Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has recently gained popularity by providing consumers local produce from farmers directly. The system of cutting out the middleman (grocery stores) was started over 25 years ago. The concept is to allow consumers to buy “shares” of local farmers. Basically, a consumer purchases a share at the beginning of the season for a certain price, and then collects their share of produce each week during that farming season.

This process delivers numerous benefits for both the farmer and consumer. Focusing on the potential benefits for the consumer includes

  • Introduce consumers to new produce
  • Exposure to new recipes and ways to cook the produce
  • Understanding how the food is growth
  • Build a relationship to the farmer
  • Fresh food, which means more favor and nutrients
  • Support local farmers and communities
  • Opportunity to visit the farm where the food is growing

Like anything else, there are potential risks. The consumer usually pays upfront, with the understanding of receiving their share each week. If produce is lower than expected, the consumer usually does not get reimbursed. Although, farmers tried their best to provide the most produce as they can; but there are cases where the season’s harvest is not as much as expected. It’s always a good idea to have a conversation with the farmer you are planning to buy a share from. Some question you may want to ask them include

  • How long have you been farming?
  • How many other members do you currently have?
  • How many members did you have last year?
  • How much food did you produce last season?
  • Do you have any references? Other members’ contacts information.

For more questions visit Local Harvest.

References

Chicago Foodies. (2010, March 6). Chicago CSA- Community Supported Agriculture. Retrieved from http://www.chicagofoodies.com/2010/03/chicago-csa-community-supported-agriculture.html

Local Harvest. (2012). Local Harvest:  Real Food, Real Farmers, Real Community. Retrieved from http://www.localharvest.org

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Tis’ the Season

Every month there are different fruits and vegetables that are considered to be in season. August is the start of the season for cauliflowers, cucumbers, herbs, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. Other fruits and vegetable that are considered to be in season during the month of August include:

  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Green Beans
  • Lemons
  • Melons
  • Mushrooms
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

For a more complete list of in season fruits and vegetables in August visit CUESA or Women’s Day.

Benefits:

There are multiple benefits for choosing in season produce. Since the produce is in season, it means local stores have these fruits and vegetables in bulk; which means consumers can purchase these healthy foods at a lower price. Along with lower cost to the consumer, the produce is usually better tasting when in season. Also buying seasonal fruits and vegetables means that you are supporting local farmers and reducing CO2 emissions.

Where to get Recipes:

Many times when you purchase local produce from farmers markets, they offer ideas and recipes for the in season produce. Also one of my favorite recipe books is Weight Watcher’s Fruits & Vegetables A to Z. In the book, the offer three recipe for each fruit and vegetable, as well as informing you when that produce is in season, how to choose the best one, and how to store it. You can find this cookbook on Amazon.

References:

CUESA: Cultivating a Healthy Food System. (2013). In Season Now. Retrieved from http://www.cuesa.org/eat-seasonally

Illinois Department of Agriculture. (2001). Illinois…What’s in Season. Retrieved from http://www.agr.state.il.us/markets/WhatsInSeason.pdf

Morris, M. (2011). Benefits of Eating What’s in Season. Retrieved from http://life.gaiam.com/article/benefits-eating-what-s-season

Women’s Day. (2013). Seasonal Foods:  August. Retrieved from http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-shortcuts/seasonal-foods-august-82492

Stress: Friend or Foe?

Stress is the body’s reaction to an event that is more than a person thinks they can handle.

Understanding the causes of stress is the first step to stress management. Causes of stress can include both positive events and negative events. A person might categorize getting married, buying a house, or getting a new job as a positive event that causes stress. For the most part, negative events are more stressful and can negatively impact a person life. If the cause of stress is unknown, one suggestion would be to start a stress journal. A stress journal is a notebook where you write down when you are stressed, what cause the stress, and how you reacted to the stress.

Stress can be useful; by allowing a person to react quickly or work harder, but overtime too much stress can lead to serious health problems. Doctors have linked stress to headaches, stomach problems, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It is also known to weaken a person’s immune system.

In this fast-pace lifestyle, stress is a normal occurrence; therefore, stress management is extremely important. There are multiple ways to cope with stress. Everyone handles and copes with stress differently. One way may be right for one person and not with another.

Ways to cope with stress:

  • Exercise
  • Write your feelings down
  • Learn time management
  • Learn a new hobby
  • Relaxation (yoga, tai chi, meditation, massage, aromatherapy)
  • Talk to someone (professional, friend, family member)
  • Focus on the present

References:

Mayo Clinic. (2011, March 19). Stress Basics. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-management/MY00435

WebMD. (2009, October 14). Stress Management: Topic Overview. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-topic-overview

Beat the Heat!

Exercising Safely Outside:

With the recent temperatures being extremely hot, plus humidity, exercising safely is a must. Following these tips will ensure your safety to avoid heat-related illnesses.

  • Acclimate to the heat– If training for a race or event, adapting to the heat is important. It can take up to 14 days to adjust to the temperature increase, therefore plan accordingly.
  • Know the weather forecast– Knowledge is power. Knowing what the weather is suppose to be, will allow you to make the right decisions. Check to see if there is a heat advisory and heat index. Heat advisory tells you whether you should move your workout inside. Heat index tells you what the temperature is outside with humidity.
  • Taking medicines? Talk to your doctor– Many medicines can intensify the effects of heat-related illnesses. This is true for both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Talking to your doctor is important!
  • Choose the right clothes– It important to choose clothes that will help you stay cool. Picking lighter colors will help reflect the heat, stay away from darker colors during these hot days. The best materials for your workout clothes are lightweight fabrics that wick away your sweat. Rule of thumb for running: Dress for 20 degrees warmer that it is outside currently. For example, if it is 70 degrees outside, dress like its 90 degrees.
  • Wear sun protection– Sunscreen is extremely important. It is also a good idea to wear sunglasses and a hat to block the sun from your face.
  • Timing of your workout- Exercising should be done early in the morning or later at night, when the sun is less harsh. Experts say the morning is the best time of the day to exercise outside. Avoid the hottest part of the day, which is between 10 am and 3 pm. 
  • Select the right route- To stay out of direct sunlight, choose trails that provide some shade.
  • Stay hydrated- One of the biggest concerns during exercising in the heat is staying hydrated. According to Sarnataro (2013),, a person should drink 20 ounces of water two hours before exercising, 8 ounces of water shortly before, and a gulp of water every 20 minutes during exercise. It’s also important to replenish electrolytes and salts.
  • Slow down- Understanding that as the temperature gets hotter, you should not expect your personal best.  

Remember to use common sense and listen to your body when exercising in the heat. Stay cool and enjoy these summer months.

References:

Decker, Joe. (2013). 8 Tips for Exercising in Summer Heat. Retrieved from http://beta.active.com/running/articles/8-tips-for-exercising-in-summer-heat

Sarnataro, B. A. (2013). Exercising in the Heat. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/exercising-in-the-heat

To Gluten-Free or not to Gluten-Free

What does a gluten-free diet mean?

In recent years, more and more gluten-free choices are in grocery stores, farmer markets, and restaurants. Gluten-free products are marketed to people who wish to exclude the protein gluten from their diet, which is found in many grains.

Examples of grains that include gluten are:

Wheat

Barley

Rye

Triticale

This gluten-free diet is essential for a person with celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition when the small intestine is inflamed due to the consumption of gluten. Removing gluten from their diet helps to reduce their signs and symptoms of the disease. Only about 1% of Americans have this disease; and yet the market for gluten-free products is rapidly increasing. Many experts believe that people perceive this gluten-free diet healthier compared to a diet including gluten. Others believe that people are self-diagnosing celiac disease. The only way to know if you have celiac disease is to contact your doctor and get tested.

What is the risk of a gluten-free diet?

According to WebMD, if people are not careful consuming a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole grain foods in well-balanced diet may lower the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some cancers. Therefore unless diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is no reason to remove gluten from your diet.

Again, if you believe you may have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, contact your doctor.

If you are following the gluten-free diet, it’s a good idea to consult with a registered dietitian.

References

Celiac Disease Foundation. (2013). Gluten-Free Diet. Retrieved from http://www.celiac.org/index.php?option=com_content&id=138&Itemid=239

Mayo Clinic. (2011, December 20). Gluten-free Diet:  What’s allowed, what’s not. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gluten-free-diet/my01140

WebMD. (2011, March 2). The Truth About Gluten. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/truth-about-gluten?page=1

Tricks to Beat Portion Distortion

What is Portion Distortion?

Over the past 20 years, portion sizes have increased significantly. Portion distortion has lead to multiple health issues, including the raising obesity epidemic, increasing the prevalence of diabetes, and growing number of people with heart disease. A major factor that contributes to this problem is the fast food industry marketing “super size” foods and a overall increase in portions to allow the public to get “their money’s worth.” Many times what the industry markets as a single meal can really feed two people. Eating large portions at restaurants and fast food establishments has affected the majority of the public’s lifestyle at home. Current portion sizes have exceeded the federal recommendation by as much as 8 times!

One very interesting website that offers two quizzes about portion distortion is MyPlate. The quizzes compare portion sizes from 30 years ago to current portion sizes. Also, they quiz you on how much more exercise it will take to burn off the extra calories.

Estimating Serving Sizes:

Portion size and serving size are too often used interchangeably, when they really have two different meanings. Serving size is the recommended amount of food a person should consume. On the other hand, portion size is amount a person chooses to eat.

The first step to prevention portion distortion is to understand what the correct serving size is.

  • 3 oz. of meat = deck of cards
  • 1 tsp of butter = 1 dice
  • 1 cup of pasta = 1 baseball
  • ½ cup of fresh fruit = 1 tennis ball
  • ½ cup of fresh veggies = 1 light bulb
  • 1 bagel = a hockey puck

For more examples, visit WebMD and EatRight.

Tricks to Prevent Portion Distortion…

  • Avoid eating from a package; eat off a plate.
  • Eat from a smaller plate. This makes you think that you are eating more than you actually are.
  • Move meat from the center of the plate, and pile on veggies.
  • At a restaurant, put half of your meal in a to-go bag before eating.
  • Put treats (cookies, candy, junk food) in non-clear containers. “Out of sight, out of mind”
  • Serve plates directly from the stove, keep leftovers out of sight.
  • Use everyday objects to estimate portion sizes. For example: tennis ball, golf ball, dice, deck of cards, etc.

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2013). Serving Size vs. Portion Size:  Is There a Difference? Retrieved from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=4294967941&terms=portion%20distortion%20

United States Department of Agriculture. (2013). Portion Distortion. Retrieved from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker-tools/portion-distortion.html

WedMD. (2005 February 11). Avoid Portion Distortion. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/avoid-portion-distortion

All About Antioxidants

Antioxidants have been in the public eye since the 1990s, and still make headlines today. You can oftentimes see foods advertising “with antioxidant” or “strong heart antioxidant cereal.” So what’s the buzz about antioxidants?

Antioxidants are a group of foods that prevent damage to the body against free radicals. They do this by giving electrons to the  free radicals. If antioxidants did not give electrons to these free radicals, the free radicals would take electrons from nearby body cells. Stealing from the body’s cell would kill the cell or change the DNA in that cell. When the body’s cells are weakened or damaged, the body is that more susceptible to chronic conditions, such as certain cancers and heart disease.

Harvard’s School of Public Health concludes that consuming whole fruits, vegetables, and grains (not antioxidant supplements) can provide protection against certain chronic diseases.

Antioxidants can be found naturally in foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. The three major sources of antioxidants come from vitamins Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. Vitamins are not the only source of antioxidants; minerals (Zinc and Selenium) and other super food are also rich in antioxidants.

  • Beta-Carotene: Broccoli, asparagus, spinach, sweet potato, russet potato, carrots, green peppers, kale, beets, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, apricots, nectarines, peaches, and more
  • Vitamin C: All berries, papaya, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew, oranges, snow peas, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peppers, and more
  • Vitamin E: chard, nuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, carrots, broccoli, and more
  • Zinc: beans, nuts, seafood, oysters, whole grains, and more
  • Selenium: Nuts, certain breads, grains, tuna, and other meats
  • Other Super Food: apples, prunes, raisins, pears, plumes, red grapes, alfalfa sprouts, onions, eggplant, and beans

*For more food rich in antioxidants visit WedMD (http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health)

References

Eat Right. (2013). Antioxidants. Retrieved from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6792

Harvard School of Public Health. (2013). Antioxidants:  Beyond the Hype. Retrieved from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/#the%20bottom%20line%20on%20antioxidants

Kellogg’s. (2013). Kellogg’s Smart Start Antioxidants cereal. Retrieved from http://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/kelloggs-smart-start-strong-heart-antioxidants-cereal.html

Mayo Clinic. (2011, May 4). Slide Show:  Add Antioxidants to your Diet. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/antioxidants/MY01593

WedMD. (2012, July 2). Antioxidants and Your Immune System:  Super Food for Optimal Health. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health