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UC Food Safety
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UC Food Safety

UC Food Blog

Looking for a smooth(ie) spring

Spring’s here and summer’s coming. We have such an abundance of fruit! If it looks good (I have to cross my fingers that it will taste just as good!), I have to buy it, and then sometimes can’t eat it all.  What to do with your overripe fruit?  Freeze it!

If you’re like me and can’t pass up the bananas at your warehouse store, then hit the banana wall, freeze the extras in chunks on a plate, and use them in smoothies.  When the last of the strawberries are looking a little sad to eat fresh, freeze them individually on a plate and use them in smoothies. Ditto for peaches, kiwis, mango, melon, pineapple … just about any ripe fruit, frozen, is an excellent addition to your smoothie. And speaking of that warehouse store, they also sell this delicious Greek yogurt, which is an excellent and healthy addition to your smoothie. And speaking of additions, in our family, we like a little bite to our smoothie, and usually end up dribbling a little lime juice to finish off the blending.

Want to expand your smoothie repertoire?  How about incorporating vegetables? Smoothies are a painless way to add some extra vegetables to your diet. Often, you can barely tell they’re there and they sure add to the nutritional punch of your smoothie.

Almost everyone could benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables, and smoothies are an easy way to do it. With ingredients low in fat, low in calories, low in sodium, high in fiber and nutritionally dense, smoothies could, and maybe should, become a regular part of your warm days routine. Here are a couple of websites and my favorite recipe to start your smoothie engines:

Mix-it-up Smoothie

½ frozen banana

5-7 frozen strawberries

½ C frozen blueberries, raspberries,  kiwi or pineapple

½ C greek yogurt

Enough milk to get it swirling in your blender

2-3 T lime juice (preferably fresh squeezed)

Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 8:52 AM

$4.8 million study fights childhood obesity in Central Valley

UC Davis professor Adela de la Torre, a national expert on Chicano and Latino health issues, received a five-year, $4.8 million federal grant to discover the best ways to help Mexican-heritage children in California maintain healthy weights.

The study, called "Niños Sanos, Familia Sana" (Healthy Children, Healthy Family), will take place in the Central Valley towns of Firebaugh and San Joaquin.

“More than four in every 10 children born to parents of Mexican heritage are overweight or obese, and therefore at greater risk of early diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease,” said de la Torre. “We are fortunate that we have received unprecedented support to tackle this issue from community members, so that we can build a healthier environment in Firebaugh and San Joaquin.

“We hope that this is the beginning of a series of long-term, collaborative projects to tackle issues of importance raised by our community advisory board.”

In the UC Davis "Niños Sanos, Familia Sana" study, 400 Firebaugh children and their families will be provided with practical tools, education and incentives to help them eat healthy diets and get sufficient exercise.

The Firebaugh program activities include:

  • $25 monthly in vouchers that can be used to buy fruits and vegetables at participating markets
  • Family Nights that include parent education about children’s nutrition needs and physical activity
  • Classroom instruction for children on nutrition and physical activity
  • Two health screenings yearly to monitor body mass index, skinfold thickness and waist circumference
  • A community art project with murals and posters promoting healthy eating and active living

In San Joaquin, a similar number of children will receive the health screenings. In addition, their parents will be provided workshops on topics such as “How to support your children in school” and “Strategies to help your child prepare for college.” However, the San Joaquin group will not receive the more intensive intervention. (After both towns had agreed to take part in the study, a random card-draw determined that Firebaugh would be the intervention group and San Joaquin would be the control group.) At the study’s end, UC Davis researchers will analyze the results to see which strategies worked best.

“This intervention study will be one of the first of its kind in the nation for Latino children between the ages of 3 and 8 and, hopefully, will help us target what really works in sustaining healthy eating and exercise for Latino families with young children,” said de la Torre.

Lucia Kaiser, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis nutrition department and a co-investigator on the "Niños Sanos, Familia Sana" study, said, “This project is an exciting opportunity to pull a multidisciplinary University of California team of social scientists and other professionals to work in partnership with an underserved community to address a pressing health problem -- childhood obesity.”

UC Davis scientists to look for best ways for Latino children to maintain healthy weights.
UC Davis scientists to look for best ways for Latino children to maintain healthy weights.

Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 10:19 AM
  • Author: Sylvia Wright

The party's ova

Spring is a big time of year for celebrating with a very cheap (cheep?), common, protein-rich food: the chicken egg. And because the hard-boiled egg has a special place at the Seder table and an important role in Easter morning hunts and afternoon picnics, eggs right now are selling like hotcakes. Problem is, the more eggs your market sells, the more likely you are to get them extra fresh, and consequently, the more trouble you're likely to have getting the things to peel when it's time to eat them up.

Chemistry is at the root of the egg-peeling problem: a newly laid egg has a slightly lower, more acidic pH value than the raw egg that you've stored in the refrigerator for a few days. The higher pH of the stored egg allows its white to cling less firmly to the membrane just inside the shell once it is cooked, and less cling means you can get the shell off more cleanly and easily. If you managed to plan ahead and get your eggs five or more days ahead of time this year, good for you! If you didn't, well, better luck next time. Clean-peeling or not, they'll still taste great.

There's a whole lot more to know about eggs than you might imagine—like whether you should wash eggs before you put them in the fridge (you shouldn't), what's the best way to store eggs in the fridge if you want them to last (pointy end down), and whether the refrigerator door egg rack was really such a great invention after all (it wasn't)—and a fun way to learn more is to visit a 4-H Avian Bowl competition at your local County Fair or other 4-H event.

Thanks to the guidance and commitment of UC Extension Poultry Specialist Francine Bradley, California 4-H teams have been doing very well lately in the Avian Bowl, winning first place in the national competition in eight out of the last ten years.

So next time you have a question about eggs or chickens, go find a 4-Her. Just don't ask them which came first. They get that a lot.

brown eggs in the straw
brown eggs in the straw

fresh brown chicken eggs in a straw nest

Posted on Friday, April 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

Study reinforces link between obesity, high-fat meals and heart disease

(Photo courtesy of McDonalds media center.)

Eating a high-fat, fast food breakfast typical of many Americans - two breakfast sandwiches, hash browns and orange juice - doesn't have an identical effect on each individual.

The food's effect varies depending on factors like waist size and triglyceride levels, suggests new research at UC Davis.

The research reinforces the link between belly fat, inflammation and thickening of the arterial linings that can lead to heart disease and strokes.

“The new study shows that eating a common fast food meal can affect inflammatory responses in the blood vessels," said Anthony Passerini, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis, who led the project.

Passerini and his collaborator, UC Davis professor of biomedical engineering Scott Simon, recruited 61 volunteers with high and normal fasting triglyceride levels and a range of waist sizes. They measured the volunteers' levels of triglyceride particles in their blood after they ate the typical high-fat breakfast from a major fast food franchise.

Passerini's team found that after eating, the size of a type of a particle called triglyceride-rich lipoprotein (TGRL) varied directly with the individual’s waist size and preexisting blood triglyceride level. These particles can bind to the endothelium, triggering inflammation and an immune response that brings white blood cells to repair the damage. Over time, this leads to atherosclerosis.

Individuals with both a waist size over 32 inches (not terribly large by most standards) and high triglyceride levels had large lipoprotein particles that bound easily to the endothelial cells and caused inflammation in response to an immune chemical “trigger.”

Click here to read more.
Posted on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 8:59 AM

Cruciferous vegetables help fight cancer

The role fresh vegetables play in maintaining good health is no secret. But, according to a University of California scientist, eating from a particular group of vegetables can help protect the body from lethal illnesses like cancer.

These extraordinary vegetables are in the cruciferous family - including broccoli, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

UC Berkeley toxicology professor Len Bjeldanes says cruciferous vegetables are good sources of the natural chemical compound diindolilmentano, or DIM. DIM suppressed harmful cells in studies with rats and Bjeldanes believes it can have the same effect in combating cancer in humans.

"We were really surprised to see that we've got about an 80 percent reduction in the amount of virus that could proliferate in those animals when we gave them the combination with DIM," said Bjeldanes, who is conducting the experiments with colleague Gary Firestone, a molecular biologist. "This is really a very strong indication that this is helping the body deal with these immune insults, like in this case a virus."

Bjeldanes said prostate cancer is sensitive to androgen, a male hormone.

“This makes our finding that cruciferous plants contain an anti-androgen important,” he said. "DIM is the first example of a naturally occurring anti-androgen from plants that we know of. So this is quite remarkable."

DIM may also play a role in suppressing breast cancer.

"We had been studying for some time the effects of the vegetables on mammary and breast cancer and there's a fair amount of information that says indeed, they are in fact protective of mammary and breast cancer," he said.

The scientists will next determine whether protective effects of DIM found in experiments with rats will manifest themselves in human studies.

Bejeldanes cautions that eating cruciferous vegetables is not a miracle cure for cancer. But he encourages people to include vegetables rich in DIM in their diets. The vegetables will give a boost to the body’s immune system, enabling it to defend against all manner of illnesses.

"These are chemicals that are important in activating the immune response and help the body fight the bad guys, like bacteria or viruses,” he said.

To get the most immune-boosting compounds from broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, nutrition experts suggest eating them raw, in salads, or lightly steamed. Boiling the vegetables destroys more than half the nutrients.

(Original article by Alberto Hauffen. Adapted to English by Jeannette Warnert.)

Romanesco cauliflower is one of the more unusual cruciferous vegetables.
Romanesco cauliflower is one of the more unusual cruciferous vegetables.

Posted on Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 8:05 AM

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