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Prairie Fare: Tune Up Your Body With Premium Fuel and Regular Test Drives

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Just like our vehicles, we need to do a little maintenance on our bodies, too.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, I’m not going to drive that thing!” my teenage son exclaimed. He is studying for his drivers permit test and soon will be driving down the road with our supervision.

“Well, it’s that thing or nothing,” I countered, expecting he wouldn’t be thrilled at these “wheels.”

Suddenly the car that I drove while in graduate school looked pretty good to him, even though it’s not exactly a Corvette. It has sentimental value to me, anyway.

I was a little concerned whether my old car would start since I haven’t driven it in a while. It also had a completely flat tire. My husband dropped in a new battery and it started right away. With a new fuel filter, fresh gas, new tires and a good cleanup, it is ready to go. Granted, it’s still not a “cool” car.

Just like our vehicles, we need to do a little maintenance on our bodies, too. My old car has new “shoes” and we fed it some premium fuel. We need good fuel to keep ourselves running efficiently. For us, “premium” fuel includes whole grains; lean protein; calcium-rich, low-fat dairy; and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Take care of your “engine.” Obesity, poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and family history are risk factors for heart disease. Eat a variety of colorful foods every day. Most adults need about 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily to meet their nutrition needs.

Be sure you don’t clog your “fuel filter.” Minimize the saturated and trans fat in your diet because they may raise your blood cholesterol level. Excess blood cholesterol in your body is much like a clogged fuel filter.

The fuel filter sends clean fuel into the engine to keep it running. If it were to get clogged, much like how cholesterol can build up in an artery, this would cause a restriction in fuel flow.

When cholesterol plaques form in arteries, our heart has to work harder to pump blood and nutrients throughout the body. A diet high in soluble fiber can decrease blood cholesterol.

Increase fiber in your diet by consuming fruits; vegetables; beans, such as pinto, navy and kidney; and other plant foods. Read Nutrition Facts labels to learn about your choices.

In cars, fuel pumps use pressure to pull or push fuel into the carburetor through the fuel line. If the fuel line is constricted, your fuel pump won’t be able to keep your vehicle moving. In us, blood is pumped from our heart through blood vessels. With narrowed vessels, our blood pressure may increase and strain our heart.

One in three adults has high blood pressure. Because there are no symptoms, many don’t know it.

High blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure. Some risk factors, such as race, heredity and age, can’t be controlled. Obesity, stress, lack of physical activity, eating too much salt and drinking too much alcohol are risk factors for high blood pressure that can be managed.

Have regular tuneups by visiting your health-care provider. Print a personalized “owners manual” for nutrition and fitness by visiting and entering your gender, age, weight, height and physical activity level.

Take your body out for regular test drives, too. Adults should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Put on your walking shoes and schedule time for three 10-minute brisk walks to meet the goal.

Try this fiber-rich recipe that makes use of colorful autumn produce. It’s from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at For more information about nutrition and health, visit

Spiced Apple-filled Squash

1 acorn squash (about 1 pound)

1 golden delicious apple, peeled, cored and sliced

2 tsp. reduced-fat margarine, melted

2 tsp. brown sugar

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

dash of ground cloves

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1-quart baking dish. Halve the squash and remove the seeds; cut into quarters. Place the quarters, skin side up, in a dish and cover. Bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the apple, margarine, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Turn the cut sides of the acorn squash up and top with the apple mixture. Cover and bake 30 minutes longer or until apples are tender.

Quick microwave version: Halve the squash and remove seeds; cut into quarters. Arrange quarters, cut side up, in microwave-safe baking dish. Microwave on high (100 percent) six to seven minutes. Rotate squash halfway through the cooking time. Top squash with apple mixture, cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on high four to five minutes or until apples are tender.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 80 calories, 2 grams (g) of fat, 17 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 5 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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