Eat Your Veggies
Eating produce may lower stroke risk by almost a third finds a new Chinese study that compiled data that tracked the eating habits and health of people around the world. The analysis included 20 studies of 16,981 strokes among 760,629 participants. The findings: people who ate the most produce were 21% less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate the lowest amount. The more produce consumed, the better the benefits. To wit: stroke risk fell 32% for every 200 grams per day of fruit consumed and 11% with every 200 grams of vegetables. Researchers found that citrus fruits, apples, pears and leafy vegetables were linked to lowered risk. Researchers say that other factors may be at play - people who eat more fruits and veggies may lead healthier lives - but eating produce is helpful.
Or Maybe Vice Versa
According to Dartmouth University researchers, people who eat healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables are notably happier than those who skip veggies, and personal feelings of well being and life satisfaction increase with each serving of produce consumed per day. The study, which analyzed the diets of 80,000 people, found that those who ate eight or more servings per day rated themselves an average 1/4 point happier, on a scale of one to ten, than those eating essentially none, although the increased happiness seems to level off with further servings. Happiness has been found to be linked with some biological characteristics, such as a lower pulse rate, but whether produce contributes to positive feelings or happy people simply eat more fruit and veggies has yet to be researched.
Popeye (and Mom) Were Right
If you haven’t already, it is time to add dark leafy greens to your daily diet. The nutrients found in these vegetables provide a host of health benefits, including potentially reducing the risk for heart disease and cancer. Vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and magnesium are just a few of the vitamins and minerals that are found in abundance in dark leafy greens. Spinach is probably the first that comes to mind, but Tanya Zuckerbrot MS RD lists several others that should become a routine part of your meal plan, such as kale, Swiss chard, collard greens and mustard greens. As fall and winter approaches, these winter greens will be abundant in grocery stores (they grow best in cooler weather) at reasonable prices, nullifying the excuse that eating healthfully has to cost a lot of money.
Fish and Veg
People who eat a Mediterranean diet comprised of large amounts of vegetables and fish live longer, is the unanimous result of four studies by the Sahlgrenska Academy, Sweden. The “H70” study, a 40-year study during which scientists compared thousands of 70-year olds who ate a Mediterranean diet to those who’d eaten more meat and animal products, found that the former had a 20% chance of living longer. These findings are supported by three additional studies, one of which compiled data on the effects of a Mediterranean diet on the health of children. "The conclusion we can draw from these studies is that there is no doubt that a Mediterranean diet is linked to better health, not only for the elderly but also for youngsters," says researcher Gianluca Tognon.
Blame It on Budget Cuts
The House approved a bill that would end funding for the Microbiological Data Program (MDP) that routinely tests samples of fruits and vegetables for pathogens including salmonella and E.coli. Detractors say there are similar screening programs in place and call it duplicative in this era of necessary budget cuts. Defenders say other programs do not test fruits and vegetables to the same degree and cite the MDP as the only one to test for non-O157 strains of E. coli including the one that recently killed more than 40 and sickened 4100 in Europe. Dropping the MDP "may serve the interests of agribusiness, but it's a serious disservice to consumers and public health," says Ken Cook, president, Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy organization.
Increases Nutrient Density
Contrary to popular belief, salad greens exposed to continuous light, such as that in supermarket, actually were more nutritionally dense than those kept in the dark. Researchers with the ARS Food Quality Laboratory in Beltsville, MD exposed spinach leaves to light that is similar to the 24-hour artificial fluorescent light received if the produce were located in the front of a produce storage case. The vegetable had increased levels of carotenoids, vitamins C, E, K and folate than those stored enclosed in a thick brown grocery bag paper. The light reaction is not temperature sensitive, as both were held at a constant 4 degrees Celsius. The results of the study are published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Isothiocyanate Is Key Nutrient
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have long been thought of as cancer fighting foods and researchers from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University have found a specific compound that appears to stop the growth of cancer by encouraging cell death – a process known as apoptosis. Isothiocyanates, also found in cauliflower and watercress, may work by assisting a tumor suppressor gene known as p53 which helps prevent cancer growth as long as it is not mutated. Isothiocyanates will selectively bind with the mutated p53 genes to induce apoptosis, but will leave the normal version of the gene alone. Mutant p53 depletion may be an important target for cancer prevention and therapy, state the authors in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
More Effective Than the Sun?
Eating vegetables can give you a healthy tan, says new research led by Dr. Ian Stephan, U of Nottingham, who showed that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables imparts a golden glow. Antioxidants called carotenoids are present in fruits and vegetables. They’re responsible for the red coloring in carrots and tomatoes and, are not only important for our immune and reproductive systems, they impart a golden glow to the skin. "We found that, given the choice between skin color caused by suntan and skin color caused by carotenoids, people preferred the carotenoid skin color, so if you want a healthier and more attractive skin color, you are better off eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables than lying in the sun," says Stephan.
Vitamin C for Me
Eating a diet high in antioxidants may protect against ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke that occurs as a result from an obstruction within a vessel that supplies blood to the brain. Antioxidants can come from a variety of food sources, including fruits, vegetables, coffee, chocolate, red wine, whole grain cereals, and nuts. Vitamin C in particular appeared effective. The nutrients work by combating the oxidative stress and systemic inflammation that contributes to the pathogenesis of ischemic stroke. But the same cannot be said about hemorrhagic stroke, which is less common and occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. High Vitamin E intake, in fact, is associated with a greater risk of developing hemorrhagic stroke.
State of Emergency Says Gov
Florida’s annual citrus crop is worth billions of dollars annually. Unusual freezing temperatures over the last few days threaten many of those, as well as other produce like green beans and sweet corn. Florida is also one of the leading winter producers of corn, valued at $229 million in 2009. . Governor Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency Sunday because of the crop damage threat. When Florida crops are damaged, shoppers pay more for produce because replacement product is imported from outside the US. Farmers are trying different strategies to save the crops, such as hiring $2500 per hour helicopters to push warm air down toward the plants to prevent frost from settling. They are also trying a method that uses a layer of ice to protect the plant from freezing temperatures.
Five a Day for Good Health
Despite years of encouragement, both children and adults are still too low on fruit and vegetable consumption. The recommendation of the government’s dietary guidelines are for adults to consume 4 to 6 cups a day (or roughly 5 to nine servings a day), however, most people consume less than 2 cups according to a recent survey by the NPD group. Children are recommended to consume 2 and one-half to 4 and one-half cups but are only getting just under 1 and a half. The most popular fruit is the apple; most popular vegetable is broccoli. On a positive note, people do eat slightly more than five years ago, says Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation. “I don’t think people fully understand how good fruits and vegetables are for them,” she said.
Proving That Variety Counts
Potatoes have a bad rap, says Chris Voigt, the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission. To prove that the potato is a healthful food, he committed to eating a diet of 20 potatoes a day for 60 days straight beginning October 1st and ending November 29th. Unfortunately, however, he reports to the Tri-City Herald that he is sick of potatoes and wishes that he had only committed to one month instead of two. Although potatoes are healthy and rich in nutrients such as protein, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C, he says, there are only so many ways they can be prepared without smothering them in cheese, sour cream and gravy. He has resorted to eating chips, French fries, a homemade potato ice cream, and even a potato soaked in pickle juice.
Produce for Kids
Produce for Kids (PFK) has teamed up with four large grocers to support the organization’s annual “Eat Smart for a Great Start” fall campaign which benefits PBS KIDS. Between now and October 28, Price Chopper, Ahold’s Giant-Carlisle and Martin’s Food Stores, Meijer, and Publix Super Markets will make a donation to PBS Kids based on the sales of fresh produce items at participating stores in 20 states. The program provides families and teachers with educational content, resources, and outreach materials to promote healthy eating among children. “We want to teach people that it is easy to make healthy eating part of their family’s daily regimen and stick to a budget at the same time,” said PFK executive director Heidi McIntyre.“
Especially for Smokers
Quitting smoking is the only proven way to reduce one’s cancer risk, but a diet rich in various fruits and vegetables may also reduce the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers, finds a study. "Although quitting smoking is the most important preventive action in reducing lung cancer risk, consuming a mix of different types of fruit and vegetables may also reduce risk, independent of the amount, especially among smokers," said Dr. H. Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, The National Inst. for Public Health and the Environment, Netherlands. He added, "Fruits and vegetables contain many different bioactive compounds, and it makes sense to assume that it is important that you not only eat the recommended amounts, but also consume a rich mix of these bioactive compounds by consuming a large variety."
American Favorite Good for You
In the United States, white button mushrooms represent 90 percent of the total mushrooms consumed. Researchers have found that the commonly enjoyed vegetable plays an important role in keeping the immune system healthy. An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) funded study, conducted at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, found that white button mushrooms promote immune function by increasing production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while seeking to protect and repair tissue. Nutrients within the mushrooms enhance the maturity of dendritic cells from bone marrow which make T-cells. T-cells are white blood cells which recognize and deactivate antigens or invading microbes.
Veggies Front and Center
As the rate of childhood obesity continues to rise, policymakers, educators and parents seek ways to ensure that children make healthy eating choices. School cafeterias may offer fast food options but they also offer salads which are often passed over by school kids. Now, a team of researchers from Cornell University has identified an elegantly simple and effective way to get children to make healthy food choices. In a year long study, researchers found that when the salad bar was moved to a more prominent location, sales of fruits and vegetables increased by as much as 300 percent. "By the end of the year, this even led to 6% more kids eating school lunches," said researcher Laura Smith. "It's basic behavioral economics — we made it easier for them to make the right choice."
British Asparagus Booming
British consumers are eating more locally produced asparagus and snow peas because the usual suppliers to European countries, located in places like Kenya, were isolated by Iceland's volcanic eruption. Most of the publicity surrounding the disruption triggered by the eruption of the volcano centered around the human passengers whose lives were disrupted. But air freight shipments were also disrupted, and perishable products like food that cannot be warehoused for long periods were the worst hit. Clifford Soper of the British Asparagus Festival says, "Short term, the market has gone bonkers. The supermarkets are clamouring for asparagus to fill the gaps on the shelves left by the fresh veg not being air freighted."
Cut Alzheimer’s Risk
A heart-healthy diet may have a direct effect on your risk for developing Alzheimer’s, according to Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas and fellow researchers from Columbia University who recommend eating a Mediterranean-style diet of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Scarmeas followed more than 2000 dementia-free adults and found that those who regularly followed this type of diet were 38 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s over the next four years. Heart disease is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and, although Scarmeas could not prove a causal relationship between diet and the incidence of Alzheimer’s, he said a diet rich in folate, vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids may affect the accumulation of beta amyloid, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s.
Bacteria, Mold and Yeast, Oh My
Shoppers in impoverished neighborhoods are more likely to find bacteria, mold and yeast in their packaged salads, fruits and vegetables than shoppers in higher-income neighborhoods, found researchers who compared produce in six Philadelphia-area communities. Study co-author Jennifer Quinlan, professor of nutrition and biology at Drexel University, said, “Food deteriorates when there is microbial growth.” Quinlan explained that foods with higher bacteria counts have been associated with food-borne illnesses and said that much of the produce available in poorer neighborhoods is sold in smaller stores that don’t necessarily have the facilities to handle it in the safest way. The study appears in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.