Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Myth: If the canning recipe calls for cubed pumpkin, the same recipe applies to pureed pumpkin.

Answer: Busted!

It is not safe to home-can pureed pumpkin or any other winter squash (acorn squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, etc.). Only cubed squash is safe for home canning.

Canning pureed or mashed pumpkin is unsafe because it is too thick (or viscous) to enable the heat to fully penetrate the product during the canning process. Additionally, research has shown that both viscosity and pH (acidity) are highly variable between batches, making a standard processing time impossible, and unsafe, to determine. Winter squashes are considered low-acid foods (pH >4.6); therefore, if processed incorrectly while canning, these foods have the capacity to support the growth of Clostridium botulinum.

The best option for preserving pureed pumpkin or other squashes is to freeze the product in a freezer bag or plastic container.

Pumpkin butter is a nutrient-rich lower sugar alternative to jam. Make your own:

Ingredients: 1/4 cup water; 1/4 cup packed brown sugar; 2 tablespoons sugar; 3/4 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg; 15 ounce can 100% pumpkin puree.

Combine all ingredients except pumpkin in a 1 quart microwaveable bowl. Mix. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Mix in pumpkin puree and stir well. Microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes.

Keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.

MYTH: It is safe to use grandma's home canning recipes or canning recipes found on the internet.

Answer: BUSTED!

Home canning is a science that preserves food by killing bacteria, molds, and yeasts; inactivating enzymes; and creating a vacuum in the jar. Recipes should be considered more like the procedure of a science experiment, rather than an old recipe that can be altered as needed. With so many variables at work, recipes are rigorously tested to ensure that, once preserved, foods are safe to store and eat.

An unsafe home-canned food could contain extremely harmful bacteria and toxins if:
  • A low-acid food was not processed in a pressure canner at the right pressure for the right amount of time

  • The gauge of the canner was inaccurate

  • Ingredients were used from a recipe that was not tested for canning

  • Proportions of foods in a tested recipe were changed
Only tested recipes from your state's Cooperative Extension Service, USDA, or the Ball Blue Book (dated 1989 or later) are safe to use. Canning procedures from these same sources should be dated 2009 or later to ensure appropriate processing of foods.

Questions about canning? Contact your local MU Extension Nutrition and Health Education Specialist.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

MYTH: I can contract the swine flu (H1N1 virus) from eating pork products.

Answer: BUSTED!

It is NOT possible to contract the H1N1 virus from pork. Initial laboratory testing indicated that many of the genes in the H1N1 virus were similar to the swine flu virus normally occurring in pigs, which is how it got the nickname "swine flu". However, further testing has shown that the current H1N1 virus has genes from viruses normally occurring in pigs, birds, and humans. This virus can only be spread from person-to-person, most often through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes the influenza virus can also be spread by touching an object that an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth or nose. Click here for more information about preventing or treating the H1N1 flu.

Although it is not possible to get H1N1 from pork products, it is possible to get a foodborne illness due to improper cooking. The minimum internal cooking temperature for pork is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Monday, March 15, 2010

MYTH: You can get six-pack abs by using an abdominal machine a few times per week

Answer: Not Likely!

It is a common exercise myth that you can lose fat in a specific location by doing exercises to target that area. Doing lots of sit-ups or using one of the many abdominal machines you see on late-night infomercials will strengthen and firm your abdominal muscles, but you still might not be able to see the results. The ab exercises alone will do little to help lose the belly fat that is located on top of those muscles.

Exercising all areas of your body will help you build muscles. And since muscles burn more calories than fat, doing exercises to build total body muscle strength will greatly help with weight loss. Cardiovascular exercises, such as swimming, biking, running, walking, stair-climbing, or using elliptical machines, also provide a great workout because they are a good way to burn calories. Finally, eating a diet that is high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat milk products, and low in saturated fats, trans fats, and processed foods will help you shed the unwanted body fat, allowing all your hard work, and six-pack abs, to show through.

For more information, see the six-pack abs article on MissouriFamilies.org

Thursday, March 11, 2010

MYTH: You can tell when food is unsafe to eat because it will smell, look, or taste bad.

Answer: BUSTED!

Food can smell, look, or taste okay, but still contain harmful microorganisms that can make you very sick. Microorganisms that cause food to become spoiled are not the same as those that cause foodborne illness. However, food spoilage is a warning sign that conditions could be ideal for the type of microorganism that can make you very sick.

Symptoms of foodborne illness are similar to flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fatigue. Often symptoms will last for about 3 days. However, due to their weakened immune systems, infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women, and those suffering from a chronic illness are at increased risk for suffering more serious side effects from foodborne illness including fever, blurred vision, jaundice, seizures, paralysis, and even death.

The best ways to prevent foodborne illness are to focus on the 5 principles of food saftey:

1. Avoid purchasing food from unsafe sources

2. Keep it clean

3. Separate, don't cross-contaminate

4. Don't be risky with time and temperature when preparing and storing food

5. Practice personal hygiene

And always remember the most basic principle: "when in doubt, throw it out!" For more information about the 5 basic food safety principles see Food Safety Thrives When You Focus on Five.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Myth: Sea salt is a healthier choice than regular table salt.

Answer: Busted!

Table salt is comprised of almost purely sodium chloride molecules that are typically mined from mineral deposits. Table salt often contains added iodine, which is necessary for normal thyroid functioning.

In contrast, sea salt can range from fine-grained to large crystals and is produced by evaporating seawater. It can be found in most grocery stores, but is significantly more expensive than table salt. While it is different from table salt in that it has trace amounts of other minerals resulting in its varied flavors, it is still sodium chloride. The sodium content is comparable between table salt and sea salt, and the small amount of minerals has no known healthful effects. One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,400 mg of sodium, while one teaspoon of sea salt contains 2,250 mg of sodium.

Sea salt is sometimes preferred during cooking because it adds a slightly different texture and taste, but from a nutrition perspective, there is little or no benefit from choosing sea salt.

Friday, March 5, 2010

MYTH: Drinking cold water after meals can cause cancer.

Answer: Busted!

As the myth goes, drinking cold water after meals will cause the oils and fats that you have just consumed to become solid. This "sludge" is supposed to react with the acid in your digestive system, line the intestines, turn into fat, and cause cancer.

This myth is busted on several accounts, starting with the entire premise that drinking cold water will turn oil into solid sludge. Our internal body temperature is a steamy 98.1 degrees, and it typically takes 2 to 3 hours for a meal to empty from the stomach and move into the small intestines. This is plenty of time for all of the liquids and solids in your stomach to become the same warm temperature. Additionally, during these 2 to 3 hours of digestion, the stomach mixes and churns it contents until everything is a similar consistency. Once in the small intestines, food is broken down further into carbohydrates, protein, and fats and absorbed through the wall of the intestine and into the blood stream. Fat does not remain in the intestine for an extended period of time.

While it is true that an accumulation of a large amount of body fat can put you at a higher risk for certain types of cancers, this has nothing to do with the temperature of the water you drink before, after, or during meals.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Myth: Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs.

Answer: BUSTED!

The color of the shell has nothing to do with the hen's health, the egg's quality, or the egg's nuritional value. Shell color is only determined by the breed of the hen; certain breeds lay brown eggs and others lay white.

Regardless of the color, check inside the carton for uncracked shells when egg shopping. Always purchase eggs before the "sell by" or expiration date if stamped on the carton. Once home leave eggs in their original carton and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Eggs should never be stored in the refrigerator door because they will get warmer each time the door is opened, causing fast spoilage. For best quality, use eggs within 3 to 5 weeks after the date you purchase them. Even if the "sell by" date expires during that length of time, the eggs are still safe to eat.

For more information on preparing hard-boiled eggs, check out MissouriFamilies.org