The Dirty Truth about Washing Produce

February 23, 2016

When you buy pre-packaged lettuce at the grocery store, most of us just eat it right from the bag without a second thought, but should you be washing your “pre-washed” produce?  What about organic or homegrown fruits and vegetables?   Even though you might not have to worry about pesticides, there are other factors you might want to consider.

Rewashing Pre-washed Produce

Pre-washed produce has been given a commercial bath in chlorinated water before packaging, so there’s no need to wash it again, unless it just makes you feel better.

Beware of Fecal Matter

As far as organic and home-grown fruit and veggies – yes, you should wash.   It can be so tempting to bite into that vine-ripened tomato, still warm from the sun, picked in your backyard garden, but unfortunately, wiping it on your shirt, just isn’t enough.

While there may be an absence of pesticides on your home-grown and organic produce, there could be fecal matter in the compost-enriched soil which may have splashed up during harvesting, or even just plain dirt. Either way, the produce should be thoroughly rinsed off.

What about those wild blackberries you find?  Is it safe to just pop a few in your mouth?   That depends on whether the thought that a bird or critter may have peed on the berry bush bothers you.  Consider, too, that contaminants may have washed down with the rain.  Also, with organic produce from a market,  you don’t know how much it has been handled, or how.  Better to take the time than to take the risk.

When to Wash

Wait until just before you’re ready to use it, since bacteria can grow on produce while it’s stored in your refrigerator. Also, many, if not most, fruits and vegetables will spoil faster when they have damp skin.  Return unwashed, unused produce to the fridge as soon as possible, wrapped to prevent as much air as possible from affecting it.

Best Technique to Wash

To wash:  Rinse the produce under clear running water (doesn’t have to be hot or even warm), rubbing or scrubbing gently with a vegetable brush.  Ordinary tap water has been shown to do a perfectly fine job and removes 98% of bacteria.  If you’re concerned about your tap water, you can invest in distilled water.  Chemical washes claim to do a better job, but it’s unclear whether the residues left after using them are safe to eat.   Once it’s thoroughly cleaned, pat dry gently with a clean towel.

What About Produce That Will Be Peeled?

Always rinse the outside of the fruit or vegetable even if you don’t plan to eat the outer part (think: cantaloupe, cucumbers, squash) since you could spread bacteria from the outer shell to the inner fruit via your knife.  When peeling, be sure to use a clean utensil that has not been used on other foods you’re preparing, especially raw meat.

Food For Thought

Now that you know your fruits and veggies are clean, think about how to eat them.  Often the skin of produce contains valuable nutrients, so don’t always peel.   An unpeeled apple has nearly double the fiber, plus more vitamin A and potassium than a peeled apple.  A potato peel contains 20% of the vegetable’s nutrients, including B vitamins and fiber. If the peel and the inner part of a vegetable are the same color, like carrots, they have equivalent nutrients.

For more information on this and related subjects, visit ModernFarmer.com

 

Who Needs a Will and Why?

February 15, 2016

For Nora and Bill Massaro, having a will gives them peace of mind.

“To me, it was kind of a relief that I was taking care of my children,” Nora Massaro said.

If you die without a will, there’s no guarantee who will inherit your assets.  Basically, the court decides, distributing your property according to the laws of the state.  It’s called probate, and it can be a costly and slow moving process.

Even more importantly, if you have young children, a will lets you designate specifically whom you want to get custody, so the court can follow your wishes.

“They would look to relatives of the deceased parents, but you might want your sister so and so in Baltimore and not your sister so and so in Brandon, you know, just preferences,” attorney Craig Hall said, who’s been creating wills for clients for 30 years.

If you DON’T have a will, this is generally how Probate plays out:

  •   If you were married with kids, your surviving spouse and children inherit your assets.
  •   If you had minor children, the state will choose their guardians.
  •   If you were single and childless, your state will likely determine which of your relatives will inherit your financial assets and property.

Revocable Trust

This is the second marriage for both Nora and Bill.  They didn’t want any conflict between their kids from previous marriages, so they also created a revocable trust to try and avoid probate altogether.

“It can’t be contested. Period. End of story. It eliminates them going to court and having to fight back and forth. The trust dictates what our wishes are,” Bill Massaro said.

“The three sons get a long great,” Nora added, “We want to keep it that way.”

In the big picture, a revocable trust can be contested, but it is much more difficult. An individual who tries to challenge a trust must file a lawsuit and prove he/she has standing to make the challenge.

More Flexibility

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, gives you more flexibility and control over how your assets are distributed.  For example, it allows you to avoid giving a minor child a big lump sum of money all at once.  You can distribute allotted payments up to a certain age like 25 or 30, when they would receive the balance.

“That helps to give you peace of mind, because young adults often aren’t ready– responsible enough, to receive a large, lump sum of money,” said Hall. The revocable trust gives you more control to make sure that money won’t be squandered.

The “living” trust also gives you more control over your assets while you’re still alive should you become incapacitated. You designate how your property should be handled, by putting it into the trust.

“You don’t know what you’re going to need. You don’t just transfer it, because the kids are going to get it eventually.  You need to protect yourself,” Hall explained.

Execute the Will Properly

If you don’t use an attorney, several websites, like Legal Zoom, offer programs to create a will yourself, but you do have to be careful.

Be sure to execute the will properly to avoid challenges.  The minimum requirement in Florida is two witnesses.

Even better, create a ‘self-proving’ will by taking witness names under oath and notarizing.

“So that you need not go find a witness 20 years from now and have them go to the courthouse, to prove up the will,” Hall said.

Also, be aware, you can’t make any handwritten changes to the will once it’s been witnesses and signed.  That will make the document null and void in a court of law.

Getting Started

The hardest part is often just getting started.

“Thinking it out, as far as, mine, hers, ours is a complicated situation,” said Bill Massaro, “So we had to really sit down and put it on paper.”

Take stock of everything you own from bank accounts to insurance policies to that cherished fishing pole you got from your dad.

Pick the Right Executor

It’s also important to name a ‘responsible person you trust’ as the executor of your will.

“That’s the person who would be handling the transactions, payment of your debts, satisfaction of your bills, and the distribution of your assets per your will,” said Hall.

It’s a big job, so choose carefully.  This is the person who will oversee the process and make sure your wishes are carried out.

Store it in a Safe Place

Once it’s completed, store your will in a safe place in your home or a safety deposit box at the bank.  And let the executor know where it is and how to get access to it, when the time comes.

So what’s the cost of a will?

  •   If you go to an attorney—expect to pay anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to more than a thousand, depending on the complexity of your assets.
  •  Sample forms online can cost as little as $10 to $20 for a basic will, while complete fill-in-the-blank templates average around $100 to $500, depending on the complexity of your personal circumstances.

Why don’t people have wills? 

According to a survey by Rocket Lawyer:

  •  57% said they “just haven’t gotten around to making one”
  •  22% felt that making a will wasn’t urgent
  •  17% didn’t think they needed a will
  •  14% don’t have a will because they don’t want to think about death

 

Sugar: It’s the New Tobacco

February 11, 2016

You won’t find a Surgeon General’s warning on your bag of sugar, nor is it regulated by the FDA. Yet sugar can be far more addictive than cocaine, and Americans consume way more than they should.  Much of it is found in processed foods and sweetened drinks.  According to a study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine in April 2014, most U.S. adults consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Ingestion of sugar, like many drugs, causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain.  For those who are prone to addiction, eating “junk food” which contains added sugars can cause a craving for more sugar which can only be satisfied with increased and steady doses.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added simple sugar (not counting whole foods, fiber, or starch) recommended per day is:

  • Men — 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons)
  • Women — 25 grams (6 teaspoons)
  • Children– 12 grams (3 teaspoons)
  • Pre-Teens/Teens — 20 grams (5 teaspoons)

To compute the caloric count, multiply by four.  For example, 25 grams of sugar is equal to 100 calories.

Overuse of sugar is a leading contributor to obesity in both children and adults, and has been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, inflammation, suppression of the immune system and headaches.

Read the Label

Many common foods, which one might not think of as sugar-laden, have a surprising amount of it.  For example:

  • 1 Tb catsup – 4 g
  • Starbucks Latte Grande – 17 g
  • Graham cracker – 8 g
  • 20 oz Vitamin Water – 33 g
  • 12 oz can of soda – 39 g

Know What You’re Reading

There are literally dozens and dozens of names for sugar and artificial sweeteners found in processed foods.  Some common ones are Aspartame, corn syrup, fructose,  Saccharine, Splenda and Sweet’n’Low.   Some not-so-well-known names are gluten, isolate, sodium cyclamate and truvia, and anything ending in “ose,” such as dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose or sucrose.

Food for Thought

Be a smart and healthy consumer.  “Everything in moderation” is good advice when it comes to most things.  However, if you are one of the unlucky ones with an addictive personality and have a problem with sugar, learn the names used for added sugar in food, read all labels, and avoid something that can cause you so much harm. Stick with whole foods, including fruits (but not juices), and use raw honey to satisfy that craving for sweets.

Top Complaints about Airline Travel

February 5, 2016

When it comes to flying, getting where you want to go on time always seems to be an issue. Flight delays and cancellations top the list of complaints.

“You keep watching your departure time go up and up and up. That is quite frustrating,” said traveler Frank Evans who had just flown into Tampa from Canada.

Dana Hampton, who was headed to Atlanta, echoed that frustration, “Nobody wants to be delayed ‘cause you have to change everything, so no one likes it.”

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