The Link Between Food Waste And Diet Quality

Did you know that Americans waste nearly a pound of food per person each day? The exact amount of food we trash differs by how healthy your diet is,  says a recent University of Vermont co-authored national study published in PLOS ONE.  Between 2007 and 2014, U.S. consumers wasted nearly 150,000 tons of food per day – or nearly a pound of food per person each day. Researchers estimate that food waste corresponded with the use of 30 million acres of land annually and 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water each year. The amount of wasted food equals roughly 30 percent of the average daily calories consumed for every American – more than 320 million people.

While most people want to eat better by putting more fruit and vegetables on their plates, the study found that higher quality diets were associated with higher levels of food waste. The study, by researchers at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, University of Vermont and University of New Hampshire, is the first to explore the links between diet quality, food waste and environment impacts. 

Healthy Diets And Food Waste

Twenty-two food groups were studied. Fruits, vegetables and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes – 39 percent – were wasted most followed by dairy – 17 percent – and meat and mixed meat dishes – 14 percent. “Higher quality diets have greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are being wasted in greater quantities than other food,” says co-author Meredith Niles, a University of Vermont assistant professor. “Eating healthy is important, and brings many benefits, but as we pursue these diets, we must think much more consciously about food waste.”

The study also found that healthier diets used less cropland than lower quality diets, but led to greater waste in irrigation water and pesticides, which are used at higher rates on average for growing fruits and vegetables. “Most existing research has looked at greenhouse gas emissions or land use and its link with different diets,” Niles added. “This study is the first to consider food waste as another important component of varying diet outcomes.”

The researchers estimated that consumer food waste corresponded to harvests produced with the use of 780 million pounds of pesticide and 1.8 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer annually. Both represent significant costs to the environment and the farmers who dedicate land and resources to producing food that’s meant to be eaten.

Embrace Imperfect Food

Education on preparing and storing fresh fruits and vegetables, and knowing the difference between abrasion and spoilage, is critical. Other policy efforts underway range from revising sell-by dates and labels for consistency, food planning and preparation education. Efforts to reduce food waste include French grocer Intermarché’s “inglorious fruits and vegetables” campaign, which promotes the cooking of “the disfigured eggplant,” “the ugly carrot,” and other healthy, but otherwise superficially damaged produce. “Food waste is an issue that plays out at many different levels,” says lead author Zach Conrad at the ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center. “Looking at them holistically will become increasingly important to finding sustainable ways of meeting the needs of a growing world population.”

To investigate the impact of diet quality on food waste and environmental sustainability, researchers collected data on food intake and diet quality from the 2015 Healthy Eating Index and USDA’s What We Eat in America database as well as available food waste data. The researchers calculated the amount of cropland used to produce wasted food using a biophysical simulation model. Using data from various U.S. government sources, the researchers estimated the amount of agricultural inputs, including irrigation water, pesticides and fertilizers used to produce uneaten food.

While low-quality diets may produce less food waste, they come with a range of negative impacts, researchers say. This includes low nutritional value and higher rates of cropland wasted. The study notes that several countries, including Brazil, Germany, Sweden, and Qatar, have adopted dietary guidelines that incorporate environmental sustainability, but none include food waste as a factor.

Preventing Food Waste

In another study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future calculated the nutritional value of food wasted in the U.S. at the retail and consumer levels. They shined a light on just how much protein, fiber and other important nutrients end up in the landfill in a single year. These lost nutrients are important for healthy diets, and some, including dietary fiber, calcium, potassium and vitamin D, are currently consumed below recommended levels. Nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, seafood and dairy products are wasted at disproportionately high rates.

Previous research estimated that as much as 40 percent of food is wasted nationally, but it wasn’t clear before this study how nutritious that food was. While not all wasted food is consumable, a sizeable amount is, leaving researchers and policymakers looking for ways to minimize the amount of good food that gets tossed as millions of Americans go hungry, do not get enough nutrients or do not have access to healthy food options. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency have set a goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. “Huge quantities of nutritious food end up in landfills instead of meeting Americans’ dietary needs,” says study lead author Marie Spiker, MSPH, RD. “Our findings illustrate how food waste exists alongside inadequate intake of many nutrients.”

The researchers calculated the nutritional value of the retail and consumer-level food waste of 213 commodities in 2012, using data from the USDA’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series. The research team, looking at 27 nutrients in all, found that food wasted in the U.S. food supply that year contained 1,217 calories, 33 grams of protein, 5.9 grams of dietary fiber, 1.7 micrograms of vitamin D, 286 milligrams calcium and 880 milligrams potassium per person, per day.

Other Factors

The study also highlights how the amount of nutrients lost to waste compares to nutritional deficits in the typical American diet. For example, dietary fiber is important for maintaining digestive health and is found in grains, vegetables and fruits. Researchers estimate that, in 2012, food wasted each day contained upwards of 1.8 billion grams of dietary fiber, which is comparable to the full recommended intake for dietary fiber for 73.6 million adult women. American women under-consumed dietary fiber by 8.9 grams per day in 2012. The study found that the daily amount of wasted dietary fiber is equivalent to the amount needed to fill this nutritional gap for as many as 206.6 million adult women.

Many factors contribute to food waste at both the retail and consumer levels, including the disposal of food due to aesthetic standards, large portion sizes, and management of perishables in fridges and pantries. There is currently great energy around efforts to address waste of food. Preventing waste at the source is considered to be the optimal approach. Strengthening food recovery efforts that bring surplus food to food banks and pantries is also an important area of effort, innovation and impact.

“This study offers us new ways of appreciating the value of wasted food,” says Roni Neff, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering who oversaw the study and directs the CLF’s Food System Sustainability & Public Health Program. “While not all food that is wasted could or should be recovered, it reminds us that we are dumping a great deal of high quality, nutritious food that people could be enjoying. We should keep in mind that while food recovery efforts are valuable, food recovery doesn’t get to the heart of either the food insecurity problem or the waste problem. We need strategies addressing these challenges at multiple levels.”

Switching To Plant-Based Diets

The biggest waste of food produced for human consumption may be through dietary choices that result in the squandering of environmental resources. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science and their colleagues have found a novel way to define and quantify this second type of wastage. The scientists have called it “opportunity food loss,” a term inspired by the “opportunity cost” concept in economics, which refers to the cost of choosing a particular alternative over better options.

Opportunity food loss stems from using agricultural land to produce animal-based food instead of nutritionally comparable plant-based alternatives. The researchers report that in the United States alone, avoiding opportunity food loss – replacing all animal-based items with edible crops for human consumption – would add enough food to feed 350 million additional people with the same land resources. “Our analysis has shown that favoring a plant-based diet can potentially yield more food than eliminating all the conventionally defined causes of food loss,” says lead author Dr. Alon Shepon.

The scientists compared the resources needed to produce five major categories of animal-based food – beef, pork, dairy, poultry and eggs – with the resources required to grow edible crops of similar nutritional value in terms of protein, calorie and micronutrients. They found that plant-based replacements could produce two to 20-fold more protein per acre. The most dramatic results were obtained for beef. The researchers compared it with a mix of crops – soya, potatoes, cane sugar, peanuts and garlic – that deliver a similar nutritional profile when taken together in the right proportions. The land area that could produce 100 grams of protein from these crops would yield only four grams of edible protein from beef.

Using agricultural land for producing beef instead of replacement crops results in an opportunity food loss of 96 grams – a loss of 96 percent per unit of land. This means that the potential gain from diverting agricultural land from beef to plant-based foods for human consumption would be enormous. The estimated losses from failing to replace other animal-based foods with nutritionally similar crops were also huge: 90 percent for pork, 75 percent for dairy, 50 percent for poultry and 40 percent for eggs – higher than all conventional food losses combined. Opportunity food loss must be taken into account if we want to make dietary choices enhancing global food security.

Nutrition In The News: Link Between Rice And CO2 Levels

Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reduce the nutritional value of rice, according to an international research team that analyzed rice samples from field experiments started by a University of Tokyo professor. Specifically, iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 were reduced in rice grown under higher carbon dioxide concentrations expected in the second half of this century – 568 to 590 parts per million. “Rice is not just a major source of calories, but also proteins and vitamins for many people in developing countries and for poorer communities within developed countries,” said Professor Kazuhiko Kobayashi of the University of Tokyo, co-author of the recent study and expert in effects of air pollution on agriculture.

Not all varieties of rice responded in the same way so future research projects may examine the possibility of finding varieties of rice that can remain nutritious despite the change in the atmosphere. The rice was grown at research sites in China and Japan using an open-field method where researchers built 56-foot-wide plastic pipe octagons elevated about one foot above the tops of plants within standard rice fields.

A network of sensors and monitors measured wind speed and direction to determine how much carbon dioxide is released out of the pipes to raise the local carbon dioxide concentration to the desired experimental level. The technique is known as Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment. “I first started using this technique in 1998, because we knew that plants raised in a plastic or glass house do not grow the same as plants in normal, open field conditions,” Kobayashi said. “This technique allows us to test the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on plants growing in the same conditions that farmers really will grow them some decades later in this century.”

Local wildlife has sometimes added an additional challenge to the research. “At our first field site, we learned we have to keep all of the pipes and tubes above the ground because raccoons kept chewing through everything and jeopardized the experiment,” said Kobayashi. Researchers analyzed a total of 18 different varieties of rice for protein, iron, and zinc levels. Nine varieties of rice grown in China were used for the vitamin B1, B2, B5, and B9 analyses. Other common names for the vitamins are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid (B5), and folate (B9).

Six hundred million people primarily in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Madagascar consume at least 50 percent of their daily energy and/or protein directly from rice. This was also true in Japan during the 1960s, but current Japanese receive only about 20 percent of their daily food energy from rice. Populations in countries with both the highest rice consumption and lowest gross domestic product may experience more malnutrition as the nutritional value of low-cost staple foods like rice declines.

Can Adolescent Cooking Skills Predict Future Nutritional Well-Being

A study published recently in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that developing cooking skills as a young adult may have long-term benefits for health and nutrition. Evidence suggests that developing cooking and food preparation skills is important for health and nutrition, yet the practice of home cooking is declining and now rarely taught in school. “The impact of developing cooking skills early in life may not be apparent until later in adulthood when individuals have more opportunity and responsibility for meal preparation,” said lead author Jennifer Utter, Ph.D., MPH, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

“The strength of this study is the large, population-based sample size followed over a period of 10 years to explore the impact of perceived cooking skills on later nutritional well-being.” Previous studies have linked deficiencies of micronutrients, including vitamin A, to hearing impairment. This is believed to be the first, however, to investigate the relationship between generalized undernutrition and hearing loss, and it is believed to be the first to identify early childhood nutritional status as a modifiable risk factor for later-life hearing loss.

Data was collected as part of the Project Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults longitudinal study conducted in Minneapolis-Saint Paul area schools. Participants reported on adequacy of cooking skills in 2002-2003 when they were 18 to 23 years old. Data was then collected in 2015-2016 on nutrition-related outcomes when participants were 30 to 35 years old. Questions assessed the perceived adequacy of cooking skills, how often they prepared a meal that included vegetables, how often they ate meals as a family, and how often they ate at a fast-food restaurant.

Most participants perceived their cooking skills to be adequate at age 18 to 23, with approximately one quarter of adults reporting their cooking skills to be very adequate. There were no differences in perceived cooking skills by sex, race or ethnicity, educational attainment, or age. Perceived adequacy of cooking skills predicted multiple indicators of nutrition outcomes later in adulthood including greater odds of preparing a meal with vegetables most days and less frequent consumption of fast food.

If those who perceived their cooking skills as adequate had families, they ate more frequent family meals, less frequent fast-food meals, and had fewer barriers to food preparation. “Opportunities to develop cooking skills by adolescents may result in long-term benefits for nutritional well-being,” said Dr. Utter. “Families, health and nutrition professionals, educators, community agencies, and funders can continue to invest in home economics and cooking education knowing that the benefits may not be fully realized until young adults develop more autonomy and live independently.”

Hearing Loss Linked To Poor Nutrition In Early Childhood

Young adults who were undernourished as preschool children were approximately twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss as their better-nourished peers, a recent study suggests. The study – led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – analyzed the relationship between the hearing of more than 2,200 young adults in Nepal and their nutritional levels as children 16 years earlier. The findings suggest that nutritional interventions in South Asia could help prevent hearing loss, a condition which currently affects an estimated 116 million young people in the region.

Hearing loss is the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, and an estimated 80 percent of affected individuals live in low and middle-income countries. Prevalence estimates of hearing impairment among children and young adults in South Asia range from 14 to 28 percent of the population. “Our findings should help elevate hearing loss as a still-neglected public health burden, and one that nutrition interventions in early childhood might help prevent,” says Keith West Jr., a professor of International Health at the Bloomberg School and the principal investigator of the study. The lead author was Susan Emmett, MD, MPH, an otolaryngologist who conducted the analysis and wrote the paper as a postdoctoral fellow at the Bloomberg School’s Center for Human Nutrition.

From 2006 to 2008, researchers tested the hearing of more than 2,200 young adults. All study participants had been part of a nutrition trial conducted between 1989 and 1991 in the District of Sarlahi in Nepal that collected information to assess their nutritional status. Results of the auditory tests show that young adults who were stunted in childhood were nearly twice as likely to show signs of hearing loss. Stunting, or being too short for one’s age, is a chronic condition of undernourishment that often starts before birth, which is a critical time for the development of auditory function. Researchers suspect that impeded inner ear development caused by undernutrition, especially in the womb, may contribute to the increased risk of hearing loss found in the study.

Participants who were too thin as children were also at a twofold increase of hearing loss.  Being too thin for one’s age is typically caused by acute malnutrition, defined as shorter, more severe periods of undernutrition. Acute malnutrition raises children’s susceptibility to infections, including in the ear. Repeated ear infections can lead to hearing loss. “Our findings are not only important for low-resource areas of Nepal, but also for much of South Asia,” says West. “The study site in Nepal is representative of much of the Gangetic region of South Asia. There are over 160 million undernourished children in this region, putting them at high risk for a range of health and developmental problems. We now have evidence that addressing this nutritional burden might also prevent hearing loss later in life.”

Good Nutrition, Physical Training And Mental Exercises Reverse Frailty In Elderly

A four-year study conducted by researchers from the National University of Singapore showed that a combination of nutritional, physical and cognitive interventions can reverse physical frailty in elderly people. Physical frailty is common among the elderly and is strongly associated with cognitive impairment, dementia and adverse health outcomes such as disability, hospitalization, and mortality. Associate Professor Ng Tze Pin, lead researcher from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said that earlier research findings by his team from the Singapore Longitudinal Aging Studies showed that physically frail elderly persons compared to their robust counterparts are eight times as likely to be cognitive impaired at the same time. If they are not cognitively impaired, they are more than five times at risk of becoming cognitively impaired on follow up three years later.

“In addition, physically frail elderly persons are two to 10 times as likely to become functionally disabled on daily living activities, hospitalized and die earlier than their robust counterparts. When physical frailty and cognitive impairment are present together in the same individual, he or she is more than 20 times as likely to become disabled, hospitalized or die earlier. With such compelling evidence, if it is possible to reduce or even reverse physical frailty in the elderly, we could greatly improve their quality of life,” Tze Pin explained.

The team conducted a four-year trial between 2010 and 2013, involving 250 community-living older persons in Singapore who were 65 years old and above and who showed signs of frailty. “Our study shows that it is feasible to identify pre-frail and frail older persons in the community and primary care settings and provide them with lifestyle interventions to reverse frailty,” Tze Pin said. “We found that better nutrition, physical training and mental exercises can reverse frailty, enhance muscle strength and gait speed, reduce depressive symptoms and improve cognitive functioning. As such, these interventions can go a long way to reducing the high prevalence of physical disability, hospitalization and mortality in an aging society like Singapore.”

Fighting Frailty

Participants for the trial were recruited from October 2009 to August 2012 from various senior activity centers in Singapore. They were randomly allocated to receive lifestyle interventions in one of five groups for a period of six months. Three groups of participants were provided with either physical training, nutritional enhancement or cognitive training, while the fourth group received a combination of all three interventions. The last group was a control group which did not receive any intervention. The trial was conducted in collaboration with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and St Luke’s Hospital.

Assessment of the participants’ frailty and other outcomes were made before the start of intervention. During the six-month trial, the participants’ progress was measured after three months and six months. A follow-up assessment was also conducted six months after the trial. The NUS researchers found that the three types of intervention, as well as a combination of all three approaches, were able to reduce frailty and depressive symptoms, and improve cognitive functioning of the elderly.

“The important message from our studies is that frailty is not an inevitable part of aging,” Tze Pin said. “There is much that older people can do for themselves to avoid becoming frail and disabled, so it is vital that they pay attention to good quality diet and nutrition, engage in physical exercise, and participate in socially and cognitively stimulating activities.”

Following the trial findings, the research team is working with the Geriatric Education and Research Institute and social service organizations to develop and implement pilot frailty screening and multi-domain lifestyle intervention community programs. They hope the programs when successfully scaled up for mass intervention can help improve the physical, psychological and cognitive well-being of large numbers of senior citizens.

Food Cues Tempt Your Taste Buds To Overeat

Hungry customers are easily enticed to eat at fast-food restaurants by the glittering menu signs showing delicious food pictures and the mouthwatering aroma of crispy French fries and juicy burgers. A new study at the University of Michigan has established that food-related cues from fast-food restaurants stimulate brain activities and reactions, and can goad some patrons to gorge as a result of their induced hunger and food cravings. According to Michelle Joyner, a psychology graduate student at the University and the study’s lead researcher, these food cues could really only make people crave more food, without any effect on their liking the food taste or being satisfied.

A total of 112 college participants took part in this study and their demographics – age, gender, race, weight – were fully disclosed. Random selections were made to assign them to either a fast-food laboratory resembling a real restaurant with tables, chairs, booths, and low background music (experimental group), or a neutral lab (control group). Participants who had eaten lunch an hour ahead of the study’s trial could receive tokens to either buy foods normally available at fast-food joints such as French fries, cheeseburgers, soft drinks, and milkshakes. The vouchers could alternatively be used to buy some time for any other activity like playing video games. Both the food and game activities were shown on TV screens placed in the trial areas.

The research questions were focused on hunger, liking, and wanting. While liking portrays pleasure, wanting is a powerful motivation. Food-related cues in the fast-food lab made participants feel more hungry than in the neutral environments. However, these food cues did not make any major difference in their liking the food’s taste in either of the two locations.

Food-Related Cues

The study also revealed that participants consumed 220 less total calories in non-cue environments when compared to those who ate in the fast-food locations with food-related cues. Joyner stated that food cues had no impact on participants liking or wanting for games, thus showing the effect was really food-specific. Joyner and her fellow researchers made mention of how important it is for people to have the knowledge about how food-related cues can actually induce them into thinking that they are hungry and subsequently increasing their craving for food.

Joyner added that although it can be hard to avoid food cues in our society, people can try some tricks to minimize exposure to these cues by using technology to skip through food advertisements on TV shows and refraining from going into restaurants. From the findings of the study, we can safely conclude that the presence of food-related cues in a fast-food restaurant environment can induce hunger for food. These food cues can also trick patrons to overeat at fast-food joints. The cues have little or no impact on customers’ liking for food tastes, and patrons can develop tricks to reduce exposure to food cues and avoid overeating.

Parents Want Better Food Labeling In Schools

Food allergies affect nearly six million children in the U.S. Up to two students in every classroom may be allergic to common foods like peanuts or milk. A recent survey reports that one in five parents did not feel that their child with a food allergy was safe while at school. The survey was published in BMC Pediatrics. While most of the 289 parents reported that their child’s school had implemented at least one food allergy policy, they felt that more could be done. Nearly 95 percent of the parents surveyed wanted stock epinephrine to be available in school so that a life-threatening reaction to food could be treated immediately. Most parents also felt that school lunch menus should display allergen information – 65 percent reported that this was not done – and that ingredient labels on food items are needed – 87 percent reported that ingredient labels were not available.

They also wanted to see schools provide more food allergy education for students – 72 percent reported no food allergy education for students. “Our study helps identify key policy areas that parents would like to see implemented in schools across the country to improve the safety of their children with food allergies,” says senior author Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Currently, the primary management approach for people with a food allergy is to avoid accidental exposure to the food allergen. “Thorough review of ingredients in all food and drink products prior to consumption is a core strategy for food allergen avoidance and prevention of severe allergic reactions,” says Dr. Gupta. “This is why implementation of ingredient labeling policies in school lunchrooms should be prioritized in order to protect students with food allergies.”

The U.S. Department of Education has not established policy recommendations for management of food allergies in schools. While voluntary guidelines have been developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are significant differences in food allergy policies implemented in schools. “We need more research to identify the food allergy policies that are most effective in creating a safer space at school for students with food allergy,” says Dr. Gupta.

Restaurant Food Labeling

The Food and Drug Administration began mandatory calorie labeling for chain restaurants across the United States in May 2018. While this is an important step, restaurants could do much more to create the tipping point to encourage healthy options for Americans when they eat out, says to Virginia Tech professor Vivica Kraak, a recognized expert in food and nutrition policy. Kraak points to limited progress made by the U.S. restaurant sector in its effort to promote healthy and profitable menu choices. “Quick-service restaurants, fast-casual and full-service restaurant chains are not yet fully committed to change industry-wide practices that contribute to poor diet quality, obesity and related chronic diseases,” said Kraak.

The National Restaurant Association projects food-service business sales to exceed $551 billion, representing about 48% of household income spent on food.  Every week, nearly two thirds of adults visit quick-service restaurant chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King, and 40 percent visit fast-casual restaurants such as Panera and Chipotle.”  Kraak calls on the National Restaurant Association and its members to use comprehensive marketing and nudge strategies to encourage customers to make healthy choices.

Along with a team from Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (HNFE), Kraak’s research urged restaurant businesses to adopt a marketing-mix and choice-architecture framework, called the 8 Ps. The approach involves restaurants using many strategies to promote healthy foods and beverages through ambience and atmospherics; improving the nutritional profiles of products to reduce calories, sodium and fat; and standardizing and reducing portion sizes to offer 600 calories or less for kids’ meals and 700 calories or less for adult meals. It also involves restaurants using proportionate pricing, adopting responsible marketing practices for children and teens, establishing healthy default side dishes and beverages such as water or low-fat milk, using priming or prompting to encourage healthy choices through labeling, and positioning healthy products at the start of buffets or at arm’s reach or eye level near cash registers.

Do Eye-Catching Labels Stigmatize Healthy Foods?

Food labels in grocery stores mention organic, fair-trade and cage free, just to name a few. Labels such as these may be eye-catching but are often free of any scientific basis and stigmatize many healthy foods, a University of Delaware-led study found. The paper – published in the journal Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy – examined food labeling to see how labels identifying the process in which food was produced positively and negatively influenced consumer behavior.

The researchers reviewed over 90 academic studies on consumer response to process labels. They found that while these labels satisfy consumer demand for quality assurances and can create value for both consumers and producers, misinterpretation is common and can stigmatize food produced by conventional processes even when there is no scientific evidence those foods cause harm. For the poor, in particular, there is danger in misunderstanding which food items are safe, says Kent Messer, the study’s lead author and the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Career Development Chair for the Environment.

“That has me worried about the poor and those who are food insecure,” Messer added. “Because now you’re trying to make everything a high-end food choice and frankly, we just want to have healthy food choices, we don’t need to have extra labels that scare away people.”

Process Labels

Process labels by definition focus on the production of a food, but largely ignore important outcomes of the process such as taste or healthiness. Policy changes could help consumers better understand their choices. They argue governments should not impose bans on process labels but rather encourage labels that help document how the processes affect important quality traits, such as calorie count. “Relying on process labels alone, on the other hand, is a laissez faire approach that inevitably surrenders the educational component of labeling to mass media, the colorful array of opinion providers, and even food retailers, who may not always be honest brokers of information,” Messer said.

With regards to the positive impact process labels have on consumers, Messer said that consumers are able to more freely align their purchasing decisions with their values and preferences. If, for example, a consumer wants to buy fair trade coffee, they are able to do so with greater ease. “The good part is that process labels can help bridge the trust between the producer and the consumer because it gives the consumer more insight into the market,” said Messer. “New products can be introduced this way, niche markets can be created, and consumers, in many cases, are willing to pay more for these products. It’s good for industry, consumers are getting what they want, and new players get to find ways of getting a higher price.”

The bad part is that consumers are already in the midst of a marketplace filled with information that can be overwhelming because of the sheer amount of product choices and information available. In addition, when most consumers go to buy food, they are often crunched for time. “Human choice tends to be worse when you put time constraints on it,” said Messer. “Maybe you’ve got a child in the aisle with you and now you’re adding this new label and there’s lots of misinterpretation of what it means. The natural label is a classic one which means very little, yet consumers assume it means more than it does. They think it means ‘No GMO’ but it doesn’t. They think it means it is ‘organic’ but it isn’t. This label is not helping them align their values to their food, and they’re paying a price premium but not getting what they wanted to buy.”

Halo Effects

Another problem is “halo effects” – overly optimistic misinterpretation of what a label means. “If you show consumers a chocolate bar that is labeled as ‘fair trade’, some will tell you that it has lower calories,” Messer said. “But the label is not about calories. Consumers do this frequently with the ‘organic’ label as they think it is healthy for the consumer. Organic practices may be healthier for the farm workers or the environment, but for the actual consumer, there’s very little evidence behind that. You’re getting lots of mixed, wrong messages out there.”

Like halo effects, the ugly side of food processing labels comes into play when labels sound like they have a positive impact but really have a negative one. A label such as “low food miles” might sound nice but could actually be causing more harm than good. “Sometimes, where food is grown doesn’t mean that it’s actually the best for climate change,” said Messer. Hot house tomatoes grown in Canada, for example, might have low food miles for Canadian consumers but it’s probably far better environmentally – because of all the energy expended in creating tomatoes in an energy-intensive hot house in Canada – to grow the tomatoes in Florida and then ship them to Canada. “If you just count miles and not true energy use, you can get people paying more money for something that’s actually going the opposite of what they wanted which is to get a lower carbon footprint,” said Messer.

The ugly side of food labeling is that a lot of fear is being introduced into the marketplace that isn’t based on science. “When you start labeling everything as ‘free of this’ such as ‘gluten-free water,’ you can end up listing stuff that could never have been present in the food in the first place,” Messer said. “These ‘free of’ labels can cause unnecessary fear and cast the conventionally produced food in a harsh, negative light.” Since the vast majority of the food market is still conventionally produced and is the lower cost product, there is a danger in taking that safe food and calling it unsafe because of a few new entrants into the food market.

There is evidence that food companies are getting worried about investing in science and technology because they don’t know how the consumer is going to respond or how marketers are going to attack their food product because it’s new and different and therefore can be labeled as bad or dangerous. “We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed in our country and around the world,” Messer said. “We are currently able to feed so many because of advances in agricultural science and technology. If we’re afraid of that now, we have a long-term impact on the poor that could be quite negative in our country and around the world. That’s when I start thinking these process labels could really be ugly.”

Do Nutrition Label Readers Favor Food Quality Over Quantity?

People who closely eyeball nutrition labels tend to eat differently than less-discerning diners in one key regard, according to research from a University of Illinois expert in food and nutrition policy and consumer food preferences and behaviors. Although nutrition-label users and non-nutrition-label users eat roughly the same amount of food, the two groups diverge when it comes to the quality of the food they eat, said a paper co-written by Brenna Ellison, a professor of agriculture and consumer economics at Illinois. “Research has often concluded that people who use nutrition labels eat better,” Ellison said. “But we don’t necessarily talk about what better means. Is it eating less food, or is it eating better food? This study looks at people’s plates and considers both what they selected to eat and what they actually ate in an effort to determine which difference – volume or quality – is occurring.”

To examine the relationship between label use and food selection, servings and consumption, Ellison and co-author Mary J. Christoph of the University of Minnesota combined survey and photographic data of the lunch plates of college students at two different university dining halls. Food selection, servings and consumption were assessed using digital photography, a method with strong reliability for validating portion sizes compared with weighing food and visual estimation. “In terms of measuring and evaluating the plates, we had students who built their own plates because it was a self-serve dining environment,” Ellison said. “Diners were only eligible if they were just sitting down to eat. It couldn’t be someone who was halfway through their meal, which would misrepresent what they were eating and skew the results.”

Based on the meals assessed, the quantity of foods served and consumed were roughly similar between the two groups. There were, however, distinct differences in the types of foods plated and consumed within MyPlate food categories between those who tended to read nutrition labels and those who didn’t. The results indicate that a greater proportion of nutrition-label users selected more fruits, vegetables and beans, and fewer potatoes and refined grains, compared with non-label users. In addition, fewer label users selected fried foods and foods with added sugars. “We find that it’s more about the types of food rather than the quantity of the food,” Ellison said. “The amount of food between label users and non-label users was roughly the same amount. It’s the differences in quality that are more prevalent than the sheer amount of food selected.”

Effectiveness Of Labels

Using digital photography also provided a more objective assessment of food selection, servings and consumption compared with self-reporting because “you don’t have to rely on students remembering how much of each food they ate,” Ellison said. “That’s one big advantage to this study. Another one is that diners did not interact with our data collectors until after their plate was built. So our data collection methods shouldn’t have affected what they chose. For example, people weren’t picking more salad because they knew there was going to be a picture taken of their plate.”

Participants were further surveyed on socio-demographic and behavioral variables such as gender, body mass index, exercise frequency and nutrition education to better assess the possible link between label use and food selection, servings and consumption. Examining nutrition labels is often recommended by doctors and dietitians to improve food choices, but choice does not always translate to consumption. Furthermore, evidence on the effectiveness of labels is mixed, and few studies can identify how labels actually influence behavior.

“Previous research has focused on portion control for weight loss or weight management, generally eating less,” Ellison added. “But more-recent research indicates this may not be the most effective message. By eating less, consumers may feel deprived, or even ‘hangry,’ which can make it difficult to sustain long-term dietary behaviors,” she said. “Newer research indicates that eating less of certain types of foods, rather than all foods, may matter more.”

Although the results show label users eat differently than non-users, the implications of the research suggest there may be a need for greater consumption of fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains and low-fat dairy among both groups. In addition to posting labels, Ellison said dining facilities may want to increase offerings of nutrient-dense foods – whole grains and vegetables – or consider product reformulations that creatively incorporate these foods to encourage healthy eating behaviors. But Ellison warned that the study’s findings should still be cautiously interpreted as the conclusions are based on only one meal.

The Powerful Abilities Of Linseed Oil

A healthy and multifaceted oil derived from nutritious and health-enriching flaxseed is also known as linseed oil. It has a whole host of benefits that help to increase your internal health and vitality. We’ve recently been talking about different types of oils and their intrinsic health benefits, as well as their ability to change and improve certain external elements like skin or hair. Linseed oil is no different, with a bit more of an impact on the internal side of things. Here are some of the most impressive and imperative ways in which linseed oil can be used.

Helps Weight Loss

If you’re anything like millions of people in our country, you are on a quest to slim down for summer, and maybe just for your overall health. Many people deal with a few extra pounds and constantly are trying new things to help them reach and maintain their goal weight. This can be incredibly difficult in our current reality as food, in enormous portions, seems to be quite ubiquitous. Because linseed oil acts as a natural laxative within the system, it is great for digestion. Many don’t realize that their issues with digestion often stem from food sensitivities, which can lead to carrying unnecessary weight. Incorporating linseed oil will help thwart the unnecessary accumulation in your gut.

Eases Digestive Issues

In the same way that it helps deal with the way in which your body processes the food you eat, it also helps to alleviate any type of gas, bloating or constipation that you may experience as a result of said food. If you find that you sometimes overeat on cheat days or at a family barbeque, it may be difficult to get back on track after falling so far off the wagon. A big reason this happens is because your digestive system feels so terrible for at least a day and even the next day. Taking linseed oil can help to regulate your digestion right away. Take a couple of linseed oil vitamin tablets before a big meal.

Treats Cellulite

This is a great one for those who have been noticing their thighs may be lacking a certain type of smoothness. While there are a ton of creams and gels on the market that claim they can effectively treat cellulite, many of them include harmful additives and ingredients you don’t really want to be using on your sensitive skin. Linseed oil is a natural way to help diminish the look of cellulite wherever you may experience it.

Linseed is able to structurally change the way the skin appears. Cellulite usually results from weakened collagen – which makes your skin look less smooth and more uneven. Include a bit of this oil into your diet if you notice you’re having issues with cellulite and how your skin appears. The great part about this option is your don’t have to worry about taking the time to rub the oil into the affected spot – taking it internally will do the job.

You can purchase linseed oil online from several companies at amazon.com.

 

 

 

Passiflora Edulis Or Passion Fruit: Its Impressive Qualities

Many people typically understand the importance of a healthy diet. For those who are trying to improve their lifestyle via their diet, they often hear that incorporating fruits and vegetables into their eating plan, and specific forms of clean eating, are the most advantageous for their health. This is no surprise as things that come from the earth often have enormous health-transforming qualities. This is definitely the case with passion fruit, otherwise known as passiflora edulis. Passion fruit is incredibly nutritious and contains a high source of needed minerals and vitamins. Here are some of its best benefits.

Antioxidant Cancer Fighter

The antioxidants that come from the vitamins present in fruit are serious cancer fighters. Free radicals are considered damaged cells that may form in our body. Their abnormal growth is what we know as cancer. Antioxidants are certified free-radical destroyers. If you are looking for something that can increase the internal vitality of your cells while protecting you from abnormal growths, you might want to start consuming more passion fruit.

Digestive Health

One of the most common occurrences of discomfort is that of stomach issues. Because we have to eat to live, our systems can sometimes fight against the things we put in our bodies. This is why diet is so important and why certain fruits and veggies are pristine for your insides. Passion fruit contains a good amount of soluble fiber which means it helps to clean out the toxins and leftover food that accumulates inside your colon. This helps to keep your bowel movements regular and ensures your intestinal health is in tip-top shape. When your gastrointestinal tract is compromised, you likely deal with things like gas, bloating, upset stomach, or even nausea. Fiber helps to absorb water, which makes it easier for you to pass your bowel movements.

Helps Eye Health

Vision tends to deteriorate as you get older. Glasses don’t have to be the reality to every single person nearing a certain age. When you take care of your eyes and provide them with necessary nutrients that help them stay sharp and healthy, you will be rewarded with good eyesight – especially in the technological age where so many of us spend a significant amount of time in front of screens. The flavonoids that are present in passion fruit help to ensure the mucous membranes that protect the eye are plentiful. There is also beta carotene present in passion fruit which helps to sharpen and improve vision.

Mood Enhancer

So many of us are bogged down with the everyday responsibilities and stresses in life. This can do a real number on our nervous system and can even cause certain common issues like anxiety, insomnia and depression. Luckily, passion fruit contains a medicinal and light alkaloid which has a mild sedative property. This means it can help relax you and take the edge off some natural nervousness that you may experience. Nerve-calming foods can actually provide much help to many anxious people.

You can purchase passion fruit online from several companies at amazon.com.

 

Why Watermelon Seed Oil Is A Must-Have

An abundance of that juicy and refreshing summer fruit is right around the corner. What some don’t know about this delicious, popular fruit is that those pesky seeds you end up spitting out actually have powerful health benefits. What’s so glorious about fruits and seeds and plants and vegetables is the critical healing powers and properties within them that we may not even be fully aware of. Watermelon seed oil can be used in a whole host of different ways, and because of its high linoleic acid content, it makes for a highly impressive and effective oil. Here are some of the amazing ways watermelon seed oil can be implemented.

Lowers Blood Pressure

If you have been suffering from high blood pressure, you are likely very aware that you need to get that issue under control. High blood pressure can lead to a whole host of other problems such as stroke, heart disease and a variance of other health issues. High blood pressure tends to be caused by incredibly stressful lifestyles, bad diets and sometimes genetics. Incorporating an oil like watermelon seed oil into your diet can provide you with the solution you’ve been searching for in reference to your high blood pressure. The amount of healthy fatty acids present in the oil helps to lower bad cholesterol and regulates blood pressure.

Lowers Blood Sugar

One of the most invasive and increasing health concerns in our society is diabetes. This is a condition that affects the way that the body processes sugar. A lack of insulin can cause blood sugar levels to become elevated. Diabetes can affect a whole host of various parts of your body if not effectively treated and dealt with. Blood sugar levels that regularly get too high can lead to very critical issues. Watermelon seed oil helps to regulate blood sugar so that certain spikes are better controlled. The use of this oil will provide much needed balance to your levels.

Great For Skin

Though it has amazing benefits when taken internally, one of its most impressive and surprising is how it can be used to improve your skin. So many people struggle with their skin and finding products for it that work. With so many different skin types, it can sometimes be a bit confusing. Because of the consistency of the oil, the skin is easily penetrated by the oil, which helps to provide a vibrant, healthy glow after consistent use. It is also water soluble which means it can be absorbed quickly and easily.

Because it is so lightweight, it helps to clear out the pores of those pesky entities that help to produce acne – things like dead skin cells, sebum and free radicals. The anti-aging properties that are present within the oil will also help with any type of wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin. One of the signs of skin that isn’t being taken care of is the premature signs of aging. This is why you must stay ahead of the curve. Watermelon seed oil can do that for you.

You can purchase watermelon seed oil online from several companies at amazon.com.

Pecans Improve Cardio-Metabolic Health Markers In Overweight Adults

A new study, conducted by researchers from Tufts University and published in the scientific journal Nutrients, reports that eating a few pecans daily for a month improved some markers of cardio-metabolic disease risk, and insulin sensitivity, in a group of obese adults having excess abdominal fat.

While previous studies on pecans concentrated on blood lipid changes, this is the first research to examine those markers associated with cardio-metabolic health. Cardio-metabolic risk is relatively a new term used to describe the possibilities of developing cardiovascular and sundry metabolic diseases, as well as type-2 diabetes and also metabolic syndrome. These conditions are collectively responsible for more preventable deaths worldwide than anything else. This research also assessed how pecan consumption affects other markers of cardio-metabolic disease risk, which include insulin resistance, insulin levels, glucose, and beta cell function. This is a measure of the pancreas’ ability to not only produce but also secrete insulin and help control the blood sugar level.

Pecans are naturally rich in unsaturated fats, and replacing a part of the saturated fats in diets with more beneficial fats might have contributed to observed changes,” says Dr. Diane L. McKay, the lead researcher. She also noted that bioactive compounds could have played an active role. She further explained that obesity and insulin resistance might increase both insulin demand and pancreatic beta cells hyper-function which could eventually lead to dysfunction. She revealed that the study results suggested pecan nutrients might play a key role in boosting normal insulin responses in overweight, obese adults even if the mechanisms of action were yet to be known. It should be mentioned that apart from mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, pecans also have fiber and essential minerals, and contain bioactive compounds like flavonoids and plant sterols, which may contribute.

The research group compared the impact of a pecan-rich diet to that of a control pecan-free diet containing the same amount of calories, fats, and fiber. The control diet was like an average American diet high in calories, nutrient-poor, and low in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and Omega-3 fatty acids. All meals, including the pecans, were provided to participants. A crossover, double-blind study design was employed for the intervention. For four weeks, participants observed either the pecan-rich diet or the pecan-free control diet. A two-week washout period was taken prior to switching over the groups to the opposite diet for another four weeks. Evaluations were done both at the start and the end of each four-week feeding period.

Results

  • Overall findings showed the participants on a pecan-rich diet had greater reductions in insulin resistance, serum insulin and pancreatic bell cell hyper-function, in comparison with the control diet.
  • The magnitude of reduction in LDL and total cholesterol for the pecan-rich diet was not significant when compared with the pecan-free diet.
  • Other markers of cardio-metabolic disease risk – such as blood pressure and serum glucose – had greater reductions among subjects on the pecan diet than those on the control diet, though the results were not of statistical significance.
  • The researchers concurrently assessed five clinically important markers of cardio-metabolic risk, and found that the pecan diet had a significant effect on insulin-related markers associated with the risk.
  • Subgroup differences, denoted by gender and also glucose levels, modified these effects of the pecan-rich diet.

Limitations

  1. The study was limited by size and duration.
  2. Further research is needed to investigate the effects of bioactive compounds found in pecans and also their potential action mechanisms.

McKay concluded that the study shows how making small changes, such as displacing saturated fats in American diets and eating some pecans daily, could make a significance difference in health.

Study Confirms Beneficial Properties Of Whole Grain

The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark has confirmed the health benefits of including whole grains in your everyday diet. For the purposes of the study, researchers substituted the refined grains in pasta and white bread in favor of whole grains. The institute collaborated with the Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, Department of Nutrition, and DTU Bioinformatics. They also solicited the help of university researchers and hospitals to contribute to the study. As a result, they managed to complete the most research to date in relation to the benefits of whole grains.

A whole grain consists of the germ, bran, and the endosperm. The bran refers to the outer skin of the kernel which contains a lot of vitamin B, fiber, and antioxidants. The germ refers to the embryo, which also contains healthy fats, vitamin B, and protein. The endosperm, meanwhile, is the conduit where essential food and energy pass into the embryo so the plant can grow. This is differentiated from the refined grain, which refers to the state when one or two of the major components of the whole grain is missing.

Fifty overweight respondents – described as “at risk” of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases – participated in the study. After the controlled experiment, the blood tests showed a reduced amount of inflammation in their systems. The participants also reported eating less because their hunger was satiated. Over time, this will allow them to shed weight. In fact, some of the participants were already reporting that they lost some pounds while on the whole grain diet.

These results only confirm the various studies on the benefits of whole grains, says Professor Tine Rask Licht, head of the research group at the National Food Institute. “This may particularly apply to people who are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. A good idea for future studies would be to examine the effect of various grain types.”

The professor also said that another study should be conducted to determine if the consumption of whole grain types will have an impact on the composition of the gut bacteria. The human gut actually contains more than 100 trillion bacteria and has countless functions to prevent inflammation and make sure the body is healthy.

A 2013 study by the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles revealed the role played by Methanobrevibacter smithii, which is a microbe that produces methane, on obesity. The research posted that this microbe consumes the hydrogen in the gut and this deficiency is what’s causing the body to absorb more calories from the food.

Ruchi Mathur, director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes Outpatient Treatment and Education Center, previously said that if there’s a glut of M.smithii in the gut, it will create an imbalance in the conversion of food into energy, which will cause individuals to gain more weight compared to others. The research by the National Food Institute was published in the study called “Gut: A wholegrain-rich diet reduces body weight and systemic low-grade inflammation without inducing major changes of the gut microbiome: Arandomised cross-over trial.”

Five Plants In Brazil Labeled Good Antioxidants

A study supported by São Paulo Research Foundation found five plants endemic to Brazil with very high antioxidant properties. The plants were identified as bacupari-mirim (Garcinia brasiliensis), araçá-piranga (E. leitonii), e ubajaí (E. myrcianthes), grumixama (E. brasiliensis), and cereja-do-rio-grande (E. involucrata).

The five food products have been known among the natives for their healing and anti-aging properties,” according to Severino Matias Alencar, associate professor at the Department of Agroindustry, Food & Nutrition at University of São Paulo’s Luiz de Queiroz Agricultural College. “We knew they could contain a large number of anti-oxidants, just like the well-known berries of the U.S. and Europe, such as the blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry, with which scientists are so familiar,” Alencar said. “However, based on the research, the native berries appeared to have extremely high antioxidants.”

One of the berries, however, may disappear forever. The araçá-piranga is an endangered species and if nothing is done to protect it, the fruit could very well face extinction, says Pedro Rosalen, of the University of Campinas’s Piracicaba Dentistry School. The bad news is that, based on their study, the araçá-piranga trumps all the other Eugenias that were included in the research in terms of its anti-inflammatory potential. By harnessing the fruit, the medical field may be able to prevent inflammation because the action mechanism occurs simultaneously at the start of the process. The active ingredient found in the produce will impede the pathways in the inflammatory progression.

Researchers took samples of the phenolic compounds found in the five species. They extracted the samples from the seeds, leaves, and pulp of the plants. The phenolic compounds refer to the chemicals that have been found to have curative and anticipatory properties. What antioxidants really combat are the free radicals. These are unpaired electrons produced by oxygen that are not able to bind to another electron. That’s why they are called “free.” Nature abhors an anomaly so they find other electrons to pair with. This process can cause damage to the DNA, the cells, and the proteins in the body.

Link Between Free Radicals And Antioxidants

Among the food sources that are rich in antioxidants are dark chocolate, pecans, artichoke, kidney beans, berries, and coffee. Many experts believe that the surplus of free radicals in the body is a common cause of cancer. There’s some strong basis to the correlation between high presence of antioxidants and the prevention of free radicals to cause damage to the body, according to the National Cancer Institute,  However, it does acknowledge that the research so far is constrained by several biases and inconsistencies so more studies are needed.

Rosalen, meanwhile, said that apart from cancer, antioxidants also appear to have some success in treating obesity, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. What the research proved, however, is that Brazil has huge untapped resources of beneficial plant species that may revolutionize the medical field. For instance, they have yet to scratch the surface on research considering there are more than 400 Eugenias in the country, and a good chunk of them are endemic to the area. “We have an enormous number of native fruit trees with bioactive compounds that could benefit people’s health, Rosalen added. “They should be studied.”

Economically, they could be marketed as the next fashionable food, especially if scientific research and laboratory tests can prove their anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. Farmers would also benefit from the stable income.

Eat Your Broccoli

Our parents used to scold us when we were children. Eating our vegetables was supposedly important to our growth. Whether we liked it or not, we were lead to believe that things like broccoli were good for us. As it turns out, the leafy green vegetable is not only great for your body, but it promotes a healthy gut.

Researchers from Penn State have discovered that those who choose to incorporate a healthy diet of broccoli into their everyday meals are better able to tolerate digestive issues such as a leaky guy and colitis. The testing was used on mice; those who were not given a steady diet of broccoli were not able to endure common problems in the system. In fact, Gary Perdew, a Professor in Agricultural Studies at Penn State, noted that other vegetables, such as Brussel’s sprouts and cauliflower have comparable health properties. Yum!

Perdew also adds that, “there are a lot of reasons that we should be exploring gastrointestinal health. If you have problems, like a leaky gut, that may lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease.” It is no secret that including a rich diet of vegetables into our meals is far from a bad idea. Keeping our internal organs, such as our gut, healthy may extend our lifespan. Perdew and his team also note that a heavy diet of vegetables allows your gut to build healthy barrier functions that deter things like a leaky gut or colitis. A healthy intestinal function means that all nutrients would be able to properly pass into our system and not get blocked or clogged, which can cause severe internal concerns.

Get Your ICZs

By now, it should be common knowledge that vegetables, especially ones like broccoli, that are eaten on a regular basis, are not only good to keep weight off and fight illnesses, but also are healthy for our entire body. Perdew and his team identified broccoli as especially important due to its health benefits on our gut and intestinal systems. Although, we do not think about our internal organs very often, protecting them can prevent a majority of harmful diseases and cancers, such as colon cancer.

Vegetables that are cruciferous include a compound called indolocarbazole or ICZ. When consumed, ICZ attach to the lining of our immune system to maintain a healthy balance in our gut, which means fewer cases of common diseases in the bowel and colon. Another vegetable identified as great for your intestines is cabbage.

But, how much broccoli should we eat each day to ensure that our intestinal system is protected? Researchers have concluded that this number varies from person to person. However, for most humans, the amount comparable to Perdew’s experiment should eat around 3.5 cups of broccoli each day. This number may sound like a lot, but it’s not large considering we should be eating vegetables anyway. Adding other healthy vegetables into your diet adds to the protection as well. So, if you are not a fan of broccoli, feel free to consume that same amount of Brussel’s sprouts or cabbage each day to meet the level needed to activate the ICZ that may be needed to correct digestive problems.

While patients are often told that too many cruciferous vegetables may be a cause for more concern than good because of fiber content, Perdew and his team are confident in their findings which suggest otherwise.

Antioxidant Foods Linked To Lower Diabetes Risk

As is known from many research studies and commonly held practices, antioxidants have amazing benefits that are great for the immune system and potentially even helpful in the prevention of cancer. Antioxidants have been lauded as a great way to thwart the onset of certain cardiovascular conditions because of their heart-healthy properties.

It appears that these more commonly known aspects of antioxidants’ benefits also include another harmful condition. The risk of developing type-2 diabetes seems to be rising as our society has an even greater access and consumption of foods that compromise blood sugar levels. This compromise causes the pancreas to be unable to properly excrete insulin which allows the body to properly process sugar. Unprocessed sugar can be devastating to the system.

Diabetes Risk

Research that was done in Europe found this correlation and noted that it was known that certain flavonoids, lycophenes, and vitamins were associated with mitigating risk of diabetes. This particular study took on specific isolated nutrients in a quest to find how these entities helped better influence a standard diet. Over 60,000 women were given comprehensive tests and asked questions regarding over 200 different food items.

The information that was garnered showed the total dietary antioxidant capacity. The risk of diabetes was shown to diminish when the antioxidant consumption was increased. Typical antioxidant items include blueberries, prunes, hazelnuts, walnuts, tea, dark chocolate, and strawberries.

According to study author Francesca Romana Mancini, “This link persists after taking into account all the other principal diabetes risk factors: smoking, education level, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, family history of diabetes and, above all, BMI, the most important factor.”

Restore Your Health

There is clearly something at play that acknowledges the way that specific foods, in isolation and heavy consumption, have an obvious relationship with this disease. The inclusion of these antioxidant foods has been shown to help lessen the risk factors in getting this terrible disease. It also helps that these foods are all generally very low in sugar and carbohydrates.

A diet that is heavy and high in carbs is not going to be properly processed within a body that is diabetic or even one that is pre-diabetic. The reason why so many people are diagnosed with adult onset diabetes is because our national diets are so poorly composed and contain high amounts of sugar and carbs. While there are still people that react fine to high complex carbs, carbs do end up turning into sugar, and when that happens, the body must work extra hard to be able to do what it is supposed to in order to decipher all of that sugar. Without the insulin from the pancreas, all other organs will be compromised and weaken.

The incorporation of exercise and a sound diet, which includes many antioxidant-rich foods, is a great way to not only prevent the occurrence of diabetes but also treat it as if you have been diagnosed. It is of paramount importance to take your health incredibly seriously as we only get one body. Refusing to do right by it and instead filling it with junk is no way to treat your health and life. Become consistently active, stay away from sugar and refined carbs, and start to do the work necessary to take back and restore your health.

The Egg Has Stunning Nutritional Value For Children

When the Brown School located in Washington, D.C. was researching child hunger in conjunction with the most nutritionally-dense foods that are available worldwide, they found the ever-present egg as the best answer. One of the reasons that eggs came out on top is because they significantly impact the growth of a young child – by almost 47 percent. These are astounding numbers that can potentially invoke some planning regarding how to get more chickens, and subsequently the eggs, to places in the world that need them.

Another reason why eggs are such a good choice for children in developing countries that don’t have a lot of access to food and supplies is because eggs are high on the satiety index, which means that they keep stomachs full for longer periods of time than some of their alternatives such as rich or beans. Eggs are also incredibly affordable and can be found virtually on any part of the globe.

“Eggs are also a good source of nutrients for growth and development in young children,” says Lora Iannotti, lead author on the study and an associate professor at Brown. “Eggs have the potential to contribute to reduced-growth stunting around the world. We were surprised by just how effective this intervention proved to be.”

While egg allergies are becoming more common in America, in other parts of the world this isn’t the case. Iannotti is careful to point out that during this study many caregivers were monitoring children closely and prepared for the sight of any type of allergic reaction, but in this case none occurred.

Unique Superfood

For years, the egg was talked about very unfairly and many thought they were bad for you. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Eggs are often referred to as complete in nutritional circles.  An egg is one of the best foods you can put in your body. The egg is a unique superfood that is packed full of high levels of protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals. It is also full of rich antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are integral to eye growth and the protection against conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

There were many people that would only eat the egg white for quite a bit of time but the yolk is actually the most nutritious part. Also, good fats are necessary for the overall betterment of health. Eggs also do not have carbohydrates, which means they will not negatively impact resting blood glucose levels.

Eggs really are the perfect food. They can also be cooked in a myriad of different ways and are easily added to other foods. Eggs can be incorporated into many different cultural cuisines and it always makes for an excellent meal.

Where there are eggs, chickens aren’t too far away. They bring even more protein to the conversation, which is essential for the overall betterment and healthy growth of children. Finding sustainable ways to feed those in need should be a top priority. Doing so in a way that can also be healthy is necessary to the fabric of our society.

The Benefits Of Eating Fruits And Vegetables

University of Otago researchers have discovered that raw fruit and vegetables may be better for your mental health than cooked, canned and processed fruit and vegetables. Dr. Tamlin Conner, Psychology Senior Lecturer and lead author, says public health campaigns have historically focused on aspects of quantity for the consumption of fruit and vegetables – such as five or more a day. However, the study, recently published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that for mental health in particular, it may also be important to consider the ways in which produce is prepared and consumed.

The top 10 raw foods related to better mental health are carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens such as spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit. “Our research has highlighted that the consumption of fruits and vegetables in their ‘unmodified’ state is more strongly associated with better mental health compared to cooked/canned/processed fruit and vegetables,” Conner says. This could be because the cooking and processing of fruit and vegetables has the potential to diminish nutrient levels. “This likely limits the delivery of nutrients that are essential for optimal emotional functioning,” she said.

For the study, more than 400 young adults from New Zealand and the United States aged 18 to 25 were surveyed. This age group was chosen as young adults typically have the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption of all age groups and are at high risk for mental health disorders. The group’s typical consumption of raw versus cooked and processed fruits and vegetables were assessed, alongside their negative and positive mental health, and lifestyle and demographic variables that could affect the association between fruit and vegetable intake and mental health – such as exercise, sleep, unhealthy diet, chronic health conditions, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and gender.

“Controlling for the covariates, raw fruit and vegetable consumption predicted lower levels of mental illness symptomology, such as depression, and improved levels of psychological wellbeing including positive mood, life satisfaction and flourishing,” Conner added. “These mental health benefits were significantly reduced for cooked, canned, and processed fruits and vegetables. This research is increasingly vital as lifestyle approaches such as dietary change may provide an accessible, safe, and adjuvant approach to improving mental health.”

Fruits And Vegetables May Prevent Premature Deaths

A fruit and vegetable intake above five-a-day shows major benefits in reducing the chance of heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death. This is the finding of research, led by scientists from Imperial College London, which analyzed 95 studies on fruit and vegetable intake. The team found that although even the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduced disease risk, the greatest benefit came from eating 800 grams a day – roughly equivalent to 10 portions – one portion of fruit or vegetables if defined as 80grams.

The study, which was a meta-analysis of all available research in populations worldwide, included up to two million people, and assessed up to 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases and 94,000 deaths.

In the research, which is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the team estimate approximately 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could be potentially prevented every year if people ate 10 portions, or 800 grams, of fruit and vegetables a day. The team also analyzed which types of fruit and vegetables provided the greatest protection against disease. “We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease, and premature death,” explained Dr. Dagfinn Aune, lead author of the research from the School of Public Health at Imperial. “Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better.”

The Benefits Of Higher Intakes

The results revealed that even a daily intake of 200 grams was associated with a 16 percent reduced risk of heart disease, an 18 percent reduced risk of stroke, and a 13 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This amount, which is equivalent to two-and-a-half portions, was also associated with four percent reduced risk in cancer risk, and 15 percent reduction in the risk of premature death.

Further benefits were observed with higher intakes. Eating up to 800 grams of fruit and vegetables a day – or 10 portions – was associated with a 24 percent reduced risk of heart disease, a 33 percent reduced risk of stroke, a 28 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13 percent reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31 percent reduction in dying prematurely. This risk was calculated in comparison to not eating any fruit and vegetables. The current United Kingdom guidelines are to eat at least five portions or 400 grams per day. However, fewer than one in three UK adults are thought to meet this target.

The team were not able to investigate intakes greater than 800 grams a day, as this was the high end of the range across studies. An 80 gram portion of fruit and vegetables equals approximately one small banana, apple, pear or large mandarin. Three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables such as spinach, peas, broccoli or cauliflower count as a portion.

Specific Fruits, Vegetables And Diseases

The researchers also examined the types of fruit and vegetables that may reduce the risk of specific diseases. They found the following fruits and vegetables may help prevent heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and early death: apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. They also found the following may reduce cancer risk: green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables.

Similar associations were observed for raw and cooked vegetables in relation to early death, however, additional studies are needed on specific types of fruits and vegetables and preparation methods. The team say the number of studies was more limited for these analyses, and the possibility that other specific fruits and vegetables may also reduce risk cannot be excluded.

Several potential mechanisms could explain why fruit and vegetables have such profound health benefits. “Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system,” Aune said. “This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold. For instance they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk. Compounds called glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, activate enzymes that may help prevent cancer. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables may also have a beneficial effect on the naturally-occurring bacteria in our gut.”

The vast array of beneficial compounds cannot be easily replicated in a pill. “Most likely it is the whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables that is crucial is health,” Aune continued. “This is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements, which have not been shown to reduce disease risk.”

In the analysis, the team took into account other factors, such as a person’s weight, smoking, physical activity levels, and overall diet, but still found that fruit and vegetables were beneficial. “We need further research into the effects of specific types of fruits and vegetables and preparation methods of fruit and vegetables,” Aune continued. “We also need more research on the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake with causes of death other than cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, it is clear from this work that a high intake of fruits and vegetables hold tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet.”

Fruits And Vegetables Lower Blood Pressure

Eating potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, beans, bananas and even coffee could be key to lowering blood pressure, according to Alicia McDonough, Ph.D., professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. “Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure,” McDonough says, “but evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension.”

McDonough explored the link between blood pressure and dietary sodium, potassium and the sodium-potassium ratio in a review article published in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. The review looked at population, interventional and molecular mechanism studies that investigated the effects of dietary sodium and potassium on hypertension. She found several population studies demonstrating that higher dietary potassium – estimated from urinary excretion or dietary recall – was associated with lower blood pressure, regardless of sodium intake. Interventional studies with potassium supplementation also suggested that potassium provides a direct benefit.

McDonough reviewed recent studies in rodent models to illustrate the mechanisms for potassium benefit. These studies indicated that the body does a balancing act that uses sodium to maintain close control of potassium levels in the blood, which is critical to normal heart, nerve and muscle function. “When dietary potassium is high, kidneys excrete more salt and water, which increases potassium excretion,” McDonough says. “Eating a high potassium diet is like taking a diuretic.” Increasing dietary potassium will take a conscious effort, however. Our early ancestors ate primitive diets that were high in fruits, roots, vegetables, beans and grains – all higher in potassium – and very low in sodium. As a result, humans evolved to crave sodium but not potassium. Modern diets, however, have changed drastically since then: processed food companies add salt to satisfy our cravings, and processed foods are usually low in potassium.

Dietary Potassium Benefits

“If you eat a typical Western diet, your sodium intake is high and your potassium intake is low,” McDonough says. “This significantly increases your chances of developing high blood pressure. When dietary potassium is low, the balancing act uses sodium retention to hold onto the limited potassium, which is like eating a higher sodium diet.”

How much dietary potassium should we consume? A 2004 Institute of Medicine report recommends that adults consume at least 4.7 grams of potassium per day to lower blood pressure, blunt the effects of dietary sodium and reduce the risks of kidney stones and bone loss. Eating three-fourths of a cup of black beans, for example, will help you achieve almost 50 percent of your daily potassium goal. McDonough recommends developing public policies to increase intake of dietary potassium from plant-based sources. She also advocates adding potassium content to nutrition labels to help raise consumers’ awareness of economical sources of potassium.

Fresh Fruit For Lower Risk Of Diabetes

In a research article published in PLOS Medicine, Huaidong Du of the University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom and colleagues report that greater consumption of fresh fruit was associated with a lower incidence of diabetes, as well as reduced occurrence of complications in people with diabetes, in a Chinese population.

Although the health benefits of diets including fresh fruit and vegetables are well established, the sugar content of fruit has led to uncertainty about associated risks of diabetes and of vascular complications of the disease. Du and colleagues studied nearly 500,000 people participating in the China Kadoorie Biobank over about seven years of follow-up, documenting new cases of diabetes and recording the occurrence of vascular disease and death in people with pre-existing diabetes.

The researchers found that people who reported elevated consumption of fresh fruit had a lower associated risk of developing diabetes in comparison with other participants, which corresponds to an estimated 0.2% reduction in the absolute risk of diabetes over five years. In people with diabetes, higher consumption of fresh fruit was associated with a lower risk of mortality, corresponding to an absolute decrease in risk of 1.9% at five years, and with lower risks of microvascular and macrovascular complications.

Impressive Advancements In Nutrition

The great thing about advancements in technology is that many scientific studies can find groundbreaking information that would have been harder to reach otherwise. When it comes to the information that has been largely provided regarding nutrition, there are several discoveries that have given increased insight into what choices could be best.

Dark Chocolate Impacts Aging

While sugar has gotten more and more of a bad reputation as the years wear on, the presence of dark chocolate is one that actually provides so many benefits without the inordinate amount of sugar. Dark chocolate is known to thwart inflammation and can reverse the effects of oxidative stress on the system.

A recent study found that there is a specific flavanol within dark chocolate called epicatechin that can help the obvious processes of aging by damaging the oxidative stress that our bodies endure. The study was conducted on mice, and after having a certain amount of exposure to the flavanol, their memory improved as did their levels of anxiety. So having a bit of a treat at the end of the day isn’t a bad thing. It really depends on what you choose. Dark chocolate is a superb choice.

Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar

The problem of diabetes in this society has grown exponentially in the last 10 years. Our current diets, which put more focus on carbs and processed foods, become the impetus for the increased presence of diabetes. In order to combat this epidemic that is slowly getting out of control, it’s imperative to understand what items can potentially help control large blood sugar spikes. In a study that was conducted by Ohio Northern University it was found that the compounds within cinnamon actually have an enzyme that helps increase the signals that activate insulin.

So the presence of cinnamon is great for those who suffer from type 2 diabetes and can be a great tool to use in the management of the condition. While there is other types of medication specifically geared toward diabetes, it doesn’t hurt having natural aids at your disposal as well.

Food Prices And Increased Risk Of Obesity

One catalyst to health is what type of food people can afford and have access to. Poorly made, nutritionally vacant food is made exceedingly more accessible than food that has nutritious value and can properly fuel the body. In recent research from Los Angeles, California, global data was studied and it was found that there is a strong relationship between the existence and prevalence of obesity in women and the steady inflation of food prices that is seen on a widespread basis. In locations where people are on the lower spectrum of social-economic standing, they are susceptible to what are called food deserts. This means that these spaces only sell junk food at incredibly low prices.

The closest grocery store where fresh ingredients and healthy options are available is often nowhere nearby. This makes the ability to make healthy and better choices virtually impossible, which means they are forced to go the route of eating food that isn’t good for them, has high caloric mass, and contributes to weight gain. This is a recipe for disaster as this also makes them more prone to specific diseases.