Everyone Wants A Chef

Everyone Wants A Chef


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Eating with the eyes' is hard-wired in the brain

Have you ever wondered why just seeing food can make your mouth start to water? By visualizing neuronal activity in specific areas of the zebrafish brain, scientists at the National Institute of Genetics (NIG) in Japan have revealed a direct link between visual perception of food and feeding motivation. The study, published in the April 20, 2017 issue of Nature Communications, suggests that "eating with the eyes" is deeply rooted in evolution.

"In vertebrate animals, feeding behavior is regulated by a brain area called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamic feeding center integrates information about bodily energy requirements and environmental food availability. Zebrafish, like humans, mostly use vision for recognition of food or prey. It was not known how the hypothalamus receives visual information about prey. We first demonstrated that neurons in the hypothalamus do indeed respond to the sight of prey. Then we looked for neurons in the visual system that responded to prey and discovered 'prey detector' neurons in an area called the pretectum. Furthermore, we found a direct neural link connecting the prey detector neurons to the hypothalamic feeding center," Dr. Muto, the leading author of the study, explained.

The key to this discovery has been recent progress in the development and improvement of the highly sensitive, genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP, which can be used to monitor neuronal activity in the form of calcium signals. Another important technology is the ability to control the specific neurons in which GCaMP is expressed. This was critical for recording distinct calcium signals from identifiable neurons.

Prof. Kawakami, the senior author, showed us his zebrafish facility where thousands of fish tanks can be seen, each of which contains genetically different fish that can turn on, or drive the GCaMP expression in different types of cells in the brain or in the body. This collection of driver fish lines is being used to study various tissues and cell types by zebrafish researchers all over the world. Of the nearly 2,000 such driver fish lines in the lab, two played important roles in the current study: one for the imaging of the prey detector neurons, and the other for the feeding center in the hypothalamus.

"Successful brain imaging was made possible through development of our genetic resources on which I have spent more than twenty years. This is the power of zebrafish genetics. This work showcases a successful application of our genetic resources in the study of brain function," Prof. Kawakami said.

"Our study demonstrates how tightly visual perception of food is linked to motivational feeding behavior in vertebrate animals. This is an important step toward understanding how feeding is regulated and can be modulated in normal conditions as well as in feeding disorders," Dr. Muto said.

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Materials provided by Research Organization of Information and Systems.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil may boost 'good' cholesterol

A Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil may enhance the cardioprotective benefits of high-density lipoproteins (HDL -- the "good" cholesterol) compared to other diets, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

High levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL -- the "bad cholesterol") and triglycerides, a type of blood fat, are associated with an increased risk of heart and blood vessel diseases. HDL cholesterol is associated with a lower risk because these lipoproteins help eliminate the excess cholesterol from the bloodstream.

"However, studies have shown that HDL doesn't work as well in people at high risk for heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases, and that the functional ability of HDL matters as much as its quantity," said senior study author Montserrat Fitó, M.D., Ph.D., and coordinator of the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona and at the Ciber of Physipathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBEROBN), Spain. "At the same time, small-scale trials have shown that consuming antioxidant-rich foods like virgin olive oil, tomatoes and berries improved HDL function in humans. We wanted to test those findings in a larger, controlled study."

Researchers randomly selected 296 people at high risk of cardiovascular disease participating in the PREDIMED (PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea) study. Blood samples were taken from the participants at the beginning of the study and again at the end. Participants, average age 66, were randomly assigned to one of three diets for a year: a traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil (about 4 tablespoons) each day, a traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with extra nuts (about a fistful) each day, or a healthy "control" diet that reduced consumption of red meat, processed food, high-fat dairy products and sweets. In addition to emphasizing fruit, vegetables, legumes, such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, and whole grains, both Mediterranean diets included moderate amounts of fish and poultry.

The study found that only the control diet reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels. None of the diets increased HDL levels significantly, but the Mediterranean diets did improve HDL function. The improvement in HDL function was much larger among those consuming an extra quantity of virgin olive oil.

Fitó and her team found that the Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil improved key HDL functions, including:

Reverse cholesterol transport, the process by which HDL removes cholesterol from plaque in the arteries and transports it to the liver where it is used to produce hormonal compounds or eliminated from the body.
Antioxidant protection, the ability of HDL to counteract the oxidation of LDL, which has been found to trigger the development of plaque in the arteries.
Vasodilator capacity, which relaxes blood vessels, keeping them open and blood flowing.
Researchers said they were surprised to find that the control diet, which like the Mediterranean diets was rich in fruits and vegetables, had a negative impact on HDL's anti-inflammatory properties. A decrease in HDL's anti-inflammatory capability is associated with cardiovascular disease. Participants on the Mediterranean diets did not experience a decline in this important HDL function, the authors wrote.

Researchers said the differences in results between the diets were relatively small because the modifications of the Mediterranean diets were modest and the control diet was a healthy one. They added that study results are mainly focused on a high cardiovascular risk population that includes people who can obtain the most benefits from this diet intervention.

Still, Fitó said, "following a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil could protect our cardiovascular health in several ways, including making our 'good cholesterol' work in a more complete way."

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Materials provided by American Heart Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Shhh! DUI Fries Are California's Best-Kept Secret

by Peter Pham/Foodbeast

DUI Fries sound like something your drunk buddy invented, or some kind of urban legend about fries that cure your hangover, but they're really the ultimate combination of fries that you probably never heard of.

If you search for #DUIFries on Instagram, only 629 photos come up. It's insane that a dish as crazy as this one hasn't even cracked 1,000 IG posts, as of this writing. But those in the know, know what's up with these majestic, artery-clogging fries.
About five years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to DUI Fries. He told me that if I went to a restaurant called Jim's Burgers in City of Industry, California, I could find some chili cheese fries that were topped with not only pastrami, but carne asada, as well.

This no doubt intrigued me, and we set out on this mission to find the DUI Fries. As with most "secret menu items," I nervously asked the cashier for these "DUI Fries," fully expecting to be given a, "What's that?" But she put in the order, and I awaited the greasy goodness to fill my insides.
It was pretty much everything I hoped for, as I felt like death afterward, but came to terms with the over 1,500-calorie meal possibly being my last before my heart exploded.
I went in search for the origin of the majestic DUI Fries, and was led to Dino's Chicken and Burgers. After speaking with Jim Pantazis, the small burger chain's owner, he said the DUI Fries were born back in 2005 at their Pico Rivera location, and actually had nothing to do with alcohol, despite the obvious name.
"It's not driving under the influence, it's Dino's Ultimate Invention," Pantazis explained. "We thought, 'What can we make — something to give the customers their money's worth?'"
So Pantazis figured he'd take the chili cheese fries, and just stack it with meats that they already had available in the restaurant.

They gave the fries an identity, so that they weren't just carne asada and pastrami chili cheese fries. They attached a catchy name to it that was short, sweet, and memorable.
DUI Fries are one of Southern California's best kept food secrets, and the craziest thing about it, the ingredients are readily available at most mom & pop burger shacks around Cali. Because of this, the fries have expanded to different locations, some even giving them a different name, but same look.

Archibald's Drive-Thru has their own version in their five So Cal locations:
Victory Diner in Orange County sells them now, too:
Arry's Super Burgers in Montebello will give you these heart-stopping fries:
Like I mentioned earlier, the place where I first experienced them, Jim's Super Burgers serves up a mean plate of them:
Hell, there's even places that call them "Loco Fries" like Rubi's Grill and Frosty Freeze in Whittier.
Whether you call them DUI Fries, Loco Fries, or simply ask for carne asada and pastrami chili cheese fries, these are a gem in Southern California. Those in the know, might covet them as much as In-N-Out's glorious Animal Style Fries, maybe even more, since they've been on the low for so long.
Y'all need to experience these fries, and the chosen few who already enjoy them might hate me for this story, but I can't be greedy.
Check out one of the Dino's locations for the original version (Also, their chicken fries are fire, but that's one secret to uncover another time), or if one of the other restaurants mentioned are closer to you, pop in and see if you can handle them.

Just make sure you go with a friend. Ya know, just in case you need someone to quickly perform CPR on you.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Beans and peas increase fullness more than meat

Numerous modern dietary recommendations encourage high protein consumption to help with weight loss or prevent the age-related loss of muscle mass. Furthermore, consuming more vegetable-based protein from beans and peas, and less protein from meats such as pork, veal and beef, is recommended because meat production is a far greater burden on our climate than vegetable cultivation. Until now, we haven't known very much about how legumes like beans and peas stack up against meat in satiating hunger. As a result, little has been known about the impact of vegetables and the possibility of them catalyzing or maintaining weight loss.
High protein vegetables fill more

The recent study demonstrated that protein-rich meals based on beans and peas increased satiety more in the study participants than protein-rich veal and pork based meals. In the study, 43 young men were served three different meals in which patties -- consisting of either beans/peas or veal/pork -- were a key element. The study also demonstrated that when participants ate a protein-rich meal based on beans and peas, they consumed 12% fewer calories in their next meal than if they had eaten a meat-based meal.
"The protein-rich meal composed of legumes contained significantly more fiber than the protein-rich meal of pork and veal, which probably contributed to the increased feeling of satiety," according to the head researcher, Professor Anne Raben of the University of Copenhagen's Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.
Sustainable eating can help weight loss
Most interestingly, the study also demonstrated that a less protein-rich meal based on beans and peas was as satiating and tasty as the protein-rich veal and pork-based meals.

"It is somewhat contrary to the widespread belief that one ought to consume a large amount of protein because it increases satiety more. Now, something suggests that one can eat a fiber-rich meal, with less protein, and achieve the same sensation of fullness. While more studies are needed for a definitive proof, it appears as if vegetable-based meals -- particularly those based on beans and peas -- both can serve as a long term basis for weight loss and as a sustainable eating habit," concludes Professor Raben.
The results are published in the scientific journal Food & Nutrition in the article: Meals based on vegetable protein sources (beans and peas) are more satiating than meals based on animal protein sources (veal and pork) -- a randomized cross-over meal test study.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Homemade Pizza Gets A New Twist With This Stovetop Pizza Oven

No matter how skilled you are in the kitchen, when you try to cook pizza at home, it hardly ever comes out to taste like restaurant quality. It's most likely because home ovens aren't hot enough to really get the pizza dough cooked right, and a company called Pizzacraft thinks they've solved that problem.

This isn't an ordinary oven, in fact it even works on top of your stove, which is a pretty neat concept for pizza making. The Pizzeria Pronto claims to heat up to 600 degrees fahrenheit, while conventional ovens usually max out at 500 degrees.

This thing cooks pizza pretty damn quick, claiming to preheat in 10 minutes and cook a pie in as little as six minutes.

With a four star rating on Amazon, it seems like people at least like the oven, but with a $149 price tag, you better really love pizza and put it to work on the regular.

They also have a portable outdoor version of this Pizzacraft, which looks pretty legit, as well. That one has a $299.99 price tag.
If it were more reasonably priced, I'd probably try it, if anything because it seems pretty convenient. But until then, I'm fine with rolling to Little Caesars and grabbing a $5 pie.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Skipping Meals, Joining Gangs: How Teens Cope Without Enough Food At Home

Many kids rely on school for food their families can't afford. Two reports suggest one group is falling through the cracks: teens. Dogged by hunger, teens may try a wide range of strategies to get by.  


When Lanarion Norwood Jr. was 9 years old, he opened his family's refrigerator to find it almost empty. His grandmother, unemployed because of disability, had run out of food for the month. So Norwood did what many young children adamantly resist: He went to bed early. Sleeping, he reasoned, would help him suppress hunger, and he knew the next day he could eat at his Atlanta school.

That memory is one of Norwood's earliest recollections of being hungry, but not his last. As a teenager, his food concerns grew with his appetite. "I would plan out my meal[s]," Norwood says, now a freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta. "I knew I could eat breakfast and lunch at school and I could eat again later at [an afterschool mentoring program]."

Number Of Hungry U.S. Kids Drops To Lowest Level Since Before Great Recession

Lots of kids like Norwood rely on schools for food their families can't afford. Federal programs like the National School Lunch Program offer free or discounted meals to children from low-income families. But two reports out this month from the Urban Institute and Feeding America suggest one group is falling through the cracks: teenagers. Roughly 7 million children in the U.S. aged 10-17 struggle with hunger, according to one report, which examines teenage access to food. Dogged by hunger, teenagers may try a wide range of solutions, from asking friends for meals to bartering sex for food.


To learn about teen hunger, the researchers partnered with food banks and, with funding from Conagra, conducted 20 focus groups across the country with adolescents from low-income families. The researchers found two challenges to feeding teens in need: First, some of the charitable programs that target young children — like backpack programs that allow kids to take food home over the weekend — aren't always offered to teenagers. And second, even when programs are available, teenagers feel more self-conscious about accepting free food or may not realize that they are eligible for the assistance.


Lead researcher Susan Popkin of the Urban Institute explains why the challenges facing teenagers are unique: "It's easier to get to little kids. They're all in school. They're certainly more cooperative. Teens are often seen as the problem. Not as part of the solution."


Teens, Popkin explains, are more aware of the stigma associated with a free lunch than younger children. They're also at an age where fitting in is paramount. So many teens will forego official programs and try to get meals from other places – by going to a friend's house with a well-stocked pantry, for example.

Norwood says pride is a major hurdle. "Why should I have to go through a program just to eat when I'm almost grown?" he says, describing the attitude of some of his peers.

Even adolescents who do opt to take advantage of school programs may not get a good meal, according to Popkin, because they often receive the same portion sizes as elementary school children. What's more, teens often squirrel the meal away for younger siblings.  

"They feel the pressure that their parents are under," she says. "They're old enough to be aware of it and they want to help. They go hungry along with their parents."

Teenagers cope with hunger in other ways too, the researchers found. Teenagers try to get jobs, but often struggle against the competition of adults with more experience and more flexible hours. The jobs they can get — like cutting hair or mowing grass — often don't pay well enough to bridge the gap in the family's food budget.

Sometimes teenagers turn to less benign methods to get money or food. Teenagers in the focus groups cited petty theft and even gang membership as methods adolescents used to put money and food on the table.

Most surprising to Popkin was that some teenagers, girls in particular, date older men with more disposable money in order to get food. Thirteen of the 20 focus groups talked about trading sex for a meal.

The SNAP Gap: Benefits Aren't Enough To Keep Many Recipients Fed  

What can be done to improve the plight of food-insecure teenagers? Popkin says simply extending elementary meal programs to teenagers could be a start, as well as increasing portions with age.

Emily Engelhard, managing director of research and evaluation for Feeding America, says teens came up with other ideas as well, like tying free food to another less stigmatized activity – like movie night or a basketball game. She says an important takeaway from the research is "just how incredible and resilient these teens are."

Better and more accessible grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods would also help, says Norwood. He says many people in Atlanta have to take a bus or train to reach a grocery store with fresh produce and can't afford the time or fare, to say nothing of lugging the groceries home.

He sums up the importance of teen hunger simply: "It is real. It is serious. And it should be addressed. It affects the mind, it affects the body, and it affects the soul. Without that, what do you have?"
By:Natalie Jacewicz

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

'five-second rule': Eating food off the floor isn't safe

Rutgers researchers have disproven the widely accepted notion that it's OK to scoop up food and eat it within a "safe" five-second window. Donald Schaffner, professor and extension specialist in food science, found that moisture, type of surface and contact time all contribute to cross-contamination. In some instances, the transfer begins in less than one second. Their findings appear online in the American Society for Microbiology's journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

"The popular notion of the 'five-second rule' is that food dropped on the floor, but picked up quickly, is safe to eat because bacteria need time to transfer," Schaffner said, adding that while the pop culture "rule" has been featured by at least two TV programs, research in peer-reviewed journals is limited.

"We decided to look into this because the practice is so widespread. The topic might appear 'light' but we wanted our results backed by solid science," said Schaffner, who conducted research with Robyn Miranda, a graduate student in his laboratory at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

The researchers tested four surfaces -- stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood and carpet -- and four different foods (watermelon, bread, bread and butter, and gummy candy). They also looked at four different contact times -- less than one second, five, 30 and 300 seconds. They used two media -- tryptic soy broth or peptone buffer -- to grow Enterobacter aerogenes, a nonpathogenic "cousin" of Salmonella naturally occurring in the human digestive system.

Transfer scenarios were evaluated for each surface type, food type, contact time and bacterial prep; surfaces were inoculated with bacteria and allowed to completely dry before food samples were dropped and left to remain for specified periods. All totaled 128 scenarios were replicated 20 times each, yielding 2,560 measurements. Post-transfer surface and food samples were analyzed for contamination.

Not surprisingly, watermelon had the most contamination, gummy candy the least. "Transfer of bacteria from surfaces to food appears to be affected most by moisture," Schaffner said. "Bacteria don't have legs, they move with the moisture, and the wetter the food, the higher the risk of transfer. Also, longer food contact times usually result in the transfer of more bacteria from each surface to food."

Perhaps unexpectedly, carpet has very low transfer rates compared with those of tile and stainless steel, whereas transfer from wood is more variable. "The topography of the surface and food seem to play an important role in bacterial transfer," Schaffner said.

So while the researchers demonstrate that the five-second rule is "real" in the sense that longer contact time results in more bacterial transfer, it also shows other factors, including the nature of the food and the surface it falls on, are of equal or greater importance.

"The five-second rule is a significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfer from a surface to food," Schaffner said. "Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously."

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Rutgers University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.