Thursday, November 4, 2010

Defining Sweetness in Wine

"Sweetness in wine is different than sweetness in a candy bar. As you chew milk chocolate, you are perceiving sweetness. Wine can’t be assessed for sweetness until after the sip is swallowed. What we taste as the wine is in our mouth is fruit. "When I teach about wine, I stress the importance of the 'end,' or finish. The palate’s last impression of a wine helps the brain evaluate the structure, balance, and sweetness of the wine."

Source: Deborah Goldstein, LearnVest

Here's How To... Make Wine

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Model for Smoked Salmon Safety

Scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have developed a mathematical model providing optimal combinations of temperature, salt and smoke compounds to reduce microbial contamination of smoked salmon.

Typically sold in vacuum packages that have a refrigerator shelf life of about three to eight weeks, smoked salmon can be susceptible to pathogenic microbes such as Listeria monocytogenes can live at refrigerator temperatures.

In their studies, researchers added salt and smoke compounds to cooked salmon, then inoculated the fish with Listeria monocytogenes. Next, the scientists exposed the salmon to a range of temperatures, from 104 degrees Fahrenheit to 131 degrees F to simulate commercial smokehouse processing.

Regarded as mid-range, these temps are higher than those used for cold-smoking, the most popular commercial salmon-smoking process, but are lower than those of the lesser-used commercial hot-smoking procedure.

The researchers determined that every 9 degree F increase in temperature resulted in a 10-fold increase in rates of inactivation of Listeria. They used this and other data from the study to create the mathematical model.

Source: Agricultural Research Service

Sunday, October 3, 2010

100% Fruit Juice Improves Children's Diet

Consumption of 100 percent fruit juice is closely linked to improved nutrient intake and overall diet quality in children and teens, according to researchers at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and Baylor College of Medicine

The researchers used data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to compare the diets of juice drinkers to non-consumers.

According to the findings, children 2-5 years of age who consumed fruit juice had significantly higher intakes of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium and significantly lower intakes of added sugars compared to non-fruit juice consumers.

In addition, higher intake of fruit juice was directly correlated with increased consumption of whole fruits and whole grains.

Children 6-12 years of age showed a similar positive association between intake of 100 percent juice and higher intakes of the key nutrients, as well as dietary fiber. Overall diet quality, as assessed by the Healthy Eating Index (a measure that evaluates conformance to federal dietary guidance) was higher in all fruit juice consumers assessed.

The researchers reported that a significantly higher percentage of non-fruit juice consumers 2-18 years of age failed to meet the recommended levels for several key nutrients, including vitamins A and C and folate, compared to those who drank 100 percent juice. Comparatively, a greater percentage of those in the fruit juice group exceeded Adequate Intake levels for calcium versus non-consumers.

"One hundred percent fruit juice plays an important role in the diets of children and teens, supplying important nutrients during a key period of growth and development," notes lead researcher Dr. Carol O'Neil. "Drinking 100 percent juice should be encouraged as part of an overall balanced diet."

Source: Juice Products Association

Friday, October 1, 2010

Goodbye Nut Allergies

Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered a way to turn off the immune system's allergic reaction to certain food proteins in mice, a discovery that could have implications for the millions of people who suffer severe reactions to foods, such as peanuts and milk.

The findings, published online in the journal Nature Medicine, provide hope that the body could be trained to tolerate food allergies that lead to roughly 300,000 emergency room visits and 100 to 200 deaths each year.

The research team, led by Shau-Ku Huang, Ph.D.,discovered that one kind of immune cell in the gastrointestinal tract called lamina propria dendriti cells (LPDC) -- considered the first line of defense for a body's immune system -- expresses a special receptor, SIGNR1, which appears on the cells' surface and binds to specific sugars.

By targeting this receptor using sugar-modified protein, researchers were able to keep food proteins that would have induced a severe, even deadly, allergic reaction from causing any serious harm.

"There is no cure for food allergies, and the primary treatment is avoidance of the offending protein," Zhou says. "This could teach our bodies to create a new immune response and we would no longer be allergic to the protein."

The researchers hope to confirm whether this promising process in mice can also occur in people.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blueberries Fight Artery Hardening

A new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded study offers the first direct evidence that blueberries help fight atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries.

The study compared the size, or area, of atherosclerotic lesions in 30 young laboratory mice. Half of the animals were fed diets spiked with freeze-dried blueberry powder for 20 weeks; the diet of the other mice did not contain the berry powder.

Lesion size, measured at two sites on aorta (arteries leading from the heart), was 39 and 58 percent less than that of lesions in mice whose diet did not contain blueberry powder.

Earlier studies, conducted elsewhere, have suggested that eating blueberries may help combat cardiovascular disease. But direct evidence of that effect has never been presented previously.

The blueberry-spiked diet contained 1 percent blueberry powder, the equivalent of about a half-cup of fresh blueberries.

All mice in the investigation were deficient in apolipoprotein-E, a trait which makes them highly susceptible to forming atherosclerotic lesions and thus an excellent model for biomedical and nutrition research.

In followup studies, researchers hope to determine whether eating blueberries in infancy, childhood and young adulthood would help protect against onset and progression of atherosclerosis in later years. Early prevention may be especially important in light of the nation's epidemic of childhood obesity. Overweight and obesity increase atherosclerosis risk.
  • Sources: Principal investigator Xianli Wu, based in Little Rock, Ark., with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center and with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, led the investigation. The findings are reported in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
  • Farm Produce
  • Blueberries

Friday, July 23, 2010

40 Best Age-Erasing Superfoods

The "40 Best Age-Erasing Superfoods," according to Tollie Schmidt of Tollie International Inc., and based on "the latest science on muscle-building, brain-enhancing, wrinkle-erasing, heart-strengthening, bone-protecting, immunity-boosting, and inflammation-fighting foods."

1. Almonds
2. Flaxseeds
3. Tomatoes
4. Sweet Potatoes
5. Spinach
6. Rosemary
7. Wild Salmon
8. Blueberries
9. Green Tea
10. Dark Chocolate
11. Tuna
12. Carrots
13. Dried Plums
14. Whole Grains
15. Red Wine
16. Yogurt
17. Avocado
18. Walnuts
19. Turmeric
20. Black Beans
21. Apples
22. Alaskan King Crab
23. Pomegranates
24. Bok Choy
25. Oysters
26. Broccoli
27. Kiwis
28. Olive Oil
29. Leeks
30. Artichokes
31. Chili Peppers
32. Ginger
33. Cinnamon
34. Eggs
35. Figs
36. Grass-Fed Beef
37. Mushrooms
38. Pineapples
39. Fruit or Vegetable Juice
40. Bing Cherries

Monday, July 5, 2010

Olive Oil + Mediterranean Diet Fight Heart Disease by Changing How Genes Function

A traditional Mediterranean diet with liberal amounts of virgin olive oil rich in polyphenols lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease because these foods change how genes associated with atherosclerosis function, according to a new research report published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal.

Scientists worked with three groups of healthy volunteers. The first group consumed a traditional Mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil rich in polyphenols. The second group consumed a traditional Mediterranean diet with an olive oil low in polyphenols. The third group followed their habitual diet. After three months, the first group had a down-regulation in the expression of atherosclerosis-related genes in their peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Additionally, the olive oil polyphenols made a significant impact on the expression of genetic changes influencing coronary heart disease.

Results also showed that the consumption of virgin olive oil in conjunction with a Mediterranean diet can positively impact lipid and DNA oxidation, insulin resistance, inflammation, carcinogenesis, and tumor suppression.

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Olive Oil
Photo: Dipping Olive Sprig with Black Olives in Olive Oil
The Mediterranean Diet

The Color of Honey

The color (of honey) is associated with the specific flower and the mineral content of the nectar. In general, the darker the color of the honey is, the bolder the flavor.

For example, dark honeys such as buckwheat or heather are much stronger in flavor than light-colored orange blossom and clover honeys. Basswood, with its water-white color and strong, somewhat biting flavor, is an exception.

Due in part to their higher protein content, darker-color honey promotes surface browning of products that are baked, cooked, and roasted. Accordingly, choose light-colored honey when sweetening foods and beverages, where its golden hue is more appropriate. White honey is ideal when no additional color is desired.

from New Good Food: Essential Ingredients for Cooking and Eating Well by Margaret M. Wittenberg


Monday, June 7, 2010

Pistachios Boost Antioxidants

Pistachio nuts, eaten as part of a healthy diet, can increase the levels of antioxidants in the blood of adults with high cholesterol, according to a new study by an international team of researchers.

"Our previous study showed the benefits of pistachios in lowering lipids and lipoproteins, which are a risk factor for heart disease," said Penny Kris-Etherton, Penn State professor of nutrition. "This new study shows an additional effect of pistachios so now there are multiple health benefits of eating pistachios."

The researchers note in the May 20 issue of the Journal of Nutrition that "pistachios are high in lutein, beta-carotene and gamma-tocopherol relative to other nuts; however, studies of the effects of pistachios on oxidative status are lacking."

Beta-carotene is the precursor to vitamin A and gamma-tocopherol is a common form of vitamin E. Lutein is found in dark green leafy vegetables and is important in vision and healthy skin. All three compounds are oil soluble vitamins.

Antioxidants are of interest because oxidized low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are implicated in inflammation and plaque buildup inside blood vessels. Antioxidants should prevent LDLs from oxidizing, migrating into the blood vessel walls and causing inflammation.

"Currently, studies on antioxidants do not show major benefits," said Kris-Etherton. "Maybe we are not studying people long enough. Maybe there is something in the food that travels with the antioxidants. The antioxidant story is very disappointing to the scientific community."

The reason for the disappointment is that studies on specific antioxidants currently do not show health benefits, but epidemiological studies seem to indicate benefits. Many people feel that we have not figured out antioxidants yet, said Kris-Etherton.

If antioxidants are important, then pistachios fit the bill as antioxidant-laden food.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Irradiation Depletes Nutrients in Salads, Slightly

Irradiation depleted three of eight nutrients in salad greens by small amounts in a new study of the effects of the controversial food santization process.

The Agricultural Research Service study of two popular baby-leaf spinach cultivars found that irradiation decreased ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, by 42 percent. Irradiation converted vitamin C to an oxidized form called dehydroascorbic acid, which provides the same benefits as vitamin C inside the leaf, according to the researchers.

Levels of lutein/zeaxanthin, and B-carotene, which make up 80 percent of all carotenoids in spinach, were reduced on average by 12 percent in the salad leaves.

Four nutrients -- folate, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and neoxanthin -- exhibited little or no change in concentration with increasing levels of irradiation during the study.

For the study, the two spinach cultivars were grown, harvested, sanitized and packaged according to industry practices. Each cultivar was packaged in both air or nitrogen gas as used by industry to extend shelf life. The cultivars then were exposed to up to 2.0 kiloGrays (kGy) of radiation in 0.5 kGy increments.

Irradiating salad leaves after washing has been shown to reduce harmful and non-harmful microorganisms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved up to 4 kGy of irradiation for fresh iceberg lettuce and spinach.

Source: Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Eating Nuts Improves Blood Cholesterol

Consuming more nuts appears to be associated with improvements in blood cholesterol levels, according to a pooled analysis of data from 25 trials reported in the May 10 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Dietary interventions to lower blood cholesterol concentrations and to modify blood lipoprotein levels are the cornerstone of prevention and treatment plans for coronary heart disease," the authors write as background information in the article. "Recently, consumption of nuts has been the focus of intense research because of their potential to reduce coronary heart disease risk and to lower blood lipid [fat and cholesterol] levels based on their unique nutritional attributes."

Nuts are rich in plant proteins, fats (especially unsaturated fatty acids), dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and other compounds, such as antioxidants and phytoesterols.

Joan Sabaté, M.D., Dr.P.H., of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, Calif., and colleagues pooled primary data from 25 nut consumption trials conducted in seven countries and involving 583 women and men with high cholesterol or normal cholesterol levels. All the studies compared a control group to a group assigned to consume nuts; participants were not taking lipid-lowering medications.

Participants in the trials consumed an average of 67 grams (about 2.4 ounces) of nuts per day. This was associated with an average 5.1 percent reduction in total cholesterol concentration, a 7.4 percent reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) and an 8.3 percent change in ratio of LDL cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol). In addition, triglyceride levels declined by 10.2 percent among individuals with high triglyceride levels (at least 150 milligrams per deciliter), although not among those with lower levels.

"The effects of nut consumption were dose related, and different types of nuts had similar effects on blood lipid levels," the authors write. "The effects of nut consumption were significantly modified by LDL-C, body mass index and diet type: the lipid-lowering effects of nut consumption were greatest among subjects with high baseline LDL-C and with low body mass index and among those consuming Western diets."

The results support the inclusion of nuts in therapeutic dietary interventions for improving blood cholesterol levels, they conclude.

"Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history. Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favorably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) and have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk."

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association