Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Does Organic Mean Healthier?

Maybe, based on a new study that compared the two – organic vs conventional.  More studies need to replicate this finding, since older studies have been inconclusive. Never the less, buy either based on your pocketbook and personal preferences.



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Are Chickpeas a Healthy Plant Choice?


Plant-based diets are one of the more recent recommendations based on the rising popularity of the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet, the MIND diet and the traditional diets of the longest living populations showcased in The Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner.

One category of plants known as pulses or legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) have many health benefits and are an excellent way to shift your diet into more of a plant-based mode.

Chickpeas or garbanzo beans were cultivated from a wild plant found in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East as far back in history as circa 5000 B.C.E. Chickpeas, are also grown in California, Montana, North Dakota and other states. Historically, about 70 percent of the chickpea crop in these regions was exported each year,  but that has changed because of the rising domestic demand for hummus.

Chickpeas are named because instead of a smooth surface like most beans, they have a bumpy surface that resembles the beak of a chicken. Chickpeas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, folate, fiber, protein, thiamine, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper and zinc.

One cup (canned, drained) USDA Food Composition Database

210 calories

10.7 g of protein

3.7 g. of fat

34 g. of carbohydrate

9.6 g. of fiber (great source of fiber)

Research suggests the following health benefits from chickpea consumption:

  • Lowers blood cholesterol
  • Lowers blood glucose
  • Lowers risk of diabetes type 2
  • Helps with weight loss by adding satiety
  • Is a great snack food

Five-Minute Hummus


  1. 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. 1⁄4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  4. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  5. 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste; optional)
  6. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  7. kosher salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon paprika


  1. In a food processor, puree the chickpeas and garlic with the olive oil, lemon juice, tahini (if using), cumin, and ¾ teaspoon salt until smooth and creamy. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water as necessary to achieve the desired consistency.
  2. Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the paprika before serving.

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The Nutrition of Tomatoes

Grape Tomatoes

Tomatoes have quite a history. Tomatoes are actually a fruit botanically, but in 1893, they were legally named a vegetable by the U.S. Supreme Court. That is because most people use them as vegetables. Until about the 16th century they were thought to be poisonous since they are members of the nightshade family that also contains toxic bittersweet and black henbane.  In the 1700’s, tomatoes were brought back to America after being taken to Spain from South and Central America where the Aztecs first cultivated it.

Cooked tomatoes provide more of the phytochemical, lycopene that has been studied for its effects on prostate cancer risks. The study found that when men ate more than 10 servings a week of tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato juice  and even pizza they had  47 percent fewer prostate cancers than men who only ate fewer than two servings a week. If tomatoes have anticancer properties, they are best consumed with a little fat because the lycopene is better absorbed. There is strong evidence that it may help prevent lung and stomach cancers.

There are other phytochemicals in tomatoes that act as antioxidants that may fight disease like lutein for healthy eyes and vision. it may prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly population.

Try to buy vine-ripened tomatoes whenever possible since they tend to taste better. Some are picked green and ripened artificially with ethylene gas that affects the taste. Due to its membership in the nightshade family, they contain a compound called solanine that may aggravate arthritis is some people. For those people, it is suggested that they avoid tomatoes for a while to see if the arthritis is affected. In addition, it you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) commonly known as heartburn, you may be bothered by the acid content of tomatoes.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C as well as vitamin K and A, vitamin B6, folate, fiber, manganese, chromium, and potassium.

Although canned tomatoes  offer many nutrients, the appeal of the homegrown fresh tomato in the summertime cannot be challenged for the ultimate flavor of this popular fruit; I mean “vegetable”.












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Breeding the Nutrition and Taste Out of Our Food?

Carrots of many colors.

Carrots of many colors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to an article in the New York Times by Jo Robinson, selective breeding of food crops is certainly not a new phenomenon.  According to her, the stripping of nutrients and in particular phytonutrients has been going on since the Agricultural Revolution began 10,000 years ago.  The article gives us  three examples, a wild dandelion, a purple potato, and a species of apple all of which contained many times more phytonutrients than their present counterparts.

This occurred because our ancestors using selective breeding techniques chose variants that were less bitter than others.  The problem is that most of the beneficial phytonutrients have sour or bitter characteristics. Also a preference for salt, sugar and fat was favored over those fruits and vegetables higher in fiber.

So crossbreeding began with taste preferences.  Most varieties were selected for flavor predominantly a sweeter taste.  But after reading Tomatoland, genetic crossbreeding techniques were primarily to satisfy the grower’s profit needs leaving the tomato a tasteless, bland nutrition-less fruit.

This makes one wonder what the effect of modern genetically modified food techniques will do to the nutrients and the taste found in our present varieties of grains, fruits and vegetables and future foods under consideration.  Some research shows that GMOs produce “massive changes in the natural functioning of (a) plant’s DNA.   Native genes can be mutated, deleted, or permanently turned off or on.  The inserted gene can become shortened, fragmented, inverted or multiplied that may alter nearby genes.  In the quest for a desirable trait, the protein it produces may change the original characteristics to a less desirable or less healthy trait.

Presently (with few exceptions), GMO foods have been promoted by the huge chemical companies of Monsanto or Dow Chemical to increase yields and profits from patents, and not to enhance the taste or nutritional characteristics.

Have any of these characteristics been tested?  Most research on GMO foods is limited and controlled by the very industries that profit from them. Has flavor or nutrition been affected – no one knows?


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