Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wakame what?

When I am busy in my kitchen preparing food, my dogs have learned to hover near my feet.  My somewhat sloppy knife technique often results in bits of carrot, potato, apple, etc being flung to the floor, where it is immediately snorfed up by one of the two pugs after a spirited tussle.  Sometimes the pugs find the tidbit rewarding, other times it's an onion.

Today was no exception.  I was working at the counter, pugs wedged between my ankles and the cabinetry.  The experiment was wakame, a sea vegetable commonly used in Asian cuisine.  I decided to give it a try since it is a good source of iodine, calcium, niacin, and other vitamins.  While preparing wakame salad with cucumber and carrots, a bowl transfer led to some spillage of the rehydrated wakame onto the floor.  Francie turned up her nose, but Crosley gobbled it right up.  Fifteen minutes later he was puking.

Interesting, possibly foreboding.

Wakame, or Undaria pinnatifida, is an edible brown sea algae.  It is considered an invasive species (most recently invading SF Bay) and can pick up toxins from polluted water, so it is important to choose wakame from a reputable source.  Recommended by multiple sources: Eden and Maine Coast Sea Vegetables (which is actually alaria, a similar algae).  It's usually sold dried in strips or flakes, and typically soaked in warm water to rehydrate before adding to a dish.  Although I did read the flakes can be added to scrambled eggs, pizza, baked potatoes, and cooked grains.

So how did it taste?  While it did not make me vomit, I can't say as it is my favorite.  It was slightly rubbery and smelled really fishy, something I associate with seafood gone bad.  Maybe it is my lack of experience with this vegetable that made something in the preparation go awry.  I will have to research some other uses.  I have half a package left so I need to find some use for it.  Hopefully more enjoyable than the salad I am totally passing on to my mom ("I thought you might like it, it's different")

The other thing I learned about during my wakame experiment was gomashio seasoning.  This is a combination of sea salt and sesame seeds.  Delicious!  I think I will find more uses for this than the wakame.
The finished product

Monday, April 1, 2013

got calcium?

The biggest question I have gotten from people (mostly my mom) is about calcium.  If I don't eat dairy, from where am I getting calcium?  There are a lot of sources of calcium besides dairy, it's just that dairy products have the highest content and best absorption at a cost effect price.  Options include tofu, oatmeal, sesame seeds, figs, broccoli, almonds, and sardines.  Oxalic acid can inhibit calcium absorption, so a food like spinach doesn't turn out to be the best source despite high elemental calcium content.

According to the North American Menopause Society's 2010 position paper, the recommended daily intake of elemental calcium for my age is 1000mg.  Calcium, along with vitamin d (necessary for regulation and absorption of calcium) are a part of bone health despite recent bad press.  As women get older, we need to increase our calcium intake for a variety of reasons involving estrogen and vitamin d deficiencies.  Unfortunately, even for women who consume dairy, the average daily calcium intake of a postmenopausal woman is around 700mg from dietary sources (1200mg recommended).  Dietary sources are preferred to supplements.

I was curious how much calcium I consume in a day, so I did some wild estimating and a quick calculation on today's meals.
Almond milk: 100 (I didn't realize until I looked at it that it is calcium fortified)
Cereal: 0
Sardines (on top of spinach - fail on my part!): 370 (maybe the spinach just canceled itself out)
Broccoli: 100
Brown rice: 50
Coconut milk: 10
Pumpkin seeds: 30
Total: 660mg

So I came in under my goal, right close to the average.  The thing is I don't think I would have made it even if I was eating dairy.

On a side note, I have to mention the brilliance of the dairy industry's marketing campaign (discussion of a launch here).  What I did not realize is that farmers, under the Dairy Promotion and Research Program, have to contribute for the cost of those ads.  Some dairy producers have tried to separate themselves from the promotions of the Dairy Program, arguing not all milk is created equal and should therefore not be marketed generically.  Apparently federally subsidized milk advertising began during the time of the New Deal (history of milk here)...makes you wonder how our dietary landscape would differ if an alternative source of calcium had been chosen.