The Key to Healthy Living

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables with Dr. Joan Salge Blake

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

“Eat your fruits and vegetables!” is a phrase all too often heard by children as their parents’ attempt to instill healthy living and the importance of a balanced diet from a young age. However, as they mature, it becomes just as important to make sure they stay true to the mantra. Dr. Joan Salge Blake—clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Department of Health Sciences program, registered dietitian, published author, and host of the health and wellness podcast “Spot On!”—is continuing to advocate for this message in an era surrounded by food trends and alternatives.

Joan Salge Blake

“The recommendation is to have a minimum of two-and-a-half cups of vegetables a day and two cups of fruit a day for a combination of four-and-a-half cups … and [people] are not meeting those minimum requirements,” Blake said.

The biggest reason that most miss their opportunity to complete their daily balanced diet is due to their meal group priorities throughout the day. According to Blake, “The issue is that a lot of people wait until nighttime, and if you do that, it’s going to be really hard for you to have two and a half cups of vegetables at dinner … so I think that people just forget that we need to incorporate these throughout the day.”

Aside from vegetables, she stresses the importance of incorporating all five food groups throughout your day. “What we want to do is make sure that the diet is balanced,” Blake explained. “What you don’t want to do is just eat fruits and vegetables all day long, because then you don’t have a balanced diet. Ensuring that you receive protein or calcium from dairy products is key to maintaining a diet that is balanced and proportional.”

For more science-based, useful information about health and wellness, join the already 9,000 listeners of Blake’s podcast “Spot On!”

Facing Confusion About Food Choices?

Majority of Consumers are Confused About Food

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

A major survey of 1,000 Americans, from 8 to 80, found that consumers are confused about food. California Ag Today recently spoke with Tamika Sims the director of food technology communications for the International Food Information Council, based in Washington. She said consumers are indeed confused about food choices.

“While they trust a registered dietician, or healthcare professional, they often don’t rely on these people for their information. They rely on friends and family. They rely on social media. So, they often receive a lot of conflicting information about what foods they should eat, and or avoid,” Sims said.

“When we asked consumers if they agreed with the statement that they’re confused about the choices they make, we had almost 80% of consumers say that they were confused, and then we asked a question about whether or not they doubt the choices they make when they’re in the store, and over 50% said yes, they do doubt their choices,” Sims noted

Boomers are a bright spot on the survey as the more confident in the choices that they make when they’re making a food and beverage purchase or a choice in a restaurant.

Sims explained what the California ag industry can do to help consumers.

“It’s an interesting time right now, because in the age of social media, consumers to receive a lot of information from even more different places than before,” she said.

“It’s important to be part of the conversation and certainly organizations like IFIC take that to heart, and that’s what we do,” Sims said. “So, we’re part of the conversation in social media, traditional media, as well as outlets where you are looking at people who are the major buyers of food, such as moms, other parents, and then also our younger generations, millennials, and so on. We are part of the conversation in many different ways.”

Silicon Valley Needs Farmers Too – Farm to Food Bank Month Spotlight

Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is centered in one of America’s wealthiest regions. But as the cost of living soars, nutritious food has become a luxury for the nearly 250,000 people who depend on us for food every month. A recent article in USA Today highlights this disparity.Second Harvest

More than two-thirds of our clients purchase unhealthy food. They know the food is unhealthy, but it’s what they can afford. We’re on a mission to not only end local hunger, but to provide everyone with access to the nutritious food they need to thrive.  Local farmers are some of our strongest allies.

Thanks to generous growers throughout our region, Second Harvest was able to distribute nearly 30 million pounds of fresh produce last fiscal year, more than any other food bank in the nation. Much of this food was donated from family farms, demonstrating the deep connection that farmers have to local community.

Together, farmers and the food bank community can ensure that anyone who needs a meal—especially a healthy meal—can get one.

 

Kathy Jackson was named a “Woman of Influence” by the Silicon Valley Business Journal in 2010 and currently serves on the boards of the California Association of Food Banks and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity. In 2014 she was honored as Network Leader of the Year across the 202 food banks within Feeding America.

National Men’s Health Week: What Foods Should Men Be Eating?

National Men’s Health Week falls on June 9 – 15 every year, and with Father’s Day right around the corner it’s important to note what foods are going to help keep the male gender healthy and strong.

Luckily, the editors of Men’s Health took the time to compose a list of the top 10 foods that are most beneficial to men; many of them are also noted as California’s top agricultural commodities.

1. Almonds: These energy-rich snacks lower bad cholesterol, thanks to plant sterols, and benefit diabetics by lowering blood sugar. They’re also rich in amino acids, which bolster testosterone levels and muscle growth. Almonds are also stuffed with vitamin E, which helps defend against sun damage.

In a study, volunteers who consumed 14 milligrams of the vitamin (about 20 almonds) per day and then were exposed to UV light burned less than those who took none. And because vitamin E is an antioxidant, it also works to keep your arteries free of dangerous free radicals. Low levels of vitamin E are also associated with poor memory performance and cognitive decline, says dietitian Sari Greaves of New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.

2. Flaxseeds: Rich in protein and fiber, these little seeds offer a payload of omega-3 fatty acids, which erase spots and iron out fine lines in the skin. The British Journal of Nutrition reported that participants in one study who downed about half a teaspoon of omega-3s daily in 6 weeks experienced significantly less irritation and redness, along with better-hydrated skin.

A recent study of people with high cholesterol (greater than 240 mg/dL) compared statin treatment with eating 20 grams of flaxseed a day. After 60 days, those eating flaxseed did just as well as those on statins. Try sprinkling ground flaxseed on oatmeal, yogurt, and salads.

3. Tomatoes: There are two things you need to know about tomatoes: red are the best, because they’re packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene; and processed tomatoes are just as potent as fresh ones, because it’s easier for the body to absorb the lycopene.

Studies show that a diet rich in lycopene can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, and help eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused by ultraviolet rays. “Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste work best,” says celebrity trainer Gunnar Petersen.

4. Sweet Potatoes: Often confused with yams, these tubers are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. In addition to countering the effects of secondhand smoke and preventing diabetes, sweet potatoes contain glutathione, an antioxidant that can enhance nutrient metabolism and immune-system health, as well as protect against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, heart attack, and stroke.

What’s more, they’re also loaded with vitamin C, which smoothes out wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that volunteers who consumed 4 milligrams of C (about half a small sweet potato) daily for 3 years decreased the appearance of wrinkles by 11 percent.

5. Spinach: It may be green and leafy, but spinach—a renowned muscle builder—is also the ultimate man food. The heart-health equivalent of a first-ballot Hall of Famer, spinach is replete with the essential minerals potassium and magnesium, and it’s one of the top sources of lutein, an antioxidant that may help prevent clogged arteries.

Plus its vitamins and nutrients can bolster bone-mineral density, attack prostate cancer cells, reduce the risk of skin tumors, fight colon cancer, and, last but not least, increase blood flow to the penis. “Popeye was on to something,” says Susan Bowerman, assistant director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles.

6. Rosemary: The carnosic acid found in this spice has been shown to reduce stroke risk in mice by 40 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry. Carnosic acid appears to set off a process that shields brain cells from free-radical damage, which can worsen the effects of a stroke.

It can also protect against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and the general effects of aging.

7. Wild Salmon: A 4-ounce serving of salmon has approximately 2,000 milligrams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), omega-3 fatty acids that serve as oil for the brain’s hardware by helping nerve cells communicate with one another.

Thirty-five percent of your brain consists of fatty acids like these, but they can decline as the years stack up. A 2008 University of Cincinnati study, for instance, found that the brain tissue of 65- to 80-year-olds contained 22 percent less DHA than the brain tissue of 29- to 35-year-olds.

“If you want to keep your wits about you as you age, start consuming omega-3s now,” says William Harris, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of South Dakota. Why is wild so important? Because farmed fish, which are fattened with soy, can be as high in inflammatory omega-6 fats as a cheeseburger.

If in doubt, opt for sockeye salmon, which can’t be farmed and is always wild. Aim for at least two servings a week, says dietitian Joan Salge Blake, author of Nutrition and You.

8. Blueberries: “This potent little fruit can help prevent a range of diseases from cancer to heart disease,” says Ryan Andrews, the director of research at Precision Nutrition, in Toronto, Canada.

Think of blueberries as anti-rust for your gray matter, too. Besides being rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, they’re also packed with antioxidants—only açai, an Amazonian berry, contains more—that neutralize the free radicals that cause neuronal misfires. Eat a cup a day, and opt for wild blueberries whenever possible, as they contain 26 percent more antioxidants than cultivated varieties.

9. Green Tea: Green tea releases catechin, an antioxidant with proven anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Research found that drinking 2 to 6 cups a day not only helps prevent skin cancer but might also reverse the effects of sun damage by neutralizing the changes that appear in sun-exposed skin.

Other studies show that green tea—infused with another antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—can boost your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of most types of cancer.

10. Dark Chocolate: Flavonoids, a natural nutrient in cocoa, improve blood flow in the brain, which helps boost cognitive function. Plus dark chocolate contains a tannin called procyanidin, which is also found in red wine, that can keep your arteries flexible and your blood pressure low.

Indulge in 1 ounce a day to get all the benefits, says dietitian Sari Greaves of New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.