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5 Things About Fruits & Veggies

At our 2013 public lecture Edible Education, Alice Waters, David Binkle, and Wendy Slusser discussed the challenges of eating healthfully in a “fast food” culture and how they are working to improve health and nutrition in schools and on college campuses. When it comes to healthful eating, what could be better than eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables? Here are 5 fun facts you might not know about fruits and veggies:

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Liz Roth-JohnsonAbout the author: Liz Roth-Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in Molecular Biology at UCLA. If she’s not in the lab, you can usually find her experimenting in the kitchen.

Read more by Liz Roth-Johnson


Edible Education

Edible Education
Featuring Alice Waters, Wendy Slusser, and David Binkle
April 25, 2013

At this enlightening evening of food education, Chef Alice Waters shared valuable insights into food culture and her work with the Edible Schoolyard Project. Chef David Binkle and Dr. Wendy Slusser then provided an informative discussion on initiating change in how we eat through school lunches and healthy campuses. Watch the entire lecture or check out some of the shorter highlights below.

Alice Waters on fast food culture and slow food values

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been accused of being a Farmers market philanthropist because I believe in paying people for the true cost of their food and their products. And people say that I’m artificially driving up the prices of food in the markets. And I say, it’s the discounted prices that are artificial. I feel that it’s my responsibility to pay for the true cost of things, if I can.”

David Binkle on LAUSD’s school lunch program

“In our school district more than 80% of our children qualify from circumstances of poverty. And that is a real challenge for our children just to get a good, healthy, nutritious meal every day. So our job is to really provide that healthy, nutritious option to the children.”

Wendy Slusser on UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative

“UCLA serves as a leader in Los Angeles and around the world, and by prioritizing health in its broadest definition we are signaling that we value living well. And so what does the Healthy Campus Initiative focus on? Make the healthy choice the easy choice, so that we can live well, eat well, breathe well, move well, be well, and mind well.”

Stressed Carrots & A Tastier Tomato

StressedCarrots

It turns out that giving fruits and veggies a good night’s sleep isn’t the only way to make them better to eat. Researchers at Texas A&M have shown that carrots produce more antioxidants in response to the “stress” of being chopped or shredded, while scientists at the University of Florida are working hard to make a tastier and more nutritious tomato. Read more

5 Things About Eating Healthfully

Dr. Dena Herman stopped by the 2013 Science and Food course to make smoothies and teach us about the molecules of food and nutrition. During her lecture, Dr. Herman shared several fascinating facts about eating healthfully. Here are 5 interesting facts relating to nutrition: Read more

Wild Phytonutrients & Resveratrol Research

DomesticatedvsWildCorn

Author Jo Robinson explores the agricultural history of phytonutrients, while Harvard researchers move us a step closer toward understanding how the resveratrol in red wine and chocolate could be hindering the aging process. Read more

Super Antioxidant Fruit Smoothie

If you take a look at the Nutrition Facts panel on your favorite snack, you can learn a lot about the different molecules in your food. These molecules—fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins, and minerals—are essential for our health: they provide energy for our bodies and can be recycled to form the molecular building blocks of our cells. Many of these molecules even promote specific molecular processes: Vitamin C helps build the collagen in connective tissue [1], while iron allows oxygen to bind red blood cells and be transported through the body [2].

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But there’s an entire class of nutrients you won’t find listed in the Nutrition Facts: phytonutrients. While phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) are not essential for our survival, they can have beneficial effects on our health. Trendy “superfoods” are often high in phytonutrients like resveratrol, flavonoids, or antioxidants.

This fruit smoothie recipe from Dr. Dena Herman packs a big punch of antioxidants thanks to a generous serving of antioxidant-rich berries. Antioxidants are a large group of chemicals that have the ability to counteract a process called oxidation. A material is “oxidized” when it loses electrons through a chemical reaction; antioxidants can impair this process by giving up electrons and becoming oxidized themselves. For example, apples that are cut and exposed to the air will quickly turn brown as oxygen interacts with and oxidizes molecules in the fruit’s tissue. Lemon juice can prevent this oxidative browning because it contains antioxidant molecules like Vitamin C.

In our bodies, oxidation can lead to cellular damage by breaking down important molecules like proteins, fats, and even DNA. Molecules that promote oxidative damage not only come from environmental factors like air pollutants, smoke, and UV radiation, but can also come from our own bodies as a byproduct of many cellular and metabolic processes. Our bodies are equipped to deal with moderate amounts of damage; however, extensive “oxidative stress” can wreak havoc on our cells and may contribute to the development of cancer, insulin resistance, and several cardiovascular and neurological diseases [3,4]. Consuming foods rich in antioxidants is thought to help counteract such harmful oxidative stress.

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Dr. Herman prepares her Super Antioxidant Fruit Smoothie during a 2013 Science & Food course lecture.

The Recipe:
Makes about 4-6, 8 oz glasses

1 package silken tofu or soft tofu
1–1½ bananas
2 cups mixed frozen berries*
2–3 tbsp apple juice concentrate
Water or unfiltered apple juice, enough to blend

*Other types of frozen fruit will work, but do not include citrus as it will curdle with tofu. Berries are used in this recipe because they are a great source of antioxidants.

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
  2. Adjust to desired consistency by adding more water or unfiltered apple juice.
  3. Serve immediately and enjoy!


Online Resources

  1. USDA Agricultural Research Service, “Phytonutrient FAQs”
  2. Harvard School of Public Health, “Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype”
  3. NIH MedlinePlus, “Antioxidants”
  4. Scientific American, “Is the Free-Radical Theory of Aging Dead?”
  5. NIH Research Radio Podcast on Resveratrol


References Cited

  1. Van Robertson WB, Schwartz B (1953) Ascorbic acid and the formation of collagen. J Biol Chem 201: 689–696.
  2. Dallman PR (1986) Biochemical basis for the manifestations of iron deficiency. Annu Rev Nutr 6: 13–40. doi:10.1146/annurev.nu.06.070186.000305.
  3. Houstis N, Rosen ED, Lander ES (2006) Reactive oxygen species have a causal role in multiple forms of insulin resistance. Nature 440: 944–948. doi:10.1038/nature04634.
  4. Figueira TR, Barros MH, Camargo AA, Castilho RF, Ferreira JCB, et al. (2013) Mitochondria as a Source of Reactive Oxygen and Nitrogen Species: From Molecular Mechanisms to Human Health. Antioxidants Redox Signal 18: 2029–2074. doi:10.1089/ars.2012.4729.

Liz Roth-JohnsonAbout the author: Liz Roth-Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in Molecular Biology at UCLA. If she’s not in the lab, you can usually find her experimenting in the kitchen.

Read more by Liz Roth-Johnson


The Molecules of Food and Nutrition

Nutrition specialist Dr. Dena Herman introduced UCLA students to the molecules of food and nutrition as part of our 2013 Science and Food course. We learned all about essential nutrients, were introduced to the exciting new world of phytonutrients, and even got to make smoothies! Check out the highlights:


Vince ReyesAbout the author: Vince C Reyes earned his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at UCLA. Vince loves to explore the deliciousness of all things edible.

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Counting Calories & “Healthy” Chocolate

200Calories

If you’ve ever wondered what 200 Calories look like on a plate, wiseGEEK has just the photo gallery for you! Meanwhile, scientists create a healthier chocolate by replacing fat with fruit juice. Read more

Dena Herman

Dena Herman, RD, PhD, MPH, is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Her research has focused on improving dietary quality among low-income populations, as well as the development of interventions to reduce childhood obesity.

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What hooked you on science? On food?
My dad was a chef for Nathan Pritikin, a nutritionist and longevity research pioneer who showed that cardiovascular disease was reversible with diet.
The coolest example of science in your food?
I am not sure it is the coolest, but I have always been fascinated by gels and emulsions. For example, vinaigrette dressing: you take 2-3 liquids and simply by the order in which you mix them they become and emulsion, something thicker than what you started with. The same principle applies to a roux: dry + liquid + heat = creamy sauce. How cool is that?
The food you find most fascinating?
Injera (Ethiopian flat bread).
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
Currently I am fascinated with the “-omics.” Genomics, epigenetics, nutrigenomics, etc., and the idea that we are what our grandmothers ate (the idea of life-course health development).
Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
I can’t think of one. I believe the best foods are whole foods that have not been “adulterated” by science, i.e. Frankenfoods.
How does your scientific knowledge or training impact the way you cook? Do you conduct science experiments in the kitchen?
I have two sons (9 years old and 12 years old). The kitchen is always an experimental station, whether trying new combinations of ingredients to create exciting colorful mixtures (questionably edible), or figuring out ways to make things explode.
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
Vitamix.
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Plain yogurt, cilantro, chili peppers, kale, raspberries.
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
Citrus, especially lemons and limes.
Favorite cookbook?
My German cookbooks. They take the simple and make it fabulous.
Your standard breakfast?
A kale, blueberry, and tofu shake. Phytonutrient-rich and protein ready.