You Say Potato…

Maureen Storey, PhD , President and CEO of Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE)  recently wrote “Last week, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its letter report recommending that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allow participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to buy white potatoes with the cash value voucher (CVV) for fruits and vegetables. This recommendation recognizes that white potatoes are significant sources of potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin C, which are nutrients critical to a healthy diet for all ages.”

PotatoesSliced1414350

Photo credit: Thoursie, 1414350, freeimages.com

This news is not only important for WIC participants but a good reminder for all, of the many healthful benefits potatoes bring to a regular diet.  Yet, the average American does eat potatoes and regularly, so why is this news, well…news? The average American consumes 75 pounds of potatoes annually. However, most of this consumption comes in the form of French fries and potato chips. In this form, you lose almost all of the natural healthful benefits potatoes provide. Potatoes are a source of complex carbohydrates and minerals, most notably potassium (location in the skin) and a source of vegetable protein. When eaten in combination with meat, dairy or grains potatoes form a complete protein.

Another fantastic thing about potatoes is that it is a major local crop for us living in Portage County, Wisconsin. It is a healthy, low-cost source of nutrients and incredibly easy to store and a go-to stable during the long winter months. Most potatoes will keep up to 2 weeks, it is best to store away from the light (I keep my potatoes in a caldron under the sink) and at or a little below room temperature.

In addition to being local, low-cost and nutrient packed, potatoes are incredibly versatile and easy to introduce into any dish or method of cooking. Potatoes are delicious baked, microwaved, roasted, mashed, boiled added to soups, salads, omelets and stir-fries.

With literally hundreds of potato varieties in the world, what makes the potato such a vegetable diamond in the rough, is a combination of its versatility in cooking, accessibility both locally and in questions of affordability and it’s incredible source of nutrients. I applaud, along with Dr. Storey, the IOM’s recommendations and hope these decisions bring our community one step closer to healthy eating and active living!

by Ashley J. Ormson

Winter Bike to Work

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Photo credit: ‘kianee’, 86421, freeimages.com

I must confess, I have never taken my bike off its winter rack to go for a ride, much less considered it as a viable winter commuting method. However, when I was approached regarding this topic my interest was piqued. Not because I originally thought it would be fun to ride my bike to work in central-Wisconsin through blistering winter temperatures or through snow, salt, sand and ice. But, I began to pay attention on my own commute (in my car) and I noticed something: people do bike to work on a daily basis, even in winter. I started to consider the holistic benefit of commuting on two wheels rather than four. Commuting by bike would result in fewer miles on the car, which could extend its life span, less need for routine maintenance or filling up at the pump. Also, could the euphoria I feel after a 5:30 am work out, which makes the days seem to fly by quicker and increase my ability to accomplish tasks more efficiently, become even more pronounced with an added morning bicycle commute?

I spoke with a friend who is an avid winter commuter. She said it’s really not that hard, and takes only a few more minutes than her commute by car. Having the right combination of layers and protective gear is a must. But what about the actual bike? Do you need a new one, or a special one to make winter commuting viable? No, in fact, she advised, you probably would want a basic, second-hand resale bike.

So, next I pulled up google search and began reading up on winter biking. The advice, encouragement and information amounted to convince me even further than winter biking in Central Wisconsin is not only doable, but could be a lot of fun! If you’re more like me, though, you may want to start slow and progress. Or wait until spring to feel more comfortable in the saddle. Whatever your initial feelings toward winter bike commuting, or bicycle commuting in general, I urge you to do your own research and talk to people who already are commuting every day in areas just like our own in Central-Wisconsin. Ask their advice on how to get started and what tips they have up their sleeves for maintaining a successful commute, even through winter!

by Ashley J. Ormson

Use Variety to Get Your Heart Pumping

The month of February is closely associated with hearts: heart shaped Valentine’s Day Natural sign of love - heart made from small tomatoescards, heart shaped candies, and heart health awareness month. Researching heart health can become overwhelming. The amount and scope of literature and advice available on heart health is tremendous. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans, it progresses slowly, and often we do not notice the changes in how our bodies feel until we seek treatment. However, reading between the scientific and professional lines, and the harrowing “do’s” and “don’ts” is a very simple truth: variety is one key to heart health.

The advice is to consciously incorporate a daily variety of fruits and vegetables. If we consume a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables, our hearts reap the health benefits. As we know in Central Wisconsin, we may have several more months before fresh produce will be on the shelves of our local grocer or farmer’s market. With this being said, frozen fruits and vegetables make a wonderful alternative when fresh and seasonal are not available. Enjoy the last of the root vegetables and squashes before spring greens and berries arrive on the scene!

In addition to incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetable into our diet, variety in physical activity is another important key to heart health. Diversity can ensure that you do not become bored with the same walk around the block, or 3 mile run on the treadmill. It also ensures that your heart receives an assortment of healthy stresses to make it stronger. Just like variety in food choices helps avoid the feeling of stale meals, so too does the variety in physical activity keep you from hitting a plateau.

The science behind cardiovascular health can be confusing, so just remember the simple axiom: variety is the key to a healthy heart. Challenge yourself to constantly vary your activities and foods and give your heart a better place to live! You are what you eat, and what you do, so make a promise to yourself to honor your heart’s home by eating the rainbow and exercising regularly.

by Ashley J. Ormson

Bike to Work and School 2015

Biking in Downtown Stevens Point, 2014

Biking in Downtown Stevens Point, 2014

Be part of a fun, free and fit national event! Portage County offers many opportunities for the individual looking to incorporate physical activity into their routine. Green Options Portage County (GoPoCo) is just one of many groups working to bring more opportunities to you! Formerly known as the Bike to Work Group, GoPoCo celebrated National Bike to Work Week in 2014 by having the Mayor signing a formal declaration of Stevens Point’s participation in National Bike to Work Week and Day for years to come!

With busy schedules and hard deadlines, physical activity can sometimes be hard to fit into our limited 24 hour days. Yet, you don’t need to plan for an hour bike ride, a 15 minute commute to and from work on your bike is enough to get your healthy heart pumping!

Biking is something that Stevens Point and Portage County is known for, with the Green Circle Trail only a short distance to almost all residential areas and many other biking routes within our county limits. Biking to work is a great way to keep your wallet thicker, your waistline thinner and the air cleaner.

When you bike to work, you join a growing community of people who care about their health and their environment. Biking with your family and friends also builds community and the foundation for healthy lifestyle choices.

Ask your church, club, or employer to join GoPoCo in celebrating National Bike to Work Week May 11 – 15 and Bike to School Day on May 6! Let your group know physical activity is important to you, and keeps you healthy, happy, and productive!

Here are some examples of how local organizations supported GoPoCo and National Bike to Work and School observances in 2014:

  • Gave a promotional item (e.g. cup of coffee) for customers who arrived by bicycle or mass transit
  • Organized recreational bike rides for employees and the community
  • Hosted friendly competitions amongst employees
  • Posted  information (posters/website/social media) to promote “Bike to Work and School” activities

If you would like more ideas on how you can be part of this year’s celebration, please contact Thomas Wetter, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Human Development at the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point: Tom.Wetter@uwsp.edu, or phone: 715-346-3659.

by Ashley J. Ormson