Friday, February 11, 2011

Bites: Chocolate is a Healthy Valentine

Those who receive chocolates on Valentine's Day should fall in love with the news that chocolate contains flavonoids and other compounds that have proven health benefits.

Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds in plant-based foods that serve as antioxidants in the human body. Antioxidants protect bodies from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are formed in simple body processes and can increase with environmental contaminants.

For example, every cell in the human body needs oxygen to work. When the body cells burn oxygen, there is a by-product (a free radical) produced.  A free radical is an unstable molecule with a missing electron. It tries to ‘steal’ an electron from other body cells so it can become stable. This process of stealing from other body cells can lead to cell instability and can contribute to health problems such as cancer and heart disease.

The role of the antioxidant is that it provides the electron to the free radical so that it can be eliminated without causing damage.

A study conducted at the University of California found that persons who consumed 1.6 oz (about a regular sized candy bar) of flavonoid-rich chocolate every day for two weeks showed an expansion of the arteries and an increased blood flow of 10 percent.

Participants who consumed flavonoid-poor chocolate experienced a slight decrease. Increased blood flow means reduced cardiovascular risk.

Source: Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

Valentine's Day
Dark Belgian Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate Golf Balls

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tangerine Tomatoes Surpass Reds in Lycopene

A new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study suggests that, ounce for ounce, the heirloom tangerine tomato is a better source of a powerful antioxidant called lycopene than more familiar red tomatoes.

The difference lies in the forms of lycopene that the two tomato types provide, according to chemist Betty J. Burri at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, California. The trans-lycopene form, or isomer, makes up most of the lycopene in common red tomatoes. In contrast, most of the lycopene in tangerine tomatoes is tetra-cis-lycopene.

Results of the California investigation and one conducted by scientists in Ohio suggest that the tangerine tomato's tetra-cis-lycopene is more efficiently absorbed by the body than is the trans-lycopene of red tomatoes.

Source: Agricultural Research Service

Farm Produce
Plants and Seeds