Category Archives: Healthy Eating

Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes

Yams, sweet potatoes, what’s the diff? The Victor crew wanted to look into this.

Most stores label what we see in the produce section a yam. But you are most likely seeing a sweet potato. In the U.S. most yams are only found in ethnic or world markets. Sweet potatoes are not a type of yam. Yams are not sweet potatoes. They come from two different species and from different countries.

Real yams are native to Africa and Asia and related to lilies. They can be as small as a potato or as big as five feet long. Their skin is dark and bark-like. They are starchier, drier, and not as sweet as a sweet potato.

A sweet potato has skin ranging from white to brown, including purple or orange. There are two types – those with firmer flesh and those with softer flesh. Here in the U.S., the softer sweet potato is commonly labeled a yam. If you look at a can of what is labeled “Yams”, you will also see somewhere on the label that it is a sweet potato. Sweet potatoes have a lot of Vitamin A while yams do not.

Here are some videos that may help clear it up along with a PDF from the University of California Cooperative Extension.

Happy 2018 Thanksgiving!

The Victor crew wondered why turkey for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is such a big meal in the United States. When you think of the Thanksgiving Day meal, it’s usually turkey and all that goes with it, like mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

The first Thanksgiving in 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Indians in the Plymouth colony consisted of foods native to the land. That would include waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clam, berries, fruit, pumpkin, squash, and wild turkey. By 1857, turkey had become a traditional part of the Thanksgiving dinner in New England. Under President Lincoln in 1863, Thanksgiving became a national holiday.

Turkey is so embroiled into our culture as a Thanksgiving staple that some call it Turkey Day. I’ve even heard people jokingly say, “Happy Bird Day”. In 1947, the National Turkey Federation started presenting the President of the U.S. with a turkey prior to Thanksgiving. They were prepared and eaten by the president up until 1989 where they have since been pardoned.


Ways to cook a turkey

With Thanksgiving coming next week, the Victor crew found there are many, many ways to prepare and cook a turkey. There are many things you can add. We did some searching to see what some people were doing. Many are not healthy or recommended but you knew that!

For prep, some people use brine, some use dry brine, some use a dry rub, some put flavored butter, oil or mayo under the skin. Some put oil or butter on the skin with herbs. Some stuff the bird with stuffing (even though it is not recommended) and some stuff with more herbs, vegetables, or even clementines or apples. Some people use a glaze or marinate or baste while it’s cooking. You can weave bacon and put it on top. Then there’s the classic White Castle hamburger stuffing (see video below). Inject it with vodka. Here’s a recipe for a turdunkin’ – using Dunkin’ Coolatas in the brine.

For cooking, there is baking, roasting, convection roasting, frying, air frying, smoking, cooking on a grill, slow cooking. I have even tried cooking breast side down on a rack as it’s supposed to make the breast juicier. You can’t leave it that way or it will look like the Michelin man. You can dehydrate it or make jerky. Cook it on a beer can upright and with the can shoved into the cavity. Make a turducken. You can spatchcock it – cut in half part-way through and cook opened up. There’s always sous vide – boiling it in a bag.

Ever wonder how safe your water is?

You can find out how safe your water is in your area. You can go to and put in your zip code and find out what, if any, contaminants are in the water you drink. After you put in your zip code, you can select your water company. When I did that, I found there are 7 contaminants above the health guidelines along with 10 additional contaminants. The report on my water is for up to 2015 so it could be a little out of date. You can see how many ppb in your area, your state’s, and national standard.

The seven cancer-causing contaminants found were:
bromodichloromethane – formed by chlorine or disinfectants used to treat the water
chloroform – also formed by chlorine or disinfectants
chromium (hexavalent) – may be due to industrial pollution or natural occurrences in groundwater
dibromochloromethane – also formed by chlorine or other disinfectants; may cause problems during pregnancy
radiological contaminants – radium and uranium – can be leached from minerals or mining; increased risk of cancer; may harm fetus
tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) – dry cleaning chemical, can cause cancer
total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) – this includes the ones above that are formed by chlorine and are cancer-causing contaminants.

The other contaminants found were
1,4-dioxane – a solvent from industrial waste water
barium – mineral in rocks, too much can cause cardio-vascular issues
bromoform – a TTHM
chlorate – byproduct of disinfection
chromium (total) – natural metal that can increase from industrial uses
fluoride – added to drinking water
haloacetic acids (HAA5) – from disinfectants like chlorine
nitrate – fertilizer chemical
strontium – a metal that can accumulate in the bones – can cause cancer and leukemia
vanadium – a metal used in steels and alloys; toxic in pregnancy and childhood

We had installed a filtering system when we first moved here along with a separate drinking water filter so I do not have to worry about contaminants.

Eat Organic

There is a new study that concludes organic foods could help ward off cancer. The JAMA Internal Medicine study stated that those who eat organic foods lowered the risk of developing cancer.

In France, a team of scientists looked at what over 68,000 adults ate for over four years. They then divided them into four categories, dependent on what they ate like organic produce, meat and fish, supplements, etc. The group that ate mostly organic foods were 25% less likely to develop cancer. Specifically non-Hodgkins lymphoma and post-menopausal breast cancer.

The reasons for not consuming organic foods was addressed from the group that didn’t eat organic. Some were price, limited availability, or lack of interest in it. One surprising statement was that more than 90% of us in the United States have detectable pesticides in our urine and blood.

What might be left unclear is how much pesticide exposure one may have outside of food consumption. What about those who may have had pesticide treatments on their lawns or gardens? If you eat out a lot, you may be getting more exposure to conventional foods in that way.

Source: JAMA