No Food in Sight:  What is a Food Desert, and Does it Matter?

What is this “food desert,” and why does it matter in nutrition?

Man, isn’t life great when it throws you one of several events to prevent you from doing your hobby?  Just fucking peachy…

Anyway, this is an important issue to talk about in the realm of food and nutrition.  It’s pretty common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are incredibly healthy.  However, they only benefit you if you can eat them.  So, what if it was incredibly difficult to eat them?

Food deserts are a term defined by the USDA as an area that the citizens have low income, and limited access to supermarkets or grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables.  To determine this, the area needs at least 500 people, and a third of these people must live about one mile (ten miles for rural populations) from the nearest grocery store.  So why does this matter?  Well, it has been shown that there is a correlation between food deserts and obesity in children and adults, lower produce consumption, and higher processed food consumption.  One study found that poorer diets in low income participants were associated with convenience stores.

However, there are some opponents to this idea, citing research showing that there is no correlation between fast food availability and consumption, and that opening new supermarkets did not change dietary patterns in children.  The USDA definition also does not take into account smaller grocery stores.  Many people also have access to automobiles, meaning the one-mile radius might be too small.  It also does not account for proximity to peoples’ work locations, or schools, or any other area that people might go to that could be closer to a grocery store.

My opinion on the matter is that food deserts are a mixed bag.  On one hand, there is a greater health disparity in these areas, but when locations with healthier food are added, consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables does not improve.  One thing that did not come up was routine and price might still be major factors.  If the parents of the children in the one study could still not afford to eat healthy, then fast and cheap food is still their only option.  If they also got used to eating unhealthy, they might be also less likely to start eating healthy.

So, what do you guys think?  Do food deserts matter in the long run?

Land of Confusion: Are Organic Foods Really Better for You?

This is a topic people definitely have an opinion on.  People on both sides have reasons to buy organic produce or to avoid it entirely.  However, do people really know what it means to be organic?  In a food sense, that is.  Smart ass chemists would say that it has carbon atoms present.  But who cares about those nerds, ammiright? (Note:  I would like to apologize to any chemists that may or may not have been offended by this statement.  Keep doing what you do best:  chemistry).

What the USDA considers “organic” is a food made without growth hormones added, or antibiotics.  They also have to have approved fertilizers, and cannot be irradiated to remove microbes.  The product must also not be genetically modified.  So what does this mean?  Well, organic farms do not have to be local, or non-corporate.  They can also use pesticides and fertilizers, so they are not always “pesticide free.”  They also typically cost more, on average 25-60% more expensive than conventional products.

So is there really any benefit?  Those who buy organic typically believe they have less pesticides present, and are more nutritious.  While it is true that tested conventional produce had higher rates of pesticides present than organics, there still is not a whole lot of conclusive data on if the pesticides used in conventional products cause health problems.  Research shows there is a fuck-ton of problems in the farmers who handle it, but they handle much, much higher amounts that are present in, and on, any food item you eat.  However, it has also been found that blanching, peeling, or cooking fruits and vegetables also destroys a lot of the pesticides.  Which means that you can reduce up to 90% of pesticides present, for those still worried.

As for nutrients, that is difficult to compare, as there are many different factors that can reduce nutrition content, such as soil conditions, seasonal changes, ripeness of food when harvested etc.  However, conventional produce typically has higher protein values than organic, believed to be because of the nitrogen in the soil.  Organic milk also has less omega-6 and more omega-3 fatty acids, possibly due to the feeding and housing conditions.  This is believed to be healthier.  However, there are mixed results if organic has higher or lower vitamin and mineral content when compared to conventional.

So, should you buy organic?  I would say if you want to, and if you can afford it.  It does not seem like there is a whole lot of benefit, so if you plan on processing the produce before eating, that is also going to reduce pesticide residue if that concerns you.

So, do you buy organic?  If so, why, and where from?

Eggs Broken by Frying Pantera: Is There a Difference Between Shelled Eggs and Egg Substitute?

Is there a difference between shelled eggs, and liquid egg substitute?

Being the food guy in my group, I get asked a lot of weird questions.  Some of them are more subjective answers, and other are out of my realm of knowledge (as someone without a degree, I am not going to give medical advice, unless if it’s well known that I am not a doctor, because college is already expensive enough, and I really don’t want someone’s lawsuit because I dun fucked up to be added to my bill).

One such question is what is the difference between shelled eggs, and egg substitute?  Which is actually a pretty good question, considering the fact eggs don’t have a Nutrition Facts panel on them.

To research this, I went with one of the brands that is available at the grocery store I go to:  Egg Beaters®.  According to the website, the product is mainly egg whites, with beta-carotene added for yellow color, and is seasoned.  Compare this to a normal egg, which contains egg whites, and yolk.

As for nutrition, the website, owned by ConAgra Foods®, provided a handy table for reference.

conagra foods egg beaters

If the table is accurate, egg substitute has less fat and cholesterol than traditional eggs, as well as less protein.

So, by this, is this type of product a good substitute for eggs?  My opinion is if that’s what you want, go for it.  It already has had the work of scrambling and processing done, as well as is pasteurized to remove bacteria.  However, if you are wanting more of a sunny-side up or fried egg, then you would want shelled egg.

So, what do you guys prefer?  Any other substitutes for eggs mentioned that I did not list, such as vegetarian or vegan products that people use?

This blog post is not sponsored by ConAgra Foods® or its affiliates, I just thought it was an interesting topic to cover.  For more information, see the :  Egg Beaters® or ConAgra Foods® website.

Chop Cut-Me by Kitchen Ups and Downs: Some of my Kitchen Horror Stories

Everyone makes mistakes with cooking. Here are some of mine

Decided to change around my theme on my blog, hopefully people like it, if not, if anyone has any advice, please let me know.

I think on hurdle many face when it comes to cooking meals at home is the idea that it is difficult.  We live in a society where celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay can chop some random ingredients up and toss it in a pot and that is a challenge for amateur chefs on Master Chef or watch over a group of competent chefs fuck up things like risotto and scallops.  This can make the kitchen intimidating.  I don’t know when I am going to open up the fridge and Chef Ramsay is going to come out and yell at me for being a stupid donkey for accidentally burning something or using sub-par ingredients due to my meager college budget.  That being said, I want to talk about some of my kitchen fuck-ups to show that you get better with time, and the kitchen isn’t a scary place to be.

Confession:  I am absolutely dreadful at making cookies.  I remember one time I was going to make chocolate chip cookies.  Now, every package of chocolate chips has a convenient little recipe for simple cookies on the back.  It is very helpful to actually READ the damn thing, because like the idiot I am, I mixed all the ingredients together in a bowl, and almost burned out my mom’s mixer’s motor.  Needless to say, I had to have her bail me out and fix that problem.  Another time in my cooking class in high school, we were tasked with making cookies.  Working alongside on of my friends (who has become a chef) we mixed up the ingredients, but we must have reduced the numbers wrong, because the result was flat, partially baked goo after the baking time.  That was not a good day, and I went home feeling embarrassed and like I let my friends down.

Another time I tried to make a reduction like I learned in another class (hmm, notice how I can’t cook desserts?) and wound up going from a thin sugar sauce, to something akin to gasoline.  I made my sister try it.  I don’t think she forgave me for that stunt.  Another time, as a graded assignment, my group was tasked with making a pudding pie.  We followed the recipe exactly, and set the pie in the fridge for the set amount of time.  The next day when it came to presenting, we presented soup.  Somehow the pudding did not set after several hours.

Most recently, my biggest battle came from shallow frying some tofu for a stir fry.  I set everything up, and prepared to start cooking.  I checked the oil to see if it was too hot, or cold.  It was just right.  So I start frying up the little fuckers, and what do they do but pop and spatter oil all over me.  It’s interesting what you call cooking food as it gives you several minor burns on your hands and forearms.  Later on, I noticed that my t-shirt had oil marks all over it, indicating that I am glad that I did not decide to try and be sexy (to who I would be sexy to, I do not know, I was home alone at the time) and cook shirtless.

So who all out there has horror stories about cooking?  Anything memorable and funny you are willing to share?

Image from State Farm on Flickr, with no changes made.

Feelings by This Offspring: My Take on Some of my Emotions

Some millennial talks about life like they’ve lived it enough or something.

Ah, the journey of life.  Some say that it’s the best thing ever, that living is a blessing.  Others would claim that it is a tragedy, that life is a terrible curse.  I, on the other hand think life is a joke, and we are all the punchline.  With that, it is up to you to decide whether to laugh at it, or be miserable because of it.  But, back to the point about emotions.

I recently had an interesting conversation with one of my friends during a session at the gym.  Some people view negative feelings as something to be avoided.  However, I told him that my rage was actually a GOOD thing.  And that my happiness is not always something to cherish.  So what do I mean with this fucked-up perspective?

I view my rage or sorrow or any other negative emotion like an active volcano.  Sure, initially it erupts and there is mass destruction.  However, once the lava cools, the soil becomes more fertile.  New life begins in the area that was obliterated.  With my anger, it motivates me to improve.  I find things I do not like in life, and I change them.  Sadness makes everything after so much better and puts things in perspective.  Whereas happiness, I view more as stagnation.  If things are all hunky dory, then things are not going to change.  I mean, I am not going to fix something that isn’t broken.

The problem though, is I do have some problems with balance.  Sometimes I am to angry or sad about things I cannot change, or I remain blissfully unaware that there is an issue until it gets called into attention, and then at that point, I feel like an asshole.  I mean, shit in life is hard to deal with.

Recalling back to my statement about life as a joke, I choose to laugh.  Even if it isn’t always funny.  Since life is temporary, and I as a living entity am a punchline, I might as well laugh when it’s funny, or try to make a change when it isn’t.  Sometimes all a joke needs is a simple edit here and there for the audience when it is not funny, and other times, there’s no change needed because the crowd is already in stitches.

So what are your takes on life itself?  Anything interesting to say?

Bread by Crumbichrist: Simple Facts About Bread

What are some bread ingredients, and what do they do?

For anyone who makes or buys sandwiches, bread is an important part of the experience.  Unless if you are one of the restaurants that makes a meat sandwich by having a slab of meat between two more pieces of fried meat.  But let’s not fuck our arteries up right now and stick with the carbohydrate-rich kinds of bread.

Bread is sort of a general term for a variety of grain based foods.  Some are meant to be part of a meal (such as cornbread), some are meant to be a dessert (banana bread), and others are meant for celebration.  Bread typically contains a grain or flour of some sort, water, sugar, and some sort of leavening agent.  Some breads, however, like flat bread, do not use a leavening agent, so they are not as spongy as the leavened variety.

The grain or flour is sort of the “structure” of the bread.  Breads that use wheat, rye, or barley contain gluten, a protein that can cause an immune response in the intestines of those with Celiac disease.  However, for those without Celiac disease, gluten is fine.  There has been no real conclusive evidence that gluten causes harm.

Sugar typically is there to flavor the bread, but also can act as a source of fuel for the leavening agents, which make bubbles in the bread.  Baking soda and powder make small bubbles in the bread, whereas yeast makes much bigger bubbles as it ferments carbohydrates.  Some recipes also use things like beer to leaven the bread.

Water makes the mixture goopy, and activates the gluten.  Kneading the bread dough helps to form strands of gluten, which can make the bread too tough if over kneaded.

As for the difference in the super market aisle, there is a large variety of bread that can serve the same purpose.  The main difference between whole grain, multi grain, and white breads (typically of the wheat variety) is as follows.  Whole grain uses all of the wheat kernel, which adds more nutritional benefit.  White bread only uses the endosperm of the kernel.  In doing so, the flour is more shelf stable, but also lacks nutrients, especially if it has been bleached or processed.  Enriched white bread simply means that after this process, nutrients are added back during baking.  Multi grain only means that there are different kinds of grains in the bread, and they can either be a whole grain, or white flour bread.

So what kinds of bread do you eat?  Anyone have any recipes or stories about bread they would like to share?