Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious After All? : The Salt : NPR

There may never be an end to arguments over whether organic food is more nutritious. But a new study is the most ambitious attempt so far to resolve the issue — and it concludes that organic fruit and vegetables offer a key benefit.

It’s a scientific reply to an analysis that some researchers at Stanford University published two years ago. That paper, which generated lots of media coverage and much controversy, reviewed more than 200 studies of organic and conventional food, and concluded that organic foods do not really offer any significant nutritional benefit.

This new analysis, from a group of scientists mostly based in Europe, crunched data from an even bigger pile of studies: 343 of them, carried out over the past several decades. It will be published Monday in the British Journal of Nutrition.

The new analysis repeats some of the Stanford group’s findings. It finds that organic and conventional vegetables offer similar levels of many nutrients, including minerals, vitamin C and vitamin E. Conventional crops are higher in protein. And there are fewer pesticide residues on organic foods, as you’d expect.

via Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious After All? : The Salt : NPR.

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How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don’t protect against them — ScienceDaily

For decades, health-conscious people around the globe have taken antioxidant supplements and eaten foods rich in antioxidants, figuring this was one of the paths to good health and a long life.

Yet clinical trials of antioxidant supplements have repeatedly dashed the hopes of consumers who take them hoping to reduce their cancer risk. Virtually all such trials have failed to show any protective effect against cancer. In fact, in several trials antioxidant supplementation has been linked with increased rates of certain cancers. In one trial, smokers taking extra beta carotene had higher, not lower, rates of lung cancer.

In a brief paper appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine, David Tuveson, M.D. Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor and Director of Research for the Lustgarten Foundation, and Navdeep S. Chandel, Ph.D., of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, propose why antioxidant supplements might not be working to reduce cancer development, and why they may actually do more harm than good.

Their insights are based on recent advances in the understanding of the system in our cells that establishes a natural balance between oxidizing and anti-oxidizing compounds. These compounds are involved in so-called redox (reduction and oxidation) reactions essential to cellular chemistry.via How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don’t protect against them — ScienceDaily.

Is Honey Better Than Sugar? – WSJ.com

The Claim: Honey is a healthy alternative to sugar. It is packed with nutrients and better for diabetics.

Studies show a spoonful of honey eases coughs in kids over 1 year old. Photocuisine

The Verdict: Honey does have more nutrients—including antioxidants—than ordinary refined sugar, nutritionists say, but it isn\’t better for diabetics, as it still raises blood sugar. Health benefits of honey are mostly unproven, though some studies show taking a spoonful eases coughs in children over a year old and helps them sleep.

Honey contains 21 calories a teaspoon, compared with 16 calories for refined white sugar, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture\’s nutrient database. It is slightly sweeter than sugar, meaning you can use a little less, nutritionists say. It contains small amounts of vitamins—including vitamin C and folate—and minerals such as magnesium, while white sugar is nearly devoid of nutrients, according to the database.

Replacing table sugar with honey may have “modest benefits” nutritionally, says Toby Smithson, a Vernon Hills, Ill., dietitian and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But diabetics, who are advised to carefully limit carbohydrate intake, are better off using their carb budgets for fiber-rich foods, such as oatmeal, or fruits, such as apples, she adds.

Both table sugar and honey cause blood sugar to rise, which can be an issue for diabetics. Honey breaks down in the body \”a little more slowly\” than sugar, says Amanda Kirpitch, a nutritionist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, but not enough to make a practical difference.

One benefit of honey is its antioxidants, nutrients that scientists believe may slow cellular damage caused by unstable molecules or atoms called free radicals. A 2009 study, published in the journal of the American Dietetic Association, found eight samples of supermarket honey had \”intermediate\” antioxidant activity. Specifically, honey had more antioxidant activity than refined white sugar, which had nearly zero, but less activity than dark and blackstrap molasses, which had the most of all the sweeteners tested.

Study author Katherine M. Phillips, senior research scientist at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University\’s Food Analysis Laboratory Control Center in Blacksburg, Va., says honey still has far fewer antioxidants per serving than antioxidant-rich foods such as red wine, blueberries or walnuts.

It isn\’t known how honey helps coughs and sore throats, says Pennsylvania State University pediatrics professor Ian M. Paul. Dr. Paul was the author of a 2007 study of 105 children that found honey was effective at calming coughs. It\’s possible the antioxidants in honey boost the immune system, or it could be simply that it coats the back of the throat, which becomes irritated during the common cold, he says. Dr. Paul\’s study, published in 2007 in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, was sponsored by the National Honey Board, an industry-funded group that operates under the USDA\’s oversight.

In a study of 300 children published last year in the journal Pediatrics, Israeli researchers found a spoonful of honey a half-hour before bedtime was more effective at reducing coughs and improving sleep than a placebo syrup. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn\’t recommend giving honey to children under a year old because it can contain bacteria that causes infant botulism.

via Is Honey Better Than Sugar? – WSJ.com.

Ask Well: Does Cooking Strip Red Wines Benefits? – NYTimes.com

Ask Well: Does Cooking Strip Red Wines Benefits? - NYTimes.com

Q

Are the health benefits of red wine still available if the wine is reduced by half through cooking and then consumed with the food?

Reader Question • 600 votes

A

The short answer is probably yes: You can drink your wine and cook it too.

Red wine essentially has two properties that make it good for health when consumed in moderation. One is its alcohol content, which is known to increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce levels of fibrinogen, a precursor of blood clots. The other is its abundance of polyphenols, natural compounds like resveratrol that, according to some studies, can protect blood vessels and help reduce inflammation.

Although it is widely assumed that alcohol in food burns off completely during cooking, that is not always the case. According to research by the Agriculture Department, the amount of alcohol that remains varies widely, depending on the cooking method. A sauce that is made with wine and simmered and stirred for 30 minutes, for example, can retain as much as a third of its alcohol content.

A red wine reduction requires a fairly lengthy cooking period, so it is likely that much of the alcohol evaporates along with water during the cooking process. But red wine without alcohol still appears to have some health benefits.

In a small randomized clinical trial published in the journal Circulation Research last year, Spanish researchers found that men who were assigned to drink 10 ounces of nonalcoholic red wine daily experienced a decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure after four weeks. “There is growing evidence,” an accompanying editorial pointed out, “that chemical constituents present in red wine confer health benefits beyond alcohol and independent of potential confounding factors.”

In another study published in 2011 in The Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, scientists found that red wine heated to conditions “applicable to the preparation of a mulled wine and for cooking” retained its ability to dilate blood vessels, as measured in tissue isolated from animals. The researchers found that this ability to relax blood vessels persisted even when the red wine was heated to temperatures reaching 257 degrees Fahrenheit.

via Ask Well: Does Cooking Strip Red Wines Benefits? – NYTimes.com.

Article: Is Your Olive Oil As Healthy As You Think? (Op-Ed)

Katherine Tallmadge, R.D.
Date: 06 July 2013 Time: 11:11 AM ET

The expensive olive oil in your kitchen cabinet is likely not as fresh, nutritious or high in quality as you assume it might be. Does that mean you won’t receive the expected health benefits when using olive oil purchased from America’s grocery shelves? Possibly.

This issue first came to my attention at a Mediterranean Diet Conference I attended in Florence, Italy, co-sponsored by New York University’s Department of Dietetics and the James Beard Foundation.

You feel good about using olive oil, right? You know it’s good for you, tasty and easy to use. Still, to get the most benefits — and the best bang for your buck — there’s more you should know. [4 Tips for Finding Time for Healthy Cooking]

“The health benefits of olive oil are 99 percent related to the presence of the phenolic compounds, not the oil itself,” said Nasir Malik, research plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Agricultural Research Service.

Malik is referring to the polyphenols in olive oil, nutrients also found in wine, tea, cocoa and many fruits and vegetables that have been discovered over the past decade to be the substances responsible for the bulk of olive oil’s health benefits, without which “you might as well use canola oil,” Malik said.

And when tested, polyphenols were surprisingly low in most commercially available olive oils, according to a recently published study conducted by the Agricultural Research Service, co-authored by Malik.

They also don’t live up to international or USDA quality standards, according to studies conducted by the University of California at Davis (UC-Davis) Olive Center.

The good stuff

Polyphenols decrease heart disease risk factors by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing blood clotting and improving the health of artery linings.

Researchers have discovered genes that, when activated, either increase or reduce your chances for metabolic syndrome, the name for a group of risk factors (high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose) that together increase the risk for heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer.

Fresh, high-polyphenol olive oil affects the expression of those genes in a positive way, reducing your risk for metabolic syndrome and heart disease. But, low-polyphenol olive oil does not have the same effects,a recent study found.

Polyphenols also reduce cancer risk by lowering inflammation and cellular proliferation. They act as antioxidants, reducing oxidation and cell damage, which leads to many degenerative diseases. They even reduce microbial activity and infections.

Those biological benefits explain, in part, why the Mediterranean diet, high in olive oil, has been linked with superior health. But there is an advantage even the poorest of the poor in Mediterranean countries have enjoyed since at least 4000 B.C.: freshly harvested olive oil. That’s because olives were growing on trees in people’s backyards; it was plentiful and cheap. But its freshness had been taken for granted. [The Origins of the Olive Tree Revealed]

olives
Waning quality

Studies show that as days, weeks and months go by after harvest, the polyphenol content and health benefits of the oil diminish.

“Think of olive oil as olive juice with a maximum two-year shelf life,” said Selina Wang, research director at the UC-Davis Olive Center.

Several factors are responsible for the polyphenol content of olive oil, according to the experts:

  • Harvesting method: Rougher treatment and exposure to the elements reduces polyphenols.
  • The age of the trees: Older trees contain significantly higher polyphenol content.
  • Olive maturation: Green olives contain more polyphenols than ripe olives, though it’s easier to extract more oil from riper olives.
  • Processing: The less processing, the better. “Extra virgin” olive oil, which is cold-pressed only once, has the highest polyphenol levels. Two presses (“virgin” olive oil), reduces polyphenol content further, and oil with three extractions contains only about half the value of “virgin” olive oil. Highly refined or “light” olive oils, which use heat or chemicals in the refining process, have significantly lower polyphenol levels.
  • Storage: Any exposure of the harvested olives or the oil to heat, light or air will reduce polyphenol content. (If you’re using extreme heat in cooking, you’ll most likely lose the polyphenols anyway, so you might as well use canola oil, which contains more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.) [5 ‘Health Foods’ You Should Avoid (Op-Ed)]

The quest

Marcia Horting and her husband, Marc Marzullo, who visit Italy regularly, are on a constantquest for great olive oil. “We look for oils produced by single vineyards, co-ops in small towns like Volpaia, or high-quality Tuscan producers that are grassy and spicy,” said Horting, a consultant in Gaithersburg, Md. She has noticed that in the bigger stores in Paris and Rome serving tourists, “older olive oils are sold at the same prices as the more recent harvest.”

Luckily, you no longer have to travel to Italy for high-quality extra virgin olive oils, as they are now being produced in the United States. They’re more likely to be fresh — and with a price you can afford. California is the leader of the olive oil-producing states, but Texas, Oregon, Arizona and Georgia are producing a small amount.

It’s tricky to know if the olive oil you’re buying is high-quality, fresh extra virgin olive oil. In most U.S. stores, I have found olive oil with harvest dates on perhaps one out of 20 bottles. Some have “sell-by” dates, which are usually two years after harvest (already too old!), though there are no standards for a sell-by date, so there is no guarantee how old your olive oil isunless there is a harvest date. Olives are harvested once annually, usually in the fall/winter, depending on the region.Look for a harvest date within the past year.

Continue reading

For Better Nutrition, Take a Walk on the Wild Side – ABC News

Parsley is a super food disguised as a garnish. (Getty Images)

By LIZ NEPORENT (@lizzyfit)

June 5, 2013

Virtually everyone agrees that Americans should eat more fruits and vegetables, but Jo Robinson, food activist and author of the new book “Eating on the Wild Side,” wants consumers to know that not all fruits and vegetables are created equal.

Many wild plants left a bitter, sour or astringent taste in the mouths of our ancestors, Robinson explained, so when people began farming instead of foraging about 10,000 years ago, we bred our favorite fruits and veggies to be sweet and tasty.

While they are certainly more delicious, Robinson said that most domestic plants had far fewer phytonutrients — the healthful compounds that studies find can help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer — than the wild varieties of edible plants.

“Phytonutrients have antioxidant properties that curb the inflammation at the root of many diseases,” Robinson said. “Some wild plants contain 20 or 30 phytonutrients for a really strong, health-enhancing effect.”

It’s not as if Robinson is advocating an outrageously expensive or restrictive diet. Nor is she suggesting anyone stride into the forest and start ripping up plants by the roots to toss into a salad. Instead, she recommends that consumers get educated about which foods are high in phytonutrients so they can add them into their diets.

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Some of the best sources of phytonutrients are surprising.

“Even though we’ve been taught that bright, colorful foods are the healthiest, this isn’t always the case,” Robinson said.

Peaches with white flesh, for example, have five times the phytochemicals of peaches with yellow flesh. Green Granny Smith apples are a far richer source of phytochemicals than red apples.

She also said many of the most phytochemical-rich plants are hiding in plain sight at the supermarket.

Scallions, for instance, contain five times more phytonutrients than many common onions if you use both the bulbs and green tendrils. And fresh herbs, long valued for their intense flavors and aroma, have escaped the flavor makeover given to other plant foods, and remain excellent sources of phytonutrients. Both are plentiful and inexpensive.

“They can be chopped up and added to a salad, soup or casserole,” Robinson said.

Changing the color of various staples can also provide an instant extra dose of phytonutrients. According to Robinson, purple potatoes native to Peru have 28 times more of the cancer-fighting phytonutrient anthocyanin than common russet potatoes. Likewise, blue, red and purple corn meals have more of the substance than the plain white versions.

Robinson said that wild dandelions, which most of us consider nothing more than a lawn nuisance, have seven times more phytonutrients than the “superfood” spinach. If you prefer not to pluck them directly from your lawn, they can now be found in many supermarkets.

Then there are artichoke hearts. According to Robinson, the canned variety — spiny, pale and watery — have more antioxidants than just about any food in the supermarket.

There are also some simple tricks consumers can use to ensure they eat food at the peak of its nutritional value, according to Robinson. Buying cherries and grapes with green rather than brown or black stems, checking the freshness dates on bagged lettuce and leaving watermelons and tomatoes on the counter rather than in the refrigerator, are just a few.

via For Better Nutrition, Take a Walk on the Wild Side – ABC News.

Antioxidants: 13 Ways to Lose Weight | Women’s Health Magazine

An interesting way to look at meal planning…

semester’s picking up. Will try to update better in a lul! 

Choose a Category

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DARRIN HADDAD

When it comes to eating healthy and losing weight, we’ve been focusing on the wrong set of numbers, says nutritionist Keri Glassman, R.D. This month, Glassman launches a revolutionary way of eating in her new book, The O2 Diet, which is based on the foods that have the highest antioxidant activity levels. This plan will make it super-simple for you to shed pounds, look fabulous, boost your energy, and amp up your brainpower.

Glassman’s plan is based on the ORAC scale—a scientific value that represents the antioxidant levels of foods. (ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity.) Using this scale, she has devised a diet that gets you 30,000 ORAC points a day—10 times the current recommended level of 3,000. It’s those mega ORAC points that scoop up free radicals, the damaging rogue elements in our bodies that contribute to everything from wrinkles and brain fog to cancer and heart disease.

And you can say good-bye to calorie counting: By focusing on high ORAC scores, you’ll chow down on foods that are healthy and have the right proportion of nutrients, so the extra weight will come off more easily.

In her book, Glassman explains how certain high-ORAC fruits and vegetables have specific powers. Load up on these antioxidant superstars every time you hit the grocery store—they’ll help you bring out your healthy best in these five ways.

via Antioxidants: 13 Ways to Lose Weight | Women’s Health Magazine.

Tips to max out your antioxidants from tea…

I read this on NBC recently and it reminded me of a great tip I’ve run into before and wanted to share.

Small changes, big health payoff: Tweaks for your daily habits - TODAY Health

Brew tea for up to 5 minutes

The longer the steep time, the greater the quantity of health-boosting flavonoids, explains Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts University. Drink tea with a squeeze of lemon juice and you’ll increase antioxidant levels by up to 80%.

Expert tip: If you like tea with milk, go easy: Milk may reduce the absorption of tea’s beneficial components, says Blumberg. This may explain why the consumption of black tea, which is associated with the reduction of heart disease, provides greater benefits to folks in the Netherlands and the United States—but not in Great Britain, where adding milk to tea is more common.

via Small changes, big health payoff: Tweaks for your daily habits – TODAY Health.

13 Reasons Tea Is (Healthy and) Awesome: Greatist.com | Healthland | TIME.com

http://greatist.com/health/why-coffee-and-tea-are-amazing-for-you/

Put down those saucer cups and get chugging — tea is officially awesome for your health. But before loading up on Red Zinger, make sure that your “tea” is actually tea. Real tea is derived from a particular plant (Camellia sinensis) and includes only four varieties: green, black, white, and oolong. Anything else (like herbal “tea”) is an infusion of a different plant and isn’t technically tea.

But what real tea lacks in variety, it makes up for with some serious health benefits. Researchers attribute tea’s health properties to polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) and phytochemicals. Though most studies have focused on the better-known green and black teas, white and oolong also bring benefits to the table. Read on to find out why coffee’s little cousin rocks your health.

Tea can boost exercise endurance. Scientists have found that the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea extract increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, which accounts for improved muscle endurance.

Drinking tea could help reduce the risk of heart attack. Tea might also help protect against cardiovascular and degenerative diseases.

The antioxidants in tea might help protect against a boatload of cancers, including breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, prostate and oral cancers. But don’t rely solely on tea to keep a healthy body — tea is not a miracle cure, after all. While more studies than not suggest that tea has cancer-fighting benefits, the current research is mixed.

Tea helps fight free radicals. Tea is high in oxygen radical absorbance capacity (“ORAC” to its friends), which is a fancy way of saying that it helps destroy free radicals (which can damage DNA) in the body. … Continue reading

Experimentation time! Beets…

20120801-111050.jpgSo in honor of finally making it to my local green market, I decided to pick up a vegetable I’d never prepared before – but love – beets.

Apparently they’re one of those “power” foods. Here’s why:

  • high in vitamin C, potassium, niacin, pantothenic acid, and B-6.
  • Raw beets are high in folates
  • low in calories
  • contain phytonutrients which provide antioxidants and help inflammation
  • recent studies have shown regularly consuming them can shrink tumors
  • some great other facts found here
  • Also their greens have great nutrition too! (next step for me will be figuring out what to do with those…)

So since I’m new to cooking beets I decided to go easy!

  • I cut off the tops of the beets, coated with olive oil and tossed into the oven at 425 for 40 minutes or until tender. (I had no idea what that meant, so I poked mine with a knife and it went in easily.)
  • Let cool, rub off skin (I used latex gloves. Don’t need red hands at my shoot tomorrow…)
  • and chop into cubes. Voila!  From there I’ve seen recipes saying to splash with lemon juice or toss in some goat cheese or feta. Have fun with it. (yeah I really just said to have fun with beets…)
  • Ps – it’s jack russell approved.