Carvings                    May 1, 2021

In the news

Flu who?

            Have you noticed that no one you know has seemed to have gotten the flu this year? There have been remarkably few cases of influenza this season, the CDC noting that the number of hospitalizations has been the lowest since 2005. One of the blessings of this lull is that only one child has died of influenza this year, a tragedy to be sure for that family but thankfully less than the hundred or more kids who die in most flu seasons.

            It seems that hunkering down at home, social distancing and mask wearing keep us from infecting each other with various germs. The CDC doesn’t keep up with simple colds but they do watch the incidence of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infections, a serious lung disease among infants, and they are down too.

            Some pundits propose that we simply aren’t testing as much for influenza because of our focus on COVID-19 or that the flu virus, with fewer victims, has mutated so little this year that the current vaccine is still working.

            Does all this portend a worse than usual flu season next winter? Based on what happened following a similar drop in the 2011-2012 flu season, that’s not likely – but it’s no reason to skip your flu vaccine next October or November!

            Advances in vaccine development have been so dramatic that we may have a combined influenza/coronavirus vaccine before the end of the year. Wouldn’t that be a great outcome of this crummy epidemic?


Sensible snacking

Snacks can make or break a diet. The kind that you find while you’re standing in line at the checkout counter is probably the worst, even the trail mix or beef jerky. Some trail mixes have well over 100 calories per ounce and a piece of beef jerky that weighs a little more than a half-ounce can contain as much as 440 milligrams of sodium – about 20 percent of what you should allow yourself in a whole day.

            The ideal snack should contain enough fiber or protein to satisfy your appetite. A piece of fruit averages only 50 to 75 calories but the fiber leaves you feeling full. A single handful of nuts, especially almonds or walnuts (for the engineers and accountants in the audience that’s about 12 pieces or about ½ ounce) will provide about 80 or 90 calories. That will also give you some protein and some omega-3 fats, both of which will give you a feeling of fullness – especially if you eat them slowly!

            Diet gurus sometimes recommend a tablespoon of peanut butter on a stalk of celery. Nice theory but who has the time to make it – and not find something else in the refrigerator to nibble on while searching for the celery?

            Dried fruit? Not such a good choice because it’s high in sugar. After all, 6 apricot halves are the equivalent of 3 whole apricots, and four prunes are the equivalent of four plums. Do you usually eat that many pieces of fresh fruit at one time?

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