Friday, February 24, 2012

The Scoop on Sprouts


Eunice, a MM Groupie, was intrigued by the idea of growing and using her own bean sprouts after hearing how easy it is to do. But, she recently heard that they may be a source of food borne illness. What's up?

Sprouts are formed by any germinating seed. While the most popular sprout is alfalfa, sprouts can be made from other seeds such as pumpkin, radish and carrot, soy and mung beans, peas, wheat, corn and barley. You can purchase sprouts or you can easily grow your own from the uncooked seed, bean or grain itself. All you have to do is keep the seed warm and damp but not wet, and most will sprout within days.

Sprouts have long been given "thumbs up" by healthy eating fans and more recently by those interested in eating raw foods. With only 10 - 30 calories in one cup, sprouts offer a some protein, are high in fiber and contain a small amount of vitamin C, K, and traces of other vitamins and minerals. In reality, there are many, many other fruits, vegetables and grains with much richer sources of protein, vitamins and minerals than sprouts.

Most people are unaware of any potential risk when they add sprouts as toppers for salads or on sandwiches. Unfortunately, sprouts are a easy target for bacterial invasion, since sprouts are grown in the same warm, damp environment favored by bacteria. Bacteria culprits include salmonella, listeria and E. coli. A good number of food borne illness outbreaks have been linked to consumption of raw or lightly cooked sprouts.

Some people think growing your own sprouts is safer, but that's not necessarily true. Since the bean or seed itself carries the bacteria before sprouting, even sprouts grown at home in a clean environment will not guarantee food safety. And you can't rely on washing to provide safety since bacteria multiply very rapidly under good growing conditions. Some treatments have been developed in industry to kill the bacteria but no process can positively eliminate it all.

To eliminate your risk of food-borne illness, make sure you do not consume raw sprouts on any salad or sandwich, especially when eating out. At home, washing the sprouts thoroughly in running water reduces the amount of bacteria present, but cooking is necessary to kill most all of the harmful bacteria.

Young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are more apt to develop problems if they develop food-borne illnesses. This at-risk group should completely avoid raw sprouts not matter where they are grown.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Maybe It's Always About Health

It's been a different kind of vacation for me. I had it planned out with some major walking included. But, long before the plane took off for sunny California, I was experiencing pain. Too much pain. Pain in my neck and shoulder. More than I wanted and more than I had before. After four doctor's visits and no return calls about scheduling my MRI, I decided I may as well go on my trip as planned. With pain meds in hand, I flew away from the cold weather.

The first part of the trip included a conference my husband was attending. The hunter/gather went out early each morning to bring me a large black coffee, lots of fresh fruit and yogurt. The role of the pampered woman is one I could really get used to. I spent a few hours in the morning stretching, sitting, looking out the window at the beautiful view, allowing my body time to feel better. By noon, I'd be ready to walk along the beach or do some exploring of the area.

Then, the little blisters came. Those tiny bumps decided to add another level of pain to the mix. Shingles? Trying to set aside the frustrated "poor me" attitude, I headed out to find a doctor my insurance company would approve. Three urgent care centers later, I gave up when the last one that was supposed to be OK refused my insurance since the phone number on the back of the card was not answering for approval. Let me just say, I'm not a fan of health insurance companies practicing medicine. The next day, the ER confirmed my diagnosis.

Somewhere along the way, I thought of all the people I work with who are in chronic pain. Not pinched nerve or shingles pain, but all-the-time pain. Remembering them helped me in my perspective.

Wellness is not a static state in which we are either well or sick. It's a continuum, as Travis Johnson, MD, puts it. You may start out trying to lose weight by exercising more and eating less. The weight loss, healthier eating and exercise all play a role in improving wellness. But, what if you pull a muscle and can't walk or run like you were doing for to lose weight? Is your ability to lose weight and improve wellness gone? Many people think it is: poor me, I can't walk, so I may as well give up. Bring on the ice cream!

Everyone starts at their own level of wellness and either ignores it or works to improve it. But when your level of wellness itself is shifted,  it's important to stop the litany of things you can't do, and focus what you can. Reassess your level of wellness, and work to improve it from there. If you pull a leg muscle, you make a list of exercises you can do, and get going on one of them instead of using them as an excuse not to exercise.

When my pain started, I didn't think of this right away. I quickly pulled back from swimming, weight training or walking fast when I knew I would hurt. Now, the focus shifts to: what am I able to do? What can I do to be as healthy as I can be and improve my level of wellness? People who deal with chronic pain and keep on fighting are my inspiration. Many are working to improve their diet, adding yoga or stretching classes to their day. They don't give up because they hurt and start eating bon-bons.
And neither do I!

Thought for the day: Keep on going....don't ever give up on your health!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Watching the Sailboats...

We sat at a booth overlooking the harbor in Balboa Island studying a school of sailboats creating in a circular pattern in the rippled, turquoise sea. My husband and I had just finished a crisp, green salad made of several lettuce varieties that delivered a wonderful blend of flavors. It had been so long since we enjoyed a really nice dinner out...

The conversation went to mindful eating. True! He brought it up after seeing a New York Times article that day on mindful eating, including a mention of Jan Chozen-Bays' book Mindful Eating. I realized then that perhaps I don't share everything I do with my husband as the Mind-full Motivator. I have used Chozen-Bays' book with classes for quite a while, and Mindfulness is all about what I do.  So, I walked him through my simplified version of mindful eating.

When the salmon and grilled tuna plates came, we mindfully ate each bite. We put our forks down after each bite and really tasted that food. Totally getting into the game, we talked about it's temperature, texture, and flavor combination. Both the tuna and salmon were cooked to perfection...just so good.  Mindful eating turned out to be a great way to spend the evening, and actually ended up making the dinner more enjoyable and satisfying. 

Whether you are enjoying dinner out at an expensive restaurant or having a bowl of oatmeal at home, remember to be mindful. Mindful eating slows you down and helps you to focus.  It helps you stay aware of your own level of hunger and fullness. Most people find using mindful eating results in eating less and appreciating it more, which as I sit by the water, is one great prescription for weight loss and long term health goals.