Thursday, April 18, 2024

National Garlic Day
Effectiveness of Garlic as a Medical Treatment

Garlic comes from the lily family and is the edible bulb from a plant. It is used as a spice to enhance the flavor of foods and in medicine, Garlic claims have been made to cure heart disease, cancer, colds, hair loss, bug repellant, and many other medical conditions.

The medical research on the safety and effectiveness of garlic has been limited, flawed, inconclusive, or failed to prove its curative powers in most of the claims made.

The following conditions have been rated based on the scientific evidence available as to the effectiveness of Garlic as a treatment. From Medline, service to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services. 

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;
B: Good scientific evidence for this use;
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;
D: Fair scientific evidence against this use;
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use.

High Cholesterol (Rate B). Multiple studies in humans have reported small reductions in total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins ("bad cholesterol") over short periods of time (4 to 12 weeks). It is not clear if there are benefits after this amount of time. Effects on high-density lipoproteins ("good cholesterol") are not clear. This remains an area of controversy. Well-designed and longer studies are needed in this area.

Anti-fungal, applied to the skin (Rate C). Several studies describe the application of garlic to the skin to treat fungal infections, including yeast infections. Garlic can cause severe burns and rash when applied to the skin of sensitive individuals.

Anti-platelet effects, blood thinning (Rate C).   Garlic has been associated with several cases of bleeding, therapy should be applied with caution (particularly in patients using other agents that may precipitate bleeding).

Atherosclerosis, hardening" of the arteries (Rate C).   Preliminary research in humans suggests that deposits of cholesterol in blood vessels may not grow as quickly in people who take garlic. It is not clear if this is due to the ability of garlic to lower cholesterol levels, or to other effects of garlic.

Cancer (Rate C).  Preliminary human studies suggest that regular consumption of garlic (particularly unprocessed garlic) may reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer including gastric and colorectal malignancies. Some studies use multi-ingredient products so it is difficult to determine if garlic alone may play a beneficial role. Further, well designed human clinical trials are needed to conclude whether eating garlic or taking garlic supplements may prevent or treat cancer.

High blood pressure (Rate C).  Numerous human studies report that garlic can lower blood pressure by a small amount, but larger, well-designed studies are needed to confirm this possible effect.

Tick repellant (Rate C).  In early study, self-reports of tick bites were significantly less in people receiving garlic over a placebo "sugar" pill. Further, a well-designed study is needed to confirm these results.

Upper respiratory tract infection (Rate C).  Preliminary reports suggest that garlic may reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infections. However, this has not been demonstrated in well-designed human studies.

Diabetes (Rate D).  Animal studies suggest that garlic may lower blood sugar and increase insulin release, but human studies do not confirm this effect.

Heart Smart® Tip of the Day: Garlic with
Darlene Zimmerman, RDN

Why go to the market,
when you can grow garlic in your garden.

National Animal Crackers Day

Animal crackers are usually in the shape of circus animals such as lions, tigers, bears, and elephants. During the late 1800's, animal crackers were imported from England to the United States. The first batch of animal crackers was made by Stauffer's Biscuit Company in 1871 in York, Pennsylvania. Other local bakeries soon came together under the National Biscuit Company, or "Nabisco Brands." In 1902, the animal cracker's box officially became "Barnum's Animals" with the circus-themed box.

Animal Cracker Nutrition

Create Fun and Healthier Snacks

Shirley Temple - Animal Crackers in My Soup

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Go Bananas: A Journey from Tree to Table

National Banana Day

Nutrition Profile

Choose bananas that are firm and free of bruises. Bananas are best to eat when the skin color is solid yellow and speckled with brown. Bananas with green tips or with practically no yellow color have not developed their full flavor. Bananas are overripe when they have a strong odor.

To ripen bananas leave at room temperature for a couple of days. Once ripe store in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. The peel may turn brown in the refrigerator, but the fruit will not change.

If you love bananas, Eating Well has a collection of Banana Recipes you are sure to enjoy.

Chiquita Banana The Original Commercial 

Produced by Disney Studios in the '40s, this commercial appeared only in movie theaters, and for over 50 years kept us humming its catchy tune.

DOLE Banana Growing and Planting
Dole explains the growing and planting of bananas.

Banana Farm
The banana farm at EARTH University uses socially and environmentally responsible practices at every stage of the process. The farm plants trees along river banks to promote biodiversity and reduce harmful erosion. In addition, they do not use herbicides. The farm's eco-friendly practices produce some of the most flavorful bananas in the world.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Day of the Mushroom

Growing Your Own Mushrooms

Different Ways to Enjoy Mushrooms

1. Add mushrooms to egg white omelet.
2. Sauté, Grill, Broil, Roast, or Steam mushrooms. Add to soup, salads, pasta, rice - the combinations are numerous.
3. Add fresh mushrooms to a salad.

4. Stuff mushrooms

by Chris Morocco, Bon Appétit 

1. Fruits and Veggies, More Matters: Mushrooms: Nutrition, Selection, and Storage
2. Wikipedia, Mushrooms
3. Kitchen Dictionary: Mushroom

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Celebrate National Pecan Month

Pecans are a good source of fiber and protein. They  
are sodium-free and cholesterol-free.
A healthy snack, but watch the portion size.

Pecan Recipes

Courtesy of Chef Justin Keith of Food 101 in Atlanta  

 Butternut Squash with Pecans 

1. I love Pecans, Recipes
2. EatingWell, Healthy Pecan Recipes
3. Shape, 8 Amazingly Delicious and Healthy Pecan Recipes

Nutrient Analysis Services
Ensure accurate and cost effective nutritional analysis for your recipes utilizing an extensive research database and over 25 years experience. A valuable service for the Recipe Blogger, Media, Cookbook Publishers, Writers, Chefs, and Recipe Websites. Your readers will enjoy and benefit from the Nutrition information. Contact: Dietitians-Online.comSandra Frank, Ed.D, RDN, LD, FAND at

April, National Garden Month
a Tribute to the Cooperative Extension

The ground has thawed from the winter, at least in most areas. Many people decide if they want to start a garden or what crops they will plant this year.

Plant a Seed, Grow a Dream

Gardening is a passion of mine. I initially started my studies in agronomy and later changed to nutrition. The cooperative extension became an important part of my education and a wonderful resource. It was also my first job as a dietitian, teaching nutrition in a summer program through Cornell University Extension.

What is the Cooperative Extension?
The Cooperative Extension, also known as the Extension Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, is a research-based educational program designed to help people in the areas of agriculture and food, home and family, the environment, community economic development, and youth and 4-H. The service is provided in every state's designated land-grant universities. 

NIFA is the federal partner in the Cooperative Extension System. It provides federal funding to the system and, through program leadership, helps the system identify and address current issues and problems.


The Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant universities to educate citizens in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other practical professions. Extension was formalized in 1914 with the Smith-Lever Act. It partnered with agricultural colleges and the USDA to provide cooperative agricultural extension work. 

Over the last century, the extension has adapted to changing times and continues to address a wide range of human, plant, and animal needs in urban and rural areas. The cooperative extension focuses on education in six major areas: 

1. 4-H Youth Development 

2. Agriculture
3. Leadership Development

4. Natural Resources
5. Family and Consumer Sciences

6. Community and Economic Development

Below are educational videos prepared by various Cooperative Extensions across the United States.

How to Grow Blueberries
North Carolina Cooperative Extension

Caring for Asparagus
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Eat Smart New York! - 
Cornell Cooperative Extension Westchester County

Color Yourself Healthy
University of Nebraska

Florida Statewide Extension Sustainability Programs

1. To find your nearest Cooperative Extension office.
National Gardening Association
Food Gardening Guide

Saturday, April 13, 2024

International Moment of Laughter
The Health Benefits of Laughter

"People who laugh actually live longer than those who don't laugh.
Few persons realize that health actually varies according to
the amount of laughter."
James J. Walsh, MD

Having a good laugh usually makes us feel good about ourselves.

I Love to Laugh

Research published in the International Journal of Obesity discovered laughter can be beneficial in weight control.

Laughing helps burn calories by increasing the heart rate by 10 to 20 percent: The metabolism increases as well, meaning you will burn more calories at rest once you have stopped laughing.

Scientists calculated 15 minutes of laughter a day will burn 10 to 40 calories, depending on a person’s weight and the intensity of the laughter.

Laughter can relieve physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which promotes an overall sense of well-being.

Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which may benefit the cardiovascular system.

Laughter may benefit people with diabetes. One study showed after watching a comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after listening to a boring lecture.

Laugh because it feels great,
because it is healthy for you, and
because we take ourselves too seriously.
It’s time to lighten up.

“Laughter is the best medicine.”

Friday, April 12, 2024

Make Lunch Count Day for Our Children's Health and School Performance

Lunch plays a serious role in children's health and school performance. Studies have shown children skipping lunch are likely to have trouble concentrating in the classroom, lack energy for sports, and overeat low-nutrient snacks. Whether children eat lunch at home, enjoy lunch, or pack a lunch box, these ideas apply to all.
The goal of lunch is to provide a nutrient-rich meal to fuel our children’s brains and bodies for the afternoon. Look to create a lunch with a nutritional punch and appeal. Try the following ideas to create lunches your child will not waste.

Let Your Children Help Plan
When kids help plan their lunches, they are more likely to eat them. If your child's school has a lunch program, review the menus together and pick the ones they would enjoy. When kids eat school lunch, they are more likely to consume milk, meats, grains, and vegetables, which gives them a higher nutrient intake over the course of a day. School lunch is a great cost and nutritional value.
If your child prefers a lunch packed at home, create a method that works for both of you. Make a checklist of what your child likes in each food category. Agree on some protein, a grain, at least one fruit, and veggie, a dairy product (if not buying milk at school), and an optional small sweet or snack item.
Make a plan for the next week. Take about an hour of free time (and grab a child or partner to help) and bag items for each day, except sandwiches. The sandwiches should not be prepared ahead of time.

Variety is the Basis of Well-Balanced Nutrition
Don't worry if a child wants the same lunch for two weeks in a row. The child will probably change to something else before long. Workaround pickiness by creating a list of substitutes. For example, if sandwiches are in the "don't like" column, what else might work? 
  • Deli turkey + cheddar slices in roll-ups, pretzels, apple wedges
  • Tortillas + cream cheese spiced with taco seasoning + rotisserie chicken rolled up and cut into pinwheels, cherry tomatoes
  • Little salads with protein (cheese, nuts, beans)
  • English muffin + marinara sauce + shredded mozzarella for homemade pizza bites, grapes

Make the Food Attractive
We eat with our eyes first. We are attracted to foods by the packaging so you can compete with the best. Use a reusable lunch bag or box with a favorite color or cartoon hero. Make foods as bright and colorful as a rainbow. Have fun with shapes and sizes — use cookie cutters on sandwiches or make mini-muffins. Endless possibilities. 
1. Kids Eat Right, Banishing Brown Bag Boredom
2. Peanut Blossom, 30 Days of Lunchbox Recipes

A Grilled Cheese Journey: From Classic to Creative

A Grilled Cheese Journey: From Classic to Creative

Cooked bread and cheese are popular in many cultures around the world.  In the United States, the grilled cheese sandwich originated in the 1920s. Bread and American cheese were inexpensive and readily available during the Great Depression.

A grilled cheese sandwich is assembled and then heated until the bread crisps and the cheese melts, sometimes combined with additional ingredients such as tomatoes, bacon, ham, peppers, and assorted fruits. Several different methods of heating the sandwich are used. Common cooking methods include cooking on a griddle, grilled, fried in a pan, broiled, or made in a panini grill or sandwich toaster.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 

Grilled Brie Sandwich with Apricots and Sliced Almonds

1 slice Pumpernickel Bread
1.25 oz Brie
2 tsp Apricot Fruit Spread
4 g Sliced Almonds
20 g Dried Fruit (Apricots, Raisins)

Spread Brie on pumpernickel bread. Grill until melted. Top with apricot fruit spread and sliced almonds. Serve apricots and raisins on the side. 

Grilled Apple and Swiss Cheese Sandwich
One serving

2 slice whole-wheat bread
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 granny smith apple (peeled cored and thinly sliced)
1/3 cup swiss cheese (shredded)

Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil. Place 1 slice of bread, olive oil side down into the skillet, and arrange the apple slices evenly over the top. Sprinkle the Swiss cheese over the apple, and then top with the remaining slice of bread, olive oil side up. Cook until the bread is golden brown, flip the sandwich over, and cook until the other side is golden brown and the cheese has melted, 1 to 2 more minutes.

Grilled Muenster Cheese on Whole Wheat Sandwich Round with Pecans, Blueberries, and Green Onions. Serve with Sliced Yellow Squash and Raspberries

Thursday, April 11, 2024

National Pet Day
Health Benefits

Health Benefits of a Pet

Studies have found that:
• Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
• People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
• Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
• Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than those without pets.
• Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
• Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

Caring for a pet can help with those healthy lifestyle changes by:
• Increasing exercise. Exercise doesn’t have to involve boring repetition at a gym. Taking a dog for a walk, riding a horse, or simply chasing a kitten around are fun ways to fit healthy daily exercise into your schedule.
• Providing companionship. Isolation and loneliness can make disorders such as depression even worse. Caring for a living animal can help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from your problems. Most pet owners talk to their pets, some even use them to work through their troubles.
• Helping meet new people. Pets can be a great social lubricant for their owners. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks or in a dog park. Pet owners also meet new people in pet stores, clubs, and training classes.
• Reducing anxiety. The companionship of a dog can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world.
• Adding structure and routine to your day. Many pets, especially dogs, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. No matter your mood—depressed, anxious, or stressed—you’ll always have to get out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for your pet.
• Providing sensory stress relief. Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress. This could involve petting a cat or taking a dog for a walk.

Pets and older adults
The key to aging well is to effectively handle life’s major changes, such as retirement, the loss of loved ones, and the physical changes of aging. Pets can play an important role in healthy aging by:
• Helping you find meaning and joy in life. As you age, you’ll lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. You may retire from your career or your children may move far away. Caring for a pet can bring pleasure and help boost your morale and optimism. Taking care of an animal can also provide a sense of self-worth.
• Staying connected. Maintaining a social network isn’t always easy as you grow older. Retirement, illness, death, and moves can take away close friends and family members. And making new friends can get harder. Dogs especially are a great way for seniors to spark up conversations and meet new people.
• Boosting vitality. You can overcome many of the physical challenges associated with aging by taking good care of yourself. Pets encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy.

Resources and References

American Humane Association
5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health

Transform Your Space: Pantry Perfection

Welcome to the ultimate guide to achieving pantry perfection! A clean and organized pantry can truly transform your kitchen space. Not only does it make cooking and meal planning more efficient, but it also contributes to a healthier and more enjoyable home environment. Let’s dive into simple guidelines that will help you maintain a spotless kitchen and pantry.

The Clean Slate

Take everything out: The first step is to remove all items from your pantry. Yes, everything! This includes those half-used bags of pasta, the spices you can't remember buying, and the cans hidden in the back. It’s time to assess what you have, what you need, and what’s simply taking up valuable space.

The Deep Clean

Clean thoroughly: With your pantry emptied, take the opportunity to give it a deep clean. Wipe down all surfaces, including shelves, walls, and those often-forgotten corners. A mix of warm water and mild detergent works wonders, but for tougher stains, consider a mixture of baking soda and water.

Organize and Prioritize

Organize smartly: Group similar items together and decide on the best way to store them. Think about how you use your kitchen and organize items in a way that makes your daily routine smoother. High-use items should be within easy reach, while bulk or seldom-used items can take a higher or more remote shelf.

Label everything: Labels aren’t just for the aesthetically minded; they’re incredibly functional. By clearly marking shelves and containers, you establish a system that guides every household member to effortlessly locate and return items to their rightful spots. But the utility of labels doesn't stop there; they're also incredibly effective for tracking food quality and safety. A simple date labeled on prepared foods can tak the guesswork out of how fresh your leftovers are, ensuring your kitchen is not just organized, but smart and safe too.

Sustainability and Sharing

Donate and compost: If you find unopened, non-perishable items that you won’t use, consider donating them to a local food bank. For perishable items and food scraps, composting is a great way to reduce waste and give back to the earth.

Maintenance is Key

Regular checks: Ideally, your pantry should undergo a major clean-out at least twice a year, though a seasonal approach (four times a year) is even better. Keep an eye on expiration dates, and make immediate clean-ups a habit to avoid attracting pests.

Six Steps to Pantry Perfection

1.    Discard old or unwanted food: Start by getting rid of anything that’s expired, stale, or simply unappealing. This step is liberating and creates space for what you truly enjoy and use.

2.    Donate what you won’t use: Got canned goods or non-perishables you won’t eat? Donate them! Also, reassess small appliances or gadgets that are gathering dust.

3.    Empty those shelves: With unneeded items gone, clear everything else out to prepare for a thorough cleaning.

4.    A clean canvas: Now’s the time to clean those shelves. Don’t overlook this step – a clean surface is key to a truly organized pantry.

5.   Strategic organization: Once clean, start organizing your items by category, usage, or any system that makes sense for your lifestyle. Use bins, baskets, and dividers to keep categories distinct and items accessible.

6.    Opt for re-sealable containers: Ditch bulky packaging for clear, airtight containers. Not only does this save space, but it also keeps your food fresher longer and makes inventory checks a breeze.

Keeping it Clean

Frequent mini-cleans: To keep your pantry in top shape, do a quick sweep once a month. This doesn’t have to be time-consuming – even 20 minutes can make a big difference. Use this time to check stock levels, wipe down surfaces, and ensure everything is in its place.

 Final Thoughts

Achieving and maintaining pantry perfection is about creating a system that works for you and your household. It’s not just about a one-time clean-up but about adopting habits that keep your pantry in order year-round. Remember, a well-organized pantry is more than just pleasing to the eye; it makes cooking more enjoyable, reduces waste, and contributes to a healthier lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

April, Parkinson's Awareness Month
Nutrition and Parkinson's Disease

Nutrition and Parkinson's Disease Webinar

Kathrynne Holden is a registered dietitian who specializes in nutrition for Parkinson's disease (PD). Drawing on her former hospital experience, she has pioneered the understanding of the unique nutrition needs of people with Parkinson's. Her aim is to provide the knowledge needed to prevent nutrition-related hospitalizations, make the best use of PD medications, and maintain an independent lifestyle.

“Some Parkinson medications can cause edema
(a build-up
 of fluid in the tissues,
often in the ankles, lower legs, and wrists).
If you have edema, it’s important to get plenty
of potassium in the diet,
avoid too much salt
 and highly-processed
foods (potato chips, canned soups
, pickles for example),
and stay in close touch with your physician.”
- Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD

Kathrynne Holden has written books and articles for the public, produced and has authored the professional's manual "PARKINSON'S DISEASE: Guidelines for Medical Nutrition Therapy." She has also developed the first nutrition risk assessment tool specific to PD. Kathrynne regularly speaks at Parkinson's symposiums and conferences and has conducted presentations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Research. Gerald C. McIntosh, M.D., Kathrynne E. Holden, M.S., R.D.: Risk for malnutrition and bone fracture in Parkinson's disease: a pilot study. Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly. Spring 1999; Vol. 18, No. 3.

Abstract. Conditions relating to Parkinson's disease include tremors, impaired balance, falls, constipation, food-medication interactions, and anorexia. Weight loss, bone thinning, and muscle wasting are common, raising the risk for malnutrition and bone fracture. This pilot study examines the lifestyle and dietary choices of 24 Parkinson's patients. Unplanned weight loss and falls were common, and most had multiple risk factors for malnutrition and fracture. Results support findings in previous studies and call for early nutrition intervention to help prevent fractures, muscle wasting, bowel impaction, and dehydration. The findings indicate that such intervention could prevent hospitalizations and related costs.

Review of the literature on
Nutrition and Parkinson's Disease

There is no special diet for people with Parkinson's disease. The nutritional goals include:
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Consume adequate calories to maintain body weight within a normal range.
  • Minimize food and drug interactions.
  • If chewing, choking or excessive coughing becomes a problem, provide food consistency easily tolerated.
  • Feeding may become difficult and a referral to an occupational therapist may be necessary for adaptive eating utensils.
Eat Well-Balanced Meals
Eat a variety of foods. Include foods rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, bran, cereals, rice, and pasta. Limit intake of salt, sugar, and foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Drink eight cups of water per day. Balance exercise and food in order to maintain your weight within a healthy range. Ask your doctor if alcohol will interfere with any of your medications.

Medication and Food Interactions
Medication used to treat Parkinson's disease may cause nausea. Let your doctor know if nausea is a problem. There are several ways to control nausea, including:
  • Drink clear liquids, such as water, broth, fruit juices without pulp (apple juice, grape juice or cranberry juice), Clear sodas, sports drinks, and plain gelatin.
  • Avoid juices with pulp and orange and grapefruit juices.
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Beverages should be consumed between meals, not with the meal.
  • Choose bland foods such as saltine crackers. Avoid greasy and fried foods.
  • Eat smaller meals, more frequently throughout the day.
  • Foods should be eaten cold or at room temperature.
  • After eating keep your head elevated and avoid brushing your teeth.
Some medications for Parkinson's disease may cause thirst or dry mouth. Include 8 or more cups of liquid each day, unless other medical conditions require you to limit your fluid intake. Add sauces to foods to make them moister. Try sour candy or an ice pop to help increase saliva.

Malnutrition may become a problem for a person diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. This could be related to depression, nausea, difficulty feeding, problems with swallowing, chewing, coughing, and/or a loss of interest in food.

Patients who experience swallowing difficulties should consult a physician. The doctor may recommend a swallow study to determine the food consistency best tolerated. If feeding becomes difficult, a referral to an occupational therapist may be necessary for adaptive eating utensils.

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF) is a leading national presence in Parkinson's disease research, education, and public advocacy. PDF is working for nearly one million people in the US who live with Parkinson's by funding promising scientific research and supporting people with Parkinson's, their families, and caregivers through educational programs and support services. Since its founding in 1957, PDF has funded over $85 million worth of scientific research in Parkinson's disease, supporting the work of leading scientists throughout the world.

Click the following link to learn more about Parkinson's Awareness Month.

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