WAYS YOUR FOOD IS KILLING YOU

The saying “you are what you eat” really goes a long way when you realize how much food influences your daily life. Here are some ways that food can actually be hurting us.

  1. Not eating more fruits and veggies because they aren’t organic.

Fruits and vegetables have an abundance of essential vitamins, minerals, plant chemicals, and fiber that are all vital to our health. While organic foods have their benefits, nonorganic foods have just as many – more consistency in taste, texture, and quality, they are cheaper, and sometimes they may even have less pesticide residue than organic fruits and veggies. Just because something is not organic does not mean it is any less nutritious, and avoiding fruits and veggies can do more harm than avoiding non-organic foods.

  1. Larger portions of “safe” foods do not equal good-for-you.

Just because the food you are eating is healthy, it does not mean that you can eat an unlimited amount of it! For example, fruit is extremely healthy and good for us, but a lot of it has loads of sugar. To put it into perspective, one mango has 50 grams of sugar, whereas one can of soda has 39 grams. Even the healthiest food options are best when eaten in moderation, and an extra intake of calories will end up getting stored as fat.

  1. Choosing Reduced fat/fat-free products

Making reduced fat and fat-free products involve adding many unhealthy ingredients and increasing other unhealthy components such as sugar and carbohydrates. In most cases, low-fat products are very high in carbs, contain trans-fats, and still have a high-calorie count. Trans-fats are very detrimental to our health, especially for our heart and cholesterol. There are many healthy fats out there, choosing the natural option may be the best way to go!

  1. Using Aspartame as a replacement for real sugar

Aspartame is a zero-calorie sweetener that is found in many low-calorie or zero calorie drinks. While it is a nice alternative that helps reduce your sugar intake, there are many controversies about potential ailments that may be caused by it, ranging from mild side effects such as headaches and digestive symptoms to potentially chronic illnesses such as cancer.

  1. Some vegan meat substitutes

Vegan and plant-based diets are extremely popular right now, and for many great reasons, but some vegan or vegetarian meat substitutes are often made in very unhealthy forms. Many substitutes have a lot of added sodium, and excessive sodium intake is often linked to high blood pressure and risk of heart disease. Also, just because it is vegan does not mean it is not deep fried, loaded with unhealthy sauces, and prepared as a junk food, such as vegan chicken nuggets or burgers.

It is our job to be aware of the reality behind the food we eat, so do your best to stay up to date with nutritional news so you can be the healthiest version of you!

Sammy Gorlovetsky
University of Illinois

ALL EGGS ARE ANTIBIOTIC FREE, HORMONE FREE, AND NON GMO

Want at least one worry you can put aside in the new year?  Buy any eggs you want.  They are all perfectly healthy for you and your family.

The use of hormones in eggs is prohibited by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  No matter what the label says, any eggs you purchase in the U.S. will be hormone free.

For the sake of review, a hormone is a substance produced by an organism that stimulates specific cells or tissues into action.  In some industries, hormones can be used to stimulate growth of an animal, but in minute amounts.

FDA regulations also require that any laying hens receiving antibiotics have their eggs diverted from food consumption markets.  Most hens that are ill enough to need antibiotics would not produce eggs anyway!  The egg industry does not use antibiotics on a continual basis.

Summary?  All the eggs available to you are antibiotic free, no matter the label.

Finally, all eggs are non-GMO.  There are only nine genetically modified foods approved for human consumption, and eggs are not one of them.  You don’t even have to worry about the corn fed to the chickens!  Research confirms that any GM food in the chicken feed is not passed on to the egg itself.

Seeing eggs labeled as natural and non-GMO? That’s another marketing tactic. According to the USDA, all shell eggs are natural and eggs are not a genetically modified food. Research confirms that any GM food in the hen feed is not passed into the egg itself.

For more answers to your questions about buying the healthiest eggs, check out this article!

SPENDING MORE FOR HORMONE FREE?

Did you realize that you don’t need to?

Per federal law, hormone use is not allowed for growth promotion in hog farming or poultry farming.  Hormones are sometimes used and allowed for reproductive purposes in hogs.

Therefore, grocery store labels reading “hormone free” on packages of chicken and pork are just marketing ploys for consumers to purchase these products.

In cattle farming, farmers are allowed to use growth hormones.  The hormones are injected under the skin of the ear where the hormones dissolve slowly over time.  This is not all that different from women using an IUD (slow release hormone) to control pregnancy!

Growth hormones are used to produce leaner meats more efficiently.  They are in the ear because the ear is never used or consumed.

If this still makes you nervous, here’s a visual representation of the amount of hormones in the steak you might have on your plate.

If we use one M&M to represent the amount of nanograms of hormones in our foods, then a three-ounce steak would have half an M&M, while three ounces of cabbage would have a mason jar full.

There really is no need to pay more for hormone-free protein.  If you feel better and safer about it, then buy it!  But buy it with your eyes wide open.

 

ILLINOIS FARM FAMILIES: LEARN THE LABEL LINGO

Originally published on Illinois Farm Families

In a world filled with choice, a food label can be like a beacon of fluorescent light in the middle of a grocery aisle. Nutritional content, ingredients – this is information that helps. But then there are labels that mislead or confuse rather than clarify, hindering your ability to pick out healthy, nutritious food for you and your family – no matter the claim.

We want to help you wade through the words. So when labels lie, you know the facts behind how your food is grown and raised.

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF A FARMING SEASON

It’s the day after Christmas and we’re already thinking about the next farming season. Want to know what goes into a farming season in just a few short minutes? Check out virtual video series on farming!

#360Corn is a series of 360-degree videos featuring our own Illinois corn farmer, Justin Durdan.  Justin lets us plant corn with him, spray for pests, fertilize those little baby corn plants, and even harvest and sell his crop – all while we can look 360 degrees around the tractor cab, the farm and even the field.

Check out the entire experience here.

HOLIDAY RECIPES: RHUBARB PIE

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable but is usually used as a fruit in dishes such as pies, crumbles, and tarts. It naturally has a tart, mouth-puckering, taste but can be quite sweet when sugar or fruit juices are added. The conditions in Illinois are preferable for the plant and thrive in home gardens. Their stalks are the only edible part of the vegetable because the leaves actually contain a poisonous toxin called oxalic acid. Many people combine other fruits with the rhubarb in dishes such as strawberries. It is actually very low calorie due to it being 95% water. Usually, deeper red stalks are more flavorful and medium sizes stalks are more tender than larger ones.

Rhubarb pie has made its appearance lately on thanksgiving spreads due to its tart flavor which breaks up the typically creamy, rich, and heavy tastes the rest of the meals are known for.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  • Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

  1. Place rhubarb in a colander; pour boiling water over rhubarb and allow to drain. In a large bowl, mix sugar, flour, and tapioca. Add drained rhubarb; toss to coat. Let stand 15 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk egg and cold water; stir into rhubarb mixture.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll one half of the pastry dough to a 1/8-in.-thick circle; transfer to a 9-in. pie plate. Trim pastry even with rim. Add filling; dot with butter. Roll remaining dough to a 1/8-in.-thick circle. Place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edge. Cut slits in top. Bake 15 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven setting to 350°. Bake 40-50 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 8 servings.

Maddi Lindstrom
University of Illinois

CANNED PUMPKINS: FROM FARM TO STORE SHELVES

The Today Show recently featured a story on how Libby’s Pumpkin products are produced, starting with the farm. This in-depth leaves no step of the process to the imagination as you the journey from the farm to store shelves. This transparency is something we welcome in the agriculture industry and hope that through this video, consumers will have a better understanding of how food gets to their tables.

ILLINOIS: THE GREAT PUMPKIN STATE

John Ackerman grows more than 160 different varieties of pumpkins at Ackerman Farms in Morton, Illinois. Morton is known as the Pumpkin Capital of the World.

An Illinois farm likely grew both your Halloween pumpkin (known in the industry as ornamental) and the prime ingredient in your Thanksgiving pie (called processing pumpkins).

When it comes to pumpkin production, Illinois smashes the competition. Prairie State farmers grow more ornamental and canning-type pumpkins than any other state. In fact, Illinois produced more than twice as many pumpkins in 2012 as second-ranked to California.

“I doubt if the average person in Illinois realizes the impact of pumpkin growing in this state,” says John Ackerman, owner of Ackerman Farms near Morton. He, his wife, Eve, and their children grow both ornamental and processing pumpkins.

The state’s farms harvested a record 16,200 acres of pumpkins in 2012, according to the Illinois Agricultural Statistics Service (IASS). Most of those were processing pumpkins, the best type for canning and cooking. More than 90 percent of the nation’s canning pumpkins grow in Illinois, says Mohammad Babadoost, a plant pathologist and professor at the University of Illinois.

Illinois earns the top rank for several reasons. Pumpkins grow well in its climate and in certain soil types. And in the 1920s, a pumpkin processing industry was established in Illinois, Babadoost says. Decades of experience and dedicated research help Illinois maintain its edge in pumpkin production.

Two pumpkin processing facilities exist in Illinois today – Nestle Libby’s in Morton and Seneca Foods in Princeville, both located near Peoria.

Meanwhile, ornamental pumpkins offer entertainment value for Illinoisans. People enjoy pumpkins, farms and the autumn agritourism destinations surrounding them.

“We have limited recreation opportunities,” Babadoost says. “We don’t have oceans. We don’t have mountains.”

But Illinois has tons of pumpkins. In fact, farms throughout the state grew more than 278,000 tons last year, according to IASS. That translates to millions of pumpkins.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PUMPKINS YOU EAT AND PUMPKINS YOU CARVE

Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins can be eaten. Processing pumpkins can be carved. But for best results, stick to the pumpkin’s intended purpose.

Ornamental pumpkins possess decorative appeal. They exhibit bright orange, smooth flesh with heavy handles. A few varieties offer uniquely colored flesh or warty texture.

Some Illinois farms sell decorative pumpkins wholesale, including to major retailers such as Walmart, Babadoost says. Many ornamental pumpkin growers, like Ackerman, invite customers to their farms to pick pumpkins in person. More than 2,000 schoolchildren and an unrecorded number of other visitors come to Ackerman Farms each fall.

Processing pumpkins are bred and selected to be canned. They have pale flesh, meatier insides and a more palatable flavor. The production of these pumpkins has increased with the growing public demand for pumpkin-flavored products, Babadoost says.

SEE MORE: Pumped for Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkins grown for consumption pack a nutritional punch of antioxidants, fiber and vitamin A. As a result, home cooks use pumpkin to flavor soups, pasta dishes, cookies, breads, pancakes and more. Even some dog foods contain the healthy power of pumpkin.

HOW PUMPKINS GROW

Pumpkins take about 120 days to grow from planting to harvest.

Nestle Libby’s and Seneca Foods each contract with farmers within their region to grow processing pumpkins. Farmers plant seeds in April and May for a harvest that starts in late July and lasts through November, Babadoost says. Farmers plant ornamental pumpkins in May and June for harvest closer to the beginning of fall.

The sprawling plants grow and cover fields with vines up to 30 feet long. The vines contain flowers that bees pollinate to become pumpkins. Disease presents the biggest challenge during the growing season, Babadoost says. Warm and moist conditions increase those concerns.

Farmers use machines to harvest processing pumpkins. One farm machine moves the pumpkins into rows, while another elevates them into trucks. Then the crop travels to the facility to be washed, chopped, processed and canned.

In contrast, farmers harvest ornamental pumpkins using good old-fashioned manpower. These decorative gourds must be gathered by hand to avoid bruising and damage. Ackerman and about five employees pick up thousands of pumpkins on his 30-acre farm. One year, he estimated selling more than 30,000 pumpkins off the farm.

“We love what we do,” Ackerman says. “I don’t think you could do this if you didn’t enjoy it.”

Originally published by Illinois Farm Bureau Partners Magazine.

JOANIE STIERS

#TBT: 10 WAYS FARMERS ARE DIFFERENT FROM SUPERHEROES

[Originally posted: September 28, 2015]

As an Agriculture Communications major and not having much of a background in agriculture, let me tell you how much I am learning about this incredible industry, and more importantly, the leaders of this industry.

One big lesson that I have learned is that some of the most accepting and loving people come from the world of agriculture. Many people have their special talents but I’ve learned that it’s farmers that are my superheroes!

farmer superheroThese are just some of the ways farmers are different than superheroes:

  1. They don’t wear their underwear on the outside of their pants.

2. They don’t have an alter ego to hide their superhero-ness-they just own it. Farmers aren’t anybody but themselves and they’re proud of it!

3. They feed the world, instead of fighting crime.

4. Their capes are actually farmer hats

5. Their mode of transportation doesn’t fly but has four-wheel drive. Farmers need four-wheel drive to pull and load heavy farm equipment

john deere case6. Farmers work past bedtime to make sure the day’s work is done. Being a farmer is a lot of hard work! A farmer works around the clock to make sure daily chores are accomplished. This isn’t no nine to five job!

7. Their kryptonite is the battle to choose between red or green. Will it be John Deere or Case International? Which one is better?

8. Farmers don’t wear tights they wear fashionable flannel.

9. Their idea of a vacation is coming back with a farmers tan. A farmer’s tan refers to the tan lines developed by a working farmer regularly exposed to the sun. The farmer’s tan is usually started with a suntan covering only the arms and neck. It is distinct in that the shoulders, chest, and back remain unaffected by the sun.

10. Their partners in crime may cluck or moo but they will always be there for you. There is no greater bond than an animal and its caretaker!

Farmers are so much more than just superheroes. They are one of a kind. I have so much respect for these men, women, and families who work around the clock to provide each and every one of us food, and other vital resources. Where would we be without these producers?

Fun fact: Did you know that for every acre of land harvested provides food for 122 people?

Next time you see a farmer thank them for all the hard work that they do!

melissa satchwellMelissa Satchwell
Illinois State University student