Health tips: Make sure your chicken is cooked

In “Stand by Me,” Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland) is a gang leader who plays a dangerous game of chicken with a truck that swerves out of the way at the last minute. Now, you might not think cooking chicken for dinner tonight is as dangerous as that idiotic “game,” but researchers looked at the culinary habits of people in five European countries and found they’re endangering their health by playing chicken with chicken! It seems they’re undercooking the poultry and at risk for foodborne illnesses. We bet the same mistakes are being made here.

If you check for doneness by looking at the inner color of the meat (50% of folks do) that’s not going to protect you from getting sick. It’s also a mistake to examine the color of the juices or the texture of the meat. None of those methods are reliable indicators that pathogens have been KO’d. The consequences: Undercooked chicken can deliver salmonella and campylobacter bacteria, causing abdominal pain, chills, diarrhea, fever, vomiting and bloody stools. From all sources, those microbes sicken 2.85 million folks annually in the U.S. 

Your best bet is to allow the chicken to reach room temperature before cooking. Then use a fast-response meat thermometer to gauge doneness. Be aware, most bacteria are on the surface of the chicken, so make sure the inner and outside temperature reaches a germ-killing 165 F. Also, be sure to clean your kitchen thoroughly after handling raw meat to prevent the transfer of bacteria to countertops, utensils or other foods.

Women can reduce the risk of stroke, despite unhealthy choices 

When Sandra Bullock was 35, she transformed from the lovable but rough-around-the-edges FBI agent Gracie Hart to an undercover beauty in “Miss Congeniality.” That kind of transformation may seem like a good setup for a comedy, but it’s not very realistic. However, according to researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, even in middle age women can dramatically change their future.

It seems basic lifestyle changes, adopted even after years of unhealthy behaviors, can reduce women’s 26-year risk of any type of stroke by up to 25% and of ischemic stroke by up to 36%. (Ischemic stroke is the most common type, caused by a blood clot in the brain, and women’s average age of a first stroke is 75.) That matters, since women are more likely to have a stroke, to end up with poorer health and physical function post-stroke, and to die from stroke than men are. 

Total and ischemic stroke risk is reduced most effectively by:

• Stopping smoking.

• Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.

• Eating a lot more fish. Go for three servings of 3 to 6 ounces a week of fatty fish, such as salmon and sea trout. 

• Eating nuts, like walnuts and almonds, almost daily. 

• Ditching red meat. 

• And losing weight if you need to.

The effective ways to reduce the risk of hemorrhagic stroke are achieving normal blood pressure and, according to the researchers, increasing the amount of fish you eat. That lowered it 26%!

Picking and preparing the perfect pasta

Spaghetti has played a major role in the movies, from the scene in 1960 moviwe, “The Apartment,” in which Jack Lemmon as C.C. Baxter prepares the noodle by straining it through a tennis racket and delivering it with a backhand swing into a serving bowl, to Julia Roberts as Liz Gilbert in 2010’s “Eat Pray Love” as she discovers the sensual pleasure of slurping up strands of marinara-coated pasta.

We’d like you to get as much enjoyment from your next dish - and so here are our tips on picking the perfect pasta.

Choose 100% whole wheat or 100% multigrain pasta, any that is made from only chickpeas, soba (buckwheat), quinoa or brown rice, or use a kitchen gadget to create strands of delicious zucchini, carrot or sweet potato “spaghetti.”

Don’t overeat: Stick with one serving. That’s 2 ounces, or half a cup, of pasta. It’s plenty when you top it with a saute of veggies (artichokes, sliced carrots, asparagus, broccoli, spinach), garlic, onions, tomatoes, EVOO, whatever herbs appeal -- basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro -- and a dash of red pepper flakes.

Try a yummy alternative to red meat sauces: lentil Bolognese. The recipe is at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/recipe-lentil-bolognese.

Want to know how good for you the serving of pasta is? The Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy says to divide the total grams of carbohydrates in a serving by the grams of dietary fiber. If it’s less than 10, you’re in the good nutrition zone. 

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.

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