Want Better Health—Consume More Produce!

Eating More Produce Is Always Good Advice

The advice to eat more fruits and vegetables for better health is always welcome and appropriate.  Registered dietitians and nutritionists as well as other medical professionals universally recommend eating more to help prevent illness and disease, especially since only 1 in 10 Americans consume the recommended amount of fruits and veggies each day

But in today’s environment, there is even more emphasis on maintaining a healthy immune system. Dietitians and nutritionists are regularly being asked for their input on staying healthy and most are reiterating the need for appropriate hydration, adequate sleep and a diet that is rich in fruits and veggies.  This video featuring Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, Maya Feller Nutrition, provides some simple advice for consumers on what foods and practices contribute to healthy immune function.

And, here are just a few quick reminders of the health-promoting attributes of fruits and veggies.

Apples:  In addition to the many disease-fighting nutrients in an apple, red apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin, which can help fortify your immune system, especially when you’re under stress.  And remember to eat the peel, which is rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Berries:  Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants.  Eat them together for a powerful nutrient-rich punch.
Broccoli:  A multi-vitamin approach in every bite, broccoli provides Vitamin A and C, and the antioxidant glutathione as well.
Citrus:  During cold and flu season, everyone knows to reach for some citrus fruit because it is high in Vitamin C.  Studies have shown that Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which help defend the body against viruses and diseases.
Red Bell Peppers:  Most people don’t realize that red bell peppers are an amazing source of Vitamin C as well as beta carotene, which are both important in boosting your immune system.
Spinach: Often referred to as a superfood, spinach is not only high in vitamin C but it is also rich in antioxidants and beta carotene, which positively impacts the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.
Watermelon:  Like broccoli, watermelon contains the antioxidant glutathione, which has been shown to strengthen immunity.

While these are just some examples, reaching for any fruit and veggie will provide a nutrient-dense snack or meal component.  Plus, peer reviewed studies have also shown that people who eat more fruits and veggies each day are happier and their mood is enhanced.  And, we can all benefit from a little mood improvement about now.

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.”

Eating Healthy Produce Important for Kids

Produce Critical to Healthy Lifestyle

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Fruits and vegetable are an important part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy produce is especially important for kids whose minds and bodies are still developing.

Teresa Thorne, the executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming in Watsonville, recently talked to California Ag Today about a peer-reviewed study that showcased the importance of healthy eating during childhood.

Teresa Thorne

“It’s another study, and it mirrors other peer-reviewed research that shows the health benefits to children of eating more fruits and vegetables,” Thorne said.

“There have been other studies that also have come out and said that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially among young children, can really increase IQ. This study, which was conducted in Australia with 4,200 kids, found that test scores on standardized academic tests increased markedly from students that ate more fruits and vegetables and ate them every day,” Thorne explained.

Thorne emphasized that it’s very important for people of all ages to eat their fruits and vegetables.

“We know fruits and vegetables have a benefit for all of us, and on overall health, and that does include brain health, including when your kids are young and growing and maturing,” she said. “Giving the brain those nutrient-rich foods that fruits and vegetables really provide is important, and these types of studies just underscore that.”

It’s not just one type of produce that’s healthy. No matter if you choose organic or conventional, the important part is that you eat more fruits and vegetables.

“Organic or conventional, where ever you purchase them, whether you like to shop at your local grocery store or warehouse store or farmer’s market, buy either organic or conventional, but just always choose to eat more,” Thorne said.

“Even the most loyal, say organic shoppers, there’s times you’re eating in a restaurant or what have you, that they may not have that choice for you, but you should know that the choice to order that salad is always the right choice, whether it’s conventional or organic. Both production methods yield very, very safe and healthy foods.”

Fresno County 4-H Hosts Color Me Green 5K Run

On March 14, 2015, Fresno County 4-H members will host Color Me Green 5K Runs at California State University, Fresno. Fresno County 4-H is partnering with the Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agriculture and Science Technology for the Color Me Green 5K Run.

The Color Me Green 5K Runs are five kilometer runs designed to encourage youths and community members to increase their physical activity while also having fun! During each run, participants are showered with colored dye as they pass through each marker point. This run, hosted by 4-H youth members and Fresno State students, will be great opportunity for communities to come together and celebrate healthy living and being physically active.

 Through the Color Me Green 5K Runs, 4-H youth members and Fresno State students will encourage the health of Fresno County. In addition to planning, organizing, and leading the run, 4-H clubs and youth members will host interactive 4-H booths highlighting various project areas.

Online registration opened on February 1, 2015. Here is the link for the registration: http://ucanr.edu/colormegreenfresno4h

 

Celebrate the Holidays – the Fun and Healthy Way

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

Keeping your family healthy this holiday season can be tough. With festive cakes, pastries and candy lined up in every aisle of the grocery store, it’s easy to fall off the healthy train.

Fortunately for us, MyPlate has done a fabulous job of creating a beautifully comprehensive list of ways to incorporate healthy habits into your next holiday gathering. Here are some tips that could help you coordinate a fun and healthy event for everyone!

  1. Make healthy habits part of your holiday celebration: Make activities, not food, the center of attention at your next event. This will keep your guests moving and their hands off all the snacks.
  2. Make foods look festive: Use healthy foods, such as nuts or veggies, to decorate your meals.
  3. Add a bit of “health” to your drinks: Serve fruit infused water, or make ice cubes out of juice.
  4. Savor the flavor: Instead of scarfing down a whole meal, take time to enjoy each and every bite.
  5. Incorporate MyPlate.com to make sure every food group is represented in your main dish.
  6. Make moving part of the event: Make sure the music is on and that your guests are dancing!
  7. Experiment with healthy recipes: Make healthy recipes a mandatory part of your party-planning.
  8. Make the cleaning process fun: Get the kids involved! It’ll keep the moving and it’ll help you get the job done faster.
  9. Shop smart and eat smart: Healthy food can be expensive, try to buy products that are in season and fit your budget.
  10. Be a cheerleader for healthy habits: Children are like sponges; the more they see you maintain a healthy lifestyle, the more they’re likely to do the same.

Stay healthy this holiday season; go to http://www.choosemyplate.gov recipe ideas, nutrition facts and healthy tips. 

 

 

 

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.