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

Something Ugly is Spreading in the Fruit and Veggie Kingdom

“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
United Nations FAO Report on Food Waste


Something Ugly is Spreading in the Fruit and Veggie Kingdom

The New York Times is Making You Fat!

reading newspaper
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!

How Does Your State Rank In Fresh Produce Consumption

Regardless of how high, it’s not good enough according to the CDC.

Check Your State’s Ranking Here

On a recent walk in my Southern California neighborhood, I noticed that the line to the In-and-Out Burger fast food franchise was, as usual, very long while a nearby restaurant touting fresh vegetables and salads was all but empty.

California sits high on top of a new state ranking in the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. But as the traffic at various restaurants even in this state known for its healthy lifestyles indicate, the number of Californians getting enough of their veggies is still very low. Only 17% of them consume the RDA of fruit and only 13% get the RDA of vegetables.

According to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, only 13% of Americans are eating enough fruit each day and only about 9% are getting enough vegetables in their diets.

Overall in the U.S. only about 13% consume the RDA of fruit on a regular basis and only about 9% consume the RDA of vegetables.
Overall in the U.S. only about 13% consume the RDA of fruit on a regular basis and only about 9% consume the RDA of vegetables.

The information for the study was actually gathered in 2013 but was just released this week by the CDC. They surveyed almost 400,000 adults by random telephone calls and threw out any data that seemed implausibly high such as the few that claimed to eat 23 servings of vegetables a day. According to the CDC, consumption of fruits and vegetables at the recommended daily allowance helps greatly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer. They recommend consuming 2 cups of fruit along with 3 cups of vegetables each day—echoing the long touted “Five a Day” campaign that produce organizations have promoted for decades.

It was no surprise that California led the 50 States and the District of Columbia where the survey was focused. Access to fresh produce year-round is no doubt a great advantage to the Golden State residents. And also it was probably no surprise to most that the poorer states like Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia were at the bottom of the list. The CDC stated in its report that only 70% of the various regions that define the U.S. census tracks have access to a wide variety of affordable fruits and vegetables.

The CDC concluded in its report that, “Substantial new efforts are needed to build consumer demand for fruits and vegetables through competitive pricing, placement, and promotion in child care, schools, grocery stores, communities, and worksites.”

Some states are taking the initiative to make sure their residents have access to fresh produce. Twenty-eight states now have “farm-to-school” programs and 27 states have formed coalitions between private and public organizations to work toward greater access and awareness of healthy foods.

Produce Buzz was founded to help in the promotion side of this effort. We hope you will join our community and help us spread the joy and the benefits of eating healthier.

CDC Rannking of State by State Fresh Produce Consumption 2015
California and Oregon are way ahead of most states in fruit and vegetable consumption but even there it is appallingly low. Source

CDC State By State Report on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Americans Are Not the Only Ones With Bad Diets

How Does Your State Rank In Fresh Produce Consumption

Americans Are Not the Only Ones With Bad Diets

Fat-Man-Eating-GlobeIf misery loves company, then Americans should feel a little better this week. For the past few decades the U.S. has experienced some humiliation as the rest of the world snickered at its bulging waist lines and gasped at the multitude of studies outlining its citizens bad eating habits.

But a new and very comprehensive global study has found that since 1990 the rest of the world’s diet has not been much better. The research, which was jointly sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Britain’s Medical Research Council, showed that diets in the 187 countries studied showed an overall decline in the ratio of healthy foods to junk food.

The researchers relied on a wide range of studies (320 in all) and data sources, including nationally representative dietary surveys, local surveys, and information from the UN Food and Agriculture committee. They also adjusted for total energy intake to evaluate quality—as far as possible—independently from quantity, in order to better equate less developed and poorer countries with more affluent nations.

The markers in the study were ten agreed upon healthy foods (fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, milk, total polyunsaturated fatty acids, fish, plant omega-3s, and dietary fibre), and seven unhealthy foods to define a favorable or unfavorable dietary pattern (unprocessed red meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, saturated fat, trans fat, dietary cholesterol, and sodium).

An interesting pattern emerged from the data in that there was an increase in most regions in the amount of healthy foods being eaten, but there was a more significant rise in the junk foods, especially in countries that are becoming more affluent, like China and India.

The best improvements in healthy eating were in Mongolia, Latin America and the Caribbean, but Armenia, Bosnia and the Dominican Republic have been more on a junk food binge. This was true for much of the former Soviet republics in central Asia and Eastern Europe. It came as little surprise that countries in the Mediterranean region, well known for its abundance of the foods that have proven to benefit health, had some of the highest scores for healthy eating. But what was surprising is that those that did have high scores were poorer countries in the region and France and Italy, both famous for popularizing and indulging in the Mediterranean diet, did not do so well.

The U.S. had little change in the 20-year span analyzed, as intake of both healthier foods and junk foods increased. And another report that just came out this week from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, says that the American diet is having devastating effects, as two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. And about half of American adults, 117 million people, have preventable chronic diseases related to poor diet and physical inactivity, the group said. The same report found that while Americans are eating the same amount of fruit as five years ago, vegetable consumption has decreased, especially for children and teenagers.

The Gates Foundation study also determined that on a global basis, older adults eat better than younger adults and that overall women eat better than men.

There is a big movement by the United Nations, NGO’s, foundations and governments all around the world to advance awareness and knowledge about healthier eating and access to more nutritious food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always at the center of the solution. So keep eating your veggies and spread the word to others.

Summary and conclusions of the dietary study published at The Lancet Journal
Washington Post article on Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

Americans Are Not the Only Ones With Bad Diets

New Campaign Calls for More Investment in Fruit and Vegetable Production to Stave Off Malnutrition

A quaint but antiquated way to transport fresh produce
A quaint but antiquated way to transport fresh produce. Better systems are needed to increase the supply of fruits and vegetables and alleviate malnutrition globally according to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is launching a new campaign to promote the consumption and availability of healthy foods on a global basis to help alleviate malnutrition. Hats off to them for recognizing that an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption is key in this goal.

In the western developed world small farms and community gardens are increasing and the availability of healthy and inexpensive produce has never been better. But in the developing world the trend is urbanization which is causing a decrease in the supply of fruits and vegetables in these areas as people move from small towns to the cities. The lack of fresh produce is not good for the overall health of the planet’s population.

Most of the world’s diet is dominated by grains–rice, wheat and corn. Governments and industry after World War II focused on ensuring a plenteous supply of these high caloric foods. In their blog post announcing this new campaign the Chicago Council stated that after the war, “To make these grains more predictably abundant, safe, and affordable, governments and businesses invested heavily in research, production, processing, and transportation systems for these crops.” That is one of the reasons why grains dominate our food supply today.

They went on to say that, “Today, as our understanding of nutrition continues to evolve, it’s clear that the food system needs to make the same kind of investments in fruit and vegetable production as well.”

One of the major challenges, growers, packers, shippers and retailers face with fruits and vegetables is major percentage of spoilage along the distribution path post harvest. The United Nations estimates that, depending on where the produce is grown and shipped, anywhere from 30-50% of fresh fruits and vegetables are lost due to spoilage in the supply chain.

According to the Chicago Council, the total global market for fruits and vegetables is expected to rise to $2.3 trillion by 2017. That should be plenty of incentive for governments and everyone in the supply chain to join this worthy campaign.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs Healthy Food for a Healthy World

New Campaign Calls for More Investment in Fruit and Vegetable Production to Stave Off Malnutrition

Most Exotic Fruit…Well…Frankly, Isn’t!

Exotic Fruit
Exotic fruit? Depends on where you stand.

What is an exotic fruit? Your answer to that would depend on where you live. In North America and Europe, mangos are considered exotic, but in India, they are as commonplace as apples on those two continents. At Produce Buzz we like to think globally, but since we are in the good ol’ USA, we and the rest of the northern hemisphere consider tropical fruits like mangos, pineapples, papayas and passion fruit as exotics. But just because a fruit hails from the tropics or travels a long way to our table, it is not guaranteed permanent exotic status. The banana and kiwifruit have both lost their exotic fame because they are now so plentiful on western-world grocery store shelves.

Speaking this week in Berlin at Fruit Logistica, the largest trade show for fresh produce, Daphne van Doorn, Policy Advisor Communications and Agriculture at the Brussels-based European Fresh Produce Association Freshfel, said global consumption for exotic fruit is on the rise. China and India account for 38% of the global production of exotic fruit, but they consume most of it domestically rather than exporting. According to Ms. van Doorn, mangos are the clear leader of global exotic fruit production. They account for 58% of the 102 million tonnes of exotic fruit produced globally every year, followed by pineapples at 22%. But less than 10% of this volume, just 8.7 million tonnes, made it onto the global market. So 90% of “exotic” fruit is consumed in the countries where it is grown and most likely not considered “exotic!” So is a mango only exotic if it emigrates?

Most Exotic Fruit…Well…Frankly, Isn’t!