Click link above for video.
Tomatoes are certainly nutritious — a good source of the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene. But consider this: if you eat a tomato without adding a little fat — say a drizzle of olive oil — your body is unlikely to absorb all these nutrients.
Scientists at Iowa State University figured this out a while ago. They recruited graduate students to eat bowls of salad greens with tomatoes and various types of salad dressings — from fat-free to regular Italian. “Basically once a month for several months we’d show up first thing in the morning,” recalls participant Gregory Brown, now a professor of exercise science at the University of Nebraska. Researchers put IV lines into the participants’ veins and drew blood samples before and after they’d eaten the salads in order to get precise measurements of the absorption of nutrients.
“The salads all tasted the same to me,” says Brown. But when researchers went back and analyzed the blood samples they realized that people who had eaten fat-free or low-fat dressings didn’t absorb the beneficial carotenoids from the salad. Only when they had eaten the oil-based dressing did they get the nutrients.
Carotenoids are the pigments responsible for red-, yellow- and orange-colored fruits and vegetables. And carotenoids are also found in dark green vegetables such as spinach. The compounds convert to Vitamin A in the body, and studies have found that carotenoids have anti-oxidant activity which may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Human studies have linked high consumption of fruits and vegetables to reduced risk of cancer.
Beta-carotene researchers were not particularly surprised by the findings of the fat-free vs. regular Italian salad dressing study. “We already knew that carotenoids were fat soluble,” explains Wendy White, a professor of Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. The results helped reinforce the idea that a little fat is healthy.
Chop And Chew
There are other ways to help maximize the absorption of carotenoid nutrients. Chopping or grating breaks down the plant material. “The finer the particle size … the better the absorption of beta-carotene,” explains White.
The findings of nutrition research often go against the grain of trendy food ideas. For instance, many people have heard that raw vegetables are best. But if you’re eating carrots, it may be helpful to cook them gently. The heat can soften the food allowing more nutrients to be released.
A recent study in the Journal of Food Science suggests that some cooking methods may be better than others. Researchers at the University of Murcia in Spain cooked 20 different kinds of vegetables six different ways. Then they analyzed how well the foods retained antioxidants. They found that microwaving helped maintain the antioxidants, whereas boiling and pressure cooking led to the greatest losses.
Green beans, beets and garlic all did well with heat — maintaining beneficial phytonutrients after most kinds of cooking. The antioxidant value in carrots actually increased after cooking.
Experts explain that boiling may allow nutrients to leach into the pan water that people end up tossing out, especially with water-soluble nutrients such as Vitamin C and the B Vitamins.
Eat Plenty Of Colors
As testing methods have become more sensitive, scientists have the ability to peer into our foods and tally up all the phytonutrients that may be beneficial. But experts say the ways in which our bodies may use and absorb these compounds are complicated. Therefore, many experts say it’s best not to fixate too much on how food is prepared. Instead, focus on eating more plant foods — of all colors.
Jeffrey Blumberg, an antioxidant expert at Tufts University, says “What’s important is that you find a way to cook that’s palatable to you so you’re getting lots of plant foods.”
A new American Heart Association scientific statement provides specific guidance on limiting the consumption of added sugars and provides information about the relationship between excess sugar intake and metabolic abnormalities, adverse health conditions and shortfalls in essential nutrients. The statement, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, for the first time, provides the association’s recommendations on specific levels and limits on the consumption of added sugars.
Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation and sugars and syrups added at the table. High intake of added sugars, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars, is implicated in the rise in obesity. It’s also associated with increased risks for high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, and inflammation (a marker for heart disease), according to the statement’s lead author Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., associate provost and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington.
“Sugar has no nutritional value other than to provide calories,” Johnson said. “Consuming foods and beverages with excessive amounts of added sugars displaces more nutritious foods and beverages for many people.”
The statement says that most women should consume no more than 100 calories (about 25 grams) of added sugars per day. Most men should consume no more than 150 calories (about 37.5 grams) each day. That’s about six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and nine for men.
In contrast, the statement cites a report from the 2001–04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that showed the average intake of added sugars for all Americans was 22.2 teaspoons per day (355 calories).
Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in Americans’ diet, according to the statement. “One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 130 calories and eight teaspoons of sugar,” Johnson said.
The American Heart Association recommends a dietary pattern that is rich in fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish.
“This new statement expands on earlier recommendations and gives consumers more detailed guidance by recommending a specific upper limit on added-sugars intake,” Johnson said.
In addition, the statement recommends that no more than half of a person’s daily discretionary calorie allowance should come from added sugars.
Discretionary calories refer to the number of calories “left over” after a person eats the recommended types and amounts of foods to meet nutrient requirements, such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish. Added sugars, alcoholic beverages and solid fats — including saturated fat and trans fat — are typically considered discretionary calories that are to be included after individual daily nutrient requirements are met.
“It is important to remember that people’s discretionary calorie ‘budgets’ can vary, depending on their activity level and energy needs,” Johnson said. “So, if you can’t live with the recommended limits on your added sugars, you’ll have to move more.”
For example, a moderately active 51–55 year-old woman who eats 1,800 calories per day and maintains her weight would have about 195 discretionary calories per day and only about 100 calories, or half that amount, should come from added sugars. In comparison, if that same woman, still maintaining her weight, was more physically active and burned 2,200 calories a day, she could consume 2,200 calories a day, and would have a larger discretionary ‘budget’ of about 290 calories. About half of that amount, or 145 calories, could come from added sugars.
To ensure proper nutrient intake in the diet and to limit excess calories, Johnson said people should be sure foods high in added sugars are not taking the place of foods with essential nutrients or increasing their total calorie intake.
She recommended that people use their added sugars “allotment” as a vehicle to enhance the flavor of otherwise nutrient-rich foods. For example, choosing a nutrient-rich dairy product, such as a flavored yogurt or a sugar-sweetened whole-grain breakfast cereal, would be a better choice than a nutrient-void candy.
The National Gardening Association works with sponsoring companies and organizations to provide in-kind grants to projects that actively engage kids in the garden and improve the quality of life for their communities.
To be eligible for these awards your school or organization must plan to garden with at least 15 kids between the ages of 3 and 18. (Mantis Awards are also open to non-youth organizations.)
Please note that all grant winners are required to complete a year-end impact report (see individual grants for details).
Click on the links below for information on each grant program.
Winning one grant does not disqualify you from winning another within the same year, so please apply to all that are appropriate for your program!
2009 Hooked on Hydroponics Awards
Deadline: September 18, 2009
2009 Healthy Sprouts Awards
Deadline: October 17, 2009
2010 Youth Garden Grants
Deadline: November 2, 2009
2010 Heinz Wholesome Memories Intergenerational Garden Award
Deadline: January 10,2010
2010 Mantis Award
Deadline: March 1, 2010
1) Los Angeles, CA
A new crop of School Gardens
Even as state funding wilts, support for school gardens is growing…
It may seem counterintuitive to start new programs in this economic climate. Summer school was canceled at many campuses this year, the $1.7-million California Instructional School Garden Program grant to the Los Angeles Unified School District has expired, and the budget crisis has left countless teachers unemployed.
But this groundswell, largely sparked by parent and community interest — and perhaps some inspiration from Michelle Obama’s White House garden — is finding support in all the right places.
2) Oregon City, OR
Planting Seeds of Change
Anna Meyrick, the director of Oregon City’s Hera Community School, is always on the lookout for new ways to educate and engage students at the alternative school, which seeks to encourage students to make positive changes through community involvement, education and art-based projects.
3) Brooklyn, NY
Let it Grow
This summer, my daughters and I are getting our hands dirty, thanks to their schools and our city. We may live in an asphalt-dominated landscape, but with minimal effort we have found green spaces where we can practice the good, old-fashioned art of gardening.
4) Brooklyn, NY
New planter stolen from schoolyard garden in Park Slope
Parents at Park Slope’s Public School 107 were shocked last week after a planter, recently purchased for their vegetable garden was stolen from the schoolyard.
“It’s a school, for God’s sake,” said parent and garden coordinator Michele Israel at the Eighth Ave. school.
1) Brooklyn, NY
From School Yards to School Gardens
Students at 10 Brooklyn schools will be toiling in the soil this summer and fall, growing vegetables to feed their classmates as part of an effort to get student-grown foods into the school cafeteria.
“We want to eat the stuff we grow,” said Aidan Israel, 7, a student at Public School 107 on Eighth Ave. in Park Slope, who has been helping cultivate peas, kale and basil in the school’s yard. “It tastes fresher than the stuff in the store.”
2) Tasley, VA
Program introduces children to gardening benefits
Nine years ago, the Eastern Shore Master Gardeners Chapter began, composed of trained volunteers whose purpose is to help educate our community about the art and science of gardening here on the Shore.
Since then eight more classes have received training. Each class develops a unique project designed for public education, such as the historically accurate colonial kitchen garden at Ker Place in Onancock, and the Pungoteague Elementary School gardening project.
3) Fayetville, NC
Homegrown education: School program teaches gardening skills
Jares is one of hundreds of young people participating in the Communities in Schools FirstSchool Gardens program of Moore County. The program began two years ago. Today, there are five schools growing vegetables and fruits with four more gardens planned.
4) New Zealand
Sustenance & sustainability
Sometimes Marfell hits the news for the wrong reasons: chemicals found in a children’s playground that was once a city dump, a school sports field ripped up by vandals, the dodgy connections of some residents.
But it leads the pack in other respects. Last June, Marfell was the first New Plymouth suburb to plant a community garden. A year on, things are flourishing.
May not be many students around over the summer, but that hasn’t stopped our school gardens from performing. Corn is high, tomatoes are plump, cucumbers are fat, peppers are turning color, pole beans are still producing, and zucchinis are abundant.
Two recipes to utilize all this goodness are included below.
1) Black Bean and Quinoa Salad is courtesy of the Los Angeles County Nutrition Program. Be sure to check out their healthy recipes/cookbooks page and their onsite cookbook of healthy, low-fat, easy to prepare, ethnically inspired recipes (in both spanish and english.)
½ cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup corn
2 scallions chopped
½ cup tomatoes
½ cup green peppers (or red)
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic
2 Tbs cilantro chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped zucchini
Grilled Shrimp chopped
Grilled Chicken chopped
Soak quinoa for five minutes then drain. Bring water to boil and add quinoa. Lower flame to barely simmer, cover, and cook until all of the water is absorbed (20-30 minutes). Let cool. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. (Note: bulgar can easily be substituted for quinoa).
2) California Tabboulleh is a variation on traditional tabbouleh.
1/2 cup bulgar (medium size)
1 cup stock or boiling water
1 lb tomatoes
1/2 cup green onion
1 can black beans
1 cup corn
2-3 cups cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers diced (rib and seeds removed)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt if using water
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup citrus (lemon, lime and orange combination)
1/4 cup olive oil
Queso Fresco or mild Feta Cheese
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped red pepper
Pour 1 cup boiling water over bulgar and allow bulgar to soften while you prepare the other ingredients. Chop tomatoes and leave in a colander to drain. Chop onion, cilantro and pepper. Rinse black beans. Drain and discard excess liquid from bulgar.
Toss bulgar, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, corn and beans. Dress with citrus juice and olive oil. Season to taste. It’s best prepared a couple of hours or more ahead of serving to allow flavors to develop. (Note: quinoa can easily be substituted for bulgar).
Feel free to alter ingredients and measures according to taste and harvest.