IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  August 1, 2010

Catfish

August is National Catfish Month. It honors the catfish farmers whose ponds produce the succulent whiskered fish we buy on the market today.

Catfish are native to the United States and come in many varieties. Catfish farms began appearing in the United States in the 1940s. Today, they are a self-sustaining industry. Their grain-fed fish have an almost nutlike flavor. Grilled catfish and greens are a tasty and healthy choice for any menu.

Grilled catfish salad

3 catfish filets, 5 to 8 ounces each
(For the marinade)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup Louisiana cane syrup
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
salt to taste.

In a bowl, combine the marinade ingredients and mix well to ensure that spices are well blended. Allow fillets to stand in the marinade approximately thirty minutes. Then charbroil the fillets on a hot barbecue grill three to five minutes on each side or until fish is cooked. Remove, keep warm.

(For the salad)

6 leaves each of red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, and curly endive
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
Cracked blackpepper.

Place a red lettuce leaf on each salad plate.

Cut up and combine the other lettuces and place a handful of the mixture on each red lettuce leaf.

Cut grilled catfish into one inch slices. Place an equal number on top of each salad. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and top with salad dressing. Garnish each salad with tomato circles and cracked pepper. Blue cheese dressing can be applied to taste.

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Hamburger and steak get a reprieve

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health now say a dinner with steak, hamburger, or other natural meats is actually a good choice.

In their natural form, meats are lower in salt, higher in protein and have fewer calories than processed meats. Researchers found that bacon, ham, sausages, cold cuts and hot dogs have four times as much salt per ounce.

The American Heart Association says both have about the same amount of cholesterol. But rather than focus on cholesterol, the new Harvard studies show that salt is a greater heart risk.

Their report combined the data of 20 different studies from around the world. An analysis showed that daily consumption of two ounces of processed meat was associated with a 42 percent increased risk of heart disease and a 19 percent increased risk of diabetes.

By contrast, a daily four-ounce serving of red meat showed no increased heart attack risk.

Study findings suggest that people who are at risk for heart problems, or who have high blood pressure, should eat fewer hot dogs and packaged meats. Salt increases blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.

The researchers say that while levels of saturated fats are about the same in processed and unprocessed meats, the 622 milligrams of salt in a two-ounce serving of processed meats have far more than the 155 in two ounces of unprocessed meat.

The American Meat Institute Foundation says hot dogs and such can still be part of a healthy diet, which is true if you don't eat a lot of them.

The new finding is not a license to eat a big steak or big hamburger every day. The recommended portion size is still four ounces.

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Apples reduce risk of metabolic syndrome

A study presented at the Experimental Biology annual meeting showed that adults who eat apples and applesauce, and drink apple juice, have a 27 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome. About 36 million Americans have three of four symptoms: high blood pressure, increased waist size, more abdominal fat and high C-reactive protein levels.

Chuckles Corner

Here's how salt raises your blood pressure

Sugar and salt, sugar and salt, if one isn't making the news, the other one is. Consuming too much sugar will make you gain weight. Considering its calorie count, that's understandable.

Salt is a more complicated subject. It raises your blood pressure, but how it does this dastardly deed is a mystery to most of us. Read on.

Salt plays a key role in your electrolyte balance. Too much salt can keep the volume of blood circulating in the body higher than it should be.

When that happens, the high blood volume puts pressure on blood vessel walls. To protect themselves, the blood vessels thicken and narrow. That means the heart has to work harder to push the blood through a smaller space. The harder push raises blood pressure.

There may be other factors working at the same time to raise the pressure, but doctors at Johns Hopkins and the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake believe salty diets are the main culprit.

Salt peaks the flavor of many foods, but Americans are going overboard on using it. They consume up to twice as much as they should, which could be the reason why nearly one-third of adult Americans have high blood pressure.

Avoiding the salt shaker can help reduce consumption. But processed foods contain 75 percent to 80 percent of the salt in your diet. You never see it and can't identify it when you eat it.

You should only have 150 to 200 mg of salt at a meal, so read packaged and canned food labels to see how much they contain. Rinsing canned vegetables before cooking can help.

Dining out can be a problem. Some meals at chain restaurants contain two to five days worth of your salt limit. Eating in is better than eating out.

Choose fresh foods when possible. Processing always includes a lot of salt. A serving of potatoes au gratin from dry mix, for example may contain 50 times as much salt as one baked potato.

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Nuts

New research on the cholesterol-lowering benefits of nuts shows that eating two handfuls a day work better than one. It can result in a 7.4 percent reduction of "bad" cholesterol.

In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration recommended eating 1.5 ounces per day (a small handful) as part of a diet to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Dr. Joan Sabate of Loma Linda University in California says their group's new research indicates that eating two handfuls does a better job of lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.


A handful serving of almonds is about eight nuts. A serving of small nuts such as peanuts is about 15 to 20 nuts.

People eating a high-fat Western diet had the highest cholesterol reduction.

Controlling arthritis pain

Specialists for the Arthritis Advisor say these steps can help to keep arthritis pain under control:

  • Lose weight. A 10 pound loss reduces stress on the knee when walking by up to 80 pounds and on each hip by 30 pounds.
  • A diet that includes two cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day, plus three ounces of whole grain products is best for arthritis patients.
  • Move. Do a stretching program to maintain joint flexibility and improve balance. Use dumb bells or elastic bands for resistance training every other day,
  • Relax. Try deep-breathing exercises to reduce stress. Progressively relaxing muscles from the feet up is an effective step in pain management.

    Statins reduce risk of death from pneumonia

    A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that pneumonia patients who took statins lower their risk of dying.

    In 29,000 pneumonia patients in the study, researchers found those who took statins before being hospitalized had a 31 percent lower rate of dying from the condition.

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    Whole grains reduce the risk of heart failure

    The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study shows eating whole grains is associated with reduced risk of heart failure. Eggs and high-fat dairy products were associated with higher risk or death from heart failure, the inability of the heart to keep up with its workload.

    The study followed 14,153 adults (white and African American), ages 45 to 64, over a 13-year period. Participants who reported eating an average of one additional serving of whole grains per day were 7 percent less likely to suffer heart failure over the course of the study.

    Whole-grain foods include cereal, oatmeal, grits and whole-wheat bread.

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  • Hammertoe a painful but correctable problem

    Instead of lying flat like the toes around it, your second or third toe is cocked up in the middle and won't go down.

    It's a hammertoe, a usually temporary deformity that causes pain. It rubs on your shoes and can cause calluses or corns to form on it.

    Shoes that are too tight, too small in the toe box or have high heels are the most common cause. An injury such as a broken toe can cause a hammertoe as can a weakening of the toe because of diabetes, arthritis or a stroke.

    Doctors at the Mayo Clinic also say one can be caused by a bunion on your big toe joint that crowds the second toe, causing it to rise.

    The condition needs your attention. The muscles and tendons that allow you to flex and straighten the toe may tighten, resulting in a rigidly bent toe. Here's what you can do:

  • Wear shoes with a soft and roomy toe box that allows you to move your toes. Avoid high heels.
  • Use devices or other support. Various pads or an elastic splint may be recommended to reposition or support the hammertoe so the tip isn't driven into the ground, or so the toe lies in a flatter position.
  • Treat or cover corns or calluses. Wear shoes that don't rub on them so they can gradually go away.

    If these steps don't work, a surgical correction may be the best option. The surgeon will realign tendons during an outpatient procedure, which is usually successful. Surgery is not recommended for merely cosmetic purposes.

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    The diet buster: Saturday

    Giving your diet Saturdays off could not only void your all-week efforts, it could make you gain up to nine pounds in the coming year.

    Washington University School of Medicine researchers used food diaries, exercise monitors and a series of weigh-ins to discover that study participants consumed more calories on Saturday than on any other day of the week.

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    Are you allergic?

    Ragweed season begins about August 15

    As many as 20 percent of Americans are allergic to ragweed pollen, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

    The pollen circulates from mid-August until the first frost comes in late fall. If you are among those who are sensitive to it, it's best to begin taking an allergy medication on or before the 15th. Antihistamines in particular take several days to reach full effectiveness. Take the medication every day.

    Ragweed pollen can be carried by wind currents for many miles. Though there may be none in your yard or neighboring yards, it's still out there. One plant can put out up to 1 billion grains of pollen.

  • Non-drowsy over-the-counter antihistamine/decongestants (tablets, caplets, or liquid) include Claritin, Zyrtec and Tavist. Allegra is available only by prescription. They treat nose and eye problems, sneezing, hives and congestion.
  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are used to treat severe symptoms caused by all types of allergic reactions. They come in tablets, nasal sprays, and inhalers such as Azmacort, Flovent and Pulmacort. They are usually prescribed for only short periods of time because of the serious side effects of long-term use.

    In the future, allergy serums may be available that will eliminate the need for most other allergy medications. The Food and Drug Administration is working to standardize biological extracts to test and treat patients with allergies.

    The extracts are made from natural sources, such as pollens, animals and foods that trigger allergic reactions.

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    Strong muscles = strong mind?

    If you're in your 30s, 40s or 50s, is there anything you can do to preserve your mind now and in later years?

    Most health authorities say maintaining muscle strength in your middle years and thereafter can help. Strength begins to decline when people are in their mid-20s and the decline increases as they age. After age 50, strength is reduced by about 10 percent per decade.

    Exercise improves circulation, ensuring a healthy oxygen supply to the brain. Strength training, lifting dumbbells and using weight machines, can improve thinking now and even in later life.

    A Canadian study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that women who did once-weekly or twice-weekly strength training for a year improved thinking and conflict resolution by more than 12 percent.