Vegetables Are the Key to Great Nutrition

How to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

By Laurie Greene, Editor

In honor of National Eat Your Veggies Day, we spoke with Francene Steinberg, department chair and professor of nutrition at UC Davis, and director of the UC Davis Dietetics Education Program for undergrads. She encouraged the importance of leaning on vegetables for optimum nutrition and health benefits.

Francene Steinberg, department chair and professor of nutrition at UC Davis
Francene Steinberg, department chair and professor of nutrition at UC Davis

“A varied diet of fruits and vegetables, along with grains and some protein sources is extremely valuable to give everybody the best energy for them to grow,” Steinberg said. “It really is so important to get the full spectrum of all the nutrients in these foods, particularly the vegetables.”

“In addition to all the required nutrients,” she explained, “we know the required vitamins and minerals—those that we know about and for which we have the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the “average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%-98%) healthy people.” (Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)

Continuing, Steinberg said, “There are also quite a few other nutrients and compounds in those foods that are good for usthat have biologic effects. Not only just fibers, but also phytochemicals, phytonutrients, they are really part of what helps to promote overall health. It’s not just the vitamins and minerals in a vitamin pill. You really need to eat the whole fruits and vegetables and grains, and so forth, to get the full effects,” noted Steinberg.

There is a new approach to how much produce people should eat on a daily basis. Steinberg noted the importance of eating the rainbow; fruits and vegetables of every color. Previous nutrition campaigns used to stress the importance of consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

“Most people don’t even come near to eating the amount of vegetables they need. Rather than focusing on a specific number, an easier goal is just eat more than you currently do, in terms of vegetables. Eat one more serving each day. Try a new vegetable each week. See if you like them,” said Steinberg.

Eat The Rainbow

In particular, Steinberg recommended red beets which are a wonderful vegetable to add to your eating list. “Beets are delicious. These deeply colored fruits and vegetableswhether they’re red, or green, or orangethat really denotes they have more nutrients in them. There are all these colored compounds that are often bioactive in the body. They really are good for you. You can, as you say, eat the rainbow by choosing these brightly colored fruits and vegetables.” noted Steinberg.

Steinberg encourages consumers to 'eat the rainbow'.
Steinberg encourages consumers to ‘”eat the rainbow.”

By consuming more vegetables, consumers can more avoid many chronic diseases. “I think that certainly most of the chronic diseases we suffer from today stem from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, that sort of thing,” Steinberg commented. “They’re often a combination of overconsumption of overall calories and empty nutrients, and not enough consumption of some of these fruits and vegetables that hold such valuable nutrients for us,” said Steinberg.

“It really is a matter of trying to make your diet as nutrient-rich as possible, and really avoiding those empty calories that seem to provide us lots of extra calories without any added benefit,” she stated. “If folks can cut down on some of the sugary and highly fatty snacks, chips and that sort of thing, and eat a piece of fruit or an extra vegetable serving per day they’re really much better off.”

Steinberg suggested one way to stimulate the desire to eat more vegetables is by making them readily available. “I think sometimes when people buy some of the produce, then they put it away in the refrigerator, it’s not visible. It’s hidden and they go to the cupboard and look and there’s a bag of chips that’s very easy to grab.”

She also recommended ways to make sure produce is not left behind. Consumers can purchase “fruits and vegetables that are already pre-washed and cut up, and put them in a little baggie or bowl on the counter, if they’re not perishable, or just a baggie in the refrigerator. It’s a quick grab and go. You can take it and have it as a quick snack. Things that are appealing to children are small bites that are easily consumed, bright and colorful.”

Steinberg recommended consumers “try to find those fruits and vegetables that are very fresh. Sometimes the ones we find in the grocery stores are not as flavorful as [backyard-grown], from the farmer’s market, or even just knowing which vegetables are in season. At the grocery store, the best things that are in season are usually going to be the freshest and tastiest. ” said Steinberg.

Fresh is not the only way consumers can enjoy the benefits of produce since frozen varieties are easy to come by. “Some of the frozen whole vegetables and fruits are highly nutritious,” said Steinberg. “They’re very affordable and available year round.”

Steinberg also mentioned the availability of low calorie dips such as hummus can easily be found in grocery and convenience stores which encourages more fresh vegetable consumption. In fact, hummus is primarily chickpeas, another great vegetable. “Dipping fresh vegetables in hummus. That’s delicious,” she said.

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USDA Observes Kick Off of the International Year of Soils

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began its celebration of the International Year of Soils to highlight the importance of healthy soils for food security, ecosystem functions and resilient farms and ranches.

“Healthy soil is the foundation that ensures working farms and ranches become more productive, resilient to climate change and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during an event today at USDA headquarters. “We join the world in celebrating this living and life-giving resource.”

With an increasing global population, a shrinking agricultural land base, climate change and extreme weather events, the nations of the world are focusing their collective attention to the primary resource essential to food production-the soil. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), working within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, spearheaded the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly designating 2015 as the International Year of Soils. The year of awareness aims to increase global understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

“Most people don’t realize that just beneath our feet lies a diverse, complex, life-giving ecosystem that sustains our entire existence,” said Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We are helping producers unlock the power of soil health as part of an important and very successful national campaign. Our campaign demonstrates our renewed commitment to soil conservation and soil health.”

NRCS is coordinating activities to mark USDA’s involvement in the International Year of Soils. Nearly 80 years ago, NRCS, formerly the Soil Conservation Service, was created to improve the health and sustainability of our nation’s soils. The agency’s original mission continues to this day – providing assistance to producers looking to improve the health of the soil on their land.

Conservation that works to improve soil health is one of the best tools NRCS has to help landowners face these impending challenges – and maintain and improve their productivity with the use of soil management systems that includes cover crops, conservation tillage and no-till and crop rotations. These systems reduce sediment loss from farms and ranches, buffer the effects of drought, flood and other severe weather; sequester carbon and create biodiversity in our rural landscape.

“International Year of Soils provides an opportunity for us to learn about the critical role soil conservation and improved soil health play in the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture,” Weller said.

Working with the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and other partners, NRCS will be showcasing the importance of soil with monthly themes created by SSSA:

January: Soils Sustain Life

February: Soils Support Urban Life

March: Soils Support Agriculture

April: Soils Clean and Capture Water

May: Soils Support Buildings/Infrastructure

June: Soils Support Recreation

July: Soils Are Living

August: Soils Support Health

September: Soils Protect the Natural Environment

October: Soils and Products We Use

November: Soils and Climate

December: Soils, Culture and People

For more information, visit NRCS’s soil health webpage or the International Year of Soils webpage.

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Why Almonds Belong in Your Diet

Almond Nutrition

Source: Alissa Fleck, Demand Media

Natural, unsalted almonds are a tasty and nutritious snack with plenty of health benefits. Loaded with minerals, they are also among the healthiest of tree nuts. Just a handful of nutrient-rich almonds a day helps promote heart health and prevent weight gain, and it may even help fight diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Nutrition

Eating about 23 almonds a day is an easy way to incorporate many crucial nutrients into your diet. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, minerals and potassium. Additionally, almonds are a significant source of protein and fiber, while being naturally low in sugar. One 23-almond serving packs 13 grams of healthy unsaturated fats, 1 gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol or salt. Of all tree nuts, almonds rank highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin content by weight. There are 160 calories in 23 almonds. While many of these calories come from fat, it is primarily the healthy unsaturated fats and not the unhealthy saturated kind.

Almond Hull-split
Almond Hull-split

Heart Health

According to the FDA, eating 1.5 ounces a day of most nuts, like almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Many of the nutrients in almonds help contribute to increased heart health. For one, almonds are rich in magnesium, which is critical in preventing heart attacks and hypertension. Several clinical studies have also shown almonds can be effective in reducing bad cholesterol and preserving healthy cholesterol, which plays a major role in heart health.

Weight Maintenance

Nuts, like almonds, are also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. The fiber, protein and fat content of almonds means it only takes a handful to keep you feeling full and satisfied so you won’t have the urge to overeat. According to “Fitness” magazine, the magnesium in almonds helps regulate blood sugar, which is key in reducing food cravings. Almonds may even be able to block the body’s absorption of calories, making them the ultimate weight-loss-friendly snack. Because almonds are naturally high in calories, it’s important to limit your serving size to the recommended 1 ounce, or 23 nuts.

Other Health Benefits

Almonds may also promote gastrointestinal health and even combat diabetes. The high fiber content of almonds gives them prebiotic properties, which contributes to health in the gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances, which serve as food for the good bacteria in the intestinal tract and help maintain a healthy balance. According to a study by the American Diabetes Association, a Mediterranean diet incorporating nuts, such as almonds, helps fight diabetes even without significant changes to weight, physical activity or caloric intake.

Lactose Intolerance: 11 Ways to Still Love Dairy

Source: Brunilda Nazario, MD; WebMD

If you’re lactose intolerant, you can still eat foods with lactose — in moderation. The key is to know your limit. Keep a food diary, write down when, what, and how much you ate, and how it made you feel. You should see a pattern emerge and you will learn how much or how little lactose you can have. Then, stick to your limit.

Consider Lactose-Free Milk and Other Dairy

For regular milk drinkers, most supermarkets have lactose-free or low-lactose milk in their dairy case or specialty foods sections. You can also find lactose-free cheese, lactose-free yogurt, and other dairy products. It can be hard to get enough calcium when you are lactose intolerant. Lactose-free milk, however, has the same amount of calcium as regular milk.

Take Control of Your Diet

Take control of your meals by brown bagging it rather than struggling to find something that you can eat on a menu. When cooking at home, you can replace milk in recipes with lactose-free milk. You can also buy a cookbook that features lactose-free recipes and start trying them. Many classic recipes can be adapted to fit a lactose-intolerant diet. Control the ingredients that go in the meal and you may be surprised at how much variety you can eat.

lactose intolerance, milkConsider Lactase Supplements

It’s not a cure, but taking lactase enzyme supplements can help you eat foods containing lactose. Supplements are found in many forms, including caplets and chewable tablets. They may be particularly helpful if you don’t know the exact ingredients in your meal. If supplements do not help your symptoms, be sure to check with your doctor.

Hunting for Hidden Lactose

Lactose is found in most dairy products, except those marked “lactose-free,” such as lactose-free milk or cheese. It also can be in packaged foods such as dried mixes, frozen meals, and baked goods. Read food labels carefully, and watch out for ingredients such as “milk solids,” “dried milk,” and “curd.” If you choose to eat these foods, you may need to take a lactase supplement to help prevent symptoms.

Ask the Experts

Learning a new way of eating isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Ask your doctor to suggest a nutritionist or dietitian to help you manage your diet. She can teach you how to read food labels, share healthy eating tips, learn how much dairy you can eat or drink without symptoms, and come up with reduced-lactose or lactose-free foods to provide a well-balanced diet.

Smaller Portions, Fewer Symptoms

Maybe you can’t enjoy a big glass of milk with cookies, but you can try a smaller serving. Start with a 4-ounce glass instead of a full 8 ounces. Gradually increase the amount of dairy you eat until you begin to notice unpleasant symptoms. Listen to your body. It will tell you when you’ve reached your limit. If you want to avoid lactose completely, try lactose-free dairy milk or non-dairy drinks, such as soy milk.

Enjoy Dairy on the Side

Instead of eating or drinking dairy products by themselves, try having them with food that doesn’t contain lactose. For some people, combining dairy with other food may reduce or even get rid of their usual symptoms. So don’t just drink a glass of milk in the morning. Pour it over cereal or have a piece of toast on the side.

Make Better Cheese Choices

With lactose intolerance, you can still eat cheese, but choose carefully. Hard, aged cheeses like Swiss, parmesan, and cheddars are lower in lactose. Other low-lactose cheese options include cottage cheese or feta cheese made from goat or sheep’s milk. Certain types of cheeses — especially soft or creamy ones like Brie — are higher in lactose. If you want to avoid dairy completely, try lactose-free and dairy-free cheeses.

Learn to Love Yogurt

Look for yogurt with live and active bacterial cultures. When you eat this type of yogurt, the bacterial cultures can help break down the lactose. Plus just 1 cup of plain, low-fat yogurt provides 415 mg of calcium. But forget frozen yogurt. It doesn’t contain enough live cultures, which means it may cause problems for people who are lactose intolerant. To be safe, you can always choose lactose-free yogurt.

Probiotics for Lactose Intolerance

For some people, probiotics can ease symptoms of lactose intolerance. Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, that restore the balance of “good” bacteria in your digestive system. They can be found in foods like yogurt or kefir — probiotic-rich milk — as well as dietary supplements. Check with your doctor to see if probiotics might help you.

Low-Lactose Home Cooking

Cooking low-lactose requires a change of thinking. The simpler you cook, the better. Use herbs and seasonings to flavor meat, fish, and vegetables. Stick to fresh ingredients and use fewer prepared foods. Experiment with chicken stock or lactose-free milks to make sauces. Use low-lactose cheeses for baking. Explore cuisines — such as Mediterranean or Asian — that don’t rely very much on dairy products.

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Head, Heart, Hands & Health – The 4-H Pledge

The 4-H Pledge Means Dedication

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

 

At a glance, one might not think twice about that four-word pledge. But to countless individuals, that short, simple phrase represents dedication to 4-H, a prestigious organization devoted to teaching America’s youth the skills necessary to become successful outside the classroom.

UCANR 4H Pledge
UCANR 4H Pledge

Agriculturally-based, 4-H began in the 1800s as a way for students to communicate new and innovative farming techniques to those who were disconnected from university campuses. Eventually, this education trend caught on and in 1902 the first 4-H club was formed.

4h-pledge, 4-H Head Heart Hands HealthThe Cooperative Extension System was later created in 1914, and in partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture under the United States Department of Agriculture, 4-H was officially nationalized. Clubs were established all across the United States.

4-H

 

Today, there are hundreds of children involved in 4-H. From health issues to food security, there isn’t an issue that these young, energetic individuals aren’t taking on.

For more information about 4-H, visit their website at http://www.4-h.org.

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President/CEO Westside Produce on Food Safety

Stephen Patricio, President and CEO of Westside Produce, a grower, packer and shipper of cantaloupe for California and Arizona, talks about food safety of our locally grown foods.

“The Center for Produce Safety is a 7 year-old organization that facilitates science-based actionable research to improve the quality as well as the safety of the healthy fruits, vegetables and tree nuts we are so proud of,” said Patricio.

Patricio commented that in general, growers have a great understanding of food safety. “There’s been a tremendous awareness over the years I’ve been actively involved, and we’re maturing everyday. Realistically, the industry matures, the workers mature, because the elements of food safety don’t exist in an ivory tower or in an office, or in a tractor or in a shop; they exist everywhere on the farm,” said Patricio.

“From the absolute beginnings on the dirt all the way through the packing houses to the shipping docks to the sales offices; it’s a culture. Food Safety is a culture, not just an action,” he added.

And for those consumers worried about the nutrition and safety of their produce, Patricio reassures that everyone involved in produce cares just as much as they do. “What I continue to tell people is that there is not a farmer, producer, or grower anywhere who doesn’t eat the product that they produced themselves. And, they feed it to their family, their children, their grandchildren. And they’re proud of it, they’re happy with it.”

Patricio continued, “If that’s the approach that people simply take to their daily actions and activities, well, I don’t have to worry about the safety of food. We just have to use our heads and manage temperature and everything from spoilage to cross-contamination that can happen anywhere. But you do a good job of creating a safe product,” said Patricio.

The beauty of California produce, according to Patricio is that it is “not a sterile environment. Everything isn’t produced in a factory, taken off a shelf, or torn out of a plastic container. It’s all healthy and from nature. It’s in God’s container and we just have to do our job of not contaminating it.”

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Grape Consumption May Offer Benefits for Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis

New research presented this week at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, California, suggests that regular grape consumption may help alleviate pain associated with symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee, and improve joint flexibility and overall mobility.

Researchers attribute these potential benefits to the polyphenols found in grapes.

The sixteen week clinical study, undertaken by Texas Woman’s University, was designed to investigate the benefits of grape consumption on inflammation and osteoarthritis outcomes.

72 men and women with knee osteoarthritis (OA) were assigned to either consume grapes in the form of a whole grape freeze-dried powder, or a placebo powder.

The study results, presented by lead investigator Shanil Juma, Ph.D., showed that both men and women consuming a grape-enriched diet had a significant decrease in self- reported pain related to activity and an overall decrease in total knee symptoms.

This beneficial effect was more pronounced in females. Additionally, age-related differences were observed: there was a 70% increase in very hard activity for those under 64 years of age consuming the grape powder, while those receiving the placebo reported a significant decrease in very hard activity.

Participants over 65 years, whether consuming grapes or the placebo, reported a decline in moderate to hard activities.

Evidence of increased cartilage metabolism was observed in men consuming the grape- enriched diet; they had higher levels of an important cartilage growth factor (IGF-1) than those on placebo. This protective effect was not observed in the females. The researchers noted that no difference in range of motion was observed for either the grape group or the placebo group.

The serum marker for inflammation (IL1-β) measured was increased in both placebo and grape groups, although much less of an increase was observed in the grape group.

“These findings provide promising data that links grape consumption to two very important outcomes for those living with knee osteoarthritis: reduced pain and improvements in joint flexibility,” said Dr. Juma. “More research is needed to betterunderstand the results of the serum biomarkers, as well as the age and gender differences observed.”

Dr. Juma also shared results from a recent cell study that looked at the effects of whole grape polyphenols on cartilage cell integrity and markers of cartilage health.

Cartilage cells were first treated with various doses of whole grape polyphenols, and then stimulated with an inflammatory agent. Cell proliferation significantly increased – in a dose dependent manner – in the grape polyphenol treated cells in the presence of an inflammatory agent.

Additionally a marker for cartilage degradation was significantly lower with the three highest doses of the whole grape polyphenols when compared to control cells and cells treated with the inflammatory agent, suggesting a possible protective effect of grapes on cartilage cells.

Osteoarthritis is a condition where the natural cushioning between joints – the cartilage – wears away. Millions of Americans are affected by osteoarthritis: according to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 27 million people have osteoarthritis and knees are an area most commonly affected. Osteoarthritis is more likely to occur in people over 45 years of age, and women are more likely to have osteoarthritis than men.

The Experimental Biology conference is a multidisciplinary, scientific meeting focused on research and life sciences, covering general fields of study such as anatomy, biochemistry, nutrition, pathology and pharmacology. The conference is comprised of nearly 14,000 scientists and exhibitors.

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Study Shows No Increased Cancer Incidence from Consumption of Conventional Foods

A peer reviewed study conducted by Oxford University and published in the British Journal of Cancer found that there was no difference in cancer rates of middle aged women who consumed organic foods compared to women who ate conventionally grown foods.

This research, released this week, was sponsored by a cancer research charity in the United Kingdom.  According to the charity’s health information manager, Dr. Claire Knight:

“This study adds to the evidence that eating organically grown food doesn’t lower your overall cancer risk.  Scientists have estimated that over 9% of cancer cases in the U.K. may be linked to dietary factors, of which almost 5% are linked to not eating enough fruits and vegetables.  So eating a balanced diet which is high in fruit and vegetables – whether conventionally grown or not – can help reduce cancer.”

While this study reinforces the safety of organically and conventionally grown foods, the study the Alliance for Food and Farming sent in yesterday’s update shows the clear health benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.  That peer reviewed study from the University College of London found that people who consume 7 or more servings of fruits and veggies a day reduces their risk of premature death by 42%.

Both studies underscore that the best advice for consumers is also the simplest:  eat more organic and conventional produce for better health and a longer life.  Both are safe and the right choice is to always eat more.

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Salmonella Data Now at Your Fingertips

Forty years of Salmonella data, a major cause of food poisoning, is now available to the public, the food industry, and researchers in a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The data, collected by state and federal health officials, provides a wealth of information on Salmonella, the top foodborne cause of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.

Available for hands-on web access for the first time, the Atlas of Salmonella in the United States, 1968-2011 summarizes surveillance data on 32 types of Salmonella isolates from people, animals, and other sources. The information is organized by demographic, geographic and other categories.

“Salmonella causes a huge amount of illness and suffering each year in the United States. We hope these data allow researchers and others to assess what has happened and think more about how we can reduce Salmonella infections in the future,” said Robert Tauxe, M.D., deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. “The more we understand Salmonella, the more we can make progress in fighting this threat all along the farm to table chain.”

CDC estimates that Salmonella bacteria cause more than 1.2 million illnesses each year in the United States, resulting in more than 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

Salmonella infections most often cause vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes severe. In rare cases, Salmonella illness can lead to severe and life-threatening bloodstream infections.

By providing data by age, sex, geography, and season of the year in a downloadable format, the Atlas allows users to view national trends in reported cases of human Salmonella infection over time, problems in specific geographic areas, sources of Salmonella, and the connection between animal and human health.

Serotyping has been the core of public health monitoring of Salmonella infections for over 50 years. Now, scientists use DNA testing to further divide each serotype into more subtypes and to detect more outbreaks.

With the next generation of sequencing technology, advancements continue as the laboratory can find information about the bacteria in just one test.

The data presented likely represent just the tip of the iceberg since many cases of human salmonellosis are not diagnosed and reported to the health department. This underreporting may occur because the ill person does not seek medical care, the health care provider does not obtain a stool culture for testing, or the culture results are not reported to public health officials.

The Salmonella group of bacteria has more than 2,500 different serotypes, but fewer than 100 cause the vast majority of infections in people. Older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and children under five years old have a higher risk for Salmonella infection. Infections in these groups can be more severe, resulting in long-term health consequences or death.

To access the Atlas, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/reportspubs/salmonella-atlas/index.html.

For more information on Salmonella, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/.

For more information on food safety, please visit: www.foodsafety.gov.

For more information about preventing Salmonella infections, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/general/prevention.html.

If you have any questions, please contact:  CDC Media Relations at (404) 639-3286.

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