My readers keep me on my toes, for sure. Here are some questions that merit more attention.

Regarding the recent column on beets, Dennis S. writes: “How can one write about beets without mentioning borscht???”

How can one, indeed?!! Borscht (pronounced “borscht”) is a tart, beet-based soup which originated in Eastern Europe and the former Russian empire. It is a common dish in Ukrainian cuisine, according to borscht experts on Wikipedia. And while beetroot (what we call “beets” in the U.S.) is the primary ingredient, borscht is typically a combination of meat or bone stock and sautéed vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and tomatoes.

From its Slavic homeland, borscht made its way to other continents, including North America. Several ethnic groups, which include Jewish, Mennonite and Greek cultures, claim borscht as an important national dish.

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Count a cup of borscht made with beets as one of your veggies for the day. This flavorful soup (served hot or cold) is loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber for about 100 calories.

Meredith T. writes: “Hi Barbara, I’m doing much more cooking at home now, due to the virus. This leads to more clean-up, so I’m also lining pans with foil. A few years ago, there were rumors that using foil in cooking led to Alzheimer’s. Hopefully this has been disproven. What’s your best advice? Thanks for your help!”

Dear Meredith: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there was some suspicion in the 1960s and 1970s that aluminum exposure was linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. These experts say they are more focused on other areas of research and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.

Aluminum toxicity does exist, however. People exposed to high amounts of this metal can experience nerve and brain damage. And we are exposed to aluminum every day, since it makes up part of the earth’s crust and is a natural part of the atmosphere. Aluminum is also used to make antacids, antiperspirants and other products.

It’s been estimated that a very small fraction — about 0.1% — of the aluminum we might ingest from cookware, aluminum cans or foil is actually absorbed into the body. That’s why most experts conclude that the routine use of aluminum foil does not pose any health risks.

What I did find interesting (while slightly off topic) were some other things we can use aluminum foil for besides cooking. Scrape off stuck food from casserole dishes with a ball of crumpled foil, for instance. Or fold a piece of foil in quarters to create 4 layers. Then cut the foil with scissors to sharpen the blades. Find other tips at reynoldskitchens.com.

Thanks for writing.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian nutritionist affiliated with the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at to barbara@quinnessentialnutrition.com. ©2020 The Monterey County Herald. Visit The Monterey County Herald at montereyherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.