroom wouldn’t be compared to the standards of a grape, because they both have different categorical needs. Within each class of product, whether it be a fruit or vegetable, there are several sub-categories that are checked. These sub-categories include but are not limited to; color, size, presence of disease, thickness, etc. There are several examples that can be found on the USDA website. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t try to at least didn’t illustrate what such criteria even looks like.

Grade Standards for Bunched Carrots

There are only two classes of carrot in this scenario. US No 1 and US Commercial. Both are required by law to be disease free before they make it to market. However, things like size, coloration, etc are varied in allowance according to the USDA regulations.

 

  • The higher grade, US No1, has a more stringent allowance for which carrots make it to market and which don’t. US No1 has a 10% tolerance for things like a defect in the tops or roots and a 25% allowance for “off length tops”.

 

  • The lower grade, US Commercial, has a more lenient allowance for aesthetic deviation. Instead of a 10% tolerance for a defegrading system

    ct in the tops, there is a 20% margin of error.

 

Then, you have a product that is technically unclassified. They exist, are sold locally and aren’t checked for things outside of the usual signs of disease. They do not have to fit an aesthetic ideal, nor do they have to appear flawless for the market. There is a much wider margin of error, but only on an aesthetic level.

The Not So Standardized Grading System

This is just the classification system for carrots. There are different labels for different types of produce, let alone types of food. All of which range from letters to numbers, to a combination of both. This makes it a little confusing for people who want to at least make sure they are eating the right type of produce. It is almost like there is a hands-off approach to the produce grading system. If that is what you suspect, then you are correct.  In fact, the grading of vegetables is considered voluntary by the USDA.

Why is a Produce Grading System Voluntary?

Naturally, the first reaction that everyone probably gets after hearing that is alarm. After all, if it is a voluntary system, does it mean that farmers could potentially harm the US population by a bad batch of produce?

Thankfully, there are a few checks and balances that are in place to both prevent and react properly to something like that happening.

For starters, a farmer would want to lose their livelihood by trying to pass off diseased vegetables in a marketplace. Unless they were motivated by something else entirely, they still have their income at stake with what they sell. Also, when it comes to mass production and selling their produce both domestically and internationally, getting graded is most likely a requirement from the store that is willing to sell their goods, because their sales and reputation of a business is also at stake. There is also the recall system from both the FDA and USDA, which addresses and pulls the defective product.

As to the reason why a standard rating system is not a requirement, I am guessing it has to do with the age of the agriculture industry in America and the interest of the protection of smaller farms that may not be able to afford the processing fees for grading. Whether that will change or not would depend entirely on how the American public feels about it.

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Nutrition for Children: Overcoming Picky Eating

Nutrition for Children: Overcoming Picky Eating

Parenting is not for the weak. It takes bravery, compassion, toughness, and several other traits combined to raise a child into a productive member of society. And parents , for the most part, naturally worry about the health and welfare of their own offspring. The more healthy a child winds up in adulthood, the more successful a parent feels. However, there are the occasional roadblocks that stands between your baby and the well-functioning adult. And that roadblock that often stands in between you and good nutrition for your child is picky eating.  Almost every child goes through a phase in which they can’t stand the idea of eating vegetables.  What causes the behavior? And what can parents do to mitigate that behavior?

Why Children are Picky

nutrition, childAfter a series of studies that dated back to the 1990s there has yet to be a specifically determined  conclusion behind why children are picky. Sometimes, it is a behavioral issue. Other times, they are emulating their own parents food choices, or just fall sway to social influence. There is also a possibility they are testing the limits of what to obey and disobey. Or, they could have no reason and they are just being a kid. Whatever the reason, the last thing a parent or guardian needs to do is panic. Panicking leads to the possibility of not addressing the issue with your child  or possibly screw up the way they see food. I will explain what I mean.

The Danger of the Authoritarian Approach at Dinner

Authoritarian parenting, as a rule of thumb, is often a style that is deemed controlling. The authority of the parent is absolute, and there is level of strictness that can be seen as overreaching. In households like this, the approach to solving finickiness ranges to the demand of ‘cleaning off the entire plate’ to reheating a neglected dinner from the night before for breakfast. There is also a restriction on things like sweets or unhealthy food items usually.

While it sounds good on paper, in the sense of encouraging obedience, it doesn’t exactly translate well into the child’s adult life. For example, when it comes to the ‘clean  your plate’ rule, it has nothing to do with listening to your body. “When a child’s appetite is ignored, he or she may lose the ability to regulate his or her own internal hunger and fullness cues, and this can cause weight problems.” Also, the consistent ban on things like sweets and sugary cereals tend to make children focus on the things they can’t have which can lead to sneaking around and outright binging behavior when they come into contact with the banned items.

In fact, a restrictive setting at mealtime is five times more likely to contribute to eating patterns leading to obesity.

However, that does not mean that it is okay for a parent to let the child call the shots 100% of the time either.

The Danger of a Permissive/ Neglectful Approach to Dinner

If a child is given permission to eat what they want, when they want, or when they are left to fend for themselves, it will end just as badly as the children who were too strictly regulated. Children who are given everything they want are not only less likely to regulate what they are eating, they are also more likely to not adhere to a scheduled mealtime. Both the combination of fast food and lack of structure can cause excess weight gain and health problems.

Children who are left to fend for themselves are even worse off, because food insecurity can cause not only a preference for junk food that can last longer, but binging behavior when there is food present, since they do not know when they are going to get it next.

So, if Authoritarian is too rough, and Permissive is too soft, what would be the ideal style of parenting that can help children develop good dietary habits and nutrition?4

Authoritative- Tough yet Fair

The best way to introduce the concept of balanced nutrition is letting  your child get involved in the mealtime process but not letting them have complete control. This can look like giving them a choice between two vegetables for dinner. Or letting them help with the kitchen prep work.  After all, children are more likely to eat what they made themselves. Heck, you could even make dinner time a teachable moment for your child by trying a vegetable that you don’t like together.

What makes authoritative parenting a great asset to combat picky eating is that it acknowledges the feelings of the child, but still sets boundaries. All that you need is a little bit of patience and open communication.

 Need a Nutritionist? Feel free to contact Bekah by clicking the pop up! www.beksbites.com

Bek’s Bites: The Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts

Bek’s Bites: The Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts

Spring has sprung, and so have all sorts of plants. Including nutritious vegetables that are starting to come into season. Lettuce, Broccoli, Peas, Asparagus, you name it, it’s sprouting. Speaking of sprouting, one of the best things to eat at this stage of plant growth is alfalfa. Alfalfa sprouts are one of the healthiest things that you can put in your body, and it is one of the easiest things to add in a dish for extra texture. There are also quite popular. In early 2006, it was the most cultivated legume worldwide being cultivated at  436 million tons.  What is their appeal? What makes people go gaga over alfalfa? Let’s talk about them and find out.

The Many Uses of Alfalfaalfalfa sprouts, nutrition

While the mature shoots are far too bitter, and the seeds themselves are too toxic for consumption, the sprouts themselves have many nutritional benefits. These benefits include:

Nutritional Benefits

Vitamin K:  This vitamin is essential to both the regulation of calcium in the bloodstream, bone metabolism, and blood clotting. When our bodies do not have enough Vitamin K, there is a good chance that any injury can lead to hemorrhaging, and possibly even bleeding out. There is also a correlation between low levels of vitamin K and osteoporosis.

Vitamin C: This vitamin is a strong antioxidant that can reduce the chances of chronic disease,  can help regulate blood pressure, can reduce the chances of gout attacks, and can help white blood cells function better. Our bodies can’t make this ourselves, and we need it in our diet in order to function.  A deficiency of this vitamin often results in scurvy, a disease that leads to bleeding in the gum, lethargy, bone pain, and in worse cases, jaundice fever, and neuropathy until death.

Protein: Protein is responsible for things like cell growth, hair and nail growth, and hormones. While it is true that protein is found in meats like fish, and nuts, they can also be found in plants, legumes, and even whole grains.  Without it, our bodies would not be likely to repair themselves if there was some sort of damage involved.

Potassium: This is another vital nutrient that we cannot make ourselves. It is responsible for making our muscles work, including the muscles that are responsible for our heartbeat and breathing. Without it, our muscles will get too weak to function, our heart rates can become abnormal. In the worst case scenario, it can even cause paralysis.

To think that one little sprout can have so many nutritional benefits! It is almost downright insane. But the presence of this plant does more than help us with our own nutrition.

It Helps the Wild Bee Population

alfalfa flower, bee

Contrary to popular belief, not all bees make honey. In fact, only one specific bee makes honey, the English Honeybee. This cultivated species of bee is well-protected and is growing larger than ever, thanks to human effort. But, the same cannot be said for native bees.  “Of the nearly 4,000 native bee species in the United States alone, four native bumblebee species have declined 96 percent in the last 20 years, and three others are believed to have gone extinct.”

However, alfalfa plants are not exactly friendly to the honeybee population. “; the pollen-carrying keel of the alfalfa flower trips and strikes pollinating bees on the head, which helps transfer the pollen to the foraging bee. Western honey bees, however, do not like being struck in the head repeatedly .”

So, farmers have had to look for other species of native bees to solve this pollination problem. Which means that there had to be some wild bee conservation efforts on the part of the agricultural community to make it happen.

It is Good for Livestock

The primary use of alfalfa for livestock is feed. It is considered high quality for dairy cows since it has highly digestible fiber and protein, both of which are important for milk production. It is also given to beef cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and even meat rabbit. There are several ways in which it is used for feed, but for the most part, it is fermented to retain high nutrient levels similar to those of fresh forage and is also more palatable to dairy cattle than dry hay.

Conclusion

Alfalfa sprouts play a huge role in not just our own nutrition, but in livestock production and local ecosystems. So much is contained in such a small sprout. It is no wonder that this is considered the most popular legume on the planet!

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Let’s Talk about the Nutrition Bar

Let’s Talk about the Nutrition Bar

Proclaimed as the perfect snack by some health nuts, and denied as a sugary placebo by others, the health bar is a very interesting part of the fitness and nutrition world. Made up of cereals, grains, nuts, and other ingredients to bind them, nutrition (or cereal) bars have taken up their fair share of shelf space in supermarkets. In fact, the number of nutrition bars in grocery stores jumped from 226 in 2014 to a whopping 1,012 in 2015. What has made it a popular product in just a short amount of time? Is it the portability? Is it the nutrition levels? Or are they just scams wrapped in nutritious labeling? The only way to find out is to look at it a little critically and pay attention to the growing trends.

How did Nutrition Bars Get Their Start?

nutrition bar, food sticksThis is an interesting bit of trivia. In the 1960s, there was a lot of fascination with new technology and space travel. This fascination carried over to products developed for astronauts. Tang, for instance, was a powdered orange drink that simulates orange juice. So was memory foam, a device intended for comfortable sleep in space.  This was also the case for nutrition bars. The first nutrition bars ever produced was from Pillsbury’s Space Food Sticks. They were created with the intent of making a type of food that would have a long shelf life and would not need refrigeration in space.

In 1970, Pillsbury filed a trademark for Space Food Sticks, then repackaged and advertised them to consumers as a “nutritionally balanced between-meal snack.” From there, a craze began. The bars were repackaged and rebranded several times over. First, it was seen as a quick, substitute meal for working families as well as a fascinating type of food created in a lab. Then, when the ’90s rolled around, different kinds of bars went through marketing segmentation. Rebranded “health” bars were geared towards men who wanted to gain bulk, and women who wanted to lose weight.

In the early 2000s, there was further segmentation between various markets. From vegan to health-conscious, to energizing, various nutrition bars claim to have done it all. These days it is an outright necessity for some people who don’t have any lunch break provided for them. Even nutritionists in an interview have pointed out that some of them can work as a protein supplement.  However, not all nutrition bars are created equal.

Good Nutrition Bars vs. Bad Nutrition Bars

What makes a good nutrition bar? The rules of nutrition are often complex. Also, there has been an argument about the merits or the dangers of things like fat, wheat, etc. It can be confusing to navigate sometimes, and if you are not careful, you might just wind up eating an unnecessary amount of sugar that is disguised as a health food product.  So, what are a few things that you can look out for while shopping for nutrition bars?

Sugar Content

It is no secret. At least half of the nutrition bars on the market are oversaturated with sugar and vitamins. This is where being vigilant should nutrition barcome in. The recommended daily value of sugar for an average adult should be no more than 25 grams. So, if you are keeping track of your daily diet, the last thing you need to do is to eat a bar that remotely even close to that level of sugar.

 Fat Content

There are different types of fat that exist in our diet. We have bad sources of fat that are common in things like fast food, crackers, frozen food, desserts, fried foods, etc. This type of fat is bad because it increases bad cholesterol in our bodies and decreases good cholesterol. The good fats that exist, are often found in the natural world. Fat from things like eggs, fish, nuts, avacado, and olive oil does the exact opposite. It raises our good cholesterol and decreases our bad cholesterol.

If a nutrition bar has fat in it, make sure that it is unsaturated fat. If the fats come from something like nuts, egg whites, or coconut oil, chances are it is better for you on the whole. However, if most of the fat comes from things

Whole Ingredients

Even if you aren’t into counting things like calories, there is a common sense factor that you can use to determine if a bar is good for you. Look at what the nutrition bar is made of. If the nutrition bar has something with whole ingredients like nuts and quinoa and there is not an artificial thing in sight, you are eating real food. However, if there is an absence of real ingredients or things in there that are vague like “natural flavoring” or dyes, chances are you want to avoid having it in stock.

The Connection Between Exercise and Brain Health

The Connection Between Exercise and Brain Health

We know it is important to exercise in order to keep our bodies healthy and fit. Along with a proper diet, and decent sleep, it seems like one of those ‘no brainer’ things to do. However, it is not the only thing that we can do to live happy long lives. However, did you know that exercise has its benefits in small ways alongside just regulating your body weight? Exercise, even just in light amounts, can be a benefit to the most important organ in your body, your brain.  According to the latest neurology studies, that is very much the case. But how do they know that? And, how can it be measured or quantified?

Let’s find out.

 

This is Your Brain

Your brain serves as the powerhouse of your body. Aside from its value as a delicious treat to zombies, your brain practically dictates everything about your conscious and subconscious. It is madebrain, anatomy, exercise up of three major parts: the brain stem, the cerebellum, and cerebrum.

The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. The cerebrum is composed of the left and right hemispheres. Two halves that make a whole. It performs higher functions like interpreting touch, vision, hearing, speech, emotions, reason, and fine motor skills.

The cerebellum is that small part that sits below the cerebrum. It coordinates things like balance, posture, and muscle movement.

Those two are connected to the brainstem, which connects the brain to the spinal cord. This connection transmits data to the rest of the body for both conscious and unconscious movement.  It is also mostly responsible for automatic functions such as breathing, temperature, sleep, digestion, sneezing, coughing, swallowing, and blood flow.

 

This is Your Brain on Memory

The cerebrum is made up of distinct parts, such as lobes and strips. While there are countless parts both in the inner and outer parts of the brain, we are going to cover the parts that have to do with the study, the parts that are concerned with the formation of memory.

  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Cingulate Gyrus
  • Amygdala
  • Hippocampus
  • Cerebellum

What is interesting about some of these, is that they control other processes too. For instance, the amygdala also responsible for the detection of fear and preparing for emergency events.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for learning complex thoughts, personality expression, decision making and moderating social behavior. These are the parts of the brain that make and relay memories.

What does this anatomy lesson have to do with brain health? And specifically, why does exercise do anything to help? Well, those are the areas of the brain that are stimulated by exercise.

Exercise and the Prevention of Cognitive Dementia

A recent study was published in January of 2019, to a peer-reviewed journal for neurologists. Their goal of the study was to determine if regular aerobic exercise made any positive impact on olderolder adult, exercise, senior adults with cognitive impairments.  This was the thought process, according to the publishers of the experiment, “It is widely believed that known risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) are also risk factors for dementia and late-life cognitive decline. Because there is considerable overlap in risk factors for CVD and dementia, strategies designed to reduce CVD risk also may be effective in improving neurocognition and reducing the risk of developing dementia.”

There were other studies like this before, but their predecessors noticed the lacking in their representation of their patients, people who were suffering from cognitive difficulties, without the severity of full-blown dementia.

They gathered a data pool of 160 older adult patients who voluntarily applied from Alzheimer and Aging research institutes.

The scientists split the participants into a couple of groups, one with dietary changes, one with an exercise regimen with no dietary changes, and one with just an exercise regimen. From there, they subjected the patients to a series of cognitive tests.

The scientists running the experiment discovered that” participants who engaged in walking three times a week for six months “demonstrated improved performance on a standard battery of neurocognitive tests of executive function.”

 

Further Evidence

This falls in line with what Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School had to say on the matter a few years ago.  “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.” In plain English, this means that when someone exercises on a regular basis, their brain is more likely to grow and function.  Specifically, the parts of your brain that focus on memory.  How does that happen?

This is further explained by Harvard professional, Heidi Godman. “Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.”

 

Walk With Me

So, what can you do to jump-start your brain health? How much exercise do you need? 120 minutes of moderate exercise or, half an hour at least 4 days of the week. And it doesn’t have to be walking either. If you want, you can ride a bike, swim, jog with a partner, or learn to do any other type of sport. The world is your oyster and you and your brain deserve to be part of it. Even if the idea seems kind of silly at first, the right amount of exercise can make anybody look and feel better.

Aside: Also, if you want to further improve your cognition, think of doing a couple of other brain-friendly activities. Put your brain to work by solving a crossword puzzle. Or maybe stimulate it by reading a book or try some sudoku if you prefer numbers. Or, play a trivia game once in a while. Trust me, it will do you favors down the line.

Do you need help with Exercise and Diet? Do you live in the Huntsville, Al area? Click on the Popup on the screen to schedule an appointment. If you want to read more stuff like this, check out the blog at www.beksbites.com.

How Did the Nutrition Label Get Started?

How did the Nutrition Label Get Started?

Nutrition. As a country, we have learned about the concept of nutrition over the years. While there are certainly a few roadblocks that try to keep us from applying it on a mass scale, such as expense, lobbying, politics, etc, we still learned quite a lot. Even within the last hundred years. However, the contradictory information about nutrition combined with changing standards begs the question: Why do we have them in the first place? What made nutritional labels a mandatory thing, and does it really help the community in the long run?

So, today, we are going to examine the history and the purpose of the nutrition label.

Since When Did Ingredients for Anything Needed Listing?

To see the first instance of Americans wanting to know what they were actually eating, we need to go back to the early 1900s. It was a time in which the government did not regulate medicines, foods, alcohol, products. A dream come true for any aspiring entrepreneur who wanted to make money for a product they invented.

Unfortunately, the lack of regulation also made it all too easy for con artists and desperate peddlers to sell a product with anything they wanted in it. If these salesmen were running low on any ingredient, they could add anything they wanted like sawdust to stretch it out. Or if they wanted to nutrition label, snake oil, before 1906make it more powerful to make sure people felt their mystical cure ‘worked’ they would add some cocaine into the mix.

These unsavory practices at best lead to ineffective products and at worst could cause a high mortality rate.  The average cough syrup for babies would contain a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that could kill a horse, let alone a two-year-old infant.

This, combined with journalists exposing the process of the meat packing industry and the temperance movement made it possible for the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the Meat Inspection Act to pass in 1906.

The point of the act was for the government to regulate the production and distribution of foods, medicine, and any other substance for the safety of the public.  The act also demanded proper and accurate labeling of products meant for human consumption. This included listing every ingredient that was in it.

However, this was only the beginning. It wouldn’t be until the late 1960s- early 1970s that this would be expanded further.

An Expansion of Nutrition Labeling

Since America had a depression, a war, and communists to worry about, there was little worry about specialized diets. Ther goverment still gave out some base information as part of a nutrition guideline. However, it was more generalized than today. This was because most foods at this time had been prepared at home, and unless it revolved around the dietary issues of the military or any other government jurisdiction, Nutrition label before 1970'sthey didn’t bother with regulations. The exception to this was the occasional label specifically talking about sodium for special dietary reasons.

However, when processed food started to become more commonplace, the public started to worry again. This time, about what could possibly be involved in the creation of their instant meals. This outcry lead to a solution headed by the FDA and the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health.  ” Every manufacturer should be encouraged to provide truthful nutritional information about his products to enable consumers to follow recommended dietary regimens.”

So, the FDA immediately got to work on drafting the first version of the Nutrition Guideline Label.

 

1970s nutrition label

“When finalized in 1973, these regulations specified that when nutrition labeling was present on labels of FDA-regulated foods, it was to include the number of calories; the grams of protein, carbohydrate, and fat; and the percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (U.S. RDA) of protein, vitamins A and C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and iron. Sodium, saturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids could also be included at the manufacturer’s discretion. All of these nutrients were to be reported on the basis of an average or usual serving size.”

But that still wasn’t quite enough.

The Addition of Dietary Values

There was growing concern from the scientific and medical communities. With the rise of fast food, and the presence of dietary information the United States Department of Health and Services had some concerns. According to the head of the department at the time, ” As consumers shop for healthier food, they encounter confusion and frustration… . The grocery store has become a Tower of Babel and consumers need to be linguists, scientists and mind readers to understand the many labels they see.”

He was concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the nutrition labels. While there was a statement of what was in the food on each label, it was up to the consumer to find out how much the daily value of something was. So, unless the people shopping had an explicit understanding of what these nutrients were, and how much was expected every day, they were more or less going in blind.

So, in the 1990’s the initiative of adding things like caloric content, the percentage of daily nutritional values,  and the standard amount of calories that is supposed to be in the daily diet. This was called the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA).

This is the most modern interpretation of nutritional labeling, at least from a government regulation standpoint.  A few food-based companies have tried their hand at their own nutritional labeling standards. They failed at varying degrees thanks to their own corporate bias.

Progress Marches On

 

However, there are still some worries from various communities and interest groups about the clarity of the current nutrition label.  These groups proposed a series of changes about the specificity of the nutritional label. Mainly about which information should be more prominent.

However, this still doesn’t address the elephant in the room about nutrition as a whole. Not all calories are equal. You wouldn’t expect to get the same results from a cookie and a banana after all. So, there is still some room for improvement.

All we can do is keep learning, and keep making changes with the best interest of our community in mind.

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The History of American Nutrition Guidelines

The History of American Nutrition Guidelines

Our understanding of what we eat, as well as, how much we eat, has changed over the decades. Sometimes, those changes were beneficial in the long run. Other times, there are changes that make things more confusing. The important thing, however, is that we do the best we can, and learn from our mistakes. Because if we know how to adequately reflect on our attitudes and nutritional habits, we can live longer, happier, and more fulfilling lives. So, today, we are going to look into our ever-evolving attitude about nutrition by glancing at the history of the food pyramid. This way, we can look at how far we have come and possibly look at where we are going.

1894

The first dietary recommendation for public nutrition was published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. W.O. Atwater, the first director of the Office of Experiment Stations was responsible for publishing and distribution it for the American public.  The bulletin itself does have a few good points. For example, it emphasizes the importance of variety, proportionality, and moderation in the daily diet. It even outright warns the general public about obesity or excessive weight gain from overeating.

The evils of overeating may not be felt at once, but sooner or later they are sure to appear perhaps
in an excessive amount of fatty tissue, perhaps in general
debility, perhaps in actual disease.

-Atwater

The earliest draft, while a good first step for addressing dietary guidelines was not without its flaws. For starters, the creation process of the bulletin was intentionally the creation of a guideline for “American males”. This creates a rather narrow target audience for something with the intention of public release.  Also, this bulletin was created before the discovery of essential vitamins and minerals in 1912. The result of this timing leads to an emphasis on a diet based on the content of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and mineral matter (ash).

Overall, this sets the stage for nutritional guidelines, but it is no better than the first draft of anything else. It would have needed fine-tuning eventually.

1916

nutrition, basic 7Atwater’s bulletin was further refined into a set of public guidelines for children by the USDA. Caroline Hunt, a home economics expert and nutritionist at the time, assisted in co-authoring a nutrition guide with the intent to provide mothers with the knowledge of five food groups. These five food groups included: vegetables and fruits, dairy combined with proteins, cereals, sugars, and fats. The emphasis was that one thing in the group could substitute for another within the same category. For instance, rice could substitute for bread, but it couldn’t substitute a vegetable. It was important to have something in each group daily according to Hunt.

While vitamins were technically discovered at the time, there wasn’t enough knowledge for any implementation quite yet.

It was a step in the right direction with the categorization of food groups, but we have since took notice that sweets today are not much of a necessity.

 

1940’s – 70’s

The eve of World War 2 was the beginning of a major shift in what would be considered nutritional standards. Nutrition concerns fell under the radar of President Franklin Roosevelt, who was looking into applying the knowledge of vitamins and minerals to the American nutrition both in the public and military sphere. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, were: protein, iron, calcium, vitamin A/D, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

This information became reorganized into the “Basic 7” food groups for the American public to understand and implement, especially during wartime rationing.

However, after the end of the war, this made nutrition a more complicated than helpful.  With the number of food groups, no guidance with usage of fats and sugars,  and the lack of serving size information, there was a need for modification.

The mid-fifties saw a recategorization of food groups down to a “basic four”, which lasted for the next two decades. Serving sizes have yet to be introduced in this period.

 

1990’s – 2000’s

nutrition, food pyramid

Nutritional guidelines saw another shift with the introduction of a fifth food group along with the other four that were around since the 70’s. The purpose of this introduction was to keep the public aware of their oil, sugar, and alcohol intake.  From there, the dietary standards changed into a different visual metaphor altogether. The pyramid.  The pyramids worked as a visual aid to guide the public on how many servings of a food group they should have daily.

There was some controversy among nutritional experts that noticed that there was far too much meat, grains, and dairy, and not enough fruits and vegetables when it came to recommended servings. This criticism was due to a suspected conflict of interest between the USDA and heavily subsidized food industries.

The pyramid iconography continued into 2005, where a more visually abstract image replaced the more distinctly categorized pyramid. The designer of the pyramid added an illustration of a climber on top of a staircase to illustrate the importance of exercise with servings represented to scale in a pie chart format.

 

2011

The USDA removed the pyramid entirely and introduced a new concept, a plate. The plate depicts the serving sizes of each portion that should be for every meal. Compared to the pyramid, the

myplate, nutrition

plate appears more comprehensive to people who try to understand serving sizes. It also introduces the concept of the largest serving intake being fruits and vegetables as opposed to refined grains and meats.

However, in spite of its better comprehension, there is still some criticism from nutritionists. Walter C. Willett, explained it to a Harvard Journal on the day it was released, “Clearly MyPlate will be better than MyPyramid. But the most important issues are in the details that are not captured by the icon. Which type of grain? What sources of proteins? What fats are used to prepare the vegetables and the grains?”

Harvard Health also pointed out the faulty logic that comes from the visual guide,” MyPlate doesn’t show that whole grains are better for you than refined, rapidly digested grains, or that fish and beans are better protein choices than red meat. It doesn’t give any guidance that eating more unsaturated and omega-3 fats are good for health, as is cutting back on saturated fats from meat and dairy.”

 

Conclusion

We still have a long way to go, but I think America is taking great strides. The more we know, the better we do in the future, so the best thing we can do is keep moving forward and learn from our mistakes.

Venison – How Nutritious is Deer Meat?

Venison – How Nutritious is Deer Meat?

So, Alabama is home to a lot of wildlife. This is due in part thanks to the local wildlife refuge areas set up all over the state, along with the state’s physical diversity. It is not uncommon in the state to eat freshly caught fish or some venison, when in season. However, there has been less of it, at least from an import stance, thanks to some panic over a “zombie deer disease” that has been sweeping all over social media.  This topic, I feel is poignant enough to address a few things about venison, or deer meat. How nutritious is it? Is there a cause for worry about contamination or any other adverse health effects when it comes to eating deer meat. And if there is, what is the best way to go by getting some?  Let’s talk about it.

venison steakA History of Venison in Alabama

Hunting is a primary cultural cornerstone in Alabama. Even before the state became a state, the diversity of the land from the mountains to the beaches was enough to produce a diverse amount of wildlife ranging from waterfowl, small game, rabbit and deer. Especially deer. Alabama is home to white-tailed deer and has been considered a staple in Alabama’s hunting culture. Before the 1900s, during the settlement phase of Alabama, deer, and other small game were mostly hunted for meat sustenance.

However, the story changed at the other end of the 1900s where the white-tailed deer was nearly hunted to extinction thanks to a combination of pelt hunters, looking for leather and settlements of cotton plantations, which misplaced the wildlife into smaller concentrated areas. The deer population dwindled down to the point where there were only 5,000 animals left.

They were brought back from the brink of destruction, thanks to a new implementation of hunting laws in the 20th centuries. “Until the early twentieth century, all deer had been fair game for hunters, but biologists convinced hunters to shoot only bucks with antlers visible above the hairline. One buck can father many fawns in a season. However, a doe can bear only one fawn or one set of twins a year. Thus, the key to rebuilding the population was to leave the does and shoot only bucks.”

Another significant change was the agricultural shift from cotton to soybeans. “This created a high-protein source of food for deer. When soybean prices collapsed in 1980, much open agricultural land returned to woodlands. Also, areas clear cut by paper companies turned into thick undergrowth, which provides ideal habitat for deer for years.”

These days, hunting has given Alabama revenue, a past time, and a diet occasionally local game.

 

Nutritional Value of Venison

According to Wikipedia, “Venison may be eaten as steakstenderloinroastssausagesjerky and minced meat. It has a flavor reminiscent of beef, but is richer and can have a gamey note. Venison tends to have a finer texture and is leaner than comparable cuts of beef. However, like beef, leaner cuts can be tougher as well.” So, if I were to interpret this correctly, it is already slightly more healthy in comparison to beef, but still retains the same cooking properties of beef as well.

Well, what sort of stuff does it have to offer?

Nutritional Value of Ground Venison

Amount Per 

Calories 159
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7 g 10%
Saturated fat 3.4 g 17%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.4 g
Monounsaturated fat 1.6 g
Cholesterol 83 mg 27%
Sodium 66 mg 2%
Potassium 309 mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 0 g 0%
Dietary fiber 0 g 0%
Sugar 0 g
Protein 22 g 44%
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1% Iron 15%
Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 20%
Cobalamin 33% Magnesium 5%

 

I compared and contrasted 3 oz of ground venison to 1 ounce of ground beef, and already I can tell a major difference. There are 7 grams of total fat in 3 oz of venison.  In an ounce of ground beef, there is a total of 8 grams of fat. That means that one ounce of venison, there is a third of the fat compared to beef.

There is also way more Vitamin B 6 in Venison with 20% at 3 oz vs 15% in 3 oz of beef.  There is also 22 grams of protien in venison with only 12 grams in 3 oz of beef.  So, there is no wonder that venison is popular in Alabama.  So, what is stopping it from becoming a mainstream thing?

The Zombification of Deer

In 1967, one year before George Romero invented the zombie genre in “Night of the Living Dead”, there was already a creature that was exhibiting zombie-like symptoms. A captive Colorado deer was found looking listless, drinking an excess amount of water, and refusing food. Eventually, it would self impose starvation but it would still drool, and grind its teeth while repeating its nonsensical walk cycles with its blank facial expression. In the end, it would die from excessive brain damage, because it rotted from the inside out.

This deer was infected with CWD or Chronic Wasting Disease. The disease is a neurological one which has spread to hoofed animals like elk and moose. It is a variant of Mad Cow Disease. However, unlike Mad Cow Disease, there has been no recorded case of a human being ever catching it.

 

That still doesn’t deter the state of Alabama from imposing all the sanctions they can to make sure that no one can get hurt. Thanks to Alabama having a stake in recreational hunting bringing tourism to the state, it has been illegal to import deer meat into the state of Alabama since the 70’s. The state hunting and fishing departments also started an active monitoring program for CWD during the 2001-02 hunting season. Since then, nearly 8,000 deer have been tested and CWD has not been detected within Alabama.

As of yet, there has not been a deer in the state reported to show signs of this disease, but it is hitting closer to home after they found an infected dead deer at Mississippi.

However, the earlier strict regulations combined with the availability of deer cleaning and processing facilities, there is little chance of this becoming a major threat.  Just make sure the deer you shot has been tested for any CWD and that the brain and spinal cord are properly separated far away from the venison meat you are planning to eat.

 

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