Given the premium often charged for organic fruits and vegetables, many shoppers have asked themselves if that pricier bunch of kale or pint of tomatoes is really worth it. For those who want reduce their exposure to pesticides, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its latest version of the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Each year, the advocacy group measures pesticide residues on conventionally grown produce and ranks fruits and vegetables from “dirty” to “clean.”
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In this week’s news: Mondays are the new January 1; “sad desk lunch” is no way to live; and salt gets a sprinkling of controversy.
T.G.I. … Monday?
New Year’s Day is notorious for being the time for all kinds of resolutions we know we’ll break (or simply ignore). Now, a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that we treat Monday like a weekly January first. Cue Twilight Zone music. When researchers looked at health-related Google queries from 2004 to 2012, they found a consistent spike on Mondays and Tuesdays, followed by a steady decline through the rest of the week — and finished off with a big plunge on Saturday. Enter the Monday Campaigns, an initiative put forth by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications. To date, they’ve been keeping the Internet abuzz with Meatless Monday, now practiced in 31 countries worldwide. But there’s more to come, say the seize-the-Monday folks. Expect to see campaigns like Monday 2000, which encourages people to balance out their daily calorie counts, and a child-friendly Kids Cook Monday.
Step. Away. From. Your. Desk.
Did you know that 65 percent of Americans eat lunch at their desks or don’t take a break? Or that people who eat at their desks tend to eat more calories and snacks than those who eat out? Probably. Or you could have guessed. But don’t let that stop you from watching the hilarious new video from James Hamblin, MD, The Atlantic’s online health editor: “Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?” The title speaks for itself, and if you like the video, check out Buzzfeed’s take. They made “the most delightful MD ever” into a gif.
They simmer in stocks, accentuate pot roast and stand in as a crunchy, good-for-you snack between meals. But in the hands of deft chefs, taken-for-granted carrots are fast becoming the highlight of the dinner table.
“Carrots have a nice bright flavor, sweet, with the slightest bit of bitterness and astringency,” says Rob Marzinsky, executive chef of Fitler Dining Room, in Philadelphia. At the restaurant he combines a melange of carrots — yellow, white, Purple Haze and Kyoto red among them. The baby ones are roasted with whole spices and coffee beans, while the larger varieties are sauteed in shallot, ginger, jalapeno and the North African spice mixture, ras el hanout. Marzinsky then pairs them with farro from nearby Castle Valley Mill that’s dressed in ginger-carrot vinaigrette, a “pesto” made with carrot leaves and tangy yogurt.
In this week’s news: Mondays get even more meatless; the world learns what happens when a household bans sugar (hint: a book deal); and coupon-clipping takes a healthier turn.
Hitting the Beach — and the Tofu
Why book Canyon Ranch when you can visit Grandma in Boca? Earlier this week, the Florida city announced that it was joining Meatless Mondays — a national movement that advocates exactly what the name suggests. The logic is this: Research suggests that when you eliminate a day’s worth of meat, you’re cutting 15 percent of saturated fat intake. That, in turn, may decrease your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Twenty percent of Boca Raton’s residents are 65 or older, and with role models like Bill Clinton, whose health swami — Mark Hyman — was featured in the New York Times earlier this week, it might not be a surprise that the trend caught on.
Bring On the Three-Bean Salad
Just one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils appears to reduce “bad” cholesterol, a review of 26 controlled studies has found. According to the lead researcher, a single ¾ cup of these foods may lower LDL cholesterol by five percent, which can translate roughly to a five or six percent reduction in heart disease risk. Two factors may influence this. First, the foods have a low glycemic index, meaning that they keep blood sugar levels even (and eaters sated) by breaking down and getting absorbed into the body at a slow and steady rate. Second, they also appear to help rid our systems of the bad fats we ingest. The catch? We currently eat less than half a serving a day.
For a Longer Life, Pass the Salad Tongs
Given all the nutrition studies out there, you might think researchers have tested every hypothetical in the book. Turns out there was a ginormous one missing. Earlier this week, researchers at University College London released the very first report to not just associate eating fruits and vegetables with reduced risk of death of any cause but also to put numbers to the benefit per serving: Eat seven or more portions of produce, and you’ll apparently be 42 percent less likely to die at any given point in time. (Note that the magic of statistics make this sound a little more exciting that in is: No matter how many carrots you eat, you will keel over, eventually.) Drawing on a Health Survey for England data set involving 65,226 people between 2001 and 2013, the study was also able to narrow things down by portion (five to seven servings might buy you a 36 percent reduction, and three to five could get you 25 percent). Fresh produce had the strongest effect, reducing risk by 16 percent per portion. Canned or frozen fruit appeared to increase death odds by 17 percent, most likely because of the foods’ sugar content say the researchers. Always a good bet? Salad, which was associated with a 13 percent gain in the longevity department.
Virtual Food Fights
Google’s new-ish nutrition comparison tool got a soak in the spotlight this week. The idea’s rather nifty: Type “compare” followed by, oh, “bacon and kale,” and let the search engine work its magic. Drawing on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, the search tool presents everything from fat and calorie to vitamin and mineral content. Be forewarned: Because Google’s algorithm is always set up to send you results it thinks will be relevant, you’ll also get plenty of mouthwatering recipes and images of your foods together (bacon and kale salad, for instance).
Get Me a Spatula, Stat!
Last weekend,the Napa Valley branch of the Culinary Institute of America hosted hundreds of physicians for a medical meeting involving kitchen aprons, not lab coats. The draw was the Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives conference, co-sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and part of a quickly growing trend of culinary-medical cross-pollination. Come May, for example, Tulane University will debut the country’s first teaching kitchen affiliated with a medical school. In New York, meanwhile, celebrity chefs David Bouley and Seamus Mullen have been working with doctors Mark Hyman and Frank Lipman, respectively, to develop menu items and eating philosophies representing a drool-worthy intersection of pantry and pharmacy. (Wild mushrooms with white truffle, sweet garlic, grilled toro and coconut foam, anyone?) Fueling the trend is some pretty delicious research: In one recent study of a nonprofit program, patients whose doctors wrote them “prescriptions” to redeem at local farmers markets saw their BMI drop by an average of 37.8% in a single year.
In this week’s news: time-warping with sprouted grains and hemp brownies; tracking down the four-leaf clover of kale; and betting the farm on farm-to-table real estate.
Sprouted Grains Hit the Big Time
Boomers might cop an eye roll when they hear of restaurant chain Panera Bread’s new launch. Come May, the Saint Louis-based company plans to roll out a line of sprouted-grain bagels made with rye, spelt and oat groats. Sprouts, all too familiar to those who lived through the 1970s, are grain seeds that have been soaked in water until they germinate. This results in a more nutrient-dense, higher protein food. Thanks to trendy grains like quinoa, sprouted versions have been making a comeback as protein-rich power foods (Au Bon Pain recently featured a sprouted grain roll on its menu), which is exactly how Panera plans to market it. The effort hasn’t been without its hiccups: An early version of the flax bagel made from whole seeds had to be reworked with a ground variety as consumers complained it tasted fishy.