The Oldways Table Blog

Celebrating health,
happiness, heritage,
and delicious,
nutritious food.

April 15, 2014 | Oldways Table

The right place is Oldways and the right stuff is the wide variety of consumer-friendly resources Oldways has created to help everyone understand and embrace the Mediterranean Diet.  

We’ve been the nation’s leading experts on the Med Diet since 1993, when we created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid with the Harvard School of Public Health. We have great materials, and we’re embarking on a major campaign to make sure every doctor in the country knows that Oldways can make it easy for them to tell their patients about the Med Diet.

But first, to put this in context:  here are a few facts from the American Heart Association’s 2013 Update. (Circulation.2013; 127: e6-e245 Published online before print December 12, 2012, doi: 10.1161/ CIR.0b013e31828124ad)

1.  Cardiovascular disease accounts for 1 out of every 3 deaths. While the relative rate of death attributable to Cardiovascular disease (CVD) declined by 32.7% from 1999-2009, CVD still accounted for 32.3% (787 931) of all 2 437 163 deaths, or 1 of every 3 deaths in the United States.

2.  Cardiovascular disease costs more than any other disease.  The total direct and indirect cost of CVD and stroke in the United States for 2009 is estimated to be $312.6 billion. This figure includes health expenditures (direct costs, which include the cost of physicians and other professionals, hospital services, prescribed medications, home health care, and other medical durables) and lost productivity that results from morbidity and premature mortality (indirect costs). By comparison, in 2008, the estimated cost of all cancer and benign neoplasms was $228 billion ($93 billion in direct costs, $19 billion in morbidity indirect costs, and $116 billion in mortality indirect costs).

3.  Obesity is associated with risk factor development and incidence of diabetes, CVD and other health conditions.  Obesity (body mass index ≥30 kg/m2) is associated with marked excess mortality in the US population. Even more notable is the excess morbidity associated with overweight and obesity in terms of risk factor development and incidence of diabetes mellitus, CVD end points (including coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure), and numerous other health conditions, including asthma, cancer, end-stage renal disease, degenerative joint disease, and many others.

4.  69 % of Americans are obese or overweight.  2010 data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) show that 36% of adults are obese, and another 33% are overweight. Why? Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicate that between 1971 and 2004, average total energy consumption among US adults increased by 22% in women (from 1542 to 1886 kcal/d) and by 10% in men (from 2450 to 2693 kcal/d).

QED?  The conclusion from these four facts put forth by the American Heart Association is that there is a great need for cardiologists and other physicians to address healthy eating behaviors as part of patient treatment.  From many recent studies we know the Mediterranean Diet is the great-tasting gold standard.

So what is Oldways doing?  Oldways attended and exhibited at the Annual American College of Cardiology (ACC) Scientific Sessions and Exhibition, which was held in Washington, DC.  We were the only food and nutrition organization that exhibited at the ACC, hidden in a back corner in the “Cardio-Smart” Pavilion.  (We did wonder – shouldn’t everything at this show be Cardio-Smart?)

Despite our eastern Siberia location we met hundreds of interested and interesting health professionals, and showed them samples of our “Med Diet 101” brochure, tear pads of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid graphic, our Med Grocery Shopping List and our 4-Week Menu Plan book.  We were excited to hear comments such as:

  • I talk about the Mediterranean Diet every day, sometimes 15 times a day.
  • I need something simple to explain the Mediterranean Diet to my patients – this brochure would be perfect.
  • Finally – this is just what I need to help my patients eat better.
  • I’ve been telling my patients to Google “Mediterranean Diet” but I’d much rather give them your attractive materials, and be sure they’re getting reliable, well-written information.

While it’s quite likely that many cardiologists, nurses and administrators at the ACC didn’t find the Oldways booth in the back of the expo hall, we are encouraged and inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response of those who did stop by. We look forward to reaching more health professionals who are on the front line of saving lives, and introducing them to our Mediterranean Diet Starter Kit. By changing eating habits and embracing the Mediterranean Diet, heart disease and deaths from heart disease can be reduced.  

This is good for individuals and families, and also for society as a whole.  


April 10, 2014 | Oldways Table

Today we embark on a new food journey (and monthly series) into the wacky world of culinary conundrums.  

Use by dates, to freeze or not to freeze and the infamous 5-second rule!  There are many schools of thought on these hot topics.  So, what better way to solve these culinary conundrums than to turn to experts in the culinary and nutrition world, to hear where they take a stand.  Our new monthly series will address one of these topics each month, making for some interesting conversations and fun food fodder!

First up: We ask the experts to answer this age-old, controversial question: “Do you believe in the 5-second rule?"  The answers may surprise you…or maybe not!

“Not in the Food52 kitchen! As far as our apartments go, our lips are sealed.”Editors at Food52
“Absolutely, I'd even stretch it to the 10 second rule - depending upon how clean the floor is.”Melissa Clark, food columnist for The New York Times and cookbook author

“Whether a food is on the floor for five seconds or one second matters little to me. What matters is what food has fallen and whose floor it is. I may eat a tortilla chip off my floor but not a fudgy brownie. Then again, it depends on how hungry I am and if it is the last brownie!”Janice Bissex, Dietitian and one of the Mom’s Behind Meal Makeover Mom

“I practice it every once in a while but only at home and after my house cleaner has cleaned the floors. I would never do it at my restaurant!" Joan Weir, Chef, Restaurateur and Cookbook Author

"Yes, most of the time I do!  I think there is some truth to the hygiene hypothesis, which purports that as we move away from infections we have experienced a rise in allergies and autoimmune diseases.  It may be that certain infectious agents--bugs--we co-evolved with may protect us from immune-related conditions.  The idea is that our ultra-cleanliness may not be such a healthy thing.  However, people can still get really sick--even die--from food borne illness.  So, I think it's important to follow food safety rules and use caution with particularly vulnerable foods, such as with fresh produce, which will not be cooked, and hand-washing after exposure to raw meats, poultry and fish, and after using the restroom, and avoiding cross contamination of raw meats and fresh foods.  And the 5 second rule depends on where I drop my food!”Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian

“I think it's actually the 3 second rule and no, I don’t really believe in it.”Ana Sortun, Chef, Restaurateur and Cookbook Author

“Do I believe in it? No. But do I occasionally give in to the 5 Second Rule? Yes! If I dropped an apple on the floor, I’d wash it again and then eat it. I’m not gonna lie. Food grows from the ground, after all. When I’m around my 4 year old though, I have to be careful because she doesn’t differentiate between, say, a stadium bathroom floor and our clean kitchen floor, you know? That is a lesson I’ve been teaching her lately.”Michelle Dudash, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Chef Consultant

What do you think about this age-old question? Jump on over to the Oldways forum to share your thoughts and your other culinary conundrums!

April 8, 2014 | Oldways Table

Today we say thanks to our friend Ellen Kanner for this fabulous and 'dill'-icious guest post!

Dill is fragrant and easy to grow.  Its deep green feathery fronds are pleasing to the eye and its belly-soothing properties long extolled.  Even its name is mild, coming from an old Norse word dilla, to lull. I say unto you, do not be lulled. For all its demure-seeming ways, in the kitchen, it can be a nervy little herb.

Unlike parsley and fennel, gentle, chummy herbs to which it’s related, dill, aka Anethem graveolens, likes to dominate a dish. It starts out soft and sweet, but is strong of scent and can be sharp in finish. I have been wary of it, stemming from an unfortunate childhood incident involving dill pickles — dill’s primary use in commercial food production. However, my husband loves dill, which he fondly associates with his German grandmother and her weighs-a-ton potato kugel. So there needed to be some detente in the dill department. Research and development commenced.

Though dill is beloved in Germany and Scandinavia, I’ve discovered it goes far beyond pickles, kugel, and gravlax. It’s believed to have originated in Egypt at least five thousand years ago. It has since spread to gardens and kitchens throughout the Mediterranean, the Caucuses, Africa and India, where pairing it with bold guys like tomatoes and peppers or tangy fermented foods like yogurt and feta keeps its strong flavor in check. Some prefer to mute its power by using dill seeds rather than dill weed, but it would be a shame to miss the fresh, ferny pleasures of the herb itself. Something about it evokes spring.

Dill is rich in that must-have mineral calcium. It’s also a nice source of vitamin A, which you need to keep all your bits, from skin to teeth to bones, in fine form. Digestive and restorative, dill has been used to quiet stomach complaint. “Gripe water,” water infused with dill, is a folk remedy for colicky infants. Dill can also do good things for your heart. German tradition calls for brides to tuck a sprig of dill in their wedding bouquets to ensure a happy marriage. Failing to do that, I’ve tucked dill into numerous recipes instead, including the herbal quick bread below, with positive matrimonial results.  

Herb Quick Bread
Tender, lively with spring herbs and a cinch to make. Enjoy by itself, or topped with tapenade, hummus, or roasted vegetables.

1-1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chive
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
Pinch sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the soy milk and cider vinegar. This creates a mildly tangy, slightly curdled, plant-based version of buttermilk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, baking powder, and baking soda.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, stirring gently to combine. Fold in the chopped herbs, olive oil, agave and salt. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake 45 minutes, until the bread puffs and the top forms a golden crust.

- Ellen Kanner, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner

April 3, 2014 | Oldways Table

Spring is here and all of us at Oldways can’t help but think about the delicious bounty of New England fruits and vegetables that will soon start appearing in farmer’s markets and farm share boxes. Luckily for us, one of the first vegetables to emerge is the radish. Their bright color, crisp texture, slightly peppery flavor, and nutritious (but often overlooked greens) signal the advent of warmer weather, longer, sunny days, and more delicious produce to come.

Fortunately, many types of radishes – like other roots including onions, garlic, and carrots – also store well through the colder months. This means that we can enjoy their juicy crunch year-round. These versatile vegetables play well as a standalone snack, in salads, slaws, braises, soups, and roasts. But before we talk about how to prepare these delectable roots, let’s learn a bit about them.

Did you know?

  • The botanical name of that radish plant is Raphanus sativus, but the English name ‘radish’ derives from the Latin “radix” for “root,” fitting name for this edible root.
  • While the exact origin of the radish is unknown, it is thought that it originated somewhere on the Eurasian continents, possibly in China.
  • The radish was popular throughout ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. They likely came to the American continent with Columbus and other early explorers.
  • There are several varieties of radishes. The most common in Western cuisine – and most often found in the supermarket – is the round, red variety. At the farmer’s or specialty market, you may also find longer, red radishes that resemble carrots, or watermelon radishes, which are white or light green on the outside and have a surprising pink center.
  • With their Asian roots, it shouldn’t surprise you to find radishes in Asian cooking. One place you might find them: Japanese cuisine, where the Daikon radish – a long, white variety with a mild flavor – is common.
  • Radishes make great plants in a home garden – potted or in-ground. The seeds germinate quickly and the leafy, above-ground parts of the plant appear quickly, offering prompt gratification for hard work!
  • A healthy addition to any meal, radishes are high in water and dietary fiber, so they can help you feel full without adding extra calories (there are 19 calories in 1 cup of sliced radishes). They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium.

And without further adieu here are Oldways ideas for 12 Great Ways to use Radishes!

12 Great Ways to Use Radishes


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