Sunday, November 24, 2019

Food courts – enjoy the food but skip the germs

When traveling this holiday season, you may find yourself eating at some food courts.  Most have a variety of food options.  Food courts also have a variety of germs that you really don’t want to partake of.  Dr. Oz has previously investigated food courts and recently did a show on food courts and why they can be full of germs – bacteria, fungi and even fecal matter.  What can you do to enjoy the food but leave the germs behind?

Food Courts – where are the germs?  

1.     Temperatures – often the food at food courts is lined up in pans along a window making it easy for you to see your choices.  But is the food being kept at the right temperature?  Dr. Oz reports on a study that found many food court establishments are not keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees or warmer and cold foods at 40 degrees or cooler (e.g. salad bar foods).  When tested, food temperatures at some food courts were not kept hot enough or cold enough.  This means the food is a breeding ground for bacteria.  One restaurant was keeping the chicken at 88 degrees – well below the recommended 140 degrees. 
2.     Tables – ever put your fork, knife, or napkin on a table in a food court?  You may want to think again once you learn all the germs on food court tables.  Yes, the staff may be wiping down the tables, but are they using the same cloth to wipe down every table?  Are they using the same cloth to wipe the chairs and maybe even a spill on the floor?  If so, the staff is merely spreading germs from table to table, chair to table or floor to table.  Watch the staff.  Are they ringing out the wiping cloth in a sanitizing solution after they wipe off each table?  Probably not.  And not just food courts have contaminated tables.  I once was at a PTA meeting at an elementary school.  A father put his infant on a table in the cafeteria and began to change the infant’s diaper.  Totally disregarding the elementary school kids who would be spreading out their lunch on that very table the next day.  What germs linger on?  The study found fecal material and fungus on almost every table they tested.  Gross! 
3.     Trays – who doesn’t carry the food they ordered on a tray to get to their table?  Well keep your silverware and napkins and any food away from the tray surface.  The trays are not often cleaned properly and can also be a breeding ground for germs.  Just like tables, some staff use the same cloth to clean every tray passing germs from one tray to another.  One study found some of these food trays had more germs than bathrooms or found on gym mats.
Keep silverware and food off the tray
4.     Touch Screens So convenient to order your food from a touch screen.  Makes ordering fast and easy.  But who else touched the screen before you?  What germs linger there?  Web MD reported on a London Metropolitan University study that tested those touch screens.  They found E. coli and staph germs on some screens.  

5.     Ketchup, Mustard – individual packets are best.  If the ketchup and mustard are in bottles, the outside of the bottles can be full of germs.  After serving yourself, be sure to sanitize your hands before eating. 

How can you avoid the germs?

  1. Food – keep the food you are about to eat off the trays and off the table.  Keep food in its containers. 
  2. Silverware and napkins – lay a napkin down to put your silverware on and to put another clean napkin on.   
  3. Table and trays – don’t use tray tops or table tops to put your food or silverware on.  Keep the food in the serving container and put a clean napkin down before you put your silverware on the table or tray.
  4. Sanitize your hands after going through the food line and touching the tray, the silverware, the ketchup or mustard pump, or other surfaces.  

Enjoy your travels this holiday season.  Just leave the food court germs in the food court and don’t bring them along on your travels.  Using a touch screen to order your food?  Wash or sanitize your hands before eating your food. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Anti-inflammatory foods

Students in my class are interested in anti-inflammatory foods as many work out and are interested in reducing inflammation.  Others are interested in diets to reduce inflammation for those with colitis or IBD.  Older students are interesting in anti-inflammatory diets to control osteoarthritis.  Rather than just taking drugs to reduce inflammation, are there anti-inflammatory foods?

What are the foods one can eat to reduce inflammation and what conditions do anti-inflammatory diets help?

 Osteoarthritis – a common form of arthritis people experience as they age.  The cartilage in our joints begins to break down which results in swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints.  The U.S. News & World Report has many interesting articles on diet with a recent one titled, “Osteoarthritis Diet:  Foods to Eat and Avoid”.  According to the registered dietitian, Daniela Novotny, from Missouri State University, the foods we eat can increase or decrease inflammation.  What are the foods to eat on an Osteoarthritis Diet to reduce inflammation?

a.       Fruits and Vegetables – all those antioxidants in fruits and vegetables help fight off inflammation.  Each color in fruits and vegetables provides different antioxidants so eating many colors is a good thing.  Some fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants that are particularly helpful in reducing inflammation including:
      • Citrus fruits – enjoy that glass of 100% juice, some oranges, some grapefruit.
      • Pumpkin – who knew that eating some pumpkin pie would be good for your joints?
      • Berries – blueberries are often considered a super food because of their beneficial health effects.  But other berries provide anti-inflammatory effects including raspberries and strawberries.
      • Sweet Potatoes – eat some extra sweet potatoes during the holidays to help reduce inflammation
      • Carrots – munch on some baby carrots and bring some in your lunch.
      • Cabbage – enjoy some coleslaw or cooked cabbage.
Maple and Rosemary Glazed Sweet Potatoes
b.       Omega-3 fats – many people are still unaware that there are good fats and not so good fats.  The Omega-3 fats are good for your heart and good for your joints.  Football players often add some omega-3 fats to their day in the form of flaxseed, chia seed or walnuts to help reduce inflammation.  I add some chopped walnuts to my oatmeal.  Fatty fish like salmon or tuna also provide the healthy Omega-3 fats.  So, enjoy that tuna fish sandwich at lunch.
c.       Nuts – as noted above, walnuts are a good source of the healthy Omega-3 fats.  Nuts also are good sources of magnesium, fiber and vitamin E.
d.       Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVVO)  - use it in cooking, sautéing vegetables.  EVVO has a special fat in it called, oleocanthal, which seems to have more inflammatory powers than other fats.  Another source of anti-inflammatory fats are avocados so enjoy that guacamole.
e.       Garlic and onions – one of my daughters loves to cook with garlic.  Once a roofer working on our home was on break.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a whole garlic.  He peeled it and ate the whole thing.  He said he often ate garlic as a snack.  Good for his heart and good for his joints.
f.        Turmeric not really a “food” but a spice one adds to food and is often used in Asian cooking.  But turmeric has renewed interest as having some natural anti-inflammatory compounds called curcuminoids.    One can eat turmeric in foods like curry or chutney. Others buy it in pill form.  The Mayo Clinic has a one-minute video on the health benefits of turmeric.  Mayo Clinic does caution those taking supplements should check with their doctor about any interaction with medications. 
Turmeric - an anti-inflammatory spice
What foods to avoid if you want to reduce inflammation?

1.       Saturated fats – these are the not so good fats in our diet.  These fats increase our risk of heart disease and can lead to increased inflammation in our joints.  Think of fat that is solid at room temperature like the fat in bacon grease.  The marbling you see in meat is saturated fat. Choose leaner cuts of meat, leaner hamburger, cut off the fat rind from a pork chop (after you cook it as the fat adds flavor). 
2.       Added sugars – so much confusion about sugars in our foods.  Added sugars, as the name implies, are sugars manufacturers add to our foods like the high fructose corn syrup added to a can of Coke.  Or the added sugars in fake juice drinks like Sunny D.  These are not the natural sugars in foods like the fructose in a banana or in orange juice. Researchers have found that foods with added sugars have a “compound called cytokines, which stimulate inflammation”.
3.       Refined carbs – those that manufacturers have taken out most of the nutrients like white bread, white rice.  Eating refined foods like foods made with white flour or eating white rice actually help our bodies produce substances that lead to inflammation.  On the other hand, whole grains like oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, Quinoa are foods we want in our diet.  

What changes can you make in your diet to fight inflammation?  Choosing 5 A Day – or five fruits and vegetables a day is a good place to start.  Add some oatmeal to your morning routine.  Sprinkle some walnuts on your cereal or salad.  Bring some baby carrots with you as a snack.  Simple changes one makes in their daily eating can have huge health benefits.
Walnut snack box