kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Every time I have a piece of plastic ready to go into the recycling bin, I think of my friend who is much more knowledgable than I about these matters. She informed me that it is worse to send a piece of plastic to recycling that doesn’t belong in recycling than to just throw it in the trash. And, why does a nutritionist include environmental issues on her blog? If we don’t take care of Mother Earth, she cannot take care of us. Remember that we are what we put into and onto our bodies and the good stuff comes directly from Mother Earth.

We all want to reduce plastic waste and keep it out of our environment. For too long, many plastics were considered disposable. We now know that if we recycle correctly, our everyday plastic will become backpacks, shoes, furniture, new packaging and even fuel.

Until recently, the United States was shipping one-third of its recycling overseas, most of it to China. But, at the beginning of 2018, China decided to stop taking other countries’ plastic and mixed paper. By 2030, an estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be displaced because of China’s new law, a study in Scientific Advances estimates. This is equal to nearly half of all plastic waste that has been imported globally since 1988. Recycling is piling up with nowhere to go. Some cities are sending recyclables to landfills and others are burning them.

Outside of Philadelphia in Chester City, Pennsylvania, about 200 tons of recycling material is sent to the huge Covanta incinerator, every day since China’s import ban.

Approximately 25 percent of all recycling picked up by Waste Management, one of the largest waste handlers in the US, is so contaminated that it is sent to landfills. Most contamination is from materials that still have food and liquid in them which ruins an entire batch.

Recyclers say it would help a lot if consumers got better at recycling, and especially if they stopped “wishcycling”, a term used to refer to putting items in the recycling that aren’t actually recyclable. Some things on their lists:

Pizza boxes can be recycled unless they are really greasy. Recycling plants cannot get the oil out of the cardboard. Tear off the part of the box that isn’t greasy, dump out the crumbs, and put what you can in the recycling.

Disposable paper cups usually are lined with a fine film of polyethylene, which makes the cups liquid-proof but also difficult and expensive to reprocess (because the materials have to be separated). What happens is that most waste management facilities will treat the cups as trash.

If you’re putting these cups in with your recycling, they are likely contaminating the rest of the materials, said Jim Ace, a senior advisor at Stand.earth, an environmental group. In an experiment this year, the group affixed electronic trackers inside Starbucks cups, put the cups in recycling bins in Denver, then traced them to a landfill.

“There’s no way a consumer would know if a cup was lined,” Mr. Ace said, so it’s best to throw it away. (You can also check if your local recycler has special equipment to handle coffee cups; some do, a Starbucks spokeswoman said. The New York City Department of Sanitation says it accepts “paper cups with non-paper lining.”  In Minneapolis, paper cups, plates, and takeout containers can’t be recycled because they are often lined with this plastic or contaminated with food. In California, the numbered resin products between 3-7 can often be recycled but you have to check with your local recycling department. It is difficult to know the rules but Mother Earth thanks you for making the effort!)

After China banned used plastics, many municipalities in the United States no longer accept plastics numbered 3 to 7, which can include things like yogurt cups, butter tubs and vegetable oil bottles. Look at the bottom of a container for a number inside a triangle to see what type it is.

Tetra Pacs are recycleable but don’t flatten them. These containers, often used for milk, juices and broth, need to get sorted out as containers, not paper, so they can go through their own special pulping process.

Even if a container is labeled correctly for recycling in your area, remember to wash out food scraps. It can be just as important as putting the right thing in the recycling bin, said Jackie Lang, a spokeswoman for Waste Management in Oregon. You don’t have to scrub containers until they are sparkling clean. But too many scraps of food and liquid will contaminate a load – which is then sent to a landfill (something we all want to avoid!).

Check with your local recycling service to see which number it accepts. 

Often the number of the plastic is located on the bottom of the packaging for reference. There is no need to remove labels or brands.

1-PETEPolyethylene Terephtalate – PET or PETE: Soda bottles, Water bottles, food jars and frozen meal packages.

 

 

2-HDPEHigh Density Polyethylene – HDPE– HDPE: Milk jugs, detergent bottles, butter tubs, juice bottles and toiletry bottles.

 

 

3-PVCPolyvinyl Chloride – PVC: Pipes, some building materials, clamshell containers, food wrap and cooking oil bottle

 

4-LDPELow Density Polyethylene – LDPE: Grocery bags, shrink wrap, squeeze bottles, container lids, some food wraps, bread bags and bin liners.

 

5-PP Polypropylene: Yogurt cups, wide-neck containers, medicine bottles, ketchup, syrup bottles, straws and bottle caps.

 

6-PSPolystyrene – Styrofoam: Disposable plates and cups, packing peanuts, take-out containers, CD cases, foam packaging, plastic cutlery and packaging for electronics.

 

7-OTHERAll Other Plastics: Any plastic not falling into one of the above categories; typically includes plastics made from corn, potato or sugar derivatives.

 

Plastic bags are among the worst offenders at sorting facilities. They gum up machines and slow down the recycling process. If you collect your paper, plastics and glass in used plastic bags, it’s important to not put the bags themselves in the recycling cart. Line your recycling bins with these bags from Umbra (Container Store) or paper bags. Some areas do offer plastic bag drop-offs, which send these nonrigid plastics to special facilities for recycling. Other cities and states tax, limit, or ban the use of plastic bags altogether. Six pack rings, if they are the soft ones, are recyclable but not in your at-home recycling container. Cut them to save the turtles, then bring them to recycle with your plastic bags. The hard plastic ones, like the ones you find on some craft beers, are difficult for machinery to sort, so best not to recycle them.

Aluminum cans, aerosol cans (empty and without pressure), foil, bi-metals and metal food trays can be recycled. Labels can remain on the can. Clean only enough to prevent odors. Aluminum foil can be recycled but has to be about 95 percent clean and should be balled up – recycle foil balls 2” in diameter or more.

Bottle caps can be recycled but if it is from a plastic bottle, keep the cap on. The bottle and the cap are different types of plastic, but in processing they’re ground up, and, since they have different buoyancies, naturally separate in water.

If it’s a metal cap on a glass bottle, like a beer bottle cap, you can recycle it, but trap it in a soup can by pinching the lid closed (not a beer can, wrong material).  Metal lids on glass jars, like those used for pickles or spaghetti sauce, can be recycled on their own if they’re 3” in diameter or more.

Clean, unbroken glass can be recycled. Colors may be mixed (some municipalities do make you separate them) and labels may still be attached. Many times, the glass in frames, cups and other non-food containers includes chemicals to strengthen it, making it different from, jam or spaghetti jars, and can not be recycled. Mason jars are recyclable. Do not recycle ceramics, tableware, Pyrex, light bulbs or mirrors.

Mixed office paper, white or colored envelopes, white or colored copy paper, computer paper, wrapping paper, shredded paper, brown “kraft” envelopes and most junk mail that is not heavily glued or labeled is all recyclable. Even junk mailings with see-through windows in the envelope are recyclable. Post-it notes are on the small side, so recyclers would prefer you stick them to a bigger paper item or in an envelope.

Do not recycle paper tissues, paper towels, neon paper, waxed or laminated paper, foil-lined paper like wrapping paper but DO recycle toilet and paper towel rolls!

Unfortunately, plastic lawn signs cannot be recycled.

Eggplant

Eggplant dates back about 2,000 years in India. Although often considered a vegetable, they are technically a fruit, as they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds.  There are many varieties that range in size and color. And while eggplants with a deep purple skin are most common, they can be red, green or even black. One eggplant type is small, white and looks a lot like an egg; another is long and skinny like a bean, while the “Kermit” variety has green and white swirls. What they all have in common, however, is the way they grow, suspended from tall plants.

Eggplants first appeared in Europe in the 14th century, and eventually made their way to the United States, with Thomas Jefferson introducing them in the 18th century. Today, Florida is the leading producer of eggplants in the U.S., followed behind by New Jersey and California.

While eggplants don’t have an overwhelming supply of any one nutrient, they contain an array of many vitamins and minerals, such as fiber, folate, potassium and phosphorus, as well as decent levels of vitamins A, K and B6, magnesium, zinc and calcium.

One cup of raw eggplant contains:

  • Calories: 20
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Manganese: 10% of the RDI
  • Folate: 5% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 5% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 4% of the RDI
  • Vitamin C: 3% of the RDI

Eggplants also contain small amounts of niacin, magnesium and copper.

In addition to containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, eggplants have a high number of antioxidants. These phenols, a kind of antioxidant in eggplants, are known to be one of the most powerful free radical scavengers, which may help inhibit tumor growth and fight cancer metastasis. Eggplants are also high in anthocyanins, a pigment with antioxidant properties that can protect against cellular damage.

Some animal studies have found that eggplants may improve heart function and reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This is because fiber reduces the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs by binding it with your digestive system’s bile so that your body naturally gets rid of it.

Eggplant contains several substances that show potential in fighting cancer cells. For example, solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (SRGs) are a type of compound found in some nightshade plants, including eggplant.  Some animal studies have shown that SRGs could cause the death of cancer cells and may also help reduce the recurrence of certain types of cancer.  Though research on the topic is limited, SRGs have been shown to be especially effective against skin cancer when applied directly to the skin.

Eggplant comes from the nightshade family of plants, which includes tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers, as well as chili peppers, habaneros, jalapeños and paprika. Eating too much of it may cause some problems, especially in people who are susceptible to forming kidney stones, as it has high oxalate content. Interestingly, ancient Mediterranean people reportedly nicknamed it the “mad apple,” believing that eating eggplant would cause insanity.

In 2011, India charged Monsanto with biopiracy for alleged attempts to genetically modify indigenous eggplants.

  • India’s National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), a government agency,  suedMonsanto, the world leader in genetically modified (GM) crops and seeds, and their collaborators, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, for stealing local varieties of eggplant to develop a genetically modified version
  • India requires that any entity attempting to use a native plant for commercial or research purposes must first get approval; Monsanto, however, neglected to do this, opting instead to essentially steal the native plants in order to modify them for their own commercial gain

How to Buy

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, and their color, whether it be purple, white or green, should be vivid. They should be free of discoloration, scars, and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.

The stem and cap, on either end of the eggplant, should be bright green in color. As you would with other fruits and vegetables, avoid purchasing eggplant that has been waxed. To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, while if an indentation remains, it is not.

 

How to Store

Eggplants do not store well for long periods of time. Without refrigeration, eggplants can be stored in a cool, dry place for 1 or 2 days.  If you don’t intend to eat the eggplant within 2 days, it should be refrigerated. Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days. It can be refrigerated up to 7 days. Eggplant may also be blanched or steamed then frozen for up to six months.

Eggplants are sensitive to the ethylene gas given off by some fruits and vegetables, such as apples and potatoes, so do not store them with each other. Be careful when handling because they bruise easily.

Eggplants are sensitive to both heat and cold and should ideally be stored at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not cut eggplant before you store it as it degrades quickly once its skin has been punctured or its inner flesh exposed.

If you purchase eggplant that is wrapped in plastic film, remove it as soon as possible since it will inhibit the eggplant from breathing and degrade its freshness.

How to Cook

The entire eggplant can be eaten.  However, the skin sometimes has a bitter taste, so many people prefer to peel the skin off.  Clean the eggplant by running under cold running water and wiping dry with a tea towel. Trim the stem off from the eggplant.

Eggplants absorb liquids very easily. To reduce the amount of moisture an eggplant will absorb during cooking, a common preparation method includes “salting” or “purging” the eggplant. To salt the eggplant, slice into pieces, wash under cold water, lay the pieces on a rack or paper towels, and then rub the vegetable with salt. Let the salt set for ½ hour to an hour. Then, wipe the salt from the slices with a paper towel. (Do not rinse off with water because that will cause the eggplant to absorb moisture back into it.)  After wiping the salt off, firmly squeeze the slices between the palms of your hands to get the excess moisture out of them, then pat dry with a paper towel.  Slices are ready to cook.

Eggplants are delicious hot or cold and can be enjoyed marinated, stuffed, roasted, grilled, fried, in a casserole, in stews, or on brochettes.

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

Eggplant can be baked, roasted in the oven, or steamed. If baking it whole, pierce the eggplant several times with a fork to make small holes for the steam to escape. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 25 minutes, depending upon size. You can test for its readiness by gently inserting a knife or fork to see if it passes through easily.

For homemade babaganoush, purée roasted eggplant, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil.
Use it as a dip for vegetables or as a sandwich filling.
Mix cubed baked eggplant with grilled peppers, lentils, onions and garlic and top with balsamic vinaigrette.
Add eggplant to your next Indian curry stir-fry.

Sweet and Sour Eggplant with Garlic Chips

Sue Li, New York Times/ Photo Credit, Andrew Purcell/ Food Stylist, Barrett Washburne

2-4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup olive oil or other neutral oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 medium Japanese eggplants (about 1 pound total), quartered lengthwise then cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Set a small sieve over a heatproof bowl. Combine garlic and oil in a medium skillet. The key here is to combine the garlic and oil in an unheated pan for even cooking. Heat over medium-low. Cook garlic until light golden brown and crisp and the bubbles have subsided, 3 to 4 minutes, then quickly strain the garlic chips into the sieve set over the bowl. As the oil heats up, the garlic will sizzle rapidly as the moisture cooks off. When it slows down, the garlic slices should be crisp. Be sure to remove the chips just as they begin to turn golden, as they will continue to cook after being removed from the oil. Transfer the garlic chips to a paper towel-lined plate, season with kosher salt and set aside. Transfer the garlic oil back to the skillet.
  2. Heat the garlic oil over medium-high. Add the eggplant in batches, adding more as they shrink in size and space permits, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cut sides of eggplant are golden-brown and skins are slightly wrinkled, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add the tamari sauce, sugar, vinegar and red-pepper flakes and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, tossing the eggplant to coat, until sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve topped with fresh herbs and garlic chips.

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