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.
“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!”
“The food craze is a real big movement right now,” Steinmaus stated, “especially with urban folks. Some of the biggest scenes are the foodie craze—that farm-to-table idea of buying locally, organically-produced food.”
Continuing, “And the cooking shows are out of control-popular, right? Where does the food come from? It comes from here; this is what it’s all about,” he said, with pride.
The growing trends are also reinvigorating students to become more involved, according to Steinmaus. “Students are asking where their food comes from,” he commented, “and who the farmers are that produce such healthy fruits and vegetables. That is an exciting part of our discipline as well—this foodie craze, and I think our students want to become a part of that,” he reflected.
The push for local produce is also inspring more people to grow their own home gardens. “When they garden, they get it,” Steinmaus explained. “And as soon as people get their hands dirty and as soon as they produce their first tomato; there’s nothing more empowering than producing your own food,” he said, “even if it’s a little bit.”
With this renewed interest in home gardening, Steinmaus observed, many are discovering their preconceived notions of farming were not quite accurate. “We’re working with the American Horticultural Society, putting together the videos that show people farming isn’t what you might think it is; it is actually completely different.” Steinmaus said.
“Farming involves a lot more than a green thumb,” he elaborated. “It requires the understanding of growing cycles and identifying various deficiencies. It utilizes very high technology. It is producing food; there is nothing more empowering than putting food on your kitchen table that you grew in your garden, or was grown by a farmer you know just down the street, and you know his [or her] name,” said Steinmaus.
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 Programfor undergrads. She encouraged the importance of leaning on vegetables for optimum nutrition and health benefits.
“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 us—that 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 vegetables—whether they’re red, or green, or orange—that 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.
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.
Greater crop insurance protection is now available for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance. New provisions under Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program will provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup and energy crops.
“For years, commodity crop farmers have had the ability to purchase insurance to keep their crops protected, and it only makes sense that fruit and vegetable, and other specialty crop growers, should be able to purchase similar levels of protection,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of crop insurance coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.
By: Monique Bienvenue; California Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter
A partnership between California state employees and the Sacramento Food Bank has helped produce a record number of turkey donations via the 2014 Turkey Drop. The food bank accepted more than 9,300 turkeys for needy families in the Turkey Drop, with 1,760 of them–more than 26,000 pounds (13 tons!)–provided by state employees.
The Turkey Drop is one element in the ongoing State Employees Food Drive. Other ways to contribute include a rice donation program and a continuing effort to collect canned food and other items. State offices throughout the region have staged colorful bins to make donations easy.
The Sacramento Food Bank is Sacramento County’s largest direct food bank provider feeding approximately 40,000 food-insecure individuals a month, including 15,000 children and 8,000 senior citizens. In 2013, the food bank distributed over 6.5 million pounds of food, including 2 million pounds of fresh California-grown fruits and vegetables.
December is Farm to Food Bank Month . Help increase farm to food bank donations to 200 million pounds annually by making a product donation or future donation pledge today – contact Steve Linkhart, California Association of Food Bank at (510) 350-9916.
Salinas Valley Short-Course to Focus on Business and Regulatory Drivers for Coastal Crops
The October 7-9 Specialty Crop School features California’s Salinas Valley where lettuce, cole crops, strawberries and wine grapes reign.
This intensive 3-day course has been specifically designed for suppliers to specialty crop businesses who require an in-depth understanding of key drivers impacting Salinas Valley growers and their purchasing and management decisions. The year-round production cycle of the Salinas Valley sends fresh leafy greens, vegetables and other cool season crops to markets around the world.
Participants will return to their organizations equipped with new information to refine their business strategies according to new food safety, pest management, traceability and water requirements as well as meeting retailer demands.
The Salinas Valley School, headquartered in Watsonville, will include field visits to farms, processing facilities and research centers as well as discussions with growers, pest management experts, agronomists, regulators and university scientists. Field stops are planned in lettuce, cole crops, artichokes, strawberries, seed production and winegrapes.
Featured speakers include Bonnie Fernandez from the Center for Produce Safety at UC Davis; Richard Smith, Monterey County Cooperative Extension; Becky Sisco from the IR-4 Minor Use Registration Program; Richard Spas, CA Department of Pesticide Regulation and representatives from several local farming companies.
Early-bird rates are available until September 10 and registration closes on October 1. Class size is limited and seats are available on a first come, first served basis.
Eating a variety of natural, unprocessed vegetables can do wonders for your health, but choosing super-nutritious kale on a regular basis may provide significant health benefits, including cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.
Kale, also known as borecole, is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. A leafy green, kale is available in curly, ornamental, or dinosaur varieties. It belongs to the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Kale is a Nutritional Powerhouse
One cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.
Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K — and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.
Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.
Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.
Super-Rich in Vitamin K
Eating a diet rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin K can reduce the overall risk of developing or dying from cancer, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin K is abundant in kale but also found in parsley, spinach, collard greens, and animal products such as cheese.
Vitamin K is necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions, including normal blood clotting, antioxidant activity, and bone health.
But too much vitamin K can pose problems for some people. Anyone taking anticoagulants such as warfarin should avoid kale because the high level of vitamin K may interfere with the drugs. Consult your doctor before adding kale to your diet.
Kale might be a powerhouse of nutrients but is also contains oxalates, naturally occurring substances that can interfere with the absorption of calcium. Avoid eating calcium-rich foods like dairy at the same time as kale to prevent any problems.
Eat More Kale
In summer, vegetable choices abound. But during the cooler months, there are fewer in-season choices — with the exception of kale and other dark, leafy greens that thrive in cooler weather.
To find the freshest kale, look for firm, deeply colored leaves with hardy stems. Smaller leaves will be more tender and milder in flavor. Leaves range from dark green to purple to deep red in color.
Store kale, unwashed, in an airtight zipped plastic bag for up to five days in the refrigerator.