Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Spinach

Spinach is a popular vegetable that can be enjoyed raw in salads and sandwiches, cooked in soups, or sautéed as a side.  Spinach, best grown in mild climates with an abundance of fertile, high quality soil and water, put Crystal City, Texas on the map in 1917. This southern area of Texas is best known as the Wintergarden region and is recognized by farmers for its long growing seasons. From 1930-1950, the Wintergarden region experienced a “spinach boom,” making Texas the top spinach producing state in the US. Over time, consumer demands influenced production in Texas, leading to varieties such as “baby” and “teen” flat-leaf spinach, according to Larry Stein, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Horticulturist. From 2006-2016, Texas experienced a 29% increase in spinach production, jumping from 32,025 tons of spinach produced to 41,215.


Other than being a popular commodity in Texas, spinach has many nutritional benefits, including its
high vitamin and mineral counts, caloric density, and its contributions to heart health. Nutritional facts for 100g (or 3 ⅓ cups) of spinach:
  • 2.86g of protein
  • 3.63g of carbs
  • 0.39g of fat
  • 28.1mg of Vitamin C
  • 469μg of Vitamin A
  • 482.9μg of Vitamin K
  • 194μg of Folate 

Spinach is also very low in calories; one cup of raw greens contains roughly 7 calories (USDA).

While spinach is often found in salads and soups, it can also be enjoyed in pastas and dips. AgriLife Extension’s Dinner Tonight has developed a plethora of recipes to incorporate spinach into your meals as a main ingredient, including Chicken and Spinach Lasagna, Spinach Quiche, Black bean and Spinach Quesadillas, and Spinach Pasta Toss. To find more nutritious spinach recipes, visit dinnertonight.tamu.edu/.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to call (903) 455-9885, email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu, or come by the Hunt County Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401. You can also read more about this and many more topics on my blog,  http://agentsarah.blogspot.com/

References:
USDA. (2019). Spinach.  SNAP-Ed Connection. https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/spinach.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Loving your heart - for the health of it!

While February is best known for Valentine’s Day, did you know that it is also American Heart Month? This February, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service recommends giving your heart love, too, by being aware of heart problems and the steps you can take to prevent them.

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 610,000 deaths each year, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The root cause of heart disease is plaque formation and buildup that occurs when coronary arteries become clogged by cholesterol, fatty deposits, and calcium. Buildup causes arteries to become narrow, making it difficult for oxygen and blood to flow through the body and to the organs.

Anyone is at risk for developing heart disease. However, people who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoke cigarettes are at higher risk. According to the CDC, about 47% of Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Additional factors that contribute to the progression of the disease include:

                     Diabetes
                     Being overweight or obese
                     Poor diet
                     Physical inactivity
                     Excessive alcohol use
                     Having a family history of heart disease
                     Age, especially in women 55 and older

Dr. Sumathi Venkatesh, Extension Program Specialist with Healthy South Texas, recommends taking preventative measures by becoming aware of risk factors and consulting with a doctor on a regular basis. Developing a treatment plan with a physician can help stabilize blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol levels. Other preventative measures include:

                     Eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables
                     Being physically active
                     Stopping the use of cigarettes
                     Limiting alcohol intake
                     Reducing sodium intake

When it comes to pursuing a healthy lifestyle, try incorporating heart healthy foods into your diet such as green, leafy vegetables, avocadoes, whole grains, and seeds. Add these ingredients into meals like Quinoa Cakes, a Fresh Berry Caprese Salad, or an Avocado Mandarin Salad by using recipes from AgriLife Extension’s Dinner Tonight. To find more recipes, visit dinnertonight.tamu.edu.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to call (903) 455-9885, email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu, or come by the Hunt County Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401. You can also read more about this and many more topics on my blog,  http://agentsarah.blogspot.com/

References:

Centers for Disease Control. (2019). https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Importance of Flexibility

How often do you think about your flexibility?  Many never think about it and therefore they probably underestimate the importance of flexibility.  Flexibility has many benefits to almost every age group and these benefits become even more important as we age.

As we get older our muscles lose strength and size, both of which can negatively affect our range of motion.  Limited range of motion can put an additional strain on your joints and lead to overall stiffness.  When your body loses its elasticity, it tightens up.  Once our body becomes tight it can lead to more aches, pains, and possibly more accidents.

How do you know if you are flexible?  A good test of flexibility is if you can stand with your legs straight and touch your toes you have a decent range of motion.  If you find that you are not able to touch your toes, you may want to consider doing some activities that will improve your flexibility.

Stretching regularly is very important in maintaining flexibility. You may do some simple stretches while you are at your desk or watching television (you can find a simple top to bottom stretching guide here.  It is important to remember not to do to much with cold muscles.  Growing up, we stretched before we worked out; however, we known know you should only do deep stretches on warm muscles.  Warm muscles (muscles that have been moving) are not as prone to injury as cold muscles (muscles that have not been moving). You can warm up your muscles by walking a few laps and then slowly incorporating movements that increase your heart rate.  If you have a regular exercise regimen, make sure you incorporate stretching into your activities once your muscles are warm.  Improving flexibility can have a positive impact in a relatively short period of time.

Like with any activity, be careful.  If you do too much too quickly you can injury yourself and end up worse off than before you began.  Remember, muscles stretch best when they are warm and stretching cold muscles can lead to pulls and strains, so make sure you take time to warm up before you stretch out.

I often reference the benefits of walking.  Walking is an effective activity to help improve your overall well-being as well as flexibility.  If you are interested in a beginner walking program, I will be hosting a Walk and Talk group that will meet at 8:30 am every Friday morning in September. This group will introduce participants to various low-impact physical activities and nutrition tips.  For additional information or to register, please contact the Hunt County Extension office.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu. Make sure to like our page on Facebook!

**Just in case you missed the link to the stretching guide, click here.**


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Have a Healthy Heart... Join Walk Across Texas!

I’m sure you’ve noticed, stores are filled with Valentine hearts these days. The next time you see one of these hearts, think about your own heart, and ask yourself if you are living a heart-healthy lifestyle.  While the rates of death due to cardiovascular disease are on the decline, it is still the number one cause of death in the United States. Many risk factors of cardiovascular disease can be controlled by a living a healthy lifestyle and making wise choices every day. A pro-active approach to heart health also involves visiting your doctor to find out about your cholesterol and blood pressure.

While some risk factors of heart disease are out of our control, such as age and genetics, there are many things we can control through our everyday choices. Everyday choices include what you eat and how much you exercise. A heart-healthy diet is nutrient rich and includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. It limits foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients, and limits saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It is recommended that healthy people age 18-65 exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The exercise you do can be whatever you enjoy the most—swimming, jogging, walking, biking, or playing a sport—the important thing is that you are engaging in physical activity. Finally, as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, you should make the pledge to quit smoking or vow to never start. While many people associate smoking with lung cancer, which is true, it is also a major risk factor for heart disease.

One bonus to living a heart-healthy lifestyle is that it is also a cancer-preventative lifestyle. Not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating healthfully will help reduce your risks of developing certain types of cancers along with greatly benefiting your heart health.

Seeing one of cupid’s hearts should also remind you to visit your doctor and find out how your own heart may be doing. You should have your blood pressure measured to know if you have pre-hypertension or hypertension, which is high blood pressure. It is estimated that one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. Having hypertension or pre-hypertension can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney failure. While at the doctor’s office, you should also have a blood test to determine your cholesterol levels. Having high cholesterol levels may also put you at increased risk for heart disease. Knowing you have high cholesterol or blood pressure can help you and your doctor make decisions about changes you can make to help lower or decrease these numbers and lower other risk factors.

If you are looking to increase your physical activity, consider joining us as we Walk Across Texas!  March 6th marks the beginning of the Hunt County Walk Across Texas Challenge.  Walk Across Texas! is a free 8-week program designed to help establish a regular habit of physical activity.  Teams of 8 join to walk the 834 miles across Texas, from Orange to El Paso.  Each person on a team of 8 is tasked with walking approximately 1.5 miles per day.  That seems like a lot to many people, but really, it’s only about 3000 steps and most people can go that distance in less than 30 minutes or achieve it throughout their daily activities.  In many cases, just becoming aware of how much (or how little) you move throughout the day is the first step to a healthier lifestyle.  The Walk Across Texas! program is a great way to jump start your exercise routine while spending time with friends and families.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity (moderate exercise) each week, just over 20 minutes each day.  Many become discouraged with exercise before they even begin because they focus on the idea of 150 minutes of exercise each week, which can seem overwhelming.  Keep in mind, everyone must start somewhere, and any activity is better than no activity!

Interested in creating a team and/or joining the Hunt County Walk Across Texas! Challenge?  Team captain packets are available at the Hunt County Extension office or you may register online at http://walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401 or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Safety First on Super Bowl Sunday

Even though the Cowboys are not playing in this year’s game, most football fans are still drawn to the game; now, deciding who to root for this year is another issue all together!  When planning your game day get together, make sure you plan for a safe gathering. 

Hunt County highway safety and law enforcement officials are huddling up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a special Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk reminder to urge football fans across the nation not to drop the ball on this issue.

In all states, drivers are considered alcohol-impaired if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. Drunk driving can be deadly, and even small amounts of alcohol can impair judgement to make driving unsafe. In 2016, there were 10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drunk drivers. Among the 10,497 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, 67 percent (7,052) were in crashes where at least one driver had a BAC of .15 — almost twice the legal limit. Texas had 1,438 alcohol-related vehicle fatalities in 2016.

There are many other ways to ensure a safe ride home besides relying on a friend. The options include using public transportation, calling a taxi, or using a rideshare program.  The NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app is another resource to help fans who have been drinking find a sober ride home. The app can identify their location and help to call a taxi or a friend to pick them up.

Designated sober drivers should refrain from drinking alcohol. This Super Bowl weekend, be a team player and help keep impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel. Designate your sober driver before the big game begins. And remember: Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Watch UR BAC program advises Super Bowl fans planning on attending a party, or watching the game at a sports bar or restaurant:

  • If you don’t have a designated driver, then ask a sober friend for a ride home — or call a cab/rideshare service, another friend, or relative, to pick you up. If you are at a friend’s house, stay the night.
  • Never let friends drive if they have had too much to drink.

If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party:

  • Make sure all your guests have a non-drinking driver to take them home, or arrange for alternate transportation to see that they get home safely.
  • Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks at the party.
  • Host your party just like they do at the stadium: Stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game, and begin serving coffee and dessert.
  • Take the keys away from anyone who has had too much to drink.
  • Remember: You can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you served ends up in a drunk-driving crash.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Watch UR BAC program is funded by TxDOT and is provided at no charge to promote alcohol awareness, the dangers of impaired driving, and friends watching out for friends. Contact: Laura Mooney, ldmooney@ag.tamu.edu, for booking information.

So no matter which team you decide to back, you will win with a safe game party plan! If you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu.  Make sure to like our page on Facebook!