Tag Archives: fruit

Smaller serving pieces of fruit can help kids consume their recommended daily requirements!

Most of us here at FoodFacts.com love biting into a big, juicy apple, or peeling an orange and enjoying the whole fruit – the same holds true for pears, and bananas. It really hadn’t occurred to us that there might be kids all over the country who are turned off to eating fruit based on the simple concept that bite-sized pieces are more appealing to them.

A new study from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab takes a closer look at why children are avoiding fruit in the school cafeteria line and if, perhaps, that “ready-to-eat”, no additional work required appearance could, in fact, encourage kids to consume more fruit. While most believe that children avoid fruit because of the taste and the competition fruit faces from packaged snacks, the researchers wanted to dig deeper and see if there were really other reasons for kids to pass fruit up in their school cafeterias.

The researchers designed a pilot study that included eight elementary schools within the same district. First, they gave each school a commercial food slicer and instructed cafeteria personnel to use it when a child requested an apple. The fruit slicer cut the apple into six pieces and took between three and four seconds to use on each apple. Initial results of the pilot study showed that fruit sales increased by an average of 61% when the apples were sliced for the kids. They then interviewed the students and found out that they disliked eating fruit in school for two main reasons. The first was that for the younger kids, who might be wearing braces or be missing a few teeth, a whole fruit was inconvenient to eat. Older girls stated that they felt they looked unattractive eating a whole fruit in front of other kids and were self conscious about it. The sliced fruit solved both these issues for the children.

The researchers then expanded the pilot study to confirm the initial findings by adding six middle schools in the same district. Three of the six were given the fruit slicers while the others continued normal cafeteria operations, acting as a control. The fruit slices were placed in cups in two of the three schools and on a try in the third school. To accurately access actual consumption, field researchers were assigned to every school to record how much of the apple was wasted by counting the number of slices thrown away by each student.

These results showed that sales of apples in the schools using the fruit slicers increased by 71% compared to the control schools selling the whole fruit. Most importantly, researchers found that the percentage of students who ate more than half of the apple they purchased increased by 73%.

This pilot study showed that, in fact, taste and competition from processed snacks may not be the reason kids aren’t consuming fruit in school. When the fruit was made easier to eat, more kids were purchasing it and, most importantly, more of them were eating more of it. So for a small investment ($200 for the slicers) kids were encouraged to make healthier choices and waste less of the choices they made.

What a great, simple idea! FoodFacts.com hopes that this study gets the recognition it deserves from school districts all over the country. We wonder if these researchers are actually on to something for adults as well.


One bad apple might spoil the whole bunch

And we have until September to try to stop it. FoodFacts.com wants to encourage our community of concerned food consumers to take action against genetically modified apples. You can do so by reading this blog post and following the Federal Register link you’ll find below to submit your comment on this issue. First, though, here’s the scoop on “arctic apples”.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits has developed a new genetically engineered apple that resists browning. When you slice a natural apple, it turns brown fairly quickly. A solution to this has always been that if you’re including apple slices in your children’s lunch boxes, or arranging them on a fruit plate, is to brush them with a little lemon juice. This slows down the browning process and you really can’t detect that bit of lemon flavor. It’s always worked. So why does this company think that consumers actually need a non-browning apple?

It appears that U.S. consumption of apples is down considerably since the 1980’s and Okanagan Specialty Fruits really believes they’ve solved the problem. By making sliced apples look better to serve or sell, people will buy more of them. It appears that consumers are more likely to purchase apple slices than they are whole apples. These slices are marketed as healthy, ready-to-eat snacks and have been made popular by fast food chains who now offer them as menu items. These slices don’t brown or bruise because they are often coated with vitamin C and calcium that prevent it and also help them stay crisp. Unfortunately that can alter the taste. Additionally, supermarkets can reject whole apples because of minor bruising which is common when the fruit is handled. So it’s assumed that the development of a non-browning, non-bruising apple would help industry sales.

The browning and bruising is a perfectly natural phenomenon and doesn’t make the apple rotten, just unattractive. It’s caused by the apple’s production of polyphenol oxidase. The genetic engineering of this new apple (the arctic apple), is accomplished by inserting a DNA sequence from four of the apple’s own genes that govern the production of polyphenol oxidase. And, voila, no browning.

The important point about the arctic apple is that it is not welcome by the U.S. Apple Association,  the group that represents the apple industry. They are pretty convinced that it’s not in the industry’s own best interest to market a natural fruit that’s been modified genetically. For generations, the apple has carried an image of good health with it and they are concerned that the new GMO version could change the apple’s reputation and adversely affect consumer opinion. And their concerns extend to consumer opinion abroad, as well – about 28% of apples in the U.S. are exported.

Okanagan has applied for regulatory approval of arctic apples with the U.S. Agriculture Department and the application is open for public comment through September 11th, 2012. Click through here and add your comment to those already submitted by over 800 concerned consumers and farmers: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/07/13/2012-17144/okanagan-specialty-fruits-inc-availability-of-petition-for-determination-of-nonregulated-status-of

Learn more detailed information about arctic apples here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/business/growers-fret-over-a-new-apple-that-wont-turn-brown.html?pagewanted=all

FoodFacts.com would also appreciate our community members sharing this blog post within your own networks. Let’s get the word out and educate others about what may soon be coming to a grocery store near you!

Another great reason to go organic: pesticides in our produce

Earlier this summer, The Environmental Working Group released the eighth edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This is a great resource for consumers and FoodFacts.com wants to make our community aware of its findings.

Researchers different fruits and vegetables to determine pesticide contamination. This year’s study provides information on 45 different fruits and vegetables. All the samples of these fruits and vegetables were either washed or peeled prior to testing. In this manner the study actually reflects the amount of pesticides present when the food is actually being consumed. The results are pretty sad and kind of frightening.

An apple a day, for instance might actually end up sending you to the doctor, instead of keeping the doctor away. 98% of non-organic apples tested contained detectable levels of pesticides. Lettuce samples reflected the presence of 78 different pesticides. All the nectarines tested contained pesticide residue. Grapes “won” in the fruit category, with 64 different pesticides found in samples tested. Strawberries and blueberries were both on the list as well.

Most disturbing, however, was pesticide testing for fruit and vegetable baby food. This year’s study included green beans, pears and sweet potatoes. Sadly, after analyzing about 190 baby food samples, 92% of the pear samples tested positive for at least one pesticide. On the up side virtually none of the sweet potato baby food products contained any pesticide. On the down side, the pesticide iprodione which has been categorized as a probably carcinogen showed up in three baby food pear samples. The pesticide is not registered with the EPA for use on pears at all.

The EPW also publishes a list of produce that is least likely to test positive for pesticides. Those products include asparagus, cabbage, grapefruit, watermelon, eggplant, pineapple, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.

It’s important to note that this report is not designed to reflect the affects of pesticide exposure. It is specifically meant to measure the presence of pesticides in common fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle … and now the baby food aisle as well. Research is ongoing regarding the affects of those pesticides on consumers, which ones and in what amounts. But having an understanding of what pesticides are found and where, can help all consumers make better decisions at the grocery store. FoodFacts.com encourages you to read more about this fascinating report: http://www.ewg.org/release/ewg-releases-2012-shopper-s-guide-pesticides-produce. Information like this helps us all to understand what’s really in our food.

Food Facts Summer Fruit Series … Life is just a bowl of cherries

Summer cherries are just one of a myriad of fruits abounding at the farmer’s market this time of year. Your Food Facts crew really loves cherries, but your blog writer REALLY loves them. That’s because I’m allergic to berries and have an affinity for this small, tasty fruit that doesn’t help me break out in hives! They are tasty to snack on by themselves or to substitute (for me) in recipes requiring berries …. actually they work like a charm. So, if I’m going to be eating that dessert that called for berries they are a great substitute, providing taste and texture without having to completely redo a recipe because the fruit I’m using might have a different water content. So tonight, I wanted to look at the health benefits of cherries.

So here’s what you need to know about cherries and your health:

- Although cherries are very low in calories, they are very rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

- The pigment in cherries that causes their beautiful color are due to polyphenolic flavonoid compounds … or anthocyanin glycosides. That means that fruits with red, purple or blue skins carry these compounds and that their skins have powerful anti-oxidant properties.

- Those anthosyanins act like anti-inflammatory agents in your body. They can have helpful effects against chronic pain associated with gout, arthritis, fibromyalgia and sports injuries. In addition, some (tart) cherries can help to prevent cancers and neurological diseases.

- Cherries contain melatonin. Melatonin can produce soothing effects for the brain and calm nervous system irritability. So if you suffer from headaches, eat cherries. In addition, if you have a hard time falling asleep at night, cherries might help.

- Like many other summer fruits, cherries also provide potassium and manganese. When we sweat in the summer, our body needs to replace these minerals and cherries can help us do that.

- Other great properties of cherries include anti-oxidants. Lutein, beta carotene and others can protect your body from free radicals that might prevent some forms of cancer.
Oh, and if you’re like me, cherries won’t cause hives. Of course I’m sure there are some folks who can eat berries, but cherries can cause hives. We all have our individual food issues (and berries are certainly coming in our Summer Fruits Series).

My favorite cherry dessert is a parfait. After pitting some sweet cherries, I layer a glass with them, alternating between freshly made whipped cream and topping it off with a whole cherry. That’s not a recipe substitution for me. I just love the flavor!

That’s the latest from our Food Facts Summer Fruits Series. Stay tuned for blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, honeydew and maybe a few that aren’t quite that familiar! Let us know about your favorites!

Five a day the easy way …

The recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day can seem daunting to some folks. In fact, many of us can really only manage to get our vegetables on our dinner plate and a piece of fruit in between lunch and dinner as a snack. Neither of these is a bad thing, but we’re not getting up to five servings under these circumstances. So FoodFacts.com has some suggestions that will help you meet those recommendations more often and keep your diet interesting and flavorful.

Think about your breakfast
Most people think of breakfast as a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, eggs, or pancakes – the traditional breakfast foods we’re used to (especially those that we’re eating in a rush to get out the door) don’t include fruits or vegetables. Believe it or not, breakfast can be one of the easiest meals in which to include fruits or vegetables.

If you like yogurt and granola, pick up some of your favorite fruits – berries, peaches, grapes, or anything else you’re partial to and you can quickly make a great breakfast parfait by layering the yogurt, granola and fruit in a glass. This is both refreshing and filling.

When eggs are on the menu, choose omelets you can fill with spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini or any other vegetable you choose. And, if you’re rushed for breakfast, you can keep a bowl of cut-up fruit in your refrigerator to mix into vanilla yogurt to grab and go.

Use a fruit bowl
Have you ever gone to the grocery store and purchased fruits that you knew your whole family would enjoy only to find them getting softer and softer in the refrigerator day by day? Ever hear the old adage “Out of sight, out of mind?”. We think this applies directly to fruit in refrigerators. Get a pretty bowl, fill it with fruit and leave it out where your family can see it. They’ll be much more likely to help themselves to a piece from the bowl because they don’t have to remember to go looking for it in the fridge.

The art of the hidden vegetable
Here’s another old adage we like to apply to vegetables — “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”. We know how difficult it is for some people to eat vegetables. You’d be surprised how many adults have just as much of a problem with them as children do. There are ways to use vegetables that your family will never suspect … and they’ll actually really love. A few thoughts are: shredded carrots in meatloaf, chopped spinach in meatballs, and cauliflower in mashed potatoes — not to mention zucchini bread, carrot bread, and pumpkin bread.

Fruit for dessert
While we understand we’re all trying to be more conscious of our eating habits, we don’t have to give up on dessert completely. You can make an interesting and refreshing fruit salad for everyone to enjoy after dinner or anytime. It’s tasty and healthy and will leave everyone feeling satisfied that they were able to enjoy an after-dinner “treat”.

If you have any other ideas that will help us all reach the recommended five per day servings of fruits and vegetables, please let FoodFacts.com in on them and we’ll make them available to the whole community.

A Miracle Fruit?

Foodfacts.com recently came across this article in TIME magazine regarding a “miracle fruit” that changes sour into sweet. How? Read below to learn more!

If you have any foodie friends, you’ve probably heard of miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum), a native West African berry that looks like a cranberry, but acts like a psychedelic for your taste buds.

Eat the miracle fruit on its own and it doesn’t taste like much of anything. But let the juices coat your mouth, then consume sour foods — like lemons, limes, goat cheese, beer, vinegar, pickles — and a remarkable thing happens: they all taste sweet.
“Beer tastes like sweet juice. Lemon tastes like sweet orange,” Keiko Abe of the University of Tokyo told Discovery News.

The fruit’s effect lasts for an hour, and like other trippy experiences, it’s more fun to do it in groups. So adventuresome eaters seek out “flavor tripping parties” during which people pop a berry, then gorge on all manner of sour foods. Guinness beer tastes like chocolate. Tabasco sauce tastes like “hot doughnut glaze,” as one flavor tripper was quoted as saying in this story in the New York Times.

This week, Abe reported the key to miracle fruit’s magic. To figure it out, Abe’s research team used cell cultures to test human taste receptors at various pHs. According to Discovery News:

The key ingredient in the fruit, a protein known as miraculin, binds strongly to the sweet taste receptors on our tongues, Abe reported, but it does not activate the receptors at neutral pH.

When acid is introduced, the miraculin protein changes shape in such a way that it turns on the sweet receptors it is bound to, creating a sensation of ultra-sweet without affecting the other flavors in the food.

After the acidic food is swallowed, miraculin returns to the inactive shape, but it remains bound to the sweet receptor for up to an hour, ready to receive a new acid trigger. The strong binding explains the molecule’s lasting effect.

Abe said the sweet-making power of miraculin was stronger than nearly all other known sweeteners. Given that it’s calorie-free, of course there has been no shortage of interest in developing it into a commercially usable sweetener. Perhaps it will be in Japan, where the production of a purified miraculin extract is currently being sought. As for the U.S., however, a 1974 ruling by the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of an extract.


Woman Faces Jailtime for Creating Organic Garden


At Foodfacts.com we like to share the latest news on everything food related. In recent years there has been a tremendous movement in promoting organic foods due to the fear of pesticides and other chemicals leaking into much of the available produce. Many people have taken their health into their own hands by starting their own organic gardens. Check out the story below describing one woman’s battle in creating her own organic garden.

A Michigan woman is being charged with a misdemeanor offense and is facing up to 93 days in jail. Her crime? Planting a vegetable garden—in her own yard. Her front yard, that is.

Like many consumers today, Julie Bass, of Oak Park, Mich., appreciates the taste and healthfulness of organic vegetables, but isn’t much of a fan of how much going organic costs at the store. So, like many health-minded consumers, she planted a vegetable garden on her property.
But Bass chose to take the unusual step of installing neatly arranged raised beds of vegetables in her front, rather than back, yard. Bass explained her unorthodox garden location (and showed off how neat and organized it is, for those curious) to a local TV station:
“We thought it’d be really cool to do it so the neighbors could see. The kids love it. The kids from the neighborhood all come and help,” she said.

Front yard or back, it’s her property, and she’s allowed to do with it what she pleases, right? Wrong, say the local authorities, citing local codes that require front yards to have only “suitable” live plant material. City planners say that vegetables, for some reason, don’t qualify for the standard, even though they are certainly alive, and certainly are planted. To some, this sort of code enforcement makes the restrictions against drying clothes on a clothesline seem reasonable.
Bass was given a warning, then a ticket, and now she has been charged with a misdemeanor for violating the City of Oak Park’s planning code. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 26, and Bass is facing up to 93 days in jail.

For growing vegetables.

On her own property.

Bass isn’t giving in, however, and it looks like she has plenty of support on her side. A thread at Reddit with information on rallies and petitions to stop the prosecution has already generated 299 comments (and counting).

Bass does have a backyard, but she has no plans to uproot and replant her garden back there any time soon:
“They say, ‘Why should you grow things in the front?’ Well, why shouldn’t I? They’re fine. They’re pretty. They’re well maintained,” said Bass.

(Time Magazine)

The Dirty Dozen Produce

Eating these non-organic fruits and veggies will leave you exposed to an average of Ten pesticides a day. So try your best to buy organic when shopping for the ‘Dirty Dozen’.

A quick guide to Twelve produce items that are the most exposed to pesticides known as ‘The Dirty Dozen’. Watch here:

If you can afford to buy a few more Organic items, then, these are the next group you want to focus on:
1. Lettuce
2. Blueberries (Imported)
3. Carrots
4. Green Beans (Domestic)
5. Pears
6. Plums (Imported)
7. Summer Squash
8. Cucumbers (Imported)

New research shows that some pesticides used on strawberries, grapes, lettuce and other produce may disrupt male hormones.

But remember, these produce items are still healthy for you and much, much more nutritious than any processed or sugar filled food.

Have A Healthy Valentine’s Day

Sure, it’s easy to get carried away with the aisles filled with bags of Valentine’s Day candy. Hey, you might even feel a little guilted into buying these indulgent treats. But be careful, some of these treats are filled with unhealthy ingredients, calories and fats. A chocolate free Valentine’s Day?? No, no, we aren’t suggesting that! But there are healthier Valentine’s Day treats and we tell you all about them in this video:

And remember, everything in moderation!

Check out health scores for your favorite candies here:

The Dirty Dozen Produce

Eating these non-organic fruits and veggies will leave you exposed to an average of Ten pesticides a day. So try your best to buy organic when shopping for the ‘Dirty Dozen’.

A quick guide to Twelve produce items that are the most exposed to pesticides known as ‘The Dirty Dozen’. Watch here:

If you can afford to buy a few more Organic items, then, these are the next group you want to focus on:
1. Lettuce
2. Blueberries (Imported)
3. Carrots
4. Green Beans (Domestic)
5. Pears
6. Plums (Imported)
7. Summer Squash
8. Cucumbers (Imported)

New research shows that some pesticides used on strawberries, grapes, lettuce and other produce may disrupt male hormones.

But remember, these produce items are still healthy for you and much, much more nutritious than any processed or sugar filled food.