Nov 202012

Newly elected political leaders, take note: Ask and listen, and you will find untapped ways to serve.

That’s what ECU’s Lessie Bass believed seven years ago – and it’s what led the university and its partners to receive the respected C. Peter Magrath University/Community Engagement Award last week.

Bass, an associate professor of social work, began listening to residents of west Greenville back in 2005. She pondered how to help the struggling community meet social, economic and health needs. So, she asked them.

Knocking on doors and research from the ECU Center for Health Disparities led Bass and a friend, Deborah Moody, to identify a gap in service. Together they began a true partnership between west Greenville residents, the City of Greenville, Pitt Community College and ECU. Their common goal: to bring family- and neighborhood-strengthening programs to the Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center.

Today, residents of west Greenville are using the center to build a better community with help from dedicated volunteers. Many of them are ECU faculty and students.

From a community garden to diabetes management and health screenings to after-school tutoring, the community center is a hub of activity and learning for kids, adults and seniors.

ECU health sciences students and faculty support a number of initiatives at the community center. One of the newest, IGCC Fit, provides health screenings for youth, adults and seniors each Tuesday. College of Nursing student volunteers have helped with initial health screenings to collect information on people with risk factors and monitor them throughout the year.

The Brody School of Medicine is involved in a study of African-American women with Type 2 diabetes, and the center is an enrollment and screening site for the study.

We are proud of our students and staff for their dedication to the community. This work falls directly in line with our mission to serve, particularly those who lack adequate access to care. We’ve long believed service benefits our state and enriches student experience. This recent national award is confirmation we’ve been moving in the right direction for some time.

The true inter-departmental collaboration between social work, business, health sciences and others shows: when we work together, we win.

Although Bass passed away in 2009, we’re confident she would be proud.

Read more about the award at



Nov 202012

It’s the pièce de résistance.  It’s the star of the dinner table. It’s the turkey.

We love this lean meat, and we’re not alone.

The National Turkey Federation says that nearly 88 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 16 pounds, meaning that Americans gobbled up approximately 736 million pounds of turkey last year.

About 315 million people reside in the United States. Rough math brings turkey consumption to more than 2.3 pounds per person.

Consider cuts carefully

Despite that massive quantity, skinless turkey breast is one of the leanest proteins. Check out this chart of how turkey stacks up against other meats in calories and fat.  

We can’t complain too much about a roasted turkey. Just one word for the wise: Dark meat and skin contain much more saturated fat than white meat. So be judicious with your selections.

For example, a wing with skin contains 256 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat compared to white meat with skin that has 185 calories and 1.4 grams of saturated fat.

Gut your gravy

If turkey is the hero in this Thanksgiving meal, then its loveable, but trouble-causing sidekick is the gravy. Canned gravy is so high in sodium the ocean would cringe. And homemade gravy made from turkey drippings might be THE unhealthiest food.

Yet there surely would be a revolt at your table if you left the turkey dry. So here’s a trick: Use a gravy cup or other pan juice holder to put the fat in the freezer for five minutes.

The fat will harden and rise to the top so you can skim it off before making the gravy. This will save you between 700 to 900 calories per cup. Happy eating!


Nov 192012

Sweet potato casserole is like a Thanksgiving dish from a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s a can’t-miss side for the dinner table, and that’s probably a great thing.

The sweet potato is considered a super food. For around 100 calories, sweet potatoes pack a nutritional punch. A raw sweet potato is packed with nutrients like vitamins A, C and B6, as well as potassium and fiber. They’re also a natural anti-inflammatory, so they can help combat heart disease.

We love sweet potatoes for their health benefits and versatility. In fact, we believe you should eat them year-round. However, their nutritional value can wane once you start piling on the butter, brown sugar and marshmallows.

A typical serving of sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping can have more than 600 calories. That’s more than a quarter of the daily calories in a typical 2,000-calorie diet.

To keep your dish from busting your belt loops:

  • Skip the marshmallow topping. Consider using unsweetened coconut flakes, light sea salt and cracked pepper, and/or roasted pecans.
  • Use small amounts of natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup.
  • Flavor with no-calorie spices like cinnamon, rosemary or ginger.
  • Roast your spuds instead of boiling.
  • Leave skins on; it’s where many of the nutrients reside.

For example, here’s a simple approach with this roasted sweet potato recipe from Eat Well.

Nov 162012

You’re getting sleepy, very sleepy.

That’s what typically happens to most Americans after a carbohydrate- and sugar-packed meal like Thanksgiving dinner.

Your body is devoting most its energy to digestion, concentrating red blood cells in your stomach to aid in digestion and carry nutrients through your blood stream. Less energy for your brain and the rest of your body makes you feel sluggish.

Your body needs time to digest, but that doesn’t mean you have to be glued to the couch and TV for the rest of the day. We do recommend avoiding strenuous exercise within two hours after the Thanksgiving meal. Please note, however, strenuous does not exclude all physical activity.

If you want to avoid the post-meal slump, keep your blood moving and burn some calories. The best way to do that is by taking a walk. This chart shows how many calories you could burn with a 30-minute stroll around your neighborhood.

For example, a person weighing 200 pounds walking a 30-minute mile burns 120 calories. Plus, walking is good for your mental health and helps control Type 2 diabetes.

Make a family walk the start of a new holiday tradition. You can get kids excited by encouraging them to look at the colorful leaves, making a local park your walk destination or by tossing a football or Frisbee. If it’s late, you can bundle up for a night walk and point out stars.

If weather is bad or too cold, check out this list of indoor/garage activities. Surprisingly, the game of Twister can burn 170 calories per hour.

No matter how you do it, make a plan to get active and have some fun this holiday season.



Thanksgiving Meal Tip #3 – Eat for your teeth

 School of Dental Medicine  Comments Off on Thanksgiving Meal Tip #3 – Eat for your teeth
Nov 152012

Thanksgiving might not seem like the day for starting good eating habits. But there are a few things you can do on Thanksgiving that can be good for oral health year-round.

You may not realize, but Thanksgiving is also a feast for the millions of microbes in your mouth.  The bacteria in saliva love the same starchy and sugary Thanksgiving foods you do. When bacteria break down sugars, they produce acids. And that’s bad news for tooth enamel.

Here a few things to think about at Thanksgiving that can make a big impact on oral health:

•             Cut out the sugary drinks – Carbonated soft drinks contain lots sugar and acids that erode tooth enamel. It’s blasphemous in the South, but your waistline and teeth will thank you if you start drinking unsweet tea or use alternative sweeteners. You can make a special low sugar holiday drink using diet ginger ale or clear diet soda. Fill an ice cube tray with reduced sugar cranberry juice. Pour the ginger ale or diet soda over the cranberry cubes. As the cubes dissolve, your holiday drink becomes infused with flavor. You can even add a dash of orange juice for flavor and color.

•             Serve plenty of fiber-rich vegetables. As if fiber isn’t awesome already, Thanksgiving foods with high fiber like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and broccoli help clean your mouth because fiber stimulates saliva production. Saliva helps flush out food particles and acid attacking your teeth.

•             Incorporate crunchy vegetables – Another good reason for crudité platters, crunchy vegetables and fruits like celery and apples have high water content, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain and stimulate saliva production. Crunchy vegetables are also low-calorie. Crunchy fruits and vegetables also help by mechanically removing plaque from teeth.

•             Offer hot green or black tea – It’s warm, it’s comforting and it contains antioxidants called polyphenols. Studies have shown polyphenols help suppress bacteria that can produce harmful acid. This could be an alternative to an after-dinner cup of coffee.

•             Don’t forget the water – Tap water contains fluoride, rinses your mouth and is calorie-free.

And if you have a long drive home after the holiday meal and don’t have a toothbrush, chew a piece of sugar-free gum. It will increase saliva flow and reduce the acid level in your mouth.

Nancy Jacobson, DMD, Clinical Associate Professor

Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program

East Carolina University

School Of Dental Medicine