Monday starters

New ways, new ingredients

picture-1I love Chef John Ash. He has a creative touch with ingredients, and he’s a terrific teacher. His new online series, “Cooking with America’s Finest Ingredients,” offers videos, recipes, and tips for how to use gourmet salts, cured meats, cheese, oils, vinegars, and more.–Culinary Institute of America/National Association for the Specialty Food Trade

Balancing the vegetarian diet

picture-3In general, vegetarians eat a healthier diet and are less likely be overweight than the rest of us, largely because they consume more plant-based foods. That’s the good news. But a new study focusing on teens and young adults finds vegetarians are at higher risk of eating disorders than the general population.–NutraIngredients-USA.com

Enjoy it while it’s fresh

picture-4Antioxidants in foods don’t last forever, according to a pair of new studies. Green tea and olive oil both lost much of their antioxidant compounds after six months, even when stored unopened and unexposed to light or moisture. The lesson: Purchase both in small amounts you can consume within a few months, and shop a store with a high turnover of merchandise (you don’t want to buy oil or tea that’s been sitting on the store shelf for months).–HealthDay

Cheap restaurant eats

picture-2Tire of eating at home every night? Check out the Gayot Economic Stimulus Plan to find excellent value eats in your ‘hood. Also check out their picks for the best wines under 10 bucks.

Wednesday health roundup

Plums’ antioxidant activity is comparable to that of blueberries, say researchers, and the stone fruit offers shoppers a more affordable alternative to the often expensive berry.

Texas A&M researchers give plums two thumbs up.

Plums are the new blueberry?

Lately, blueberries have been the antioxidant superstars, but they’ll have to make way for plums, says Dr. Luis Cisneros, Texas AgriLife Research food scientist. “Stone fruits are super fruits with plums as emerging stars.” Plums’ antioxidant activity is comparable to that of blueberries, says Cisneros, and the stone fruit offers shoppers a more affordable alternative. “People tend to eat just a few blueberries at a time–a few on the cereal or as an ingredient mixed with lots of sugar,” he says. “But people will eat a whole plum at once and get the full benefit.”

cimg0952Unlocking garlic’s secrets

Canadian researchers say they’ve figured out what makes garlic such a nutritional superstar (it has been credited with lowering blood pressure, slowing artherosclerosis, and preventing some cancers). “While garlic has been used as a herbal medicine for centuries and there are many garlic supplements on the market, until now there has been no convincing explanation as to why garlic is beneficial,” says Dr. Derek Pratt, chemistry professor at Queen’s in Kingston, Ontario. Researchers knew garlic contains the organic compound allicin, gives the allium its signature flavor and aroma, but they didn’t know how it generated garlic’s strong antioxidant response. Pratt and his team discovered that garlic’s allicin decomposes quickly to generate a potent antioxidant to trap free radicals.

Trans-fat confusion

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The good news in the new issue of the Journal of Clinical Nutrition is that 92 percent of Americans are aware of trans fats (up from 84 percent in 2006), and about one-third of people have changed their buying habits to choose zero-trans-fats foods. The bad news: About 80 percent of us can’t name three foods that contain trans fats. Here’s a cheat sheet, in case anyone gives you a pop quiz:

  • Meat and dairy products contain small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats.
  • Trans fats are present in any food that contains partially hydrogenated oil. That can include cookies, crackers, pastries, and fried foods.