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Ever thought of your kitchen as a health center?

I have been captivated by the idea of thinking about my kitchen as a health center. It resonated with me from the outset and has set a new standard for how I purchase, prepare and store food.

That is not, however, very apparent at this moment. We had a large dinner gathering on our patio last night, and I am still cleaning up kalua pork drippings and the sticky juice from pineapple spears. The good news is my focus can be on the kitchen, as we did not dig a pit in the backyard and bury a pig — we simply added liquid smoke and Hawaiian sea salt to a large crockpot full of pork butt.

I know pork made that way is salty — not the best for an aging constitution. And fruits such as fresh pineapple do not have “added” sugar, but they definitely have sugar. This recognition and my pledge to entertain with this menu no more often than annually bring me back to the concept of “healthier kitchens.”

There are little things we can do immediately to make our kitchens more healthful places, like getting rid of that cookie jar or the recipe books that focus on sugar-laden desserts. Maybe we decide to keep only recipes that display nutritional content and caloric count by portion size. I know — harder to do than I’m making it sound. But then, we’re just exploring options.

Maybe you decide to buy only “certified organic,” but you do it with a strong knowledge base and an improved understanding of how to store that purchased produce. A 2014 Washington Post article contained some practical ideas. It reminded readers that “fruits and vegetables don’t play well together” and need to be stored in different refrigerator drawers. The same article said, “vegetables need to breathe,” so poke holes in those plastic bags, or better yet, keep them in reusable mesh bags. Cucumbers “hate to be cold,” and tomatoes should be kept out of the refrigerator too. Store them stem down, by the way.

In our household, we have doubled our intake of fruits and veggies and developed an ever-improving understanding of how to store them. If you have not looked at the website www.choosemyplate.gov, it might be worth your time.

In a kitchen that’s a health center, you might have a mortar and pestle on the counter to promptly flavor foods without as much salt. You do that by blending herbs from the container garden you have (or will have, as soon as you plant it). Grow rosemary — its aroma improves aging cognition. And it’s a lovely companion to summer beverages. Sage purportedly helps brain function, as well, but I am less sure I would put that in my iced tea. Mint aids digestion and acts as a palate cleanser. Turmeric is a highly touted anti-inflammatory.

So many ideas, and you have a whole summer to indulge in them.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.