The Multi-Eyed, No Horn, Non Flying, Purple Cancer Eater

A new international study shows purple potatoes may help prevent colon cancer

Pigs eating colorful veggies
Pigs “Eating the Rainbow!” Pigs were used in this new study because their digestive systems are very similar to human’s. They were fed purple potatoes only but the researchers say it was the phytonutrients in the potatoes that did the work and those can be found in other colorful veggies.
Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables in the world. They are the go-to side veggie for most meals in the western world, from fast food lunches to five-star exotic suppers at the world’s top restaurants. One billion people consume potatoes every day amounting to a total worldwide consumption of well over a half a trillion pounds per year. Not all of these potatoes are served up in the most healthy way, A good amount of them are deep fried, lathered with fatty sauces and cheese or in the form of a chip or crisp. As a result the potato has gotten a bad rap from health enthusiasts and fitness freaks.

But the utilitarian potato is, in its basic form, an incredibly healthy food. Baked or boiled, grilled or steamed with some light seasoning and you’ve got a side dish that is packed with a lot of nutrition. A serving of potato will give you half your daily allowance of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana. And if that potato is purple, you are going to get some added benefits that may help you fight off cancer.

A recent study of international researchers led by scholars at Penn State University found that the various micronutrients in purple potatoes go after and destroy stem cells associated with colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States according to statistics from Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The researchers on the study fed pigs baked purple potatoes (they wanted to make sure the beneficial nutrients were not destroyed during cooking) in a relatively high fat diet and compared that to pigs with similar diets without the potatoes. The pigs that got the potatoes had six times lower level of an inflammatory protein that is associated with promoting the growth and spread of cancer cells. This protein is known as IL-6 and there are very expensive drugs being used to suppress it.

But the researchers in this latest study hope that thier work will add to growing mountain of evidence that fresh fruits and veggies are the best antidote to the diseases that plague our modern world.

“Instead of promoting a pill, we can promote fruits and vegetables that are very rich in anti-inflammatory compounds to counter the growing problem of chronic disease,” said Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences, Penn State and one of the authors of the report.

The researchers were also quick to point out that it’s not just purple potatoes that can have this effect, but rather those anti-oxidants and phytonutrients that make them purple. Jairam Vanamala suggests eating a wide-variety of colorful vegetables and fruits may help treat chronic diseases such as colon cancer and type-2 diabetes. These plants, including the purple potato, contain bioactive compounds, such as anthocyanins and phenolic acids, that have been linked to cancer prevention.

“When you eat from the rainbow…,” Vanamala says, “we are not providing just one compound, we are providing a wide variety of compounds, thousands of them, that work on multiple pathways and causes self destruction of cancer stem cells.”

The authors of the study feel their work is another piece of evidence that a diet that is rich in plant-based foods and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is the critically important in preventing cancer.

So “Eat the Rainbow!” Fill you plate with ½ to ¾ vegetables at every meal and see how much better you feel while you extend your long healthy life.

Article on Penn State University Website about this study
Video about “Eating the Rainbow”
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The Multi-Eyed, No Horn, Non Flying, Purple Cancer Eater

How Many Veggies a Day to Keep the Grim Reaper Away?

Is it three, four, five or ten servings of fresh fruit and veggies a day to ensure a longer life? Researchers seem to conflict with their findings but when you actually add it up, it’s pretty much the same.

Grim-Reaper-With-VeggiesIf you thought Dracula was haunting your village you’d make sure you had plenty of cloves of garlic on hand to ward him off at night. Well, you may think the famous vampire is but a myth and most certainly he is. But researchers are showing that another myth and symbol of death, the Grim Reaper, can be kept at bay with that same garlic—And you don’t have to wear it around your neck. Just use it to season your three to four servings of veggies a day. Yes, you heard us right. Just three to four servings.

For decades we have been told that five servings a day of fruits and vegetables is needed to make sure we are in optimal health and staving off all those terrible diseases that are plaguing our modern society, e.g., diabetes, heart attacks, cancer and strokes. Then earlier this year a report from the Imperial College of London said we needed to double that amount (ten servings) if we were really going to be sure of preventing an early death. That study indicated that these amounts of fresh produce would make you 33% less likely to die prematurely.

But less than seven months later, a new, and perhaps much more exhaustive study, has concluded that eating just three to four servings a day is sufficient for keeping the grim reaper at bay. The findings of this latest research was conducted at McMaster University in Canada and published last week in the Lancet, one of the oldest and respected medical journals

That will no doubt provide relief to many who think of eating their veggies as a an unpleasant chore forced upon them by over protective parents. And for families with lower incomes, it will take some pressure off of their budgets when they go shopping.

But what did the study actually say and what does it mean for your meal planning and health goals?

First of all it is important to identify how a “serving” was defined. For this most recent study, a serving was 125 grams of fruit or vegetables. So a daily intake of three servings would be 375g. The serving size used in the February study was only 80g which corresponds with the World Health Organization’s serving size in their recommended five a day. So prior to this year’s study the prevailing wisdom suggested getting 400g of veggies every day. Even the most math-challenged of us can see that the amount is pretty similar from both recommendations. And if you take the four servings a day from the latest research as the best, then you are well over the five a day amounts previously advised (500g vs. 400g).

The latest study was an isolated study and focused on 135,000 people across Europe, North America, Japan and China for a ten-year period (2003-2013). That’s pretty exhaustive but was it more exhaustive than the Imperial College survey? The British study was not original research but analyzed the results of 95 other previous studies on fresh produce intake. The numbers of people involved in those studies added up to over 2 million people. But did the research methods differ substantially to skew the results of their analysis?

These are all questions that are difficult to quantify. But the authors of the new study are quick to point out that they feel their research aligns with the Imperial College research. In the Canadian effort, they did not see a large additional advantage for consuming more than the three to four servings, but their was some so they are hopeful that their work will not discourage people from eating more fruits and veggies if they already are.

Victoria Miller, the lead author of the report said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in England, “In western countries like North America and Europe we don’t want to suggest that [people] should start eating less fruit and vegetables – we think that it is part of an overall healthy diet and there is benefit from eating more.”

The new study doesn’t really change the opinion of nutritionists. The lesson is we need to be getting as many fruits and veggies in our diet as possible and even if it’s only 3-4 servings per day the evidence shows that is of great benefit. And if we can get more than that it will have added benefits toward extending our lives. But the dieticians also warn that only getting 3-4 a day and filling up on other non healthy foods may cancel out your efforts. Nutrition packed veggies need to be replacing our intake of highly processed foods and those with high amounts of fats and sugar.

Keep fruits and veggies on your mind and close at hand throughout the day, especially when you feel the urge to snack. Before you open that bag of chips or a candy bar, eat a fresh apple or pear. If you’re still hungry after that then maybe you can indulge, but we think chances are you won’t. This way you will easily increase your servings per day and increase your chance of a long healthy life.

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How Many Veggies a Day to Keep the Grim Reaper Away?

Something Ugly is Spreading in the Fruit and Veggie Kingdom

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“Look away, look away…we are hideous!”

If you are a foodie and have your social media feeds set to get news about anything to do with fresh fruits and vegetables, you have probably witnessed some very ugly posts over the past couple of years. Gross, distorted and repulsive are some of the words used to describe the images that have spewed forth from a new “ugly” movement. Not only do these pictures tend to make one shun their eyes, but at times they border on pornographic. But at Produce Buzz we are thrilled it is happening and hopes it gains even more momentum!

Sorry if we misled you, but we are not talking about the latest fetish from the adult film industry or nasty barbs from some extreme political party. We are talking about “ugly” fruits and vegetables. These are those produce items that are misshapen and/or off color and years ago would have been culled out by growers and shippers of fresh produce because the grocery stores could not sell them to their customers. And face it, you know you’ve seen pics of those slightly pornographic ones online: carrots and squash with highly suggestive anatomic parts. You’ve laughed at them but have you bought one yet? Probably not because most grocery stores couldn’t get away with stocking on their produce racks.

But thanks to several groups around the world who are working to end food waste, consumers are being re-educated to learn that a misshapen veggie may be just as good or better than the perfectly proportioned version.

Yes, the ugly fruit and veggie movement is strong and getting stronger every week. It’s a very positive trend that hopefully will greatly diminish the estimated 50% of fruits and vegetables that are wasted as they go from the farm to the plate. The United Nations FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) estimates that the land used to grow food that is eventually wasted amounts to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area and the water needed for them equates to the annual discharge of the Volga River. So the need to lessen this environmental impact is coming to the attention of many in the world’s food supply chain.

Many grocery stores are doing their part to buy these once discarded products. And not only buy them but to aggressively market them in stores to their customers. While a few grocery chains in the U.K. were ahead of the big push, the movement started first in a big way in Europe about three years ago. A campaign called “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” was launched in France with some humorous ads and publicity. Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, teamed up with UK grocery ASDA with the tagline “Beautiful on the Inside” and soon everyone in Britain was talking about “wonky” veggies. Down Under, Woolworths launched their “Odd Bunch in Australia” marketing efforts and it suddenly it was a worldwide movement.

The U.S. was slower to get involved, but once it got started, a good number of the major grocery chains jumped on board. Last year Giant Eagle, Hannaford, Whole Foods, Hy-Vee and even Walmart had their own versions of ugly produce on their shelves. And brands who specialize in ugly produce are starting to emerge. One brand called “Misfits” is now distributed in over 300 stores across the U.S.

Now there are similar marketing efforts spreading around the world. Sixteen countries have grocery stores pushing these former veggie outcasts, including Canada, Spain, Belgium, Sweden and South Africa. So the movement is an unquestionable success, but advocates for it say much more needs to be done.

Jordan Figueiredo, a Huffington Post contributor and self-proclaimed “Ugly Produce Expert,” says that, “…more than 20% of the world’s produce is left at the farm, mostly for cosmetic reasons. In addition, there is so much wasted food along the way to the store and at the store as well. Small pilots or programs for ugly produce, while great steps in the right direction, and let’s be honest – great publicity for supermarkets, will never be enough.” He believes that consumers need to demand from retailers transparency in their supply chains. “How else will these problems be solved unless they’re measured and held accountable for?”

Demanding transparency may help, but for now consumers can do their part by buying the produce misfits on the shelves at their local stores and asking for more of them. Grocery stores have learned to listen to their customers and respond. They have to in order to compete in an increasingly competitive retail space that is being encroached upon by online platforms.

So keep an eye out for those ugly, distorted and misshapen fruits and veggies, not just through your Twitter feed but on your local produce rack and try them out. You’ll be helping to solve the food waste problem and at the same time getting great value and nutrition, a bonus for your pocket book and your health.

Related Links:
National Geographic
NPR
United Nations FAO Report on Food Waste

 

Something Ugly is Spreading in the Fruit and Veggie Kingdom

What’s the Definition of Healthy?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is caught in a debate over what most consider an outdated definition of the term “healthy.” The current requirements for a food product to legally use the term on packaging was crafted in the 1990’s when healthcare practitioners were focused on the amount of fat in foods as the biggest threat to health. As a result, natural and fresh foods like salmon and avocados could not put “healthy” on their labels while some sugary cereals and puddings which contained no fat could. No one made the effort or took the time to change this odd set of circumstances until the makers of a new snack bar called Kind wanted to use the term on its products made of all natural foods.

FDA-Healthy-Blog-Post
Kind Foods couldn’t use the word “healthy” on its snack bars because of high fat content. Also avocados and salmon couldn’t be labeled with the term. But some processed foods such as puddings and cereals could. The FDA is rethinking its requirements for calling a food healthy.

Many of the Kind bars contain a lot of nuts which are high in fat and that put them above the allowed amount of fat in the FDA’s definition of a healthy food. But with the latest nutrition research showing that it wasn’t necessarily the amount of fat in our diets but the kind of fats, the makers of Kind thought the definition needed updating. But rather than fight the FDA on their own, they turned to the public through a petition that got the attention of the officials at the FDA.

In response, the FDA allowed Kind to begin using the phrase “tasty and healthy” again on its packaging, but only as a company slogan and not as a direct reference to the product inside. But the FDA also decided it was time to consider updating its definition of healthy and for the past six months has been soliciting comments and opinions from nutritional experts, organizations and consumers as to what the new definition should contain. The allotted time for comments ended this week and now the FDA must get down to sorting through them to make their decision.

Not surprisingly, these interested parties could not all agree on a new standard. And even within some of the organizations they couldn’t come to a mutual understanding for a definition. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said that in the comments they gave the FDA this week that could not recommend an effective legal definition for the term “healthy.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest told the FDA in their input that they are concerned defining and allowing “healthy” to be used on packaging and in marketing may encourage people to choose processed foods over fresh fruit and vegetables and other natural foods on the grocery shelf. They do not want to see marketers misleading consumers with terms that are too nebulous.

In the end consumers need to be educated about what are the best foods for good health. They need to be savvy to avoid the tricks of marketers and the claims on packaging. Fortunately there is more and more good information as nutrition experts and researchers continue to show that fresh, natural foods and less processed packaged foods in our diets are key to keeping us “healthy.” Stay tuned to Produce Buzz as we highlight these findings on a weekly basis.

What’s the Definition of Healthy?

Want to Lose Weight and Feel Better? Then Ditch the Fad Diets

The secret to weight loss and healthy diet is that there is no secret. Your mother’s advice, “Eat Your Vegetables!” is still the predominant wisdom when it comes to eating right. There’s no magic weight-loss pill or new undiscovered combination of superfoods that will replace her emotional plea. The latest research continues to point out that the way to good health and long life is eating lots of fresh foods, that is, fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and leafy greens.

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In a new study by the American College of Cardiology, in which they surveyed some of the latest and most popular nutrition fads, including juicing, gluten-free diets and antioxidant pills, the scholars determined that most of the claims of the promoters of these ideas for nutrition are unsubstantiated.

Here are some of the key myths they addressed in their report:

  • Eggs and cholesterol: Although a U.S. government report issued in 2015 dropped specific recommendations about upper limits for cholesterol consumption, the review concludes, “it remains prudent to advise patients to significantly limit intake of dietary cholesterol in the form of eggs or any high cholesterol foods to as little as possible.”
  • Vegetable oils: According to the authors, coconut oil and palm oil should be discouraged due to limited data supporting routine use. The most heart-healthy oil is olive oil, though perhaps in moderation as it is still higher calorie, research suggests.
  • Berries and antioxidant supplementation: Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest and most beneficial source of antioxidants to reduce heart disease risk, the review explains. There is no compelling evidence adding high-dose antioxidant dietary supplements benefits heart health.
  • Nuts: Nuts can be part of a heart-healthy diet. But beware of consuming too many, because nuts are high in calories, said the authors.
  • Juicing:The authors explain that while the fruits and vegetables contained in juices are heart-healthy, the process of juicing concentrates calories, which makes it is much easier to ingest too many. Eating whole fruits and vegetables is preferred, with juicing primarily reserved for situations when daily intake of vegetables and fruits is inadequate. If you do juice, avoid adding extra sugar by putting in honey, to minimize calories.
  • Gluten: People who have celiac disease or other gluten sensitivity must avoid gluten – wheat, barley and rye. For patients who don’t have any gluten sensitivities, many of the claims for health benefits of a gluten-free diet are unsubstantiated, the authors conclude.

Food is the most important factor in ensuring good health and our best medicine. And fresh foods are the key part of that medicine cabinet. Produce Buzz was created to help spread this message far and wide. We are joining the crusade that has been going on in the nutritional and medical communities for a long time.

But still research shows that only a small percentage of people around the world get the recommended amount of fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. Please join us and bookmark the Produce Buzz Website and follow us in all of our social media channels.

And join in the conversation by sharing your favorite recipes, farmer’s markets finds and gardening triumphs. Welcome to the community!

 

 

Want to Lose Weight and Feel Better? Then Ditch the Fad Diets

Are “Superfoods” Really Super?

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If you want to get your daily does of unscientific diversity of opinion (and who doesn’t crave that on a regular basis?), type into a search engine the phrase “top ten superfoods.” And for real kicks, do the search in the engine’s images side of things. You will quickly get a visual of the ever-expanding list of foods that are supposed to provide exceptional nutritional value or magically cure some ailment. And you will also quickly see that no two lists are the same. So what about these claims? Are they scientific or just hype from marketing pros?

Several authoritative organizations have weighed in on this question. The American Heart Association gives a thumbs up to certain foods that have been making a lot of the “Top Ten Superfoods” lists. But they are quick to point out that none of these foods by themselves are panaceas nor are they sufficient on their own to provide all the nutrients, dietary needs or prevention that a well-balanced and diverse diet does. In an article on the AMA site titled, “What’s So Super About Superfoods,” they spoke to Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, a registered dietitian and professor at Penn State University who says that” most myths about super foods are perpetuated by marketing efforts…which is why most nutrition experts prefer not to use the term.”

Kris-Etherton went on to tell the AMA that, “A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems. They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet. Eating too much of one type of food may prevent you from getting the nutrients you need.”

The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) cautions on their Website that, “The term ‘superfood’ has become a popular buzzword in the language of food and health. However, there is no technical definition of the word and the scientific evidence for the health effects of these foods — while often positive — does not necessarily apply to real diets.” The article concludes that a diet based on a variety of nutritious foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, remains the best way to ensure a balanced nutrient intake for optimal health.

The EUFIC seems to have found the original use of the word “superfood” in a Jamaican publication from 1915. But an article on MSN.com credits the author of an early 1990’s cookbook as the first to popularize the term. They point out that this author Michael Van Straten is now dismayed at how the term has been over applied in our current day. Van Straten advocated in very general terms that a diet rich in ruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts “supply the vital bricks that build your body’s resistance to stress, disease, and infection.” MSN.com also notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has of yet, not attempted to regulate the term superfood.

Many other reasonable voices in the media, nutritional and health sciences have spoken out cautioning against identifying certain foods as superfoods. In most every instance they advise a wide range of fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains along with healthy proteins as the best way to ensure your diet is “super.”

 

 

Are “Superfoods” Really Super?

The New York Times is Making You Fat!

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Are newspapers subtly suggesting to us what to eat? The research says…well..maybe!

The old expression, “You are what you eat” can be given a new twist after the conclusions of a new study were released this month. We can now say, “You are what you read” or at the very least, “You eat what you read.”

According to a study published in BMC Public Health by a research team from Cornell University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the obesity rate for the United States and Britain over the last 50 years has directly correlated to what types of food were most often mentioned in the New York Times and the London Times. The studies authors, Brian Wansink and Brennan Davis, concluded that, “United States obesity prevalence is positively associated with New York Times mentions of sweet snacks… and negatively associated with mentions of fruits… and vegetables. Similar results are found for the United Kingdom and The London Times.”

The researchers looked at articles from the past 50 years of the New York Times and for the past 17 years in London Times and set values based upon mentions of unhealthy salty and sweet snacks on one side and mentions of fruit and vegetables on the healthy side. That was then correlated to the obesity rates (Body Mass Index or BMI) of each nation. They concluded that the predominance of one or the other, unhealthy versus healthy food references, in the papers could generally predict the rise or fall of obesity rates three years ahead of time.

The study stated that obesity rates in U.S. has risen from 13.4% to 33.8% since 1960 while the U.K. obesity rate has risen from 15% to 25.4% since 1993. The researchers analysis showed that articles mentioning vegetables declined by 46 %, and articles mentioning fruits, salty snacks, and sweet snacks increased (92 %, 417 %, and 310 %) over the last 50 years in the New York Times.

No doubt many of you are already scratching your head at the potential flaws in this correlation. Even the authors Wansink and Davis admit that their study has “limitations worth discussing.” They rightly acknowledge that their research is not exhaustive and does not show any real evidence that the Times newspapers are the cause of the obesity. They certainly did not have time nor desire to study the context of the mentions of those unhealthy or healthy food words. In some cases the articles might not even be talking about food. One example they give in the caveats is that the term popcorn might have been used in an article describing Styrofoam packing materials for shipping.

So we take this study with a few grains of salt (Oh No! Has that phrase sent you to the kitchen looking for potato chips?). But at Produce Buzz, we think there could be something to this “power of suggestion.” Who among hasn’t experienced the sudden craving for ice cream or chocolate or a buttery box of popcorn after an ever so slight suggestion from a faint familiar smell or a ever so subtle mention of one of our favorite snacks? Did we succumb to the urge or did we bury it in our subconscious only to have it revive soon after? Similarly, suggestions of our favorite fruits and vegetables can send us in the opposite direction. So how we eat can depend greatly on what our minds are ingesting. That’s a big part of our mission at Produce Buzz—to keep the good food in the front of our readers’ minds as much as possible so we can help turn the tide on obesity.

Fifty years of fat: news coverage of trends that predate obesity prevalence

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The New York Times is Making You Fat!