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    Archive for the ‘local’ Category

    Know Your Source!

    imagesBack in my journalism undergrad days, professors stressed the importance of getting information from reliable sources.  It is no different in the food world.  I strongly believe we are what our food eats.

    Food sourcing has a direct effect (whether positive or abominably negative) on human health, the environment, and animal welfare.

    The websites below help you make healthy, environmentally-conscious, and animal-friendly choices when it comes to your food shopping:

    Use these links often and share them frequently!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Eating Locally

    lucy_eatlocal-fullinit_I’m a big fan of eating locally and seasonally, but that means I won’t have any of a particular food, like say blueberries, or asparagus, for months.

    I might eat tons of them when they’re at my local market, but when it’s out of season it pretty much leaves my diet.

    I  read in your blog however, that you should eat these foods constantly to get the benefits.

    Am I really making the most of these foods if I pretty much only eat them for one season a year?  Is it healthy to eat seasonally?

    — Lisa McBride
    (Location Unknown)

    Is it healthy to eat seasonally?  Quite frankly, it depends on where you live.  It’s one thing to eat seasonally in Southern California and quite another to eat seasonally in northern Maine.

    However, as long as you always have a variety of colors available in your fruit and vegetable assortment — remember, different colors are associated with different nutrients —  you are in good shape.

    You can get your Vitamin C, for instance, from broccoli and oranges in February, and from strawberries and tomatoes in July.

    Keep in mind, too, that ALL fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients and antioxidants.

    Although some foods (ie: blueberries) have been tapped as “power foods” ad nauseum in health magazines, it does not mean a diet without them is unhealthy.

    Sure, blueberries are great, but so are cauliflower, onions, grapefruit, pumpkins, and pears.

    If your diet is largely plant-based (and low in saturated fat, excess calories, and added sugars), you are doing just fine, regardless of the season.

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    Coming Attractions

    Over the past ten days I have had the pleasure of watching two upcoming, vastly different food and nutrition documentaries.

    First up? Food, Inc — an incredibly engrossing and harrowing look at the state of farming and food processing in the United States from the people who brought you An Inconvenient Truth.

    To become familiar with the subject matter before its June release date, visit The Meatrix, where all the grizzly details of meat production are explained.

    I also recommend checking this link to see if Food, Inc. will be screened at a film festival near you before its limited big-screen debut later this Summer.

    This is a MUST-SEE for anyone interested in farm policy, agricultural subsidies, agro-business, and the current state of the United States’ food chain. You might want to bring some anxiety medication with you, since the tone of the movie is extremely “doomsday” (in my opinion, sometimes annoyingly so).

    On a more lighthearted note, this past Thursday I had the pleasure of watching upcoming kid-friendly documentary What’s On Your Plate?, “[which] follows two eleven-year-old African-American [New York City] kids as they explore their place in the food chain [and] talk to each other, food activists, farmers, new friends, storekeepers, their families, and the viewer, in their quest to understand what’s on all of our plates.”

    While certainly softer (and much easier for children to grasp) than Food, Inc., What’s On Your Plate? showcases issues of local agriculture, school nutrition, and big business with very little preaching or finger wagging.

    PS: I predict an Oscar nomination for Food, Inc.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fruit & Vegetable Ripeness/Vitamin & Mineral Content

    Does the nutrition of a fruit or vegetable depend on how ripe it is?

    — Claire Snyder
    Tampa, FL

    An apparently simple question with a semi-complex answer.

    Technically, yes.

    Some fruits and vegetables offer different nutrition profiles depending on what stage of ripeness they are at.

    Take tomatoes, for example.

    Sun-ripened vine tomatoes are ideal because they produce plenty of antioxidants and polyphenols while fully ripening via the sun’s rays.

    Conventional tomatoes, meanwhile, are picked while still green. Days later, they arrive at your supermarket.

    In between being picked and ending up on display, they (as well as avocados, pineapples, and apples, among other fruits) are sprayed with ethylene, a plant hormone that speeds up the ripening process.

    It’s not so much that ethylene is harmful as much as the fact that this artificial ripening process does not allow the fruit to provide as much nutrition as it could. Some of the chemical processes that naturally occur as a result of exposure to ultraviolet light do not take place.

    By the way, this is why you so often bite into a wonderful-looking, yet bland-tasting, tomato. Some of the enzymes a tomato produces as a result of exposure to the sun greatly enhance its flavors!

    This is not to say conventional tomatoes are “unhealthy” or “bad for you.” However, you are definitely sacrificing some nutrition for convenience.

    Assuming you are eating naturally ripened food, though, its nutritional profile does not change over the course of a few days.

    Tuesday’s ripened banana will offer the same amount of potassium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6 on Thursday.

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    ‘Tis the Season

    Summer’s last days are upon us, and a new season of fruits and vegetables is around the corner.

    If you are thinking about eating more seasonally this fall, look for the following fruits and vegetables (availability varies on geographic region, of course):

    Vegetables: beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, corn, eggplant, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, mesclun, onions, parsnips, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, scallions, spinach, winter squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and turnips.

    Fruits: apples, blueberries, cranberries, grapes, pears, raspberries, and watermelon.

    Those of you visiting from the Southern Hemisphere have the following goodies to pick from when Spring begins in less than two weeks.

    Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collard greens, fennel, garlic, kale, lettuce, mesclun, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, scallions, shallots, turnips.

    Fruits: apples, apricots, avocado, mango, strawberries

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    Earth-Friendly Food

    Every action we take affects our environment — including the foods we choose to eat.

    One way to get optimal nutrition while helping our planet is by purchasing produce from a local farmer’s market.

    Not only will you be getting food grown within a proximal geographic location (meaning it has not been sitting in a truck for days, slowly losing more and more vitamins and minerals), you will also be reducing the amount of fuel needed to get your produce.

    For instance, if you are living in New York City, you could very well go to a supermarket and get commercial strawberries (shipped in from Mexico) or you could head to your local farmer’s market for some delicious ones grown in your same state.

    If you live in Seattle, you could buy commercial apples flown in from Argentina — 10,000 miles away — or ones brought in from just a few miles away.

    After eating local produce, you might find it hard to buy that same item from a standard supermarket again. Flavors are more intense, and things spoil a lot slower (remember, when you buy most produce from a grocery store, you’re getting it as much as two weeks after it was picked at a farm).

    I find that eating locally 100% of the time becomes very limiting. For instance, avocados do not grow on the East coast of the United States, but that does not mean I will never eat them. Similarly, oranges in the United States come from two places: California and Florida.

    The key is to buy locally when the option is presented to you. Feel free to enjoy a Florida orange in Iowa, but try to get your own state’s crops from a local farmer. Your body — and the environment — will be grateful for the help.

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