photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

From “Is Four Too Many? Are Three Not Enough?” Research: Prunes are really really good for you – for your bones, actually. Apparently, in older folks, they suppress the rate at which bone breaks down, which is good news for people concerned with osteoporosis. And of course, ahem, there is that…other…digestive…effect, too. “Arjmandi and a group of researchers from Florida State and Oklahoma State University tested two groups of postmenopausal women. Over a 12-month period, the first group, consisting of 55 women, was instructed to consume 100 grams of dried plums (about 10 prunes) each day, while the second — a comparative control group of 45 women — was told to consume 100 grams of dried apples. All of the study’s participants also received daily doses of calcium (500 milligrams) and vitamin D (400 international units).
The group that consumed dried plums had significantly higher bone mineral density in the ulna (one of two long bones in the forearm) and spine, in comparison with the group that ate dried apples. This, according to Arjmandi, was due in part to the ability of dried plums to suppress the rate of bone resorption, or the breakdown of bone, which tends to exceed the rate of new bone growth as people age.” Prunes

 

Fish Oil is great stuff, too in terms of its connection with maintaining brain volume. This seems to work only for people who are still cognitively ok and who are negative for genetic Alzheimer’s risk factor. “Daiello reports that compared to non-users, use of fish oil supplements was associated with better cognitive functioning during the study. However, this association was significant only in those individuals who had a normal baseline cognitive function and in individuals who tested negative for a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease known as APOE4…Daiello says, “In the imaging analyses for the entire study population, we found a significant positive association between fish oil supplement use and average brain volumes in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking (cerebral cortex and hippocampus), as well as smaller brain ventricular volumes compared to non-users at any given time in the study. In other words, fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage in patients taking these supplements during the ADNI study compared to those who didn’t report using them.” Considering the other benefits attributed to the ingestion of fish oil in such areas as cardiac disease, this is just one more reason to swallow it down. Fish Oil and Cognitive Function

It Ain’t Just Chinese Honey, People. Another reminder that buying local honey from your local beekeeper is a much better idea. It’s been known for years that Chinese honey, many times tainted with antibiotics and such items as heavy metal, has been imported into the US by being trans-shipped and repacked through other countries. We also know that the big packers, such as SueBee use foreign honey. What is now known is that honey from such countries as India can be just as dangerous. “Food safety investigators from the European Union barred all shipments of honey from India because of the presence of lead and illegal animal antibiotics. Further, they found an even larger amount of honey apparently had been concocted without the help of bees, made from artificial sweeteners and then extensively filtered to remove any proof of contaminants or adulteration or indications of precisely where the honey actually originated.

An examination of international and government shipping tallies, customs documents and interviews with some of North America’s top honey importers and brokers documented the rampant honey laundering and that a record amount of the Chinese honey was being purchased by major U.S. packers…on this side of the ocean, the FDA checks few of the thousands of shipments arriving through 22 American ports each year.

According to FDA data, between January and June, just 24 honey shipments were stopped from entering the country. The agency declined to say how many loads are inspected and by whom.

However, during that same period, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that almost 43 million pounds of honey entered the U.S. Of that, the Department of Commerce said 37.7 million pounds came from India, the same honey that is banned in the EU because it contained animal medicine and lead and lacked the proper paperwork to prove it didn’t come from China.

“There are still millions of pounds of transshipped Chinese honey coming in the U.S. and it’s all coming now from India and Vietnam and everybody in the industry knows that,” said Elise Gagnon, president of Odem International, a worldwide trading house that specializes in bulk raw honey. .. Import Genius, a private shipping intelligence service, searched its databases of all U.S. Customs import data for Food Safety News and provided a telling breakdown:

- The U.S. imported 208 million pounds of honey over the past 18 months.

- About 48 million pounds came from trusted and usually reliable suppliers in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay and Mexico.

- Almost 60 percent of what was imported – 123 million pounds – came from Asian countries – traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone.

“This should be a red flag to FDA and the federal investigators. India doesn’t have anywhere near the capacity – enough bees – to produce 45 million pounds of honey. It has to come from China,” said Adee, who also is a past president of the American Honey Producers Association.”
Contaminated Chinese Honey Being Laundered Through Other Countries

Packed School Lunches Are Not Always The Best: Sitting around in a backpack all morning is not a great idea. “The study, published in the journal Pediatrics on August 8, examined 1,361 meat, dairy and vegetable items in 705 packed lunches from 235 preschool children (ages 3 to 5) on three separate days at random. After measuring the temperatures of the foods approximately 90 minutes before lunchtime, they found only 22 items below the CDC’s recommended 40 degree baseline.

In total, 97.4 percent of meat, 99 percent of dairy and 98.5 percent of vegetables measured above 40 degrees. Nearly half (49 percent) of the lunches contained at least one ice pack, while 12 percent sat in school refrigerators, and yet the vast majority of these cooled lunches did not meet the recommended temperature. The remaining 39 percent had no devices to keep the food chilled…he authors recommend freezing lunchboxes along with ice packs, as ice packs in warmer containers expend extra energy cooling them. Sweitzer also suggested parents store non-refrigerated items separately and take greater care in regularly washing out lunch containers just as they would wash any other dishes that touch food, because bacteria can grow on small amounts of food that stow away.

Their most important advice, however, is for parents to wash their hands before preparing food, as most pathogens that could potentially grow to illness-inducing quantities will likely come from contact contamination, such as wiping a nose and then touching food. Still, the easiest way to ensure lunches stay safe is to make sure they are sufficiently cooled when they leave the house.” Packed Lunches Don’t Meet Temperature Requirements For Safety

Learn to Like Your Beans. I think regular readers know I love beans (I have yet to meet a bean I did not like), but here is an easy quick ‘get it on the table and into the tummy’ recipe. I made these as hors d’oeuvres for a recent party – if you don’t cut them, one whole filled thing makes a meal with a salad.

Bean Roll-ups
Ingredients:
2 cans of beans (kidney, black, whatever you like), drained and rinsed
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 T of Mexican seasoning of your choice (taco seasoning in one of those foil packets, a mix of cilantro and a bit of chili powder etc.)
1 cup of salsa (I’m using black bean and corn here but whatever you’ve got in the fridge works)
Big tortillas (I’m using the spinach and garlic ones from my local grocery store – your mileage may vary. Mine are 8″ across and come 6 to a package)

Directions:
In a big frying pan, put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and saute the garlic and the onions until really soft. Add the beans and the seasoning and cook until warmed through. With a fork, mush them all up. If you need a little water, add up to a 1/4 cup of water. If it’s too mushy, just stir over a low light until you evaporate a bit of the water. The spread should have the consistency of peanut butter.
Add the salsa and stir thoroughly.

Lay out your tortillas and take about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the mix and put it in the the center of the tortilla. Spread out to the edges. Roll up firmly and then slice into 1/2″ slices. Put on a plate and serve with the rest of the salsa.

This mix will fill six tortillas and slice up to feed a whole mess of people or with one tortilla to a person plus a salad, this will feed six.

Enjoy.

Remember – clean hands…clean food…happy tummies.