FAST FOOD FAST

Louisiana is still knee deep in Mardi Gras beads and King Cakes, at least until Ash Wednesday, which is the official beginning of Lent. When March 6 comes around, all the feasting turns to fasting, at least for the faithful. When I was a child, we gave up candy or soft drinks for Lent, while our parents gave up alcohol. I’m not sure who had the more difficult task, but the appearance of chocolate Easter bunnies in our straw baskets made us very glad to search for the hidden eggs out in the yard. Our parents were nobly relaxed and convivial while they urged us on. Somehow they always knew where the rabbit had hidden those eggs.

EASTER CANDY BASKET

If we went to the local hamburger joint in the 1950’s, a soda was 7 ounces, the burger was 4 ounces, and the fries were about 2 1/2 ounces. We call these the “child’s menu” now, but this is actually adult servings, rather than the supersize menu items we order.

In the United States, 61% of an adult’s total diet comes from ultraprocessed foods, or foods that contains ingredients such as flavors, colors, sweeteners and hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers and other additives that you wouldn’t cook with at home. This type of processed food is the main source of added sugar in the U.S. diet. Meanwhile, Americans get less than 1% of their daily calories from vegetables.

in Canada, ultraprocessed foods account for 62%, and in the UK, that proportion is 63%. Yet research also indicates that eating ultraprocessed foods can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cancer, the study authors say.

“Ultraprocessed foods are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes,” wrote the authors of the French NutriNet-Santé Study, an ongoing cohort study that launched on May 11, 2009, and performed a follow-up through December 15, 2017 (a median of 7.1 years). It was published recently in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. “Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals,” and their consumption “has largely increased during the past several decades.”

This trend may drive an increase of early deaths due to chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, they say. The quick and easy comfort foods and snacks you love are chipping away at your mortality, one nibble at a time, according to new research from France: We face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat.

FRESH VEGGIES

PARAMETERS OF STUDY

To understand the relationship between ultraprocessed foods and the risk of an earlier-than-expected death, the researchers enlisted the help of 44,551 French adults 45 and older for two years. Their average age was 57, and nearly 73% of the participants were women. All provided 24-hour dietary records every six months in addition to completing questionnaires about their health (including body-mass index and other measurements), physical activities and sociodemographics.

The researchers calculated each participant’s overall dietary intake and consumption of ultraprocessed foods.

Ultraprocessed foods accounted for more than 14% of the weight of total food consumed and about 29% of total calories, they found. Ultraprocessed food consumption was associated with younger age, lower income, lower educational level, living alone, higher BMI and lower physical activity level.

Over the study period, 602 participants died. After adjusting for factors such as smoking, the researchers calculated an associated 14% higher risk of early death for each 10% increase in the proportion of ultraprocessed foods consumed.

Further studies are needed to confirm these results, the authors say. Still, they speculate that the additives, the packaging (chemicals leech into the food during storage) and the processing itself, including high-temperature processing (frying), may be the factors that negatively affect health.

However, “ultraprocessed” is a huge category of foods, and by lumping so many things together, the researchers lost sensitivity in their results and cannot pinpoint what exactly is causing the effect seen in the study. Sugar may be implicated also, not just fried foods.

People who said they ate the most processed foods, which the surveys defined as soft drinks, salty snacks, cakes, pizza and frozen meals, also showed the highest intake of added sugars based on the sugar content of these foods. Nearly 90% of the average source of added sugars, in fact, came from processed foods.

Overall, processed foods contained eight times more sugar than less processed foods such as breads, cheese and canned foods, and five times more sugar than unprocessed or minimally processed choices such as meats, fresh fruits or vegetables, grains and milk.

WHY DO PEOPLE EAT MORE PROCESSED FOOD TODAY?

First of all, we live in urban areas, and garden plots are scarce, unlike our rural ancestors, who had room to grow their own food. We live in a fast world, and people are looking for convenient solutions. We’re always stretched for time. Many people today have long commutes, so the time for preparing an evening meal isn’t there. People look for quick solutions and a quickly made meal.

When selecting food, taste may be the No. 1 factor for most consumers, but price and convenience are also important. With ultraprocessed foods, that convenience factor is probably top of the list: grab and go, ready to eat. In food deserts, convenience food outlets prevail and grocery store foods are either overpriced or nonexistent. Some residential properties have rooms, but no cooking facilities. Fast food becomes an economic necessity for impoverished families and this not only aggravates their health, but depreciates their ability to move up in society.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

We should look not only at the front of a package when we buy ready-made meals, but also at the back. Look at the ingredients list. Do we understand all those ingredients that go into our foods? Buy only those products with the least number of ingredients and with ingredients we understand.

Reduce the amount of fast food we eat, if possible, and eat more “plain food” made at home. Rice, baked potatoes, salads and oil and vinegar dressing are easy to prepare, along with a baked chicken or pot roast in a crock pot.

If we can’t buy fresh foods, fresh frozen foods without seasonings are also good. Read the ingredients to avoid salt and added sugar. The same goes for canned foods. Many low or no sodium vegetables are available, which can be used for nutritious soups and stews.

Moreover, if we’re responsible for the donations to food pantries, we should consider the quality and types of food we provide to our people: more protein and fewer carbohydrates would be a start toward healing poverty induced diseases, rather than the need to fulfill as many calories as possible. This latter only leads to more disease and a greater burden on the person and the health care system.

Easter Sunday is April 21—we have six weeks or 40 days in Lent, not counting the Sundays, to practice a FAST FOOD FAST. Do you think you could do this? How would it change your life? Would you have to put a priority on your and your family’s health or would you let work and activities be more important? Is food for the body a last minute decision or is it foundational for life? What is our spiritual understanding of the body?

Think on this as you consider the questions above:

He will transform our humble bodies, so that they may be conformed to his glorious body, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. ~~ Philippians 3:21

Read the French Study in JAMA—https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2723626

Americans and Processed Food—http://time.com/4252515/calories-processed-food/

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Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix

Cold and grey weather in December makes me want to bake in the kitchen. I must have my mother’s DNA for sure, since some of my fondest memories are of her up to her elbows into a giant mixing bowl as she stirred together the various candied fruits and nuts for the fruit cake cookies and loaves she produced in mass quantities every Christmas.

This recipe also had a significant amount of cheap whiskey in it, so when I was preaching in small towns in Arkansas, I usually let one of the ladies of the church know of my need. “Don’t you worry,” they’d tell me, “we’ll make sure this gets covered.”

A few days later I’d be invited over to this kind lady’s home for lunch. She’d have a Christmas gift for me. Inside the colorful bag would be a small flagon, double wrapped in a brown paper bag. “You don’t have to tell anyone where you got it. That’s a secret, just between you and me.”

I’d nod and smile. Christmas has always been time for secrets. My parents would hide presents up in the attic until we got big enough to pull the rope for the hidden stairs. Then they hid the gifts in the trunk of my daddy’s black Pontiac. I never knew why we weren’t able to find the keys. When we were truly old, my folks managed to keep the Christmas secrets by gift wrapping the presents at the store before we came home from school.

One of the mysteries of Christmas I discovered along the way was Santa could write as elegantly as my daddy, but I never told anyone else. After all, I had two younger siblings and I wouldn’t want to spoil his visits for them! This recipe makes a Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix for snacks. You can vary it infinitely and even use it as a base for a Chocolate Bark recipe. It’s great for a share party.

Fresh out of the oven!

Ingredients

4 cups unsalted, roasted whole nuts (almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts)

1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin, quinoa, and sunflower)

1/4 cup agave

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 Tbs brandy

227 grams chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Red pepper flakes from three chili peppers

Step 1

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the nuts and seeds.

Step 2

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine agave, butter, red-pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon salt. Microwave until the butter has melted, about 30-40 seconds. (Alternatively, you can melt the mixture in a small saucepan on the stove.)

Step 3

Pour the butter mix over the nuts and seeds, and stir until well coated. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. You want the nut mix spread out as much as possible.

Step 4

Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are tacky and look and smell toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and all of the turbinado or dark brown sugar. Let cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a bowl and serve (or transfer to an airtight container, where they’ll keep for up to 4 days).

Nutrition information for 1 serving (24 total servings)

OF ORDINARY MIRACLES

Greek yogurt with cocoa, fruit and nuts

“Fabulous Fermented Foods” have been part of my family’s history for generations back. In the rural antebellum South, folks made cornbread with buttermilk and bacon grease. They didn’t waste soured milk in those unrefrigerated days, just as they used every bit of the pig but its squeal. “Waste not, want not,” was an adage my forebears took to heart, even to my embarrassment of their saving balls of string or aluminum foil for reuse. The latter I thought unsanitary, in my modern worldview, but I’d never experienced great want of any kind as they had.

I enjoyed helping my nanny can food by pickling peaches and cucumbers, but that was a different process than fermentation. My mother did ferment a fruit compote with alcohol, which we all devoured with gusto over ice cream during the holidays. “Is it ready yet?” was as frequent a question as “When can we open a present?”

Of course we ate pimento cheese sandwiches, especially during those long lazy days of summer, but none of us ever connected the cheese making process to fermentation by good bacteria or yeasts. We ate, enjoyed, and never gave it a second thought as we sought the shade or a cool dip in refreshing water. Like many people of our day, we were incurious of the many ordinary miracles which surrounded all of us.

Now I’m well into my seventh decade and understand these trendy (but ancient) foods have potential health benefits. Fermenting foods changes their taste and texture, along with their chemical and biological properties.

Fermented foods may be the oldest “new” food trend around. The process is as old as civilization itself, and fermented foods are consumed in nearly every culture in the world. While researchers attempt to tease out how the changes caused by fermentation actually impact health, many not-fully-substantiated health claims are being made. Let’s take a look at what we know, and don’t know, about these promising (and tasty) foods.

FERMENTATION PROCESS

What is Fermentation? Fermentation occurs when microorganisms (certain species of bacteria, yeast, or mold) feed on starch, sugar, and other food components. This ancient process was originally used for preserving foods, but it fell out of favor in the age of refrigeration and pasteurization.

Many foods and beverages that are commonplace in the U.S. are a result of fermentation. Grains are fermented to make beer and bread; wine is made by fermenting grape juice; and yogurt and cheese are popular forms of fermented milk. Any foods can be fermented, and there are many examples of fermented foods around the world, such as Korean kimchi and the Swedish fermented fish Surströmming.

HEALTH BENEFIT CLAIMS

Behind the Health Benefit Claims. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the fermentation process changes the health-promoting characteristics of foods,” says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, professor emeritus at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

For example, large studies have suggested an association between consumption of fermented dairy foods and weight maintenance that is not seen with unfermented dairy products, and frequent yogurt consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.

Some data show kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish ubiquitous in Korean cooking, is associated with anti-diabetic and anti-obesity benefits not seen with unfermented cabbage. Some of these suspected health benefits may result from the presence of the microorganisms themselves, but emerging research indicates that changes those organisms make to the food constituents, and new constituents they create, might have health benefits in their own.

HEALTH BENEFITS INCLUDE

Some of the potentially health-promoting effects of fermentation include:

1. Adding to our gut microbiota. Probiotics are live bacteria that some evidence indicates can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate numbers.

Some bacteria used in fermentation are known probiotics (or are similar to probiotic species). If fermented foods and beverages contain live microorganisms when consumed, a relatively large number of these organisms apparently make it through the human digestive system alive. “During the last decade, the number of studies has exploded regarding gut microbiota and their impact on the health of not only the gut but also the brain, heart, and immune system,” says Blumberg.

2. Changing existing compounds. In fermentation, the microorganisms break down food constituents. This process may have health benefits. For example, in fermented vegetables certain bacteria help convert health-promoting flavonoids into a more readily-absorbed form.

In dairy products, the bacteria break down lactose, making yogurt and cheese easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest.

3. Creating new compounds. Fermentation may create new compounds that have health-promoting actions in the body.

For example, one common result of bacterial fermentation is lactic acid (lactate), which recent research indicates is involved in anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant processes.

Other strains of microorganisms actually synthesize B vitamins or vitamin K; discourage “bad” bacteria from taking hold in the gut; or produce molecules not found in the original form of the food that play a variety of potentially health-promoting roles in the body.

4. Deactivating undesirable compounds. In addition to creating (mostly) desirable compounds in foods, fermentation can also remove undesirable compounds. In some plant foods, so-called anti-nutrients like phytic acid bind to nutrients like iron and calcium, decreasing the amount of these nutrients available to be absorbed by the body.

Fermentation can reduce phytic acid levels, which frees up more nutrients for absorption. Additionally, some food components are typically fermented in the gut by gut bacteria. This can create gas and trigger digestive problems. Fermenting foods before consumption leaves less work for gut microbes, and may help ease digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.

5. So far, there is not a lot of clinical data backing up the potential health benefits discussed above, or the health claims often attributed to fermented foods.

But tasty foods like yogurt, hard cheese, the fermented yogurt drink kefir, cabbage-based sauerkraut and kimchi, or the increasingly popular fermented tea kombucha are delicious ways to add nutritional variety to your overall dietary pattern.

Of course when we say “yogurt,” we mean the plain, unsweetened product, to which you control the additional fruits and sugar content. The presugared/fruit purée style is not a healthy choice. Look for a yogurt with more grams of protein than in carbohydrates (Greek usually fits the healthier choice).

The same goes for other milk products, or any prepared food or drink. If it has added sugars, leaving it on the shelf is the best way to keep it from showing up on your own body. If you have a body like mine, these sugar bombs explode in one perturbing place, every single time, as if there were a hidden sugar magnet inside my body! Every. Single. Time.

Yet we can do this! I keep weighing my food, keep a food diary, and exercise. I realize 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem to be enough to lose weight, but it is enough to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure in check. I either have to work less and workout more, or accept 2/3 of my efforts are good enough for someone in the later years of her life.

I’ll probably be working on the last 1/3, just because I can’t rest until I get it ALL. This means I need to cut back on some of my “working.” I’m going to post more monthly on this blog than every two weeks from now on. My Facebook Cornie’s Kitchen page will get more frequent posts.

Joy and peace, Cornie.

Tufts Nutrition Letter, Articles, November 2018 Issue

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/14_11/current-articles/Fabulous-Fermented-Foods_2487-1.html

THE RACE FOR SPACE BRANDING

When I was young, we drank Tang because the it was the beverage choice of astronauts. Now I hear the Trump campaign plans to sell Space Force merchandise and is floating logos, but I keep thinking about Tang Beverage and Space Sticks.

The Trump campaign announced Thursday they’ll be selling Space Force merchandise, hours after Vice President Mike Pence painted a grounded picture of the prospective military branch’s future.

In an email to supporters, Brad Parscale, the campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 bid, said the final design will be open to a vote. While a logo will be on official campaign gear, it’s unlikely that any of them will ultimately be the final design for the next branch, since that decision is managed by the U.S. Army’s Institute of Heraldry.

The sale of merchandise with the final logo will also likely be barred if the Space Force is formally established, since the Defense Department has strict regulations on the use of its military seals. That is, they aren’t allowed to be used in political campaigns.

In other words, any logo bought will be for an “imaginary space force,” not a real space force, much like a vote for an imaginary president, versus a real president.

Like Space Sticks and Tang, two processed foods developed for the astronauts, any relationship with nutrition is fanciful at best. These two items were developed for short term stays, not long term use. They were packed with sugars and fats, or dense nutritional choices in small servings, to take up small spaces in crowded places such as space capsules.

The breakfast drink of my childhood was Tang, since the astronauts drank it. It had the imprimatur of science all over it, just like white on rice. However, just one serving of Tang (about 2 tablespoons) contains 90 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrates from sugar. It had no fat, and no protein. Vitamin enriched Tang gives 100% of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C. It’s also enriched with vitamin A, vitamin B2 or riboflavin, B3 or niacin and B6. Tang also contains calcium for stronger bones and teeth.

Ironically, Tang only contains a measly 2% of real orange juice solids. Most of Tang’s flavor comes from a cocktail of food flavorings, sugars, and artificial flavors. Quite simply, Tang is not orange juice. But it does provide all the health benefits of orange juice. It’s also extremely good for cleaning off the rust stains inside your dishwasher or washing machines, if you have iron rich water. Just throw the contents of a small container in the bottom, run a cycle with nothing inside, and you have bright and pretty again. (Now think of your insides!)

Orange juice has pulp/fiber, and doesn’t have Maltodextrin, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, and Neotame. Plus it doesn’t have as many calories as Tang. Why didn’t the astronauts carry OJ into space? Tang was a powder and a lighter load to liftoff. Math wins over nutrition all day long.

Space Sticks were products of The Pillsbury Company, which had been lending its support to NASA. It saw an opportunity to catch a little “moon fever” for their company.

A battery of Pillsbury food scientists, led by Dr. Howard Bauman, whipped up an energy stick that was actually edible. The long chewy stick could slide into an airtight port located in an astronaut’s helmet to provide essential nutrition in case of an emergency. Pillsbury released a commercial spin-off of their cosmic creation, imaginatively dubbing the product Space Food Sticks.

Described as a “non-frozen balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein,” the original energy bars came in several flavors including caramel, chocolate, malt, mint, orange and the ever-popular peanut butter. Aficionados will recall that the Space Food Sticks were wrapped in special foil to give them an added space-age appearance.

While Tang made it to our family table, somehow Tootsie Rolls prevailed over Space Sticks. Sometime in the 1970’s, the product’s profile was further reduced when Pillsbury dropped the Space and distributed them as Food Sticks. The word energy bar hadn’t been invented yet. Slowly but inevitably the fabled Sticks gradually disappeared from supermarket shelves. Then in the 2000’s, they made a comeback when a true believer founded “Space Food Sticks Preservation Society” at Spacefoodsticks.com.

Perhaps we all need to be reminded of a kinder and gentler time when all things seemed possible, and especially of a time when we “asked not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country.” We want to think of a time when we could all join together in a common, peaceful purpose and head for the moon, the planets, the stars, and beyond. Perhaps we can still be that people.

If you look up to the night sky from August 10 to 16,you just might catch the magnificent Perseid meteor showers, with the morning of August 11 to 13 at the peak. A country location, away from city lights, around midnight is the best time to see them. If these remnants from the comet’s tail burn up in our atmosphere, they’re called meteors. If they hit the ground, they’re meteorites. Comet Swift-Tuttle has been visiting earth as far back as 188 CE, and perhaps may be the same one which visited on 69 BCE. It won’t return again until 2126 CE. I sure won’t be around for the comet’s next visit, but the Perseid meteor shower happens every year when the earth’s orbit intersects the fragments left behind in the comet’s orbit.

Take a healthy snack and maybe a caffeinated beverage for this late night viewing party. As I recall, the last time I stayed up late for a meteor shower, no one else wanted to see the sky light up with me. I thought, “Where is their sense of awe and mystery?” They were kind enough to wake me with coffee in the morning, however.

Eat well, and live with joy! Love, Cornie

SHARK WEEK CHOCOLATE BARK

Shark Week always grabs my attention. After all, that’s what sharks do! Or maybe because it’s far too hot to be outside in Arkansas or because my inner child loves to learn new things. I always loved the beach as a child, since the sea breezes kept the heat tolerable. Inland, folks just suffered in the sweltering humidity pods. Thankfully we now have modern air conditioning, an invention that didn’t come to my home until I was a teenager.

When the temperature was 99F at 10 PM, even a ceiling fan wouldn’t make sleeping comfortable. Cooking was out of the question. Daddy would barbecue or we’d eat cold cuts and fruit. Chocolate candy bark didn’t take long to heat on the stove, so it was a treat to make in the cooler mornings. It also reminds me of coral reefs, which Shark Week shows us nightly on the Discovery Channel.

Corals come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some resemble deer antlers, trees, giant fans, brains, and honeycomb. Although many corals may look like plants, they’re actually animals; they’re most closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are three different types of coral reef formations—barrier reefs, coral atolls, and fringing reefs. Barrier reefs help to protect lagoons and other types of shallow water; coral atolls (which are often mistaken for islands) are made from volcanic remains; and fringing reefs are found right along the coastline.

Coral reefs, which only grow at a maximum depth of around 150 feet, also grow very slowly, at an average rate of just two centimeters per year. This is because their biomes must maintain a temperature of 70 to 85º Fahrenheit. (Shallow water is more easily warmed by the sun.) Strangely, most coral reefs seem to grow on the eastern side of land masses, where the temperature is believed to be warmer than the western side. Stony coral groups are primarily responsible for building up reef structures.  Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below.

When I make Shark Week Chocolate Bark, I gather the following dry ingredients in a plastic bag or in a bowl:

120 gram(s) Wonderful Pistachios Roasted & Salted Shelled Pistachios

0.5 cup Dried cherries (tart montmorency)

12 pretzels Splits pretzels—break into pieces 1 inch long (I used the broken pieces in the bottom of the bag).

Also needed:

1 tbsp Vanilla extract —divided into 2 tsp and 1 tsp

12 tsp Coconut Sugar—divided into 8 tsp and 4 tsp

Then I weigh out 571 gram(s) GHIRARDELLI chocolate premium baking chips 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate — divided into 400 grams and 171 grams.

Take the larger amounts of chocolate baking chips first. Take chocolate and put into microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and melt them in the microwave. Stir well. The first or larger amount may need a second 30 second cooking. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Stir after each heating. Bowl will be HOT! Don’t over cook the chocolate.

Remove & add vanilla 2 tsp. Stir. Add 8 tsp sugar. Stir.

Turn out onto parchment paper on cookie sheet. Spread chocolate with spatula. Spread nut and pretzel mix out over it evenly. Gently press it into chocolate.

Take remaining chocolate and put into same bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Don’t over cook the chocolate. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 3 tsp sugar. Stir well. Drizzle over the surface and spread out. It will almost cover the whole nut layer.

Put into icebox for for 30 to 45 minutes to harden. Afterward, cut into small pieces about 1” x 1 1/2”. It will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.

Serving Size: Makes 36 pieces appropriately 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch.

Number of Servings: 36

As you can see, making chocolate bark with broken pretzels, pieces of dried fruit, and nuts comes together much like a coral reef: it gets all the various pieces cemented with a binding agent, which in the kitchen is chocolate. I don’t suggest you go out into the sea and nibble on a coral reef. It wouldn’t be good for the pearly whites.

The Benefits of Coral Reefs

Scientists have discovered that many parts of a coral reef can be harvested to make medications. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs are emerging as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century: “Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.”

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. There are often more types of fish living in a two-acre area of healthy coral reef than there are species of birds in all of North America!

Coral reefs help to improve the quality of the surrounding water. They do this by filtering out things floating in the ocean, which leads to cleaner water. In addition to protecting shorelines, coral reefs are immensely valuable to the fishing and tourism industries. According to the World Resources Institute, the destruction of one kilometer of coral reef equals a loss of between $137,000 to $1,200,000 over a 25-year period. And yet, they estimate some 60% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by human activity.

Dark chocolate has its own benefits to humankind. Without it, some of us aren’t fit for civilized company! We don’t need a massive shark bite full of this calming food to bring us into a harmonious state. This is because chocolate has multiple chemicals that produce positive feelings in us. Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate!

If chocolate were a drug, we might need a prescription. Or we might find the law regulating how much chocolate we could have in our candies. As far as I’m concerned, the darker the better, but small children often prefer milk chocolate due to the greater sugar and milk content. Dark chocolate has probiotics and prebiotics, magnesium, iron, copper, and antioxidants. Even commercial dark chocolate bars will have large amounts of sugar, so not all dark chocolate is good for people with diabetes or weight issues. Look for 15 g carbohydrates per serving as a limit. Chocolate is a snack treat, not a meal.

A little afternoon pickmeup or as a side nibble with coffee and a friend, and your mood will be adjusted in no time. Then you can go back to swimming with the sharks and they can’t bite you, since you now have on your impervious dark chocolate shark repellent suit. Enjoy!

Joy and Peace,

Cornie

Nutrition Facts

Servings Per Recipe: 36

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving

Calories

127.9

Total Fat

8.1 g

Saturated Fat

3.9 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

0.4 g

Monounsaturated Fat

0.8 g

Cholesterol

0.0 mg

Sodium

65.2 mg

Potassium

39.4 mg

Total Carbohydrate

15.1 g

Dietary Fiber

1.6 g

Sugars

9.1 g

Protein

2.1 g

Vitamin A

2.2 %

Vitamin B-12

0.0 %

Vitamin B-6

2.2 %

Vitamin C

0.3 %

Vitamin D

0.0 %

Vitamin E

0.0 %

Calcium

0.4 %

Copper

2.2 %

Folate

0.0 %

Iron

7.1 %

Magnesium

0.9 %

Manganese

2.2 %

Niacin

0.0 %

Pantothenic Acid

0.0 %

Phosphorus

1.7 %

Riboflavin

0.0 %

Selenium

0.0 %

Thiamin

1.7 %

Zinc

Kroger Star Trek Fantasy

I remember the first time I used a computer. Yes, I belong to the predigital age, an era when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people lived in caves. Maybe it wasn’t that long ago in the hoary past, but I do still own a black body Nikon camera with 35 mm film. I take seriously my antique credentials and flaunt them. You’d be surprised how many folks today have never seen a “real camera,” since they only have one on their phone.

Changing the film on the steps of the Acropolis in Athens, I happened to draw a crowd. You’d think they would be more interested in a building from 2,500 years ago than in a tool from 50 years ago, but technology moves so quickly today, many had never seen a film camera. The tourists saw two archaic sights in one site that day.

My first experience with a computer was as a teacher when I had to input the class grades. Finding the ON button was my first challenge, but after twenty minutes, I discovered it hidden on the back. “If they want us to use it, why not make it easy to turn on?” Perhaps only those with secret gnostic wisdom are allowed access to this strange machine, but we didn’t have the internet of things yet. Openness wasn’t a theme.

Once inside, my 1982 brain could easily make the data entry to fill in the blanks of student names and grades. This was just typing in another format. I took typing in high school because I would need it in college and in business later on.

Over the years, I’ve learned the computer skills for word processing, spreadsheets, blogs, page making, newsletters, bookkeeping, and photoshop. If I needed a new skill, I went out and acquired it. Most of the time, I downloaded the program and began working in it. I learned as I went. Taking a class was too slow or not available. The online tutorial was good enough for me.

I happen to be an early adopter of media because I have confidence in my learning abilities. Since I was a teacher, I teach myself. I figure I can’t mess it up. And if I do, it’s not the end of the world. Besides, I practice frequent “saving.” This means I’m always able to revert to a prior good version of my work. (What? You don’t do this? Maybe you should! You can learn something from us old dinosaurs.)

My local Kroger now has the new Scan Bag Go system. I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and came back for a second go round. I found it easier this time, perhaps because I’d had some practice. Also, my store had been rearranged on my first visit, so I had to travel every aisle to find my usual items.

On my second visit I cut 30 minutes off my original time. I usually take an hour to 90 minutes because I chat with folks. I’m not a task focused shopper as some are. I tend to socialize and offer help to people I meet. It’s part of who I am, and anytime I can help add to the well-being of our community, I’m glad to do it.

The little ray gun is fun to zap the bar codes of the foods I put into my grocery cart. I have my Star Trek fantasy as I put my phaser on stun and immobilize the vegetables before I take them over to the weigh scale. When I shoot the bar code, the scanner tells me to put the broccoli on the scale, it determines the weight and price, asks if I want to pay this amount for it, and I click YES. Then I weigh the next fruit or vegetable the same way. I engage the engines of my starship and take off for another part of the galaxy or my local Kroger.

I have friends who will not ever use this system, since they think real people will lose jobs. The checkout clerks I talked to think they can be used for higher and better purposes, such as pulling groceries for people’s click list orders, helping people in store, stocking, and customer service. My friends who won’t use it are mostly people who don’t like technology or aren’t familiar with technology. They’re also middle aged or older. Younger people see the writing on the wall–they know they need to train for flexibility and change in the world to come.

In the last 40 years computers have changed our lives so much. Once we waited until the newspaper landed on our front porches to hear the news. Now we know in minutes when Twitter blows up with someone’s rant or a school shooting happens. While news can happen instantly, we cannot process it immediately. Our lives cannot heal from the trauma of the pain to which we’re exposed daily.

As we age, one of our tasks is keeping our brains limber by learning new skills. Neuroplasticity is the scientific term used to describe the process of maintaining, repairing, and creating new neural connections in the brain. Keeping to the same old path is a recipe for losing our minds, or dementia. If we want to live with a positive attitude, with our minds intact, adopting new technology as it comes down the pike is one way to train our brains for keeping a healthy outlook on life, even if we cling to our old fashioned cameras.

Herding Cats and Food Jags

Cat food. People food. Ever get too much of a good thing?

Folks who grew up in the Great Depression were glad to have chicken on Sundays. In Louisiana, politicians promised “a chicken in every pot and every man a king.” My family ate fried chicken at my grandparents’ home every week, until my Nannie passed away.

When that happened, my daddy let my mother know we should plan a different menu for Sunday lunch, that is, anything as long as it wasn’t fried chicken. He was tired of the same meal week in and week out. Mother went along with this, for she knew it wouldn’t be too long before daddy would be craving some fried chicken. She was right. It wasn’t worth arguing over.

Grief hits everyone differently. My dad kept his feelings about the unchanging menu to himself for the sake of family harmony. Mother kept her grief and loss sublimated to care for her father and our family, even if she allowed herself to cry on the anniversary of her mother’s death every year.

I’ve gone on food jags before, and then lost my taste for that food. I find I crave snack foods and breads when I’m stressed, but when the stressor leaves my life, I wonder why I have this unopened bag of potato chips on the top shelf of my cabinet. Go figure! Since I have to pull out the step stool to get it, I have to think twice, “Do I truly want this or do I merely crave it?” I find myself leaving it there more often than not.

Maybe the “cat diet tips” can help you with your cravings too. Just think of your unhealthy food choices as the “cat’s favorite wet food” —just like a perverse kitty, yass—I’m not going to eat it, just cause!