Tag Archives: mayo clinic

Beautiful, Bountiful Chard

Dehydrating experts recommend using produce that’s in season, fresh & bountiful. In my garden this summer, that produce is chard. So of course I’ve been putting it into backpacking meals now that I’ve finally started dehydrating for this summer’s Sierra excertion.

While chard is not high in calories or protein (7 & 1g per cup, respectively), it packs a real
nutritional wallop:

“… a good source of Thiamin, Folate and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.”

Chard is an especially potent source of Vitaman A, offering up 44% of the RDA in one cup! Most of us are in no great danger of a Vitamin A defiency, but still, there’s something comforting about eating delicious leafy veg that not only promotes healthy vision, but may also, as the Mayo Clinic states, “prevent some types of cancer, aid in growth and development, and improve immune function.”

A cuppa chard also provides 77g of sodium, which adds to its tastiness quota and is never amiss on the trail, at least, where we are generally sweating out all the salt we consume.

And chard is so visually attractive! That vibrant green leaf ribbed in red, gold or white! I’ve been chopping up raw chard to add to the pre-cooked Tasty Bites* and noticing how much more appealing the fresh veg is than the pre-cooked meal from the foil pouch.

While appreciating the bright green, however, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “What will dehydrating do to all this Vit A?”

Nothing. apparently, as long as the product is kept out of the sunlight:

“Vitamin A is retained during the drying process. Because vitamin A is light sensitive, foods that contain it-like carrots, bell peppers, mangoes-should be stored in a dark place.”

The same site points out that “Minerals … such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, and so on–are also not altered when [produce] is dried.” So we don’t lose the mineral load of chard on the trail.

Some vitamin C, most of us realize, is lost in the dehydration process, but that’s easily remedied by imbibing a daily dose of fizzy flavored EmergenC in your choice of fruit flavors.

My next dehydrating adventure with chard is going to involve chicken stock, polenta, black-eyed peas with oregeno & lemon. I’ll keep you posted!

*More on That: To veg-up the flavorful & convenient Tasty Meals, I use 1 lb of fresh veg to 2 packs of Tasty Bites. With the addition of a dried grain, this makes 2 meals for 2 people, or a total of 4 individual meals. I do not use all chard. The combination so far is 1/3 each by weight of peas, green beans & chard. I use frozen peas & green beans for convenience; all the veg is put into the food processor & chopped into smaller bits for future ease of hydration. The green peas & beans add protein, especially important this year as we are going to be back-packing vegetarians … well, except for the half-pound of “emergency” hand-made fennel sausage (finocchiona) we picked up in San Diego’s Little Italy farmers market this spring.

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Ounce by Ounce: Organics for Antioxidents

What’s a quick way to get more nutrition from your backpacking food choices?

Go organic.


Sure the organic/non-organic nutrient research is controversial:

  • Recent study indicates organic food is not more nutritious than conventional
  • Environmental Working Group (EWG) sets the organic record straight

Germ theory was controversial, too, back in the mid-1800s! In the same way, however, that most of us days wash our hands regularly to prevent the spread of disease, so too might we consider eating organic food in order to more fully nourish our bodies.

Organic food is important at home, but even more so on the trail. Doesn’t it make sense that when we are asking our bodies to carry us up & down sometimes shocking elevation changes, at a rate of 10-15+ miles per day, on limited rations, that we provide the highest quality support we can? You drink pure water, breath clean air, wear good shoes & socks, rest in a warm sleeping bag and eat—opps!

What’s in that foil bag, kids? Modified Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Soy Wheat Gluten Protein, Chicken Fat, Sugar, Onion Powder, Spices, Citric Acid, Soybean Oil… Try some home-dried organic food instead & see how your body likes THAT.

Organic for Antioxidants

More & more
evidence suggests that eating organic not only benefits the planet, and our long-term health, but also provides us with immediate nutritional pay-back:

  • more antioxidents, including critical vitamins A, C & E along with flavonoids including quercetin, kaempferol, phenolics & anthocyanins
  • higher food quality
  • higher concentrations of minerals such as potassium, magnesium & phosphorus
  • possible increase in salicyic acid (the anti-inflammatory “active ingredient” in aspirin)
  • fewer nitrates
  • higher levels of beneficial fatty acids such as CLA & omega-3, especially in milk & meat from pastured organic cows

Antioxidants are a critical phytonutrient/phytochemical for hikers. As the Mayo Clinic* explains:

Antioxidants … can neutralize free radicals, which are toxic byproducts of natural cell metabolism. The human body naturally produces antioxidants but the process isn’t 100 percent effective and that effectiveness declines with age.

Notice that key phrase “cell metabolism” & think carefully about what is going on while you are hiking. Lots of cell metabolism!

Avoid Pesticides


Organic food also provides fewer nitrates & lower levels of pesticides to slow your body down while on the trail. Pesticides—substances used to kill a variety of pests, including insects, weeds, and even fish—can’t possibly be good for your body. A multitude of studies link the everyday, regular ingestion of pesticides by humans to numerous diseases, from asthma to cancer, especially prostate and breast cancer.


A quick & inexpensive way to
avoid pesticides in your backpack without going organic is to choose foods from the “consistently clean” list and avoid those on the “dirty dozen.”

*More on That: Other websites, such as Dr. Weil’s, may provide more information than the Mayo Clinic regarding individual phytonutrients; I chose a more conventional mainstream source to demonstrate the wide-spread acceptance that these nutrients are in fact useful.

Next post, we’ll explore more individual ways to increase the nutritional content of your foods.