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A to Z Blog Reflections

Due to the pandemic, this year’s A-to-Z blog was quite different than previous ones. In early March, I saw the projectory of its impact on the northeast part of the United States, so I prepared and scheduled my posts by the end of March. Also at the end of March, I moved from my personal home to a family home about 40 miles away, so that a healthcare worker could move into my regular home and protect his family (=my daughter, who is highly at risk, and their two children) from potential exposure to the virus.

Almost to the day last year, my renters of 10 years had moved from this family home at my request. I spent the next six months making repairs to the home: new roof, gutters, windows, insulation, driveway paving, garage door, and so on. I spent long weekends there, as it is on the Long Island Sound and I love going to the beach. But there was this lingering discomfort that I owned two houses, had a large footprint, and what the heck was I doing?

And then, the pandemic, concern for my daughter‘s health, and I have a solution! But wait, this is supposed to be about the A to Z blog and my reaction to it…

So, my summer home-my family home-my beach house does not have Internet. And I had no interest in installing it, having anyone in the house, purchasing a modem et cetera. My front-door neighbors graciously had allowed me previously to tap in to their Internet to run a ‘smart’ thermostat, so I asked them about using it for my laptop. They are now both working at home and that Internet bandwidth is in high demand. So they offered me the opportunity to use their Internet from 6 PM until 8:30 AM. Very, very generous and kind people.

So, my ability to comment was restricted on the A-to-Z blog, as I had use that time to do all my Internet activities, and also sleep! And eat dinner. Although I grew to eating dinner at five or 530, so that my 6 PM was wide open.

In any case, my exploration of other blogs was severely limited. And my statistics clearly show that. In previous years, I had visitors from many different countries because I would go visit other blogs. But unfortunately I was not able to do that this year.

I am grateful that I had the foresight to prepare my blogs ahead of time and schedule them. I am grateful for my neighbors’ willingness to let me tap into their Internet and at least reply to comments on my blog. And I was able to return the favors and comment on people who visited my blog. Apologies to the rest of the A-to-Z blogging community for my inability to explore and read what likely were charming and interesting and informative postings. Perhaps when I get some move back home again.

Zucchini (Summer Squash)

So many different varieties of summer squash are available and they are easy to grow.

Zucchini:

  • Is a valuable source of copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron, even more so than straightneck, crookneck, and pattypan varieties
  • Summer squash, especially the yellow-skinned varieties, are rich in carotenoids, typically 2–10 times higher in the skins than the flesh

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Zucchini are prolific growers, often reaching gigundous sizes that resemble baseball bats. Harvesting them earlier makes it easier to keep up with them in the garden.

Zucchini relish, bread, cookies, spiralized, stir-fried. What’s your favorite way to serve it up?

*These posts, written ahead of time, were scheduled on March 22 to post on the appropriate date. There is great uncertainty as to what life will be like at the time they are being read.*

 

Yams

Ok, I know sweet potatoes and yams aren’t the same and all the research really is on sweet potatoes. So, I’m sneaking them in under Y. Why? Because I had too many S options…

Sweet potatoes:

  • Have 4 grams of protein,
  • Contain 25 percent of the day’s fiber recommendation
  • Offer 11 times the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which has been shown to have cancer-fighting properties
  • Contain fibers and antioxidants that promote the growth of good gut bacteria and contribute to a healthy gut
  • Are rich in beta-carotene and anthocyanins, antioxidants that may help prevent vision loss and improve eye health.
  • Contain sporamins—storage proteins in sweet potato— that have unique antioxidant properties
  • Purple-fleshed sweet potato anthocyanins—primarily peonidins and cyanidins—have important antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties.

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Adding butter or olive oil to your sweet potato increases the uptake of its beta-carotene. Also steaming or boiling appears to maintain nutrients more than baking. For example, cut them into 1/2-inch slices and Quick Steaming them for just 7 minutes.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or cloves and a pat of butter or dash of olive oil for extra flavor and nutrition.

Do you have sweet potatoes or yams at any traditional family dinners? Ours is Thanksgiving. Yours?

*These posts, written ahead of time, were scheduled on March 22 to post on the appropriate date. There is great uncertainty as to what life will be like at the time they are being read.*

 

 

X-tra Virgin Olive Oil

“I yam what I yam an’ that’s all I yam,” says Popeye.

“He’s a man alright. It he wasn’t such a funny looking thing, I’d give him a kiss,” says Olive Oyl.

Extra virgin olive oil:

  • May increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety
  • Is loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that help battle many diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis and brain deterioration
  • Is an outstanding source of monounsaturated fats. When used in moderation, it may cut the risk of heart disease.
  • Contains a modest amount of vitamins E and K
  • Contains oleic acid and oleocanthal, two nutrients that can fight inflammation
  • May help prevent unwanted blood clotting.

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Use this more expensive oil to dress salads, vegetables and cooked dishes.

I live it up! I use olive oil for almost all my pan frying. Veggies, chicken, fish. The only exception for me is eggs (butter is better). Do you distinguish between olive oil types?

*These posts, written ahead of time, were scheduled on March 22 to post on the appropriate date. There is great uncertainty as to what life will be like at the time they are being read.*

Watermelon

Remember when we had spitting contests with watermelon seeds? My brother and I would challenge each other over the side of our small boat. Of course, the fact that he was eight years older than me gave him an advantage. Kids these days don’t know that they miss….

Watermelon:

  • May improve lipid profiles and lower fat accumulation, perhaps due to high a citrulline levels
  • Reduces the level of muscle soreness.
  • Helps with hydration
  • Is more concentrated in lycopene than red tomatoes and it’s more bioavailable, too

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Red watermelons have higher lycopene than other varieties

Although it seldom happens any more, when I find a seed in my watermelon slice, I enjoy chewing it and swallowing it. I haven’t yet had one grow in my belly. Anyone else eat the seeds?

*These posts, written ahead of time, were scheduled on March 22 to post on the appropriate date. There is great uncertainty as to what life will be like at the time they are being read.*

WHole Grains

[In the spirit of providing daily commentary, I’m adding digraphs, those two letters that unite to consistently form a single sound, to my A to Z posts.]

whole grainA grain is considered to be a whole grain as long as all three original parts — the bran, germ, and endosperm — are still present in the same proportions as when the grain was growing in the fields. Many of our grains are refined, meaning at least one of those parts has been removed. This also removes a significant amount of the nutrients of that grain. Because of that, we now enrich the refined grains with synthetic additives. Better to just stick with the original whole grains!

What are examples of whole grains? Some of the more common ones already are covered in this series – oats and quinoa. Others include whole grains versions of barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, rice, rye, wheat, and wild rice. More obscure types are: amaranth, einkorn, freekeh, Khorasan grain, kañiwa, millet, sorghum, spelt, teff, and triticale.

Whole grains:

  • Are an important source of essential nutrients
  • Reduced risk of stroke
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Provide better weight maintenance
  • Cause less inflammation
  • Lower risk of colorectal and liver cancer
  • Improve post-menopausal sleep

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Experiment with some of these whole grains slowly. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the more intense tastes and textures compared with, say, white rice.

I love the crunch of barley in a rich, hearty soup. Do you have a suggestion for using whole grains?

*These posts, written ahead of time, were scheduled on March 22 to post on the appropriate date. There is great uncertainty as to what life will be like at the time they are being read.*

Vinegar (Apple Cider)

Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting the sugar from apples. This turns them into acetic acid, the active ingredient in vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar:

  • Can kill harmful bacteria or prevent them from multiplying
  • May improve insulin sensitivity and helping lower blood sugar responses after meals.
  • Can increase feelings of fullness to help people eat fewer calories, which leads to weight loss

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Many people add 1 to 2 tablespoons to water or tea.

I find that vinegar catches in my throat and leads to coughing. Any suggestions on how to minimize this?

*These posts, written ahead of time, were scheduled on March 22 to post on the appropriate date. There is great uncertainty as to what life will be like at the time they are being read.*

Unsalted

Salt is hidden everywhere. Most snacks (chips, pretzels, and such) contain 10% of our daily salt in each serving. One serving of other often-consumed items contains 10-20% RDI: instant pudding, cottage cheese, vegetable juice, salad dressing, canned peas, cheese, scallop potatoes, BBQ sauce, and a bagel. But it’s most high in most prepared, processed, and restaurant foods; a serving of these foods contain a whopping 20-40% of RDI: canned soup, frozen shrimp, frozen pizza, pickles, beef broth, beef jerky, and one biscuit. Topping out over 40% per serving is: restaurant pizza, roasted ham, grinder (sub sandwich), salami, soy sauce, and cured canned meats. Think about the food consumed in a day and it’s easy to see how we can eat too much salt.

Why does it matter? Salt causes the body to retain water, which raises your blood pressure. This strains your heart, arteries, kidneys, and brain. All this can cause heart attacks, strokes, dementia and kidney disease.

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Put away the salt shaker. At first you may miss it, but gradually you will cherish the subtle and delicious natural flavors of your food.

For you, is there a food that absolutely requires salt? For me, it’s butter.

*These posts, written ahead of time, were scheduled on March 22 to post on the appropriate date. There is great uncertainty as to what life will be like at the time they are being read.*

Turmeric

It was a toss-up between Tomatoes and Turmeric. I decided everyone already eats tomatoes, so I went with turmeric. (But tomatoes are great for you, so keep eating them.) Turmeric is usually consumed as a powder, although roots are showing up in local health food stores (well, they were before we were isolating; not sure right now). Turmeric includes three different curcuminoids: curcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and demethoxycurcumin. It also contains volatile oils like tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone. These different substances are all associated with their own unique health benefits. Potential health benefits can occur with amounts as little as 50 milligrams (1/50th of a teaspoon) of turmeric over a period of several months.

Turmeric:

  • Provides anti-inflammatory activity throughout the body
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Addresses a range of maladies from indigestion to cancer
  • May be an effective treatment for brain disease, increasing memory
  • Has a role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Can aid blood sugar balance and kidney function
  • Lessens the severity of certain forms of arthritis and certain digestive disorders
  • Can help retain the beta-carotene in carrots and pumpkins
  • Helps prevent formation of heterocyclic amines (which pose potential health risks) in grilled meat when included in the marinade

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Turmeric from Alleppey, which has twice the curcumin than turmeric from Madras. (Don’t ask me how you know; maybe it says on the package. I’ll have to go look…nope, mine doesn’t identify the location source.)

For awhile I was adding it to many foods: stir-fry, stews, etc. And then I made Golden Milk: Heat together these items and enjoy before bedtime:

      • 1 cup cashew milk
      • 4 teaspoons finely grated fresh turmeric
      • 2 teaspoons finely grated palm sugar or raw sugar
      • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
      • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

[Photo credit: https://www.eatthis.com/healthiest-foods-on-planet/]

Sardines

I wasn’t sure if I was going to go with Sardines or Salmon. Given the outbreak of COVID-19, I chose the canned item, with hopes that it might be accessible for us.

So. Sardines. Because they are a small fish, they don’t bioaccumulate mercury. Because they are eaten whole, they contain more than many other fishes.

Sardines:

  • Provide 12 percent your recommended daily intake of vitamin D per serving
  • Include 835 mg of omega-3s
  • Contain 64 percent of selenium, a mineral that plays a key role in metabolism, immunity, and reproductive health
  • Are full of bone-building calcium
  • Are a good source of protein
  • Include generous amounts of phosphorus, B2, B3, B12, iodine, and chlorine

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Often canned with salt, be cautious of that or look for low-sodium options.

Sardines are an acquired taste. I like to mash them in oil (sometimes they come in oil in their can) and spread them on crackers. With their roll-up lid, they travel well and are good for picnics when I’m especially hungry, so any reservations disappear! Any tricks on your end?

*These posts, written ahead of time, were scheduled on March 22 to post on the appropriate date. There is great uncertainty as to what life will be like at the time they are being read.*