Recent reports of illness caused by fresh produce have increased awareness of the need to wash before eating. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends:
* Wash everything. That includes prepackaged products — even if the label says "pre-washed" or "ready to eat" — and the outer rinds and skins of all produce (although you may not eat that layer, you can transfer dirt, germs, mold and pesticides inside fruits and vegetables when you cut or peel them).
* Use running water. Hold produce under the tap — the USDA recommends using cold water — and turn it continuously to reach all sides. Gently rub soft fruits and vegetables for 30 to 60 seconds; use a vegetable brush on firmer items such as apples, cucumbers and carrots.
* Avoid harsh cleaning agents. Detergents, soaps and bleaches can seep inside fruits and vegetables. Some people like commercial sprays and washes for produce, although there's not clear evidence they clean better than plain water.
Never miss a local story.
* Be thorough. Germs can bury themselves in tiny crevices. Before washing, cut off stalks and stems — which tend to be very dirty — and remove bruised or damaged spots where bacteria can thrive. Discard the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage and separate individual leaves for washing.
* Dry it off. Use a clean towel or paper towel to help wipe away lingering germs.
* Never skip the water. Blowing on a piece of fruit and rubbing it on your shirt or a dry towel isn't effective.
—Newport News Daily Press
Yo-yo dieting may make you more vulnerable
The unhealthful practice of yo-yo dieting may have serious ramifications on the body, a study finds, which may make those who eat this way more vulnerable to packing on the pounds.
In a study released by the Journal of Neuroscience, mice were randomly assigned to a calorie-restricted diet, in which they ate 75 percent of the average amount of calories designed to produce a 10 percent to 15 percent weight loss, or to a regular diet with no such restrictions.
Under stressful situations the dieting mice had escalated amounts of the stress hormone corticosterone, and exhibited symptoms of depression.
There was a transformation in the DNA of the mice as well — genes that control eating and stress had changed, and those changes remained after the mice ate enough to go back to their normal, higher weights.
While under stressful circumstances the dieting mice ate more fatty foods than mice that had not dieted.
"These results suggest that dieting not only increases stress, making successful dieting more difficult, but that it may actually 'reprogram' how the brain responds to future stress and emotional drives for food," said study co-author Tracy Bale of the University of Pennsylvania.
—Los Angeles Times