Sunday, March 28, 2010

spring?!

Thanks for all of the positive feedback on the [better than] fair trade coffee post. I’m glad it got you thinking about the kind of coffee you drink. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway if you want to try some amazing Honduran coffee! If you have any specific questions for Patrick, drop me an email:healthnut.em@gmail.com.

Looking ahead in my weather widget, I was really excited to see this:

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Ignore the part where it says today = rainy. The rest of the week is shaping up to be gorgeous. Is spring finally making an appearance in St. Louis?!

Which brings me to….

:: spring food obsessions ::

I had this Mediterranean fennel salad when I was at home for spring break. I think I’ve made it every single week since coming back to school. It is super simple to make: fennel, tomatoes, red onion, cannellini beans, feta cheese, and red wine vinegar. Toss, refrigerate, and eat. You can also add artichoke hearts.

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I don’t know much about the health benefits of fennel, so I decided to do a little research. In case you’re wondering what fennel looks like pre-chopping {whenever I buy it, the checkout clerks always look at me like…what the heck is that?}:

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Fennel

  • related to parsley, carrots, dill, and coriander
  • contains phytonutrients, which give it antioxidant-like properties
  • fennel bulb (bottom part) is an excellent source of vitamin C
  • very good source of fiber, folate, and potassium
  • also a good source of niacin, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper

My parents were gifted with a ginormous box of seaweed wrappers from some friends, straight from Korea. Being Swedish and Dutch, they are naturally sushi-making experts (ha). However, I do have to give them props for following a sushi-making tutorial and coming up with these. I’m pretty impressed. And being a preferential veg-head, I’m relieved that you can eat sushi without raw fish. And it is delicious.

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I actually meant to buy quinoa at the store the other day, but I ended up with couscous for some reason (let’s blame it on being tired and not really reading labels). Couscous isn’t a complete protein, but it is a pretty good source of protein and fiber. I like mine with chickpeas, kale, and peppers. Maybe a little tahini drizzled on top.

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So there you have some spring food obsessions. Which are different than summer food obsessions…it’ll be a while before I get into those.

On the running front: the half marathon is in 2 weeks! I had to do 11 miles yesterday, and it went pretty well…but I’m not so crazy about the longer training runs. I like the 6-9 mile distance, but then I start to get tired of running. And kinda bored. One more long run before I start tapering!

Hope you had a great weekend!

  • What are your spring food obsessions?
  • Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for [better than] fair trade coffee…ends Wednesday, March 31 @ midnight!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

guest post: coffee revolution + giveaway!

When I heard my friend Patrick was involved in coffee + microfinance, I knew he had to do a guest post. Many of us drink coffee regularly, but do we stop to think where it comes from and who grows it?

{Being an Ohio State alum, I suppose I’ll have to overlook the fact that Patrick is a graduate of the University of Michigan}.

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Hey blog readers, my name is Patrick, and I’m the Director of Operations of Unión MicroFinanza, a non-profit organization that works to provide microfinance to the people of La Unión, Honduras in the most innovative and effective ways possible.

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Microfinance provides impoverished people with loans that can be used to purchase seeds or fertilizer for crops, tools for a trade, or anything else which will raise income.

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The main crop grown in La Unión is coffee, but farmers receive very small wages because they have no transportation and little bargaining power. By eliminating many middlemen, we’re able to buy coffee from farmers at fair prices, sell it to consumers at low prices, and use the proceeds to fund loans in La Unión.

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The weather conditions and altitude in La Unión are ideal for coffee growing. Actually, one of the best things about our coffee is that the quality is better than that of a Starbucks grade coffee or something similar that you would find in a supermarket.

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Fair trade is by far the most common buzzword used with coffee these days.  Fair Trade coffee must meet specifications for working conditions and prices paid to farmers, as well as other regulations.  Essentially, the goal of Fair Trade is to be sure that producers and harvesters of coffee are treated fairly.

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Our coffee is not actually Fair Trade Certified, a classification more relevant to coffee plantations which employ tens to hundreds of employees and can afford the up-front cost. Because our coffee is grown entirely on small, family owned plots of land, the certification process is currently prohibitively expensive.

However, we buy our coffee through a local cooperative which brings together small family farms, and we buy above the Fair Trade regulated price.


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Currently, our coffee is not organic because there is no local demand to justify the added costs of organic fertilizers. This is something which we hope to address in the future, if we can create a large enough demand.

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Our organization has many goals, but they all come back to improving the lives of the people of La Unión.  We will be working not just with coffee farmers, but with many different types of men and women. 

We aim to:

  • provide microfinance: will enable the people of La Unión to increase their income and standard of living. 
  • create or expand markets for the sales of products: the coffee is a perfect example of what we hope to do—a farmer can use a loan from us in order to buy fertilizer, which can increase output by as much as 100%, and then sell the coffee in the United States at an elevated price. 

By helping increase supply from farmers and entrepreneurs, as well as creating new demand for their products, we aim to create a cycle of empowerment, as opposed to the cycle of poverty which plagues people in developing countries around the world.

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Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any questions or comments for me!

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I’d really encourage you to stop and think about the coffee you buy. Do you know if the farmers who grew the coffee beans were paid a fair wage…and is this something that’s important to you?

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Giveaway

Three ways to win:

1. Comment in response to this post. What kind of coffee do you     buy, and are you interested in better than fair trade coffee?

2. Earn an extra brownie point by mentioning the giveaway on your blog or Tweeting about it and linking back to this post. Then, let me know you did so when you comment.

3. Extra, extra brownie point by becoming a fan of the Unión MicroFinanza Facebook page! Again, let me know you did so when you comment.

Deadline is Wednesday, March 31st at midnight (CST). Multiple winners!

If you’re interested in supporting Unión MicroFinanza by purchasing coffee, you can do so here.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BFQ Part 3

I’m on spring break this week (first one in 2 years!), which explains why I finally have time to breathe post. I spent this past weekend with my sister, who is working on her MFA in poetry at IU. My sister’s morning breakfast ritual now includes oatmeal, courtesy of my addiction {muahaha}.

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While Bethany wrote poems and graded papers (she teaches a class at IU), I worked on growth charts and patient case studies after 2 weeks at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. On Saturday, we ran 9.6 miles {keeping up with my half marathon schedule}, and she definitely dominated the hilly route, while I cursed my shin splints and resolved hill train more often.

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Franklin [the cat who thinks he’s a dog] attempted to help with the homework situation by jumping on my chair every 5 minutes.

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On to part 3 of the BFQ [big fat question]:

In my last post, I presented the idea that saturated fat may not be the cause of heart disease. Naturally, the question that remains is…

What causes heart disease?

Researchers Sally Fallon and Mary Enig proposed that the excess consumption of vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats, excess consumption of refined carbohydrates, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and the disappearance of antimicrobial fats from the food supply (animal fats and tropical oils) are all contributors to heart disease. We also know that there are other risk factors like age, gender (males are at greater risk), heredity, tobacco use, hypertension, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes…the list goes on and on…

My opinion: I think it’s easy to point fingers at a specific nutrient, but the reality is…a lot of different factors go into the development of heart disease. Saturated fat may be a contributor, but I don’t believe that it’s the only factor.

What’s the scoop on coconut oil?

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Mary Enig and Sally Fallon are two researchers who have invested a lot of time in studying the effects of coconut oil. Much of the info on the opposite side to the saturated fat story in my last post is from their research. Everything I have read in my nutrition textbook says that coconut is highly atherogenic due to the fact that it contains ~90% saturated fat. However, many studies have not found evidence that dietary coconut oil promotes heart disease (read about them here). Coconut oil may actually help fight cardiovascular disease. Some viruses are thought to contribute to the formation of atheromas (causing arterial blockage), but the lauric acid found in coconut oil counteracts these viruses by forming the antimicrobial lipid monolaurin.

What is cholesterol and where is it found?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that aids in cell membrane structure and is used to make hormones and bile acids (for fat digestion and absorption of fat soluble vitamins). Dietary cholesterol comes only from animal sources.

New research suggests that blood cholesterol levels are not the best predictor of heart disease risk but that the size of the LDL cholesterol particles might be a better predictor. Smaller, dense particles are thought to contribute more to heart disease than large particles.

What are the current recommendations for dietary fat intake?

The ADA supports:

  • 20-35% of total calories from fat
  • <7% of total calories from saturated fat (2005 Dietary Guidelines < 10% from saturated)
  • up to 20% from monounsaturated fat
  • up to 10% from polyunsaturated fat

The new dietary guidelines will be coming out this fall, and we may see a small adjustment in some of these percentages. I think there is still a lot of research yet to be done before we see a drastic change in recommendations.

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I hope you enjoyed these posts on fat! If you missed any of the BFQ (big fat question) series:

Upcoming topics…my take on the American Dietetic Association’s National Nutrition Month and another controversial subject…sodium.

Thanks for all your feedback and comments! I’m glad that you’re all open-minded about this issue, and I’m really interested to see how new developments and research will affect my dietary recommendations as a future dietitian.

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