Monthly Archives: September 2017

Is Infused Water a Healthier Way to Sip?

For decades, it has been common practice for fancy restaurants to serve water with an elegant slice of lemon. Club soda and seltzer water are both usually served with a slice of lemon or lime. But these practices are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to putting produce in water. Read on to learn about the infused water trend: the pros and cons, the myths and truths, and even a few recipes for those who want to try it at home.

Is Infused Water  a Healthier Way to Sip?

Infused water is simply water (tap, filtered, or bottled) in which someone has soaked fruit, vegetables, or herbs. As with many fads, enthusiasts of infused water claim that it can do everything but bake bread. Some proponents claim that infused water can do these things:

  • Prevent disease
  • Aid weight loss
  • Boost metabolism
  • Improve digestion
  • Increase nutrient intake
  • Detoxify the body
  • Improve mood
  • Clear up complexion

While there may be some truth to these claims, the fact is that most of these benefits actually just come from drinking water! With the exception of increasing nutrient intake (which is unlikely, due to the small actual amount of nutrients that are in infused water), all of the claims in favor of infused water are just basic benefits of staying hydrated.

That being said, for people who don’t like the taste of plain water, or who have trouble remembering to drink their daily eight glasses of water, there’s nothing wrong with drinking infused water. And if it replaces sweet fruit juices or sodas, so much the better! Some infused waters are available in bottles, but it’s also easy to make your own. Simply place your chosen fruit, vegetables, or herbs in a glass or pitcher of water and put in the fridge. You can use a cheesecloth bag to easily remove the infusers after a few hours, or simply strain the water over a fine mesh colander. Here are some popular combinations:

  • Lemon and lavender
  • Berry blend
  • Blackberry and mint
  • Cucumber and cilantro
  • Apple and cinnamon
  • Pear and nutmeg
  • Orange and rosemary
  • Sweet peppers
  • Basil and ginger

Two words of caution: teeth and bacteria. In terms of dental care, the acids from citrus fruits can erode the enamel on your teeth, so be careful to swap citrus water for other flavors periodically. And as for bacteria, common sense dictates that leaving fruit water out for several days will lead to the growth of bacteria. Make sure to keep infused water in the refrigerator until you need it, and discard after a few days.

How Well Do You Know Your Coffee?

Coffee 101

How Well Do You Know Your Coffee?

Columbian Arabica. Sumatra Dark Roast. Blond French Vanilla. The names of coffees can be mighty confusing, and that’s before you even get to the brewing! If you’ve ever wondered what all those coffee terms mean, here’s your coffee primer.

What is Coffee? The coffee we drink comes from the beans—or seeds—of the coffee cherry. Since coffee trees grow best in cool temperatures but rich, tropical soil, most coffee comes from the mountains of regions in the “bean belt,” which stretches roughly from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. Coffee farmers and producers harvest the coffee cherries, strip the fruit, and dry the seeds. The product is now “green coffee,” which coffee roasters buy as a commodity.

Species of Beans: There are actually only two varieties of coffee bean: arabica and robusta. Arabica beans, which have lower acidity and a more delicate flavor, are far more common: If you’re brewing coffee at home or ordering it at a high-end café, it almost certainly came from arabica beans.

Arabica beans must be grown at higher elevations and lower temperatures, and are also more labor-intensive to grow. Robusta, on the other hand, has a stronger, more acidic flavor and also has more caffeine. It can be grown at lower elevations and is sold at a lower price. You are more likely to find robusta beans in instant coffee or other lower-cost products.

Geographical Origin:  Among arabica beans, there are hundreds of unique origins relating both to geographic region and bean processing. Broadly, the main coffee-producing regions are South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and Africa and the Middle East. South and Central America’s coffees tend to be mild and medium-bodied, making them popular in the United States. Colombia’s mountainous terrain, in particular, makes it one of the world’s foremost coffee producers.  African and Indonesian coffees, on the other hand, tend to be fuller-bodied, with earthier flavors.

Roasting: Green coffee beans need to go through one more important step before they can be brewed and consumed: roasting. Roasting involves cooking the beans at a low temperature to reduce acidity and release sugars. Roasted beans can range from light brown to almost black in color, depending on the length and temperature of roasting.

Light roast coffees are known by names like Blond Roast or New England Style. Contrary to popular belief, lighter roasts actually have higher acidity than darker roasts, since roasting removes acids from the beans. Lighter roasts also have more caffeine, and because there’s less roasting flavor, they give a clearer taste of the green bean profile.

Medium roasts, which are most common in the United States, have names like Breakfast Blend, Full City, or Regular Roast. If you order a coffee in a restaurant, you will probably get a medium roast. Dark roast beans appear very dark brown and shiny, as the roasting process has released more of the oils from the seed. These coffees, with names like French Roast, Viennese Coffee, and Espresso have a sweet, caramelized flavor—sometimes with a burnt taste as well.

Stay tuned for Coffee 102, where we’ll discuss flavor additives, brewing styles, and more.

Is BPA-Free the Way to Be?

Look at any food packaging, especially in the foodservice industry, and you’re likely to see a lot of plastic. There are many good reasons for the prevalence of plastics; plastics carry bpa-freemuch less weight than aluminum or glass, and plastic packaging can prevent up to 1.7 pounds of food waste for each pound of plastics.

However, plastic packaging brings some significant chemical impacts.  Among these, some of the most troubling come from a class of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors which influence the endocrine system and alter hormonal functions. Cheap, lightweight, and shatterproof, Bisphenol A (BPA) used to be one of the most commonly used plastics for food packaging, appearing in everything from plastic pouches to water bottles to the linings of some canned food. Unfortunately, BPA is one of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals; in 2008, the National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction found that there is “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.”

The US Food and Drug Administration still classifies BPA as safe at its current human exposure level. Nonetheless, pressure from consumers and consumer protection groups has spurred food storage companies to drastically reduce their use of the chemical. This is particularly true for products aimed at infants and young children, like infant formula packaging, baby bottles, and toddler sippy cups, but even many general use products now carry the label “BPA-Free.” In the foodservice industry, both Rubbermaid and Cambro offer BPA-free options.

Unfortunately, just replacing BPA does not appear to have solved the problem of endocrine-disrupting chemicals leaching into food. Scientists currently focus on chemicals having estrogenic activity—activity that mimics, increases, or decreases the body’s naturally-occurring estrogen with synthetic hormones. So while eliminating BPA is a good start and can help raise employee awareness of the dangers of chemical contamination, it is not a panacea. Study after study shows that most plastic products leach estrogenic chemicals into the food and drinks we consume.

Some simple steps can further reduce risks, both for foodservice companies and the customers they serve. Keeping plastics away from heat—boiling water, microwaves, and sunlight—is crucial, as heat accelerates the leaching process. In foodservice kitchens, make sure to heat food only in glass or metal containers, and in office kitchens, offer alternatives for employees to heat their own food. Keep bottled water out of hot cars and sunlight, and educate employees about the potential dangers of keeping food or liquid in plastic for too long.  As always, knowledge is power!