IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  July 1, 2006


Historically, soul food has been the province of African Americans, Louisiana Cajuns, and Southerners who worked the land. But many others are discovering soul food dishes and claiming them for their own.

Certain staples of soul food have pronounced health benefits. Collard greens, for example, are an excellent source of vitamins A, B-6, and C, manganese, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, folic acid, and fiber. They also contain several phytonutrients.

While the ingredients of soul food are healthful, if they are cooked and seasoned with pork products and fried with lard or hydrogenated vegetable oil, the high fat content can lead to health problems. Wise cooks use liquid vegetable oil, canola oil, or olive oil for frying. Many flavor their dishes with smoked turkey instead of pork.

Food writer and fresh water fishing hall of famer Bill Scifres, claims soul food is anything he can harvest in the great outdoors, "When May fades into June, I start thinking of creamed wild asparagus a la Bayou Bill (that's me)."

Creamed Wild Asparagus

Place 10 to 12 asparagus spears in a pan large enough for spears to lay flat. Cover with 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, and 2 strips of bacon. Cover with water and cook until asparagus shows signs of tenderness. Carefully remove asparagus. Drain and save the stock, bacon, onions, and mushrooms.

Put four tablespoons of stock in the pan and add 2 tablespoons flour. Stir over low heat to thicken. Stir in more stock, turn heat to medium, add 1 cup half-and-half, and stir until thickened.

Place asparagus in sauce, sprinkle the mushrooms and onions on it, and put 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced, on top. Cut sliced cheese into 1/4 inch strips and make a lattice over the egg slices. Heat until cheese is melted, then serve.

Bayou Bill says you won't use the bacon slices a second time, so you can just eat them if you want to.


Potassium is the Salt Fighter

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions say that diets rich in potassium not only reduce blood pressure, they blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs in response to sodium intake.

According to John Appel, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and international health at Johns Hopkins, high intakes of potassium also reduce bone loss and can prevent kidney stone recurrence in men and women.

Dietary guidelines developed by American and Canadian scientists and released in 2004 recommend that people get 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day from fruits, vegetables, and juices.

A cup of baked acorn squash has about 900 milligrams. A banana has 900. Other good sources are spinach and other dark leafy greens, cantaloupes, oranges, tomatoes, winter squash, potatoes, beans, almonds, and dairy products.

People taking medications for kidney problems or high blood pressure should be careful to follow their doctors' advice concerning potassium.


Technology to Improve Eye Health

About 119 million Americans are past age 40, the point at which eye diseases start to become a problem. More than a third already have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy.

The good news is that pharmaceutical companies are developing products that target eye diseases. Macugen, for example is effective in treating "wet" AMD by blocking signals in the body that cause abnormal blood vessels in the eye to grow and leak.

For regular AMD, ophthalmologists have found that a diet rich in beta carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc, and lutein can help to prevent this gradual clouding of the macula.

Glaucoma patients must take eye drops to lower the pressure inside the eye. But new studies show that only 75 percent take them as directed, which can double their rate of vision loss.

For all eye diseases, early diagnosis is important. That's one reason for the "Check Yearly. See Clearly" campaign by the Vision Council of America. It's important for people of all ages.

New advances in eyeglass design are allowing wearers to see things more sharply than ever before. And breakthroughs in contact lens design have produced products that can be worn comfortably for up to 30 days.

Laser vision correction is an effective procedure for reducing nearsightedness. It reshapes the surface of the eye and takes about 10 minutes to do. As with any surgery, there are risks involved.

Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. It is the most frequently performed surgery in the U.S. Nine out of 10 people who have it regain very good vision.


Prevent Ulcers Caused by Pain Relievers

Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) as well as prescription Celebrex are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If you are among the millions of people who take aspirin to protect against heart disease and stroke, or for arthritis pain, it's important to follow your doctor's instructions.

Take NSAIDs at the recommended dose and frequency. With aspirin, that's 75 to 100 mg/day. You can buy aspirin with this dosage, cut a regular tablet to the proper size, or take half of a regular aspirin every other day.

When muscle pain or arthritis are your problems, try acetaminophen (Tylenol) first. It won't work as a heart protector, but it's a good pain reliever that will not cause gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. Take as recommended. Overuse can cause liver damage.

NSAIDs can damage the stomach lining, eventually leading to bleeding and ulcers. The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that one third of hospitalizations for GI bleeding were related to NSAID use.

Those taking proper dosages of NSAIDs can still suffer GI bleeding and ulcers, but there are ways to protect against ulcers or to heal them.

Antacids like Maalox or Mylanta neutralize stomach acid, and bismuths such as Pepto-Bismol add a layer of protection. H2 blockers such as Tagamet H-B, Pepcid AC, and Zantac 75, and proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium and Prilosec OTC can relieve symptoms and help heal ulcers while allowing you to continue NSAID use.

Work with your doctor to get an understanding of your personal risk factors for GI bleeding.


Recognize Stroke Early

Only 10 percent of stroke victims receive important clot-busting drugs, which are most effective in the first few hours after a stroke. Mainly, it's because people don't recognize stroke in themselves and others.

While other symptoms can indicate a stroke, such as difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes, the Cincinnati prehospital stroke scale offers these tests.

1. Crooked smile. If one side of the smile doesn't move or seems to droop, it could be a sign of stroke.

2. Arm drift. With eyes closed, have the person hold arms straight out in front for 10 seconds. If one arm doesn't move or drifts down more than the other, it could be a sign of stroke.

3. Slurred speech. Have the person say, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," or some other familiar saying. If the speech is slurred, or words are wrong, it could be a sign of stroke. Get emergency treatment.

Take a Hike, Safe Your Life!

Want to live long and prosper (healthwise)? Start walking. It will keep your basic body systems on track and make you feel great.


Big Decision? Sleep on it

Scientists at the University of Amsterdam find that thinking deeply about a complex problem can produce poor results. When presented with too much information, they say, people may focus on the wrong things.

The researchers found that when decisions involve only a few factors, thinking them through produces good results. For complex decisions, however, they found that delegating thinking to the unconscious produced better results. You see your way more clearly in the morning.

Your Potential Life Span

For $5, you can use the "Living to 100 Health Span Calculator" at www.livingto100.com. It's based on information learned about centenarians.

Genes are a starting point (how long your parents and grandparents lived), but your behavior and attitudes can either add many years to your life or subtract many years. You can also try the free calculator at moneycentral.msn.com.

The Best Nutritional Bargains

A study of 637 foods to determine the nutrient-to-price ratio shows that produce is on top of the list for providing essential nutrients at a reasonable price. Among the best-scoring fruits and vegetables were oranges, bananas, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, celery, onions, canned mixed vegetables, and fruit juices. Lean meat and dairy products were not far behind.

Below-average scores went to grains, meats in general, and composite dishes such as pizza or spaghetti and meatballs. The worst-scoring values in nutrients for the money were desserts and sweets. The study was reported by Tufts University.

Natural Tooth Whitener

To whiten teeth faster and cheaper, crush one strawberry (has malic acid) to a pulp, mix with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, spread on teeth and leave for 5 minutes, then brush with toothpaste.


Checking up on the New Sleep Aids

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center say most people with sleep problems never ask their doctors for help. This is a mistake because insomnia could be caused by an undiagnosed medical condition that can be treated.

If your doctor approves, one of the new sleep aids could be prescribed for you. Here's how each one works.

Ambien: Induces sleep quickly but causes grogginess if you sleep less than eight hours. It is not approved for long-term use. Thirty tablets cost about $100.

Sonata: Wears off in four hours. It can be taken during the night if you have problems staying asleep, Thirty tablets cost about $75.

Lunesta: Helps you fall asleep quickly but should be used only when you can get eight hours of sleep or memory problems could result. Shouldn't be taken right after a heavy meal. Thirty tablets cost about $100.

Rozerem: Manufacturers warn of a possibility of addiction or abuse. Helps you fall asleep, but is not recommended for restarting sleep if you wake up. Thirty tablets cost about $130

Some people with insomnia get relief from over-the-counter products containing doxylamine or diphenhydramine at a cost of about $8 for 30 tablets.


How Much D do Bones Need?

A new study reported by Tufts University shows that if you aren't getting enough vitamin D, it may not matter how much calcium you are consuming.

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) is the most important regulator of body calcium and a key indicator of bone health. Higher levels of vitamin D were more closely associated than high calcium levels in normal PTH. They recommend vitamin D supplements of 500 milligrams daily. In northern climes, 700 milligrams daily are recommended during winter months.

Getting plenty of vitamin D can make up for a shortfall in calcium but the reverse is not true.

New, fast staph test.

In many hospitals, it takes up to 48 hours to identify drug-resistant staph, which can cause skin and bone infections as well as pneumonia. Now, Becton Dickinson & Co. offers a two-hour test for drug-resistant staph, but at this time only one in 10 hospitals has it.


Street Safety

Recognizing and reacting to danger.

Though walking trails and parks are beautiful, peaceful places, they sometimes become the scene of an attack or a robbery. Some tips on avoiding suspicious people:

  • When your intuition tells you something's not right, don't ignore the feeling. By rationalizing and refusing to recognize the situation, you avoid taking defensive action.
  • Women should be aware of these danger signals:

    Promises: If a stranger starts helping you put groceries into your car and says, "Don't worry, I won't bite." Don't believe it.

    Forced teaming: A stranger says something to make you feel you have something in common with him, such as, "How are we going to handle this?" when loading groceries.

    Refusing to hear "no": If he continues to load groceries after you have said "no," it's a danger signal.

  • If a predator says "Don't yell," that's just what you should do. He's telling you how to mess up his plans.
  • If a predator orders you to go somewhere with him, do everything in your power not to comply. You might suffer an injury while escaping, but it could be less than what will happen after he takes you somewhere else.
  • Both men and women should walk or run without a headset, or just partially cover their ears so they can still hear surrounding sounds.
  • If you are on the street and see someone suspicious ahead, or you think someone is following you, cross the street and walk or run in the opposite direction.
  • If you think a car is following you, run in the opposite direction, forcing it to make a U turn.
  • If you are attacked, look the assailant in the eye. If he tells you not to, focus on his chest so you can see any blows coming and defend yourself.
  • Even if the assailant is stronger than you, you can defend yourself. Hold your fingers together and jab his eyes. It will cause pain and blind him temporarily.
  • If you escape, get at least 25 feet away as fast as you can. Police say a criminal will probably not come after you after that distance rather than risk being caught.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings.