Monthly Archives: April 2015

Krazy for Kombucha!

Fermented beverages at work? Sure, but not the alcoholic kind. Kombucha, a fermented black tea and sugar beverage, is all the rage among many health-seekers and trend-followers.

Kombucha is fermented with a combination of bacteria and yeast called a SCOBY health drink kombucha(symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), which forms a mushroom-like pancake on top of the tea during the fermentation process. The yeast eats the sugar, and the bacteria work with the enzymes in the tea, creating a fizzy, sweet-and-sour drink in about ten days. The beverage can then be bottled and sold, although many people enjoy making their own.

Kombucha is usually made with black tea, although green tea works as well and makes a lighter brew. Many Kombuchas are infused with fruits or herbs, giving them a wide range of flavors. Although the taste can be startling at first, many people enjoy the tangy, effervescent flavor. The fermentation process generally results in alcohol contents of under .5%. However, sometimes fermentation can continue in the bottle, resulting in higher alcohol levels: up to 3%! Some bottled Kombucha was recalled in 2010 until manufacturing changes could address this problem.

As is common with food trends, many people are hailing Kombucha as a wonder drink, a panacea for everything from cancer to the effects of aging. Indeed, the fermentation process does create probiotics, which have been shown to help with digestion. It also creates antioxidants, which some claim can help boost the immune system. However, evidence for these claims is anecdotal, with no scientific evidence to back them up.

Although bottled Kombucha is generally safe for non-immunocompromised people, the “brew-your-own” method has some risks associated with it. The primary problem is that the exact properties of the final drink are difficult to control, so different batches will have different attributes. In 1995, two women were hospitalized with excessive lactic acid after drinking Kombucha from the same SCOBY for two months. Although a definitive link to the home-brewed Kombucha was never proven, the FDA issued a warning about the beverage. Further, the fermentation process is vulnerable to contamination under non-sterile conditions. Dangerous molds can enter the beverage, which would not harm a healthy person drinking a small amount, but could be fatal to someone with a compromised immune system.

While the scientists work out the details of home-brewing Kombucha, you might be better off trying it in a bottle first. It has less sugar than soda, and the tangy flavor makes a nice change. Cheers!

Nuts to You!

Once relegated to the junk-food aisle due to their high calorie count and excess sodium, nuts have made a comeback in recent years as researchers have shown their numerous health benefits. Although nuts indeed have a high fat content—up to 80% fat, in fact—the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is considered “good” fat; it reduces the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in people’s blood, reducing their risk of heart disease.

the health benefits of eating nuts

The American Heart Association recommends eating nuts—a small handful a day—as part of a heart-healthy diet. In addition to LDL-lowering fats, nuts are also high in fiber, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant sterols, all of which are associated with lowered cholesterol and improved heart health. Compared to many snack foods, nuts also have a lot of protein, which can help keep you going during the day. Their small size and portability make them a perfect snack for health-conscious eaters, and they are readily available in many Bistro To Go™ locations.

Of course, as is the case with most foods, portion control is crucial for keeping nuts healthy. A serving size is no more than a small handful: about 2/3 of an ounce to an ounce. With the amount of calories and fat that nuts contain—even though it’s good fat—overindulging in nuts is bad for both the heart and the waistline. How nuts are prepared also has an impact on fat content. When possible, look for dry-roasted or raw nuts rather than ones that have been roasted in oil. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of sodium; many roasted nuts are heavily salted, resulting in unhealthy amounts of sodium.

Finally, not all nuts are created equal. Some have higher nutrient levels, while others contain more fat. Use the chart below to help you make healthier choices when you “go nuts.”

Nuts (1 ounce) Calories Fat (grams) Fiber (grams) Protein (grams)
Almonds 164 14.3 3.4 6
Brazil Nuts 190 19 2 4
Cashews 157 12.4 .9 5.2
Hazelnuts 180 17 3 4
Macadamia Nuts 204 21.5 2.3 2.2
Peanuts* 161 14 2.4 7.3
Pecans 196 20.4 2.7 2.6
Pistachios 161 13 2.9 5.8
Walnuts 185 18.5 1.9 4.3

*Peanuts are legumes, not nuts, but we’ve included them on this chart for convenience and for comparison’s sake.




#TBT: A History of Vending

The History of Vending Machines

How far back in history do you think the vending machine goes? The industrial revolution, maybe? You might be surprised to learn that the first vending machine goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, where the Alexandrian mathematician Hero invented a coin-operated machine to dispense holy water in the year 215 BC. The Chinese got into the act
in the 11th century with coin-operated pencil vendors.a history of vending machines

However, the industrial revolution did indeed spur the growth of vending machines as we know them today. By the 19th century, vending machines started popping up all over England, selling tobacco, stamps, and even banned literature. The first vending machines in the United States were owned by the Thomas Adams Gum Company, which used them to sell Tutti-Frutti gumballs on subway platforms in New York. Gumball machines soon appeared in stores around the country.

In the early 20th century, the German automat model began to be used in the United States, thanks to Joseph Horn and German-born Frank Hardart. Horn & Hardart automats became an American institution, attracting customers from all walks of life. For a nickel per item, diners could build their own meal from a diverse array of fresh, tempting items. Horn and Hardart established uniformity for their recipes and worked from a centralized commissary system; in many ways, these popular eateries were the precursor of our own Bistro To Go™!

In 1946, the first coffee vendors changed the way working Americans consumed coffee; soon the coffee break became part of the American work day. In 1950, workers could buy sandwiches from vending machines—making lunch on-the-go much easier. In 1965, vending machines started accepting dollar bills, and people no longer needed a pocket full of change to get what they wanted.

Now, millennia after Hero’s first “vending machine,” the machine has evolved far, far beyond a simple coin-for-water system. Our vending machines and Bistro To Go™ kiosks are stocked with fresh, nutritious food that you can pay for with a credit card or even with cloud-based systems like Apple Pay. Thanks to USConnect, dining at work is more convenient than ever! What will the next technologies bring?