food crumbscooking, food preparation, recipes, nutrition, food science

anti-ox“Pomegranates, persimmons, berries, broccoli, nuts”, “neutralize free radicals”, “anti-cancer”, anti-aging”, “enhance the function of the immune system”, “boost immune defenses”, “boost cellular antioxidant defenses”, “protect against heart disease and cancer”, “anti-aging ingredient in beauty products”,  – the buzz is everywhere, –  grocery store shelves, supplement promotions – everywhere!

What are antioxidants and what do they really do?

Antioxidants are molecules that fight oxidation. Oxidation is a normal chemical process that takes place in the body every day.  Oxygen is important for the body’s health, but exposure to oxygen also causes oxidation.  Oxidation in the body can be accelerated by stress, sun, cigarette smoking, alcohol and pollution.  When the natural oxidation process is disrupted, highly unstable and potentially damaging molecules called free radicals are formed.  Oxygen triggers the formation of these destructive little chemicals and they can cause damage to the cells, if not controlled. These free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that contain an odd number of electrons.  They are formed when these molecules react with oxygen.  Once formed free radicals can start a chain of damaging chemical reactions.  This chain reaction can damage important body chemicals, DNA, and the cell membrane, causing the cells to function poorly or die.  Some cells can heal while others are permanently damaged.

Antioxidants are natural substances that can stop or limit the damage caused by the free radicals.  The body uses antioxidants to stabilize the free radicals.  Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free intermediates and inhibit other oxidative reactions.  They do this by being oxidized themselves. Thus antioxidants are often reducing agents. Some scientists believe free radicals may contribute to the aging process as well as cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Antioxidants can protect and reverse the damage caused by oxidation to some degree.  The body produces antioxidants to fight off the free radicals formed by body processes.  Also the body gets antioxidants from the diet.   Examples of foods high in antioxidants are foods high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and selenium.

To help the body it is recommended that one eat a healthy mix of colorful fruits and vegetables and other antioxidant-rich foods.:

  • Vitamin A is found in milk, liver, butter and eggs.
  • Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables such as papayas, strawberries, oranges, cantaloupe, and kiwi and bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cauliflower and kale.
  • Vitamin E is found in some nuts and seeds, including almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts and peanuts, also in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale and in oils such as soybean, olive, sunflower, corn, and canola oils and in almonds, and avocado.
  • Beta carotene is found in colorful vegetables and fruits like carrots, peas, cantaloupe, apricots, papayas, mangoes, peaches, pumpkin, apricots, broccoli, sweet potatoes and squash, beet greens, spinach and kale.
  • Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collards, and kale, broccoli, corn, peas, papayas and oranges.
  • watermelon, apricots, tomatoes, and papaya.
  • Selenium is found in cereals (corn, wheat and rice), nuts, legumes, animal products (beef, fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, and cheese), bread and pasta.
  • Anthocyanins – found in blue and purple foods like blueberries, raspberries, plums, pomegranates, eggplant, and red cabbage.*


Antioxidants are not interchangeable.  Each antioxidant has its own chemical behavior and biological properties.  Thus we need to eat a variety of foods rich in antioxidants to get antioxidants with the different properties.


Antioxidants are also in antioxidant supplements.  However when thinking about adding antioxidant supplements to one’s diet, it is advised to talk first with your doctor. There has been much discussion and hype about antioxidants. It was in the 1990’s when scientists were first understanding that free radical damage was involved in clogging arteries in atherosclerosis and may also contribute to cancer, vision loss and other chronic conditions. There was some early association of persons with low intakes of antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables that seemed to be at a greater risk for developing chronic conditions.  However before test trials could be done and completed, the media and the supplement and food industries began to hype the “benefits “ of antioxidants.  Frozen berries, green tea and other foods thought to be rich in antioxidants were touted as disease-fighting foods.

The research trials have not have the hoped-for benefits. Most research teams reported that vitamin E and other antioxidant supplements did not protect against heart disease or cancer.  However the disappointing results has not stopped or slowed food companies and supplement sellers. Antioxidant supplements are a $500 million dollar industry ** and growing.  Antioxidants are added to breakfast cereals, sports bars, energy drinks, etc. They are promoted as additives that can prevent heart disease, cancer, cataracts, memory loss and other conditions.  Continued testing and research are not finding anything promising for prevention or cures of chronic health conditions.  (There was some protection found against the development of advanced stages of age-related macular degeneration, but not cataracts with taking a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and zinc.)


If antioxidants were harmless, there would be no concern.  However, a few studies are showing that taking antioxidant supplements, either single agents or combinations, may interfere with health.  One of the most significant findings was among heavy smokers in Finland, who began developing lung cancer when given beta-carotene supplement.  Also skin cancer was higher in women who were given vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc. One study indicated that those who took vitamin A, E, and beta-carotene supplements may be at risk for premature death.  Excessive intake of vitamin E has also been associated with heart failure and increased bleeding.

There have now been many studies done, but no substantial health benefits have been found for supplemental antioxidants.  Antioxidants in food, though, is considered safe.  Until more  research is done and the use of supplemental antioxidants is found to be beneficial to one’s health, it is advised that one not take anti-oxidant supplements.  The best source of antioxidants is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  It is recommended that one eat between 5-9 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables, every day.






*Family Doctor, Web Version, Antioxidants,  Reviewed/Updated: 2/14.




(Picture Insert is the structure of the antioxidant vitamin ascorbic acid -vitamin C – -Wikipedia-antioxidants.)








Cucurbita (Latin for gourd) is a genus of herbaceous vine in the gourd family.  Basically squash is the fruit of the gourd family plants. The varieties of squash are divided into summer squash and winter squash.  The plants are thought to have been in the Americas before humans and likely they originated in southern Mexico.

For the most part, summer squash have thin skins. They are more perishable than winter squash an requires less time to cook.  Winter squash have harder, thicker skins and seeds. Their flesh is firmer and requires longer cooking time. They are less perishable and can be stored for longer periods of time.

There are many types of squash. If you confuse the different types, perhaps the following descriptions will help.



Squash-COCOZELLE-2        Cocozzello squash is a long, round slender fruit – 8-10 inches when harvested. It has dark green skin striped with lighter green.






squash-crookneck-2         Crookneck  is a yellow, golden or white elongated fruit curved at the one end. It has a “bumpy, yellow skin and yellow flesh.







Scallop  or Pattypan squash is a small round and shallow shape with scalloped edges resembling a toy top or flying saucer.  It can be yellow,              green or white and usually 2-3 inches in diameter.  It is also know as sunburst, granny, custard, or button squash.






      Straightneck  squash has yellow skin and yellow or golden fruit with a stem edge that narrows.  It has a straight neck, unlike the crookneck.




squash-veg marrow1


Vegetable Marrow is a long, elongated squash.  (The Spaghetti squash is a winter variety of Vegetable Marrow.)




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Zucchini squash is a cylindrical fruit, dark or light green (also there is a yellow variety).  It is usually harvested when about 10-18 inches long.









Acorn Squash  –  Winter squash with a pointed apex with longitudinal grooves.  Acorn squash are small, dark green – to orange squash and has a      rubbed rind and yellow interior.






Butternut Squash – Winter squash, They grow about 12 inches long and bell-shaped.  they have thin butterscotch colored skin and a sweet,                  nutty, flesh.









Calabaza Squash – or West Indian Pumpkin squash – popular in the Caribbean.  Sweet, juicy, golden fruit. Taste and texture  are similar to                  butternut. It has a tough, tan or orange rind.






Delicata Squash – 1-2 pound fruits with pale, yellow skin with dark green stripes – looks like a cucumber.  It has a creamy flavor and texture               and some say it tastes  like sweet potato. It was popular in the early 1900’s.







Hubbard Squash  –  8-20# fruits.  Rind is orange to grayish blue and has yellow flesh.  It is sweet.







Kabocha– pumpkin shaped, Japanese squash.  Each piece is about 2-3 pounds.







Pumpkin Squash – This round squash has bright, orange skin.  Each weights about 2-8 pounds. It has a mellow sweetness and dense flesh.





squash-spaghetti-2 - CopySpaghetti Squash or Vegetable Marrow Squash.  It is a winter variety of the Vegetable Marrow squash.  It is an oval shaped, yellow squash with stringy fruit that when cooked, separates into spaghetti-like strands.  It is very mild and each fruit weighs 4-8 pounds.






squash-ornamental gourds


Ornamental Gourds – Non-edible – for decorative purposes.










Confused about rhe various cuts of meat?

Perhaps the following charts will help.












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Meat cookery methods are divided into dry-heat and moist-heat methods and a combination of the two.  Since it has little effect to making meat tender, dry heat can be applied successfully only to tender cuts of meat.

Cuts which are less tender may have dry heat applied for part of the time if the flavor due to browning is desired, but they must have moist heat applied for the major part of the cooking time.

Dry heat methods of cooking meats are broiling, pan-broiling, roasting or baking and frying.

  • The terms “roasting” and “baking” are used synonymously and apply to the method of cooking meat by the dry heat of an oven.
  • Broiling consists of cooking meats before an open fire such as a gas flame, live coals or electric element
  • Pan-Broiling is a variation of broiling. Heat is applied by means of contact with hot metal. Pans are heavy metal and are heated until they smoke slightly.  The surface of the pan is slightly oiled with a piece of fat meat.
  • Frying may be pan-frying or deep-fat frying.


Braising  or pot roasting is a combination of dry and moist heat.  It is usually applied to less tender cuts.  Dry heat for browning purposes may be applied by pan-broiling, baking or frying.


Moist- heat methods are steaming, stewing and simmering, sometimes called “boiling”

  • Stewing consists of cooking meats in liquid at simmering temperatures.


The term “fricassee” is applied to braised meats which have been cut into small pieces before cooking

High temperatures, whether dry or moist heat, tend to toughen meat and can cause shrinking during the cooking.



`Meat is “done” and ready to eat when cooked to an internal temperature:

BEEF: Rare – 135-140 degrees F   Medium – 145-158 degrees F  Well-done – 160 –165 degrees F

Veal – well done – 165 – 170 degrees F

Lamb, medium – 155 – 158 degrees F,                Lamb, well done – 165 – 170 degrees F

Cured Pork, well done – 165 – 170 degrees F     Fresh Pork, well done – 185 degrees F







Food Supp5

food supp-3  With so much information in the news today about nutrition, what is one to believe?

Eat healthy food, Take your vitamins, fats, calories.  People are spending a lot of money on food supplements, powders, potions, and vitamin and mineral supplements.

The best answer has been and remains today – is to eat a balanced diet from the basic groups in the amounts recommended –

We are all well aware that inadequate intake of nutrients can lead to deficiency problems. In our effort to avoid deficiency problems, many of us have turned to supplements.  Can too much also be a problem and the answer, with many nutrients is Yes!

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We know that too much carbohydrate, protein and/or fat can cause overweight. But there can also be other problems.

Too much protein can cause stress on the kidneys and dehydration.

Excess vitamin B6 can cause nerve problems,

Excess Niacin can cause flushing

Excess Vitamin C can cause kidney stones,

Excess folic acid may mask a B12 deficiency, especially in people over 50.

Excess Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in body tissue and can accumulate to dangerous levels.  Too much Vitamin A can lead to birth defects, excess Vitamin E may increase the risk of hemorrhaging.  Excess Vitamin K can lessen or reverse the effect of blood thinner medicines and prevent normal blood clotting.

Excess intake of minerals can also be problematic.

Excess Selenium can cause reversible balding and brittle nails and give a garlic odor to the breath and cause intestinal distress, weakness and slowed mental functioning.

Excess  potassium can cause an irregular heart beat.

Excess Zinc can cause gastrointestinal irritation (upset stomach), diarrhea and nausea and can cause copper deficiency.

Excess calcium intake can interfere with kidney function, cause kidney stones and constipation and interfere with the absorption of iron and zinc.

Excess doses of antioxidants can turn into pro-oxidants.

Natural foods contain components that interact in highly complex ways to benefit ones overall health.  We need adequate vitamins and minerals and all nutrients to function optimally, but extra vitamins and minerals do not give a competitive edge.

Through much research the government has established the Recommended Daily Dietary Allowances (RDA) –the amount per day of each nutrient, that an individual should consume to maintain adequate health and the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). The Tolerable Upper Level is the highest level of a daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no health risks. Above the UL there is potential for increased risk.

food supp4

Many persons believe that that our food supply is not nutritionally adequate and that they should take extra vitamins and minerals to supplement their diets. The various nutrients from natural foods that we ingest perform biochemical reactions in the body that supply energy, growth and the needed chemical reactions for the body to function. These nutrients are found in the plants we eat and are created by the plants themselves. Minerals are natural substances that plants absorb from the soil.  If the soil is deficient in a needed mineral, the plant fails to thrive or yields small fruits and vegetables with a poor appearance. Depleted soil does not yield depleted plants; depleted soil produces no plants.  Thus all tomatoes or apples or whatever have the same nutrient content.

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Other’s believe that they need additional nutrients because they are very active, they exercise daily or are in athletics.  All individuals need adequate vitamins and minerals to function optimally but extra (beyond the recommended amount) vitamins and minerals does not give a competitive edge.  Vitamin supplements do not enhance performance, increase strength or endurance, provide additional energy, or build muscle in healthy active people.   Athletic persons and persons who exercise more also eat more and if eating a balanced diet, they do consume adequate nutrients to do their activity. Eating 1200 calories per day of “natural” foods will supply the recommended daily allowance of most nutrients for most individuals.  (Deficiencies are more likely to occur in sedentary persons who eat very little, such as elderly persons who eat very little and thus do not consume their daily recommended allowances of all nutrients.  Also persons with anorexia or who eat an inadequate vegetarian diet may not consume all needed nutrients.)  Vitamin and mineral deficiencies do not develop overnight but rather over months or years.

Thus consumption of additional supplements, protein enhancers, energy bars, vitamin and minerals do not enhance activity and health but may be dangerous.  In addition, many foods today are fortified with additional nutrients.  Breads, milk, cereals, etc.  have extra vitamins and minerals added.   The combination of eating whole foods, fortified foods and supplements  raises safety concerns.  Eating fortified foods while taking supplements can cause a person’s diet to exceed the safe upper limits and potentially lead to a toxic buildup.

There are some times when engineered sports drinks and food bars may be of help such as for high-level endurance cyclists, marathoners, triathletes, and persons who exercise intensely and who may have a sensitive stomach but these are best taken under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian. Each person’s body reacts differently and the use of supplemental products depends on the type of sport or activity and the timing to consume – several hours prior to the activity or a couple hours or immediately or during – speak with a trained Registered Dietitian.   The best rule is eating natural foods that are as close to the natural form as possible to improve and maintain health, prevent disease, optimize healing and enhance performance.

However if one decides to take a supplement, know the tolerable upper limit of nutrients and check labels and add in the content found in natural foods and fortified foods that one is also eating to be certain you are not exceeding a safe intake of nutrients.







soil,300    We all know that one of the secrets to having healthy and bountiful vegetables from the garden is to have great soil! But how do we know if the soil is great?  Well of course       one way is to Look.  If the plants look healthy and are producing an adequate or bumper crop, the soil must be good.  If not, one of the problems may be the soil.  (Of course      there must be ample sunshine and water, also.)  To learn if the soil is adequate, one can test the soil.

There are test kits one can get at garden centers or one can contact the local Cooperative Extension Office and they will test your soil – this could take a few days. The                 garden   testing kits are usually a testing meter with a probe that one puts into the soil and one can then read the results. Soil testing is usually a testing of the pH level.  Soil     pH indicates a plant’s ability to draw nutrients from the soil. PH is measured on a scale of 1-14.  7.0 being neutral. Below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline.  Most plants prefer a nearly neutral soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.2.   Test in various locations of your garden, as soil can differ from one area to another.

To correct:  for acidic soil – add lime; for alkaline soil – add sulfur or gypsum.  Lime can be added anytime of the year but it does take time to be effective. So autumn, winter or spring are preferred times.  Can use hydrated lime, ground chalk or limestone.   To reduce pH add decaying humus from a compost pile or add ammonia sulfate and flowers of sulfur.

I bought a new digital device to test my soil.  I tested in three different locations and my readings were all 7.0.  I am thinking that may not be correct as my plants are not all that great.  So perhaps I am doing something wrong, perhaps the probe is not clean or my soil sample is not wet enough or is too wet.  Guess I will be trying again!

In addition to pH, other factors in plant health as mentioned by Rodale’s Organic Life* is the soil structure and workability – is the soil clumpy or powdery; the amount of organic life present such as ground beetles, centipedes, spiders, earthworms, etc. -there needs to be enough organisms to ward off pests and disease and to make nutrients available for plant growth; and enough water.






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  • Rodale’s Organic Life (www.rodale’