Hot Stuff, Winter 2001
- It's in the bones (Winter 2001)
- Flavorful 4-H (Winter 2001)
- A kitchen for the community (Winter 2001)
- Help, my mouth's on fire! (Winter 2001)
It's in the bones
|Get the picture: Low-power scanning electron micrographs show a normal bone (left) and an osteoporotic bone. NMSU nutritional scientist Ann Bock says consuming calcium throughout life helps prevent osteoporosis. (Scans reproduced from the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 1986; 1:15-21 with permission of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.)|
Teens will be able to bone up on ways to fit more calcium into their diets with a new interactive CD-ROM under development at NMSU.
The project is part of a $3.75 million, four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the bone health of teens and encourage them to continue eating foods rich in calcium throughout their lives.
Researchers from five universities-NMSU, Purdue, Hawaii, Nevada-Reno and Utah State-are collaborating on the grant. The project builds on information gained from a long-term, regional study involving 10 Western states that considered motivators and barriers to consuming calcium among Anglo, Hispanic and Asian teens.
"Consuming calcium throughout our lives is important in preventing osteoporosis later in life," says Ann Bock, a nutritional scientist with NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station. "Most of our bone calcium is laid down by the time we reach the age of 18 to 22. But well before that-around the age of 11-we've found that calcium intake drops off significantly."
Bock says there is a "mom factor" associated with calcium consumption. "Kids continue to consume calcium as long as mom still has some influence," she says. But once that influence wanes as children hit adolescence, calcium intake drops.
One reason for the decrease may be that teens often enjoy snacking between meals-getting 25 to 33 percent of their energy and nutrients from snacks like cookies, sandwiches, sweets and ice cream. While high in energy, these foods usually contain few nutrients, Bock explains.
Another factor may be the increase in the number of meals families eat away from home. Between 1970 and 1995, the percentage of the American food budget spent on eating out increased from 25 to 40 percent. Restaurant and fast food meals often lack calcium-rich foods.
Gender and culture also affect eating habits, Bock says. For example, girls are likely to be more concerned with the fat and calories associated with some calcium-rich foods than boys.
Milk isn't the main source of calcium in some cultures. Asian kids may get their calcium from soy products and seaweed, while Hispanic kids are more likely to get it from cheese and beans.
These differences illustrate the need to target specific teen audiences with information about the importance of consuming calcium to improve bone health. "One size doesn't fit all," Bock says.
The CD-ROM, to be developed by staff with NMSU's agricultural communications department, will include educational games, videos and other interactive features. The information will be based on content developed by researchers in Hawaii.
The CD-ROM should appeal to today's "technology kids," Bock says.
The effectiveness of the technology will be tested with Anglo, Asian and Hispanic girls ages 11-12. Bone scans taken before and after teens use the CD-ROM will look for any changes in bone density. The more calcium that accumulates in the bones, the less likely the girls will develop osteoporosis later in life.
In addition, the researchers will collect baseline data about the girls' calcium consumption and any genetic markers related to bone density andlactose intolerance.
Bock says the results of the study will be used to develop consumer education programs for youth programs like 4-H, health care providers and schools throughout the nation.
|Flipping for 4-H: Claire Baca makes a tortilla as part of the New Mexico Flavor 4-H project.|
Kids in 4-H are getting a taste of New Mexico's traditions and culture as they learn how to make breads, beef jerky, calabacitas, chile con queso and nonfat tortilla chips.
Three cultural education projects-New Mexico Flavor, Uniquely New Mexico and New Mexico Round-Up-were created by NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service to help teach valuable citizenship and leadership skills through baking and gardening. The kids also learn about traditional farming, ranching and rodeo activities in the state.
"This curriculum, which appeals to both boys and girls, is geared just for New Mexico and can be used by every county in the state," says Darlene Dickson, state 4-H specialist. "In it, children learn about and appreciate the history and culture of the state."
4-H members grow corn, chile, pumpkins and pinto beans. They also make ristras, corn husk dolls, piñatas, ropes and woven mats. All the while, these children are learning about New Mexico rangeland, pioneer life and their own county.
In the New Mexico Round-Up project, children are introduced to a Food Guide Pyramid designed just for New Mexico with native foods like tortillas, lamb, chile and pecans.
"The New Mexico version includes cultural foods that you just wouldn't see in the regular pyramid," Dickson says.
Members are encouraged to demonstrate leadership and citizenship skills through teaching others how to bake or grow things they have learned about and by donating items or time to community activities.
More than 70,000 New Mexico youth are involved in 4-H and more than 200 are participating in the cultural education projects.
"I think it's a wonderful integrated curriculum that reflects our culture and heritage through food, gardening, state history, farming and many other activities," Dickson says.
Thirteen-year-old Claire Baca from Santa Fe County recently participated in the New Mexico Flavor curriculum. She made a recipe box, prepared tortillas and quesadillas, and grew green peppers and Big Jim chile.
"I love New Mexican food," she says. "It was fun to grow chile, but next year I need to plant earlier so I can harvest in time for the county fair."
A kitchen for the community
|Cookin' up plans: Architectural drawings for a community cocina at Court Youth Center get an inspection from Cindy Castañeda, art apprentice; Christopher Reed, safe after-school program participant; Irene Oliver-Lewis, center executive director; and Keith Mandabach, NMSU assistant professor of hotel, restaurant and tourism management.|
A "community cocina" at Court Youth Center will bring the aromas and job opportunities of the culinary arts into the lives of Las Crucens.
Once new facilities are built, a culinary arts program at the center will serve hospitality students, welfare-to-work participants and cooking enthusiasts.
Working with a host of community groups, NMSU won a $370,000 grant for Hispanic-serving institutions from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant will cover construction of professional kitchens, demonstration classrooms, a serving area and a fully equipped bakery.
"Our role is to give this facility to the community," says Keith Mandabach, NMSU assistant professor of hotel, restaurant and tourism management and a certified chef.
Though the cocina won't be complete until late 2001, supporters are already salivating about the possibilities.
"We can smell the bakery already," says Irene Oliver-Lewis, executive director of the center, which opened in 1996 in the renovated Court Junior High. The center's after-school programs have reached more than 15,000 children and youth through partnerships with the Las Cruces Public Schools and the City of Las Cruces.
A local committee will schedule classes, after-school activities and summer cooking institutes in the cocina. "We envision a lot of different levels of usage, from students who are working toward degrees to people who'd like to take a French cooking class," Oliver-Lewis says.
The new facilities will provide badly needed lab space for hospitality classes at local high schools and Doña Ana Branch Community College (DABCC).
"This kitchen will be a place for our students to do hands-on catering and cooking," says Candice McDonald, career education coordinator for the Las Cruces Public Schools. "We don't have laboratories like this in the schools."
This year, the district began using the National Restaurant Association's ProStart curriculum, a two-year program that gives high school students the opportunity to earn national certification, work experience and credit toward college degrees, McDonald says.
Teens could progress from high school hospitality classes to the two-year community college program to a bachelor's degree from NMSU, thanks to articulation agreements among the schools.
"They could finish with six years of education and several hundred hours of work experience, which puts them in good standing for the job market," says John Hartley, DABCC hospitality instructor and Court Youth Center board member.
At the cocina, students from NMSU's hotel, restaurant and tourism management department will be able to serve the community as they sharpen their culinary skills. Besides course work, hospitality students must complete an internship and 400 hours of practical work experience that often includes volunteering for community events.
"They're not only learning how to work in the kitchen, but they're also learning how to contribute to the community, which is a really important part of education, in my opinion," Mandabach says.
Welfare-to-work training at the center could prepare participants for jobs in the fast-growing hospitality field. The New Mexico Works project, administered through NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, is a partner in the grant.
Training and hands-on experience puts students on the fast track to higher-paying management positions, Mandabach and Hartley say.
"There are good jobs in the hospitality business, and the pay keeps leapfrogging as skills increase," Mandabach says. "Many of the jobs are entrepreneurial-opening businesses that provide jobs for other people."
There will be room at the community cocina's table for people of many ages and interests, Oliver-Lewis says. "It's just like being at home with family," she says. "You always end up congregating in the kitchen."
Help, my mouth's on fire!
|Fired-up research: NMSU senior Rochelle Garnanez prepares to take a swig of Tabasco solution and hold it in her mouth for 15 seconds as part of research on chile's mouth-burning effects.|
To quench the burn from a mouthful of hot chile, New Mexicans reach for foods like milk, tortillas, beer and ice cream.
Though some swear by these folk remedies, researchers are still trying to find out if sweet, bitter or fatty foods can help beat the heat of capsaicin, chile's mouth-burning compound.
In past studies, tasters have tried high-fat butter, bland rice and acidic pineapple juice-without relief, says Lisa McKee, NMSU food science researcher.
"Capsaicin forms a strong, long-lasting bond with the recetors on tastebuds, creating a lingering burn," McKee says. "In fact, we know that people who eat a lot of hot chile seem to become desensitized to its heat."
Rochelle Garnanez, an NMSU senior human nutrition and food science major, wanted to see if sugars could soothe the sting. She carried out an experiment for the McNair program, which prepares first-generation and minority students for graduate school.
Garnanez worked with a sensory panel of seven tasters who held a solution of diluted hot sauce in their mouths for 15 seconds, rated the burn and spit it out. The weak solution, made from Tabasco sauce leftovers, created a detectable burn that wasn't as hot as a typical picante sauce. "No flaming hot stuff," Garnanez says.
Next, tasters held a sugar solution in their mouths, spit it out and waited for the burn to return. The solutions contained one of three sugars: mild lactose or milk sugar; sucrose or table sugar; and intensely sweet fructose, a component in corn syrup.
The bottom line was that all liquids-even water-stopped the burn temporarily. "As soon as they spit it out, the burn came back," McKee says.
Tasters said syrupy fructose solution seemed a bit better than the other sugars, perhaps because it helped coat the mouth and distract the taste receptors, Garnanez says. Chilled liquids also seemed more comforting, probably because the brain focuses on the new cold sensation, distracting it from the burn.
Though the study found no cure for mouth burn, it's fueling discussions among scientists and chileheads. Garnanez presented her research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in November and created a poster for the Borderland Regional McNair Conference in Albuquerque. McKee plans to share the find-ings at the New Mexico Chile Conference in February.