Ten fruits and vegetables you’re storing wrong

By Candy Sagon October 21

You bring home fresh fruits and vegetables, stash them in the refrigerator and then wonder what the heck happened to make them shrivel, rot or go limp a few days later. Much of the time, the culprit is the way you’re storing them. To keep your produce fresher longer, remember:

Fruits and vegetables don’t play well together. So don’t store them together in a refrigerator drawer or next to each other on the counter or in the pantry. Why? Many fruits produce ethylene gas, which acts like a ripening hormone and can speed spoilage.

Vegetables need to breathe. Poke holes in the plastic bags you store them in, or keep them in reuseable mesh bags. An airtight plastic bag is the worst choice for storing vegetables, according to Barry Swanson, professor emeritus of food science at Washington State University. And don’t pack veggies tightly together, either; they need space for air circulation or they’ll spoil faster.

Don’t clean produce until you’re ready to use it. Washing fruits or vegetables before storing them makes them more likely to spoil, because dampness encourages bacteria growth, says food research scientist Amanda Deering of Purdue University.
(Illustrations by Tommy Perez/for The Washington Post)


Store at room temperature in an open container, to allow air circulation. Don’t take off a clove’s protective papery husk until you’re ready to prep. And it’s fine to store garlic next to its buddy, the onion.

Find some (clean) pantyhose. Add onions to each leg, tying knots between each one. Hang at room temperature. If that doesn’t appeal to you, onions can be stored like garlic at room temperature on a countertop. Just keep them away from potatoes. And don’t put them in the refrigerator: The humidity and cold temperature will cause onions to turn mushy. Storing them away from light also helps keep them from becoming bitter.


Keep them in a dark and cool place, but don’t refrigerate. The cold, damp air in the refrigerator causes their starches to turn into sugars, which can affect taste and texture. Store them in a paper bag — more breathable than plastic — in a coolish spot, such as a pantry. Keep them away from onions or fruits like apples that exude ethylene gas, which can make your spuds begin to sprout.


Cook’s Illustrated tested four ways of storing asparagus; the best one, hands down, was to trim a half-inch off the end of the stalks and then stand them up in a small amount of water (covered loosely with a plastic bag) in the refrigerator, like a bouquet. They stay fresh for about four days. Re-trim the ends before using.


First, trim off any green tops; they draw out moisture and cause carrots to go limp pretty quickly. Trimmed, unpeeled carrots can be refrigerated in an unsealed zip-top bag in the crisper drawer for about two weeks. Trimmed carrots (such as baby-cut carrots or carrot sticks) will last longer when kept submerged in a tightly covered container filled with water. Change the water frequently, Deering advises.


They last longer on the stem. Refrigerate the stem end in water and break off sprouts as needed. If you bought them as loose sprouts, refrigerate them unwashed and untrimmed in an unsealed zip-top bag in the crisper drawer. Trim off outer leaves before cooking. Keep in mind: The longer they’re stored, the stronger their flavor will be.

7. CUCUMBERS They hate to be cold. Anything below 50 degrees will cause them to spoil faster, according to researchers at the University of California at Davis. If you must refrigerate them, do it for no more than three days. Cucumbers also are sensitive to ethylene gas, so keep them away from bananas, melons and tomatoes.


To keep it crisp, refrigerate it wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, not plastic wrap, so the ethylene gas it produces can escape. Re-wrap tightly after each use. Store celery sticks like carrot sticks: submerged in water in a tightly covered container.

Stem side up or down? Refrigerator or countertop? The debate continues, but North Carolina tomato expert Craig LeHoullier, author of the upcoming “Epic Tomatoes,” says the evidence in favor of storing standard-size tomatoes stem side down, which Cook’s Illustrated magazine advised in 2008, is scant at best. It might help keep moisture from collecting around the stem and causing spoilage, he concedes, but “it really depends on the type of tomato: A thin-skinned, delicate heirloom will have a different result than a thick-skinned supermarket variety.” More important: Keep tomatoes out of the refrigerator if at all possible. The cold breaks down their cell structure, making them mushy. Once they ripen at room temperature, eat them at peak flavor or freeze them to use later in cooking.


Break up the bunch, as charming as it might look. Then wrap each stem in plastic wrap. That will reduce the emission of ethylene gas, and the bananas will ripen more slowly. Once a banana reaches the desired amount of ripeness, you can refrigerate it; the cold will keep it from ripening further.

Sagon, a former Food section staff writer, is a senior health editor at AARP.com.



Let the Body Rest, for the Sake of the Brain

Sleep deprivation can take a heavy mental toll.

I’m sure a lot of subway riders are skilled nappers, but this car seemed to be particularly talented. Going over the Brooklyn Bridge on a recent morning, just as the sun was coming up, a row of men in nearly identical black suits held on to the straps with their eyes closed. Their necks were bent at the slightest of angles, like a row of daisies in a breeze, and as the car clanged over the tracks and the sun pierced through the grimy train windows, it finally dawned on me they were all sound asleep. Not even the bumps and the light could stop them from sneaking in 15 more minutes of shut-eye before work.

We take it for granted, but most people have to wake up for work (or school or other morning obligations) long before they want to. Sleeping in is treated as a cherished luxury—it’s somehow become normal that people wake up still exhausted, and anything but is a notable exception.

But rising before the body wants to affects not only morale and energy, but brain function as well.

“The practice of going to sleep and waking up at ‘unnatural’ times could be the most prevalent high-risk behavior in modern society,” writes Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munch.

In fact, according to Roenneberg’s groundbreaking study in Current Biology, about one-third of people living in first-world countries are required to wake up two hours before their circadian clocks, or “natural waking times,” tell them to, and 69 percent of people have to wake up one hour before their bodies would like them to.

Of course, different people require different amounts of sleep and although there’s no universal rule for how long we should all be sleeping, it’s becoming increasingly clear that working late and waking early can cause serious problems. It’s not just repeated sleep deprivation that does people in, either. Just one restless night can seriously affect us in the morning.

Getting less than five hours of sleep a night makes people dumber and less able to concentrate, and it can make people more susceptible to false memories, according to a new study published in the September issue of Psychological Science. Led by Steven J. Frenda of the University of California, Irvine, the study found that of the 193 people tested, participants who slept for less than five hours a night were significantly more likely to say they had seen a news video when they in fact never had. The sleep-deprived group was also more suggestible. While recounting a personal story, 38 percent of them incorporated false information the researchers had given them, whereas only 28 percent of those who had more than five hours of sleep accepted the researchers’ false information in their story retelling. Frenda and his researchers postulate that not sleeping significantly disturbs our ability to encode information.

They also question the legitimacy of eyewitness testimonies in a court of law since, in this study, a good deal of people—especially those who didn’t get enough sleep—were susceptible to false memories. If someone goes on the stand after a sleepless night, it seems the chances are higher that he may misremember events.

The importance of sleep goes beyond courts and companies though. In the classroom, students who sleep more tend to be better at remembering what they’ve learned in the previous day than those who slept less, according to a 2001 study published in Science, and a 2014 study confirmed that more sleep leads to higher exam scores as well. Students who slept seven hours the night before an exam that tested them on economics, languages, and math, scored an average of 9 percent higher than students who only slept six hours the night before.

Getting less than five or six hours of sleep has also been connected to the inability to learn motor sequences. So before learning to play piano, first focus on getting proper sleep.

But there is the possibility of overriding the mind and body’s desire for sleep. By simply telling themselves they’ve slept well, studies show that people can temporarily trick their brains. Of course, continually getting too few hours of shut-eye will eventually cause problems, but telling yourself you got more sleep and that you feel refreshed (even if you don’t) leads to increased cognitive functioning in the morning, as evidenced by self-dupers who scored significantly higher on verbal fluency and neural processing tests.

The sleeping subway riders were also on to something. Even after a terrible night’s sleep, a 10-minute nap can significantly increase short-term alertness and improve problem-solving skills.

As we reached the Chambers Street subway station, the row of suited men and women seemed to instinctively know that they had arrived at their stop. In unison, they began to open their eyes and force themselves awake. Some gave themselves little slaps on their cheeks; others rubbed their eyes and temples. Then, like marionettes on a string, their spines straightened, their gazes turned straight ahead, and they clutched their briefcases and stepped out the door, onto the quay, up the stairs, and out onto the street, already noisy and awake.


Corn, Cheddar and Scallion Strata

corn, cheddar and scallion strata

I have a lot of feelings about lunch boxes, none of them especially genial. But as this teeny tiny person that I only just recently brought home from the hospital, barely able to utter a “beh” and now able to fill a 2-hour car ride back from a beach house with all the words every uttered (hm, wonder where he gets it) begins kindergarten this week, and will do so with a lunchbox in hand, I’ve realized that the only way to move forward with my grouchy feelings about lunch boxes is to air them here, in this town’s square, and then move on.

what you'll need, plus a lunchbox
three cobs because summer isn't over yet

And so here goes: I, Deb Perelman, resent lunch boxes. I resent that my friend Valerie can send her children to a French summer camp where they are served hot lunches (just the basics, like blanquette de veau, omelette aux champginons and, oh, a galette du rois) on real plates daily and the best my child can hope for is stuff like this. I resent that we don’t prioritize filling our children’s bellies with nutritional, balanced meals that will fuel them their growing bodies and brains through long school days, and that only parents with the means to (time or financially) can provide wholesome alternatives. I resent that I’m looking down the barrel of a decade or more of this, every single school day. And I resent that, on top of all this, if our summer months of packing lunch boxes for camp were any indication, at least half of the food will come back uneaten because a whole lot of places that ostensibly have children’s best interests in mind feed them cookies or crackers with ingredient lists as long as this blog post and juice in the middle of the morning as a snack, sometimes just an hour before lunchtime.

a good hearty miche

corn cut from cobs

And I know how terrible this makes me sound — whining about being lucky enough to have lunch options, problems which, believe me, I am very grateful to have — but I am a person that needs to vent, I need, yes, to also be allowed my tantrum (hm, wonder where he gets it), before I can move on and now I’m ready. Because life, as I’ve tried to explain with limited success to my (sniffle) kindergartener, is not about what you like and want as much as it is about how you handle what you dislike and don’t want.

all ready to go
adding the egg mixture

Plus, I wanted to tell you about this one thing that’s actually worked, if “worked” can be defined as coming home with an empty lunch box, asking for it again the next day and then even receiving an email from the teacher asking for the recipe because it looked so good. I am not sure I will achieve such great lunch box heights again, so we’re going to run with this. It was, of all things, the spinach strata I shared a few years ago as the perfect brunch dish for a crowd. Cubed bread, beaten eggs, milk, and a hearty helping of spinach and cheese cook together into a savory bread pudding that is nothing short of a dream for breakfast, lunch or even dinner. It’s also surprisingly packed lunch-friendly: it freezes well, reheats well and holds this warmth for hours. I figured that I was providing him with the grilled cheese sandwich he’d rather subsist on, while throwing in some protein, calcium and green vegetables that make me feel triumphant, or at least like I’m doing a passably okay job at this parenting gig, uh, today.

corn strata, from the oven

But it’s still summer out so I believe that this dish needs a winter’s-not-coming-yet lunchbox update. To get us ready for the big week ahead, I used a whole-wheat sourdough bread (miche), lots of sweet summer corn, sharp cheddar cheese and scallions. Unlike the spinach version, no sauteeing or even heating of ingredients is needed — you’ll just chop and assemble. You set it in the fridge overnight or at least for several hours and bake it when you’re ready. It can then be kept in the fridge for the rest of the week or frozen in foil-wrapped squares slide into a larger freezer bag, perfectly portioned to easily be reheated in the morning before school. The other sections of his lunchbox are usually filled with kid-approved fresh stuff: cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries and sometimes even a couple thin slices of salami. In an ideal world, the lunchbox will return empty and there will be no pre-dinner hangry meltdowns that result from mostly skipping lunch. But in the one where I actually live, we’re also going to need some after-school snacks for big and small people alike. More of that, soon.

corn, scallion and cheddar strata

* I missed you. I didn’t mean to abandon ship for almost two weeks, but the beach house we’d rented which promised wi-fi (also a/c, three bedrooms, details) didn’t have it, nor did it have a phone signal, thus I couldn’t use the wireless card I keep as a backup, which meant I couldn’t tell you about grilled herb and yogurt flatbreads as I’d planned but it also might have been for the best (well, for me) because it forced me to take a real vacation and it was kinda wonderful. I eeked out some Instagrams from the beach and various home-cooked meals, over here. Now, let’s make up for lost time!

New Category: Lunch! Lunch boxes may be more specific, but these are things that I think can work for all ages — whether you pack one for the office or just hope to have something easy to reheat at home in the middle of the day. I’m just populating it now; let me know if you think a dish in the archives is a great or beloved candidate for inclusion. Thanks!

Lunch Box Strategies: I’d love to hear about yours — what’s worked, what flops and how you managed the daily part of it without wearing out. I need tips!

One year ago: Butterscotch Pudding and Pink Lemonade Popsicles, and Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
Two years ago: Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake
Three years ago: Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar
Four years ago: Fresh Tomato Sauce and Peach Shortbread
Five years ago: Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
Six years ago: Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs, Dimply Plum Cake and Crisp Rosemary Flatbread
Seven years ago: White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Corn, Cheddar and Scallion Strata
Adapted from Gourmet’s 2003 spinach strata

I buy whole wheat sourdough in quarter loaves (which clock in at about or just under 1 pound) from the Le Pain Quotidien chain or Balthazar, inexpensively. Balthazar distributes to many grocery stores, as well. A baguette or country bread will also work here. You could deliciously replace the parmesan with a crumbly salted cheese such as feta, ricotta salata or queso fresco; use just 1/2 to 2/3 cup instead. In the spinach strata, 2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard are whisked into the egg mixture and it’s wonderful. But I (hangs head in shame) couldn’t resist replacing it here with a less earnest ingredient — mayonnaise. Obviously, if you loathe mayo, you should skip it or just use the Dijon. But if you like it, you probably already know how good it is with cooked corn and cheese.

Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon butter
3 cups fresh corn (cut from 3 small-to-average cobs)
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (both white and green parts from a 4-ounce bundle)
8 cups whole wheat, country or French bread in 1-inch cubes (weight will vary from 10 to 14 ounces, depending on bread type)
2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar
1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated parmesan
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional, see Note up top)
2 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons of a coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Generously butter a 3-quart baking dish (a lasagna or 9×13-inch pan works well here too). Toss corn and scallions together in a medium bowl. Combine cheeses in another bowl. In a large bowl, gently beat eggs and mayo together, then whisk in milk, salt and lots (or, if measuring, 1/2 teaspoon) of freshly ground black pepper. Spread one-third of bread cubes in prepared baking dish — it will not fully cover bottom of dish; this is fine. Add one-third of corn, then cheese mixture. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, corn and cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake strata, uncovered, until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Do ahead: Strata keeps baked in the fridge for 4 days or longer in the freezer, wrapped well. It reheats wonderfully, either from the fridge or freezer and holds up well in lunch boxes.


This Symptom-Checker App Lets You Keep A Digital Doctor In Your Pocket

This Symptom-Checker App Lets You Keep A Digital Doctor In Your Pocket

Sharecare’s new personalized symptom-checker app, AskMD, empowers consumers to take greater control over their health information.

Chances are, you’ve felt sick and decided to Google your symptoms instead of making a trip to the doctor’s. But conducting online research about your potential health conditions can be daunting, and the results are often impersonal and inaccurate.

Sharecare, the Atlanta-based digital platform for expert health information, is trying to help consumers take the guesswork out of at-home diagnoses with AskMD, a free, iOS 7-exclusive app out today. The app takes you through a highly personalized, step-by-step consultation that narrows down your possible health conditions to the best possible matches for you.

“There are other symptom checkers out there, but it’s like you answer two questions and it gives you the top 80 things that I and every other woman in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 65 may have,” says Sharecare’s chief doctor and executive vice president of clinical strategy, Darria Long Gillespie. “People are eating it up, because that’s the best that exists right now. But it’s really pretty mediocre as far as anything personalized.”

Each feature in AskMD is designed to make the app experience feel like a mini, virtual trip to the doctor’s office. A home screen greets you in a conversational tone and prompts you to describe what’s wrong. From there, AskMD will guide you through a series of targeted questions with the goal of matching your symptoms to just a handful of possible causes (rather than 80). The app asks fairly specific questions about when your symptoms began and how bad your pain is on a scale of 1 to 10, mimicking those your real-life doctor is trained to ask you during a visit.

AskMD also considers factors like your age, gender, height, and weight, as well as your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and current medication when coming up with possible causes. The app supports multiple profiles, which means caregivers with children or who work with the elderly can consult for others in addition to themselves.

AskMD isn’t simply about finding your likeliest diagnosis. Once you’ve used AskMD to flag down a probable cause for your symptoms, the app will guide you through a “Find Physicians” option that helps you find a doctor based on your location and health insurance provider. The “Find Physicians” option is also key to AskMD’s plan to monetize the app by selling sponsorships to hospitals and medical organizations in exchange for promoted placement.

Although AskMD is designed for everyday consumers, it’s powered by medical diagnosis software originally created for use by military doctors, as well as a database of the industry’s top journals and textbooks, and constantly updated physician guidelines.

But Long Gillespie, Sharecare’s chief doctor, says AskMD isn’t meant to be a substitute for your physician’s professional care–after all, it’s an app.

“[AskMD] does not include a physical examination or EKGs or lab tests, things I would have at my power if I were testing you in the office,” she says. “That’s a strict limitation, so we don’t try to give one single diagnosis.

Beyond the desire to help users demystify their immediate symptoms, Long Gillespie and Toni Pashley, Sharecare’s VP of product and user experience, also hope AskMD will pique consumers’ interest in finding out more about their health history, inspiring them to take greater control of their health information in the process.

“When you get into the physician’s office we want to be able to make you feel empowered and give you the right questions, making you a better historian about your health,” Pashley says.

The Power of Drug Color via The Atlantic

The Power of Drug Color


A pill’s hue can affect how it’s judged by patients, how it’s marketed, and even how well it works.

The first time drug kingpin Tuco Salamanca tries Walter White’s characteristically blue meth on the AMC drama Breaking Bad, his priorities are straightforward: He doesn’t care about color, he just wants to get high. “Blue, yellow, pink, whatever man,” he says. “Just keep bringing me that!”

But as fans of the show already know, White’s business soon becomes all about the blue—from drug addicts to rival producers, everyone wants White’s signature tint.

The fictional meth manufacturer isn’t the only one who understands the importance of drug color—on both sides of the law, it’s a key part of branding. Viagra is famously known as “the little blue pill,” Nexium is marketed as “the purple pill,” and street names for illicit drugs run through the whole rainbow. But there are also subtler and arguably more important roles for drug colorants. They’re not there just to make a drug look pretty.

Tuco may have been surprised to learn, for example, that meth of a different color may have improved his high. Studies have shown that we associate drug colors with specific effects that stretch far beyond brand recognition. Once we’ve tricked our brains into making the association, it actually becomes real. The placebo effect comes into play and the drug is more effective.

Imagine burning your skin and treating the pain with a cream. Is your imaginary cream white? Now picture it red. Would you trust the cream to work as well? If you had a moment of pause there, you’re not alone. Multiple trials—some with placebos, others with active drugs—have shown that patients’ color-effect associations can impact a drug’s efficacy by measuring physical signs like heart rate and blood pressure. Pharmaceutical companies are well aware of these associations and carry out extensive related research when developing new products or rebranding old ones.

Blue pills, contrary to what Breaking Bad may have you believe, act best as sedatives. Red and orange are stimulants. Cheery yellows make the most effective antidepressants, while green reduces anxiety and white soothes pain. Brighter colors and embossed brand names further strengthen these effects—a bright yellow pill with the name on its surface, for example, may have a stronger effect than a dull yellow pill without it.

When researchers take culture into account, things get a bit more complicated. For instance, the sedative power of blue doesn’t work on Italian men. The scientists who discovered this anomaly think it’s due to ‘gli Azzuri’ (the Blues), Italy’s national soccer team—because they associate the color blue with the drama of a match, it actually gets their adrenaline pumping. And yellow’s connotations change in Africa, where it’s associated with better antimalarial drugs, as eye whites can turn yellowish when a person is suffering from the disease. (Interestingly, this is the opposite of the norm. Just like with the burned-skin example, drugs usually work better when their color matches the intended outcome, not the symptoms of the condition they’re treating). Such cultural variances are one reason why a drug may appear totally different in separate countries.

Color also has more a more practical role in drug manufacturing. In light-sensitive products, tints can lend opacity, keeping active ingredients stable. Color, together with shape, also aids drug recognition. This ensures that drugs aren’t mixed up during production or packaging—a scenario that would have terrible repercussions for patient safety as well as brand reputation. And color’s role in drug recognition is equally important at the patient level, preventing accidental overdose by helping patients on multiple drugs to recognize each one. This is most relevant to the elderly, who are often on multiple drugs and may be dealing with complications from eyesight degeneration or dementia. It’s also a bonus to healthcare workers, who have to give out lots of different drugs in a short space of time. Color’s role here shouldn’t be taken lightly; five percent of all United States hospital patients receive incorrect medication.

But color-effect associations can also backfire—while a drug’s hue acts as a mental imprint, reminding people to take their medications, this also means that patients are also likely to stop their medication regimen if drug colors are changed. This is one of the reasons why drug manufacturers ferociously guard their designs and colors with patents, and generic companies try so hard to resemble them.

So no matter what Tuco Salamanca may say in a moment of meth-induced euphora, the choice between blue, yellow, or pink actually matters quite a bit—and it’s anything but random.

Excessive worry in middle-aged women linked to higher Alzheimer’s risk

By Fredrick Kunkle October 1 at 4:54 PM

Here’s something to worry about: a recent study suggests that middle-aged women whose personalities tend toward the neurotic run a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

The study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden followed a group of women in their 40s, whose disposition made them prone to anxiety, moodiness and psychological distress, to see how many developed dementia over the next 38 years.

In line with other research, the study suggested that women who were the most easily upset by stress – as determined by a commonly used personality test – were two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than women who were least prone to neuroticism.

In other words, personality really is, in some ways, destiny.

“Most Alzheimer’s research has been devoted to factors such as education, heart and blood risk factors, head trauma, family history and genetics,” study author Lena Johansson said in a written statement. “Personality may influence the individual’s risk for dementia through its effect on behavior, lifestyle or reactions to stress.”

The researchers cautioned that the results cannot be extrapolated to men because they were not included in the study and that further work is needed to determine possible causes for the link.

The study, which appeared Wednesday in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal, Neurology, examined 800 women whose average age in 1968 was 46 years to see whether neuroticism – which involves being easily distressed and subject to excessive worry, jealousy or moodiness – might have a bearing on the risk of dementia.

Their personalities were assessed using the Eysenck Personality Inventory, a commonly administered test to rate a person’s disposition, emotional stability and relative tendency toward introversion, which is associated with shyness or reserve, or extraversion, which is used to describe more outgoing people.

The women also were asked to rate their levels of stress based on self-reported evaluations conducted in 1968, 1974, 1980, 2000 and 2005. (The question they were asked was, “Have you experienced any period of stress [1 month or longer] in relation to circumstances in everyday life, such as work, health, or family situation?”) Stress was defined as anything stirring feelings of anxiety, irritability, tension, fear, nervousness or sleep disturbances.

Diagnoses of dementia were based on neuropsychiatric examinations, interviews with people close to the participants and others, and medical records. The mean age for onset of dementia was 78 years.

Of the 800 who began the study, 153 women developed dementia, including 104 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia.

Those women who scored highest on the scale of neuroticism had double the risk of developing dementia compared with those who scored the lowest – although the link also depended on whether the subjects also felt subjected to long-term stress.

Being extroverted or introverted on its own did not appear to heighten the risk of dementia, although the study found that women who were easily distressed and also tended to be introverted were at the highest risk of Alzheimer’s.

The researchers said possible explanations for the link could be that a person’s personality affects behavior and lifestyle, and that people who are rated low on neuroticism engage in practices that promote healthier metabolic, cardiovascular and inflammatory responses. It’s also possible that the combination of sustained stress and neuroticism has been shown to cause functional and structural changes in parts of the brain that control emotion, cognition and memory and are most affected by dementia.


Bring on the (actual) pumpkin

Bring on the (actual) pumpkin

This recipe is a healthful spin on pumpkin pancakes

The Baked Pumpkin Oat Pancakes. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
By Elaine Gordon September 30

It’s October, which means pumpkin season is in full swing, with a flood of pumpkin-flavored treats: pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pastries and pumpkin beers. There is even such a thing as pumpkin pie vodka. What’s missing from these festive seasonal delights? Pumpkin! This fall, I challenge you to go beyond the pumpkin pie spice and sugar. Incorporate this nutritious squash into your recipes.

Pumpkin is a favorite food of fall. But did you know it is also packed with disease-fighting nutrients? Pumpkin has been deemed a “superfood,” and for good reason. It contains powerful antioxidants known as carotenoids that can protect cells from free radical damage. It also offers fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, folate, potassium and vitamins A, C, E and K. Canned pumpkin is packed with these nutrients, too.

Baked Pumpkin Oat Pancakes

“Healthful” and “pancakes” don’t usually belong in the same sentence. Traditional pancakes contain buttermilk, butter, oil, sugar and refined flour drowning in syrup (and sometimes topped with confectioner’s sugar, too).

The Harvest Grain ’N Nut pancakes from IHOP sound like a healthful option, but four pancakes (with butter) will run you 680 calories, 37 grams of fat and 19 grams of sugar.
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Elaine Gordon, a certified health education specialist, offers her picks for everything from breakfast to dessert.
Light Peach Cobbler This version of a summer classic more than satisfies any craving for a peachy treat without butter/dairy, oil, refined sugar or gluten. Find the recipe here. Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post

At Bob Evans, a stack of four Apple Cinnamon Supreme Sweet and Stacked Hotcakes has a whopping 1,180 calories, 33 grams of fat and 89 grams of sugar.

And packaged pancake mixes are hardly packed with nutrient-dense foods: Ingredient lists contain bleached flours, hydrogenated oils, buttermilk, sugar and/or corn syrup, many unrecognizable ingredients and artificial flavorings.

You can see the benefit of homemade pancakes with real, whole-food, natural ingredients: You control not only the ingredients, but also the preparation and serving size.

This Baked Pumpkin Oat Pancake recipe is a healthful spin on pumpkin pancakes. It features a preferable cooking method: baking instead of pan-frying. So you don’t even need oil. Just grab some parchment paper so the cakes don’t stick to your baking sheet. It makes for an easy cleanup, too. And, of course, it contains actual pumpkin puree, as opposed to just spices or flavorings.

One serving (five cakes) contains only 200 calories, 4 grams of fat and no cholesterol. The recipe uses whole grains (brown rice flour and oat flour) and ingredients such as flaxseed and almond milk, and it contains no butter or oil. One serving offers more than twice your recommended vitamin A intake.

Top the pancakes with your favorite nut butter for added protein; they’re also great with a drizzle of pure maple syrup or a dab of pumpkin butter.

My 18-month-old toddler gobbles up the pancakes without any toppings. They are portable and make for an easy on-the-go breakfast for all ages.

No time to make pancakes in the morning? You can make them ahead and store them in the refrigerator for three to five days. Or store them in the freezer, putting parchment paper in between each pancake to prevent them from sticking. In either case, use a microwave or toaster to reheat them.

Recipe Finder The Post’s Food section has more healthful recipes at washingtonpost.com/recipes .

Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is creator of the healthful recipe site EatingbyElaine.com. Find her on Twitter at @EatingbyElaine.


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