Food Safety

Reduce Sodium for World Salt Awareness Week

Check the label! This year’s World Salt Awareness Week (March 10-16) focuses on the need for clear and consistent nutrition labelling so consumers know how much sodium they are consuming each day and can choose foods with lower sodium.

Too much sodium increases your blood pressure, a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Previous themes for World Salt Awareness Week have encouraged chefs, caterers, and the prepared food industry to decrease the amount of sodium they add to foods and to purchase lower sodium ingredients and products.

Why Is Reducing Sodium Important?

Consuming less sodium can help prevent or control high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which is a leading contributor to death, disability, and costs from cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD is the leading cause of death in the United States and a major factor in health disparities across different population groups. US spending on CVD in 2010 totaled an estimated $315 billion.

Most of the sodium we eat—more than 75%—comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods. That means the sodium is in our food before we even buy it, and the salt you add to food during cooking or at the table is only a small amount of what you consume each day. CDC’s Sodium and Food Sources Web page shows which food categories are the biggest contributors of sodium to your daily diet.

Many people are surprised to learn that foods that seem healthy, such as low-fat deli turkey or light salad dressings, can be high in sodium. In fact, the top sources of sodium in the American diet are bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, and pizza. Learn more about the most common sources of sodium in our diets from CDC Vital Signs.

What would the nation gain if everyone could reduce daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg? Such a reduction has been estimated to

  • Reduce cases of high blood pressure by 11 million.
  • Save $18 billion health care dollars each year.

What You Can Do

During World Salt Awareness Week and every week of the year, you can reduce your sodium intake by following the tips below. Check out CDC’s Salt Web site to get more recommendations about reducing sodium in your diet and improving your heart health.

At the Grocery Store

  • Check Nutrition Facts labels while shopping to find the lowest sodium options of your favorite foods.
  • Limit purchases of processed foods high in sodium.
  • Talk with your grocer about stocking lower sodium food choices.

Eating Out

  • Ask your server for nutritional information, or check online before you go to find lower sodium options. menustat.org
  • Ask the chef for no added salt in your meal. You can add some yourself if you find it is needed.
  • Talk with the manager of your favorite restaurant about offering lower sodium food choices.

At Home

  • Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. You can opt for frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, but select no-salt-added varieties and packages without sauce.
  • Prepare more meals from fresh ingredients at home, where you can control added salt.
  • Get enough potassium each day.1 Potassium can help reduce the effect of sodium on blood pressure and is found in many foods, such as bananas, potatoes, beans, and dairy products.
  • Support initiatives that reduce sodium in foods sold in cafeterias and vending machines.

Sodium Reduction in Communities

CDC is working to lower sodium intake at the community level through the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program. This current 3-year effort encourages communities to reduce sodium in school meals, at senior centers, in restaurants, at convenience stores, and at government facilities, and among other food establishments.

You can help by spreading the word to similar organizations in your community to ask for “less salt, please.”

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/sodium/


Keep the Buffet Clean & Safe on Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is an American tradition of football, friends, and food. In fact, it’s a daylong food fest, that–next to Thanksgiving Day—is the second largest day for food consumption in the US. While chicken wings, chips, and dips are consistent favorites on Super Bowl buffets, make sure that germs are a “no-show” by following these six tips to avoid food poisoning.

1. Keep it clean.

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water (warm or cold) for at least 20 seconds before eating and handling food—especially after passing the TV’s germy remote control! Also wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Rinse produce under running water, including those with inedible skins and rinds. For firm-skin fruits and vegetables, rub by hand or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing.

2. Cook it well.

  • Use a food thermometer to test Super Bowl party favorites, like chicken wings and ground beef sliders, and any other meat or microwaved dishes on your menu.
  • Make sure chicken wings (and any other poultry dish) reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F and ground beef sliders reach 160 °F.
  • Refer to the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for the “rest time” of meats—the period after cooking when the temperature remains constant or continues to rise and destroys germs.
  • Good news for your super hungry guests: chicken wings and ground beef sliders don’t require rest times!

3. Keep it safe.

  • Divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins. This encourages rapid, even cooling…and discourages pre-party nibblers.
  • Hold hot foods at 140 °F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
  • Maintain cold foods, like salsa and guacamole, at 40 °F or colder. Nest serving dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving trays. Replace often.

4. Watch the time.

  • Follow recommended microwave cooking and standing times.
  • “Cold spots”—areas that are not completely cooked–can harbor germs.
  • Always follow the “standing time,” the extra minutes that food should stand in the microwave to complete the cooking process. Then check the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
  • Track the time that food stays on the buffet.
  • Sideline anything that has been out at room temperature for two hours or more.

5. Avoid mix-ups.

  • Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods, like veggies, when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
  • Offer guests serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating directly from the bowls with dips and salsa.
  • Throw a penalty flag at double-dippers (folks who repeatedly eat or dip from a shared food dish)!

6. Get it to-go.

  • Discard any foods on the buffet for two hours or more.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate.
  • Don’t wait too long to enjoy your leftovers. Refrigerate them for three to four days, at most. Freeze them, if you won’t be eating your leftovers sooner.

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/superbowlplaybook/


Smart Foods for a Healthy Brain

Listen to the buzz about foods and dietary supplements and you’ll believe they can do everything from sharpen focus and concentration, to enhance memory, attention span, and brain function.

But do they really work? There’s no denying that as we age chronologically, our body ages right along with us. The good news is that you can increase your chances of maintaining a healthy brain — if you add “smart” foods and beverages to your diet.

Caffeine Can Make You More Alert

There’s no magic bullet to boost IQ or make you smarter — but certain substances, like caffeine, can energize and help you focus and concentrate. Found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and some medications, caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up buzz — though the effects are short term. And more is often less: Overdo it on caffeine and it can make you jittery and uncomfortable.

Sugar Can Enhance Alertness

Sugar is your brain’s preferred fuel source — not table sugar, but glucose, which your body metabolizes from the sugars and carbohydrates you eat. That’s why a glass of something sweet to drink can offer a short-term boost to memory, thinking processes, and mental ability.

Consume too much, however, and memory can be impaired — along with the rest of you. Go easy on the sugar so it can enhance memory, without packing on the pounds.

Eat Breakfast to Fuel Your Brain

Tempted to skip breakfast? Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat breakfast tend to perform significantly better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of researchers’ brain fuel list include high-fiber whole grains, dairy, and fruits. Just don’t overeat; researchers also found high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.

Fish Really is Brain Food

A protein source associated with a great brain boost is fish — rich in omega 3 fatty acids, essential for brain function and development. These healthy fats have amazing brain power: higher dietary omega 3 fatty acids are linked to lower dementia and stroke risks; slower mental decline; and may play a vital role in enhancing memory, especially as we get older.

For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.

Add a Daily Dose of Nuts and Chocolate

Nuts and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is associated with less cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate also has other powerful antioxidant properties. And it contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus and concentration.

Enjoy up to an ounce a day of nuts and dark chocolate to provide all the benefits you need without excess calories, fat, or sugar.

Add Avocados and Whole Grains

Every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and brain. Eating a diet high in whole grains and fruits like avocados can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower bad cholesterol. This reduces your risk of plaque buildup and enhances blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to fire up brain cells.

Whole grains, like popcorn and whole wheat, also contribute dietary fiber and vitamin E. Though avocados have fat, it’s the good-for-you, monounsaturated fat that contributes to healthy blood flow.

Blueberries Are Super Nutritious

Research in animals shows that blueberries may help protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies also show that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning and muscle function of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

It may sound trite but it’s true: If your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can decrease your ability to concentrate. Eating too much or too little can also interfere with your ability to focus. A heavy meal may make you feel lethargic, while too few calories can result in distracting hunger pangs.

Benefit your brain: Strive for a well-balanced diet full of a wide variety of healthy, wholesome foods.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements?

Store shelves groan with supplements claiming to boost health. Although many of the reports on the brain-boosting power of supplements like vitamins B, C, E, beta-carotene, and magnesium are promising, a supplement is only useful to people whose diets are lacking in that specific nutrient.

Researchers are cautiously optimistic about ginseng, ginkgo, and vitamin, mineral, and herb combinations and their impact on the brain.

Check with your doctor.

SOURCE: WebMD