Future 50 Foods

The world population has grown from 3.032 billion in 1960 to 7.7 billion in 2019.  In 2050, there will be a whopping 10 billion people in the world!!

So what does this mean to our food system and the future of food?

Knorr foods and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) just released a report on the top issues surrounding the future of food and how we may be able to combat them by diversifying the foods that we are currently eating.

Some of the issues they reported include:

  • The way our food is currently grown has a significant impact on our environment and global food supply.
  • 75% of our global food supply comes from only 12 plants and 5 animals. The issue here is that it leaves our plants vulnerable to pests, disease and climate change.
  • Monocultured crops or planting a single crop over and over and over again depletes plant nutrients and increases risks of pests and bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms that cause disease. This requires more and more pesticide use which can hurt wildlife and damage our water resources.
  • 60% of greenhouse gas emissions are a consequence of animal agriculture production. As a result of this process, pollution is released into the air and waste is dumped into our streams, lakes and oceans.   .

Their solution is that we need to get back to a more diversified food system that helps support the land, the soil, the air the water and our health! They propose we take the following steps:

  1. Plant and consume a wider variety of vegetables in order to protect our environment and diversify our intake of a whole plethora of vitamins and minerals.
  2. Switch to plant-based proteins in order to reduce the negative impact of animal foods on our environment.
  3. Plant more nutrient rich carbohydrates (e.g. ancient grains) that promote agrobiodiversity or a mixture of plants, animals and microorganisms all working together to grow the most nutritious food possible.

They came up with a list of 50 future foods to be planted around the world to help diversify what we are eating and promote a healthier ecosystem. These foods were chosen based on their sustainability, their nutritional value, environmental impact, flavor, accessibility, acceptability and affordability. They include vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds and beans.

Here are a few stars:

nori.jpg

Algae

When I think of algae, I’m reminded of that thick green layer of goop that often attacks swimming pools, but in reality edible algae can be quite nutritious. Algae is responsible for half of all the oxygen production on earth and sea life depends on it. It is rich in usable omega 3’s, antioxidants and contains protein.  It has an umami or “mushroom-like” taste.

Nutritional impact: Laver is a type of red algae or edible seaweed used in Japanese cuisine.  We know it as “nori” or the wrapping around sushi.  It is rich in Vitamin C and an excellent source of iodine!!

Food sustainability impact:  Because algae lives wildly in water, it can be grown and harvested year-round without the use of pesticides or fertilizers.  A “game-changer” for sure!!

Fava beans

Beans and pulses (edible seeds)

There are about 40,000 different kinds of beans in the world, although only about a fraction of them are produced for human consumption. They are gaining popularity because they are very versatile, high in nutrition and are dirt cheap! They are a great substitution for meat.

Nutritional impact: All beans are high in fiber, protein and iron, but they also contain calcium, folate, magnesium, zinc and a variety of other nutrients.  They are nutrition power houses.  They are also naturally low in calories, fat and saturated fat.

Food sustainability impact:  Beans take nitrogen from the air and convert to a form so that it and nearby plants can grow and thrive. Broad beans such as the “fava’s” are considered a cover crop which means they are grown between harvests and protect the land. They keep weeds from growing, enhance the soil and keep pests at bay.

 

Orange tomatoes

Fruit Vegetables

Nope, not fruits and vegetables – “Fruit Vegetables”. These are the sweeter type vegetables, high in water and may be botanically classified as fruits. They include squash, tomatoes, eggplant, avocadoes, bell peppers, zucchini and cucumbers. They grow best in warm climates.

Nutritional impact: Most fruit vegetables are loaded with fiber and contain large amounts of the Vitamins A, B6, C and Folate.  An example is orange tomatoes. They are sweeter than their red counterparts and contain up to twice as much Vitamin A and folate than the red and green types.

Food sustainability impact:  Orange tomatoes are mostly heirlooms, which means their seeds haven’t changed since inception or been genetically modified. This uniqueness makes them more resistant to pests and disease. Eating a diverse array of fruit vegetables helps keep our food system resilient.

White icicle radish

Root Vegetables

Eating root vegetables means we are consuming the root of the plant. These solid plants have leafy tops that grow above ground and are perfectly edible as well. They are cool season vegetables and once harvested can last a REALLY long time. Think carrots!

Nutritional impact: White icicle radishes (winter radishes) are long white carrot-looking root vegetables that dangle from their stems like icicles hanging from the edge of a roof. They are extremely high in Vitamin C, contain about 50% water and have enzymes that help with digestion. Their leaves are edible.

Food sustainability impact:  White icicle radishes are often planted near squash or pumpkins as they chase away bugs. They can also be planted as a cover crop to protect the soil between harvests.

Sprouted chickpeas

Sprouts

All things sprouted are becoming hugely popular and this isn’t just the alfalfa sprouts that have been around for years. All kinds of seeds, beans and grains are being sprouted and we’re even seeing sprouted bread.

Nutritional impact: Sprouting seeds and beans doubles if not triples the nutritional value of the plant food. Chickpeas have gained in popularity in recent years and we’re now seeing them in everything from hummus to falafels to even roasted and eaten as a snack. Sprouting chickpeas helps neutralize their phytic acid (can interfere with absorption) to allow the body to better absorb their nutrients.

Food sustainability impact: Sprouts possess a low carbon footprint.  They are “kitchen-to-table” ready which means you don’t have to transport them. They don’t require soil, fertilizers or pesticides.

This is only a small sample of these incredibly powerful foods from the report. To see the full report, check out https://www.knorr.com/content/dam/unilever/knorr_world/global/online_comms_/knorr_future_50_report_online_final_version-1539191.pdf

2019: The Year of Sustainability

When I was in Cleveland, OH over the holidays, we took a tour of the city on a trolley.  Of course one of the items that the driver pointed out was about the Cuyahoga River burning. Yes, in 1969 the river actually caught fire because of all the industrial pollution it had in it.  Time magazine posted a picture of it on the cover and for years it was what the city became known for. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that story!

Fast forward to 2019 and the city of Cleveland now has a sustainability plan.  Their plans include a robust and resilient local food economy, wind turbines on Lake Erie and miles and miles of bicycle trails. So yes, 2019 is the year of sustainability.

Let’s take a look at some of the common trends around food sustainability for this year:

  1. Food answers the questions; where did my food come from and how was it made? We will see more food transparency throughout the entire food cycle. We will see more local and organic stickers in the produce section and non-GMO project, humanely raised and rainforest alliance seals on food product labels.
  2. Organic goes mainstream: Organic sales have jumped almost 9% to more than $21 billion over the last year. The main purchasers of these foods are millennials and Hispanics. It makes sense that millennials would want to buy organic, because they are the sustainability generation and want to purchase foods in-line with their environmental beliefs.
  3. Compassion is in fashion: Faux meat snacks will be hot this year as millennials and Gen Z continue to choose foods that are humane to animals. Products will include Vegan jerky and pork-like rinds made from shiitake mushrooms and Yuca (root of the cassava plant).
  4. Straws suck: The backlash against plastic will continue. It is estimated that 500 million straws are used every day and often these straws end up in the ocean. The animals of the ocean ingest them and it can cause devastating effects like blocking an animal’s airways or ending up in our food supply.
  5. Upcycling: It involves transforming bi-products of food processing or food waste into new products. The difference between upcycling and recycling is that upcycling reuses waste without destroying it to form a new product whereas recycling breaks down the waste to form a new product.  Examples of upcycling include turning fruit pulp into chips or beer grains into granola bars.
  6. Neuro-Nutrition is a new word on the scene. We will start learning more about the connection between what we eat (our gut) and how our brain functions.  Kind of important stuff! Foods like walnuts, blueberries and b-vitamin rich foods like lentils will be on our brains this year “pun-intended”.
  7. Worldly and “Healthy” Breakfasts: We will expand our breakfast tastes to include more healthful foods from the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Examples include Shakshuka from Israel which consists of eggs or tofu sautéed in a sauce made of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions and spices like nutmeg served on bread.  Or we will explore a variety of fruits like guava, dragon fruit or passionfruit from Latin America.

Why Youth Voices Matter The Farm Bill – Part 2

Here are some big reasons why students may want to become involved in the farm bill process:

Food for hungry children

#1. They believe that no child, regardless of their socio-economic status should go hungry. 

The farm bill provides food to eligible low income individuals and families through a program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). SNAP replaced the old food stamp program.

Here’s how it benefits kids:

  • The highest percentage of SNAP recipients are children.
  • SNAP significantly decreases the amount of kids that go hungry. Children with full bellies generally can concentrate better at school, get better grades and have a better sense of well-being.
  • These benefits generally increase consumption of healthier foods to help reduce the risk of present or future chronic diseases; such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Local farmers market

#2. They support local foods

Local foods allow youth to know exactly how their food is grown and where it comes from – in other words food transparency.

  • They can visit farms and speak directly to the farmer.
  • The farm bill helps local farmers reach more consumers.
  • Local foods tend to be grown more sustainably and without harmful pesticides.
  • Local foods sold at local farmers markets bring the community together in a meaningful way.

Nutrition Education

#3. They recognize that more people will select nutritious foods if they understand the benefits of choosing them.

  • Recipients are currently receiving nutrition education on the benefits of foods that they are getting through the SNAP program.
  • They receive support on how to cook these foods at home.
  • They may teach recipients how to shop.
  • Nutrition education on healthy foods encourages consumption, which in turn helps reduce the risk of disease.

Fruits and veggies

#4. They believe that fresh fruits and vegetables should be subsidized first over other foods

  • Fruits and vegetables in the farm bill are considered a “specialty” crop (whatever that means??) and are not subsidized. This is why they may not be affordable to low-income individuals and families.
  • However, SNAP’s double up food bucks program does allow recipients to double the value of their SNAP benefits when they purchase fresh fruits and veggies at a farmers market or grocery store.
  • Students can advocate for these “super-healthy” foods to be subsidized first over other not-so-nutritious foods or participate in the double up food bucks program.

The senate bill is proposing establishing a “food is medicine” pilot where facilitators prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to individuals and families.

Young Farmer

#5. They believe that it should support beginning farmers

  • It’s becoming challenging for young people to become farmers.
  • The startup fees are enormous; equipment alone can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Land is hard to come by and is often sold to large farming operations.
  • It’s challenging to make a living farming and so many opt out of this as a career.

So what if like me, these food politics make student’s heads spin! They can choose a more grassroots approach to changing our national food system. They may choose to “vote with their fork” and purchase more foods from local farmers, or volunteer at a local hunger organization. They may help raise funds for young farmers to get started, or become involved in local legislation to help them purchase land. They may teach cooking or nutrition classes centered on fresh fruits and vegetables. Really, the skies the limit!

Why Youth Voices Matter The Farm Bill – Part 1

The farm bill is probably the most significant piece of legislation in our country related to farming and the foods that are served on our dinner tables.  It is reauthorized every 5 years and this is the year – 2018.

The farm bill originated in 1933 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) new deal. It was the direct result of the great depression and also the dust bowl (severe drought on prairie lands in the U.S.) that was happening at the time.

Its original purpose was to balance fair food prices for consumers with a decent wage for farmers. It helped ensure that there was an adequate amount of high-quality, nutritious food for all to eat and to protect our natural resources (air, water and soil).

The farm bill also determines crops to be subsidized (pay part of the cost of producing in order to reduce prices for consumers), which ultimately determines the majority of crops farmers will grow.

Currently, the biggest chunk of it provides food access to low-income individuals and families who cannot afford it (80% of it).

The next farm bill is expected to be finalized in September of 2018 and boy there is a lot of disagreement between the house and senate on what should be included!

The farm bill is a great way for students to begin to recognize that they have a voice in the legislative process and can start to have an impact on the future of food.

So why should young people care about the farm bill?  Because it is everywhere! It impacts everything from food that is offered to low income families, food that is served in their cafeteria (farm to school), food waste, organic food and nutrition research, nutrition education, fruit and vegetable availability and costs, seeds, soil and other conversation efforts.

Tune in tomorrow for some big reasons why students may want to become involved with the farm bill.

Did you know? One of the biggest influencers of subsidies was Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz. Back in the 1970’s he decided that soybean and corn would be heavily subsidized, resulting in A LOT of farmers growing these crops in order to survive. Hence the reason we have corn as fuel, animal feed and high fructose corn syrup. It’s in everything!!!

 

Gen Z – The New Food Movement

Image Source: Classy – https://www.classy.org/blog/gen-z-next-generation-donors/

There has been so much talk about Millennials lately that many have forgotten the next Generation right around the corner – Generation Z.

Generation Z are those born in 1995 or after (some say it’s more like 1996, depending on who you ask).  Some of them are teenagers, while others are in their early 20’s and are in or starting college. Either way, they are starting to shape their own food future.

This generation, even more so then millennials wants to make a difference in the world – especially their food world.

  • 60% want their work to make a difference in the world
  • 76% are worried about the planet
  • 75% of this generation consider themselves foodies

It’s no surprise as many of them are children of parents that were born in the 60’s or 70’s – the decades that started the food revolution. You know, the generation lost in space!

So what do we have to look forward to with this next generation of food enthusiasts?

Sustainable Food

#1. They care deeply about sustainability

  • Gen z’ers are a very environmentally and socially conscious generation
  • They want to know the story of their food from farm to table
  • Gen z’ers want an abundance of sustainable food that has a positive impact on people  and the planet

Heart shaped fruit

#2. They want health supporting foods

  • Gen z’ers love to snack but want healthy snack options
  • They prefer to snack on the go vs. sitting down for a meal
  • Gen z’ers have learned how to set healthy eating habits in school and at home
  • They know that whole, unprocessed foods are the more nutritious choice

They are also interested in boosting energy throughout the day – so energy drinks are on the rise!

Food acceptance

#3. They accept new foods easily

  • Gen z’ers are more likely to have been exposed to new and different foods early in life and are willing to try new ones
  • They have been exposed to foods from all over the world and enjoy them!
  • Gen z’ers are willing to at least try unusual flavors and ingredients

Teen purchasing

#4. They are starting to purchase their own food

  • Gen z’ers want foods that taste good, contain quality ingredients and are a good price
  • They care more about small, local foods vs. the big name brands
  • Gen z’ers buy from companies that share their values
  • They are willing to pay for foods that support the environment and support food companies with a social mission

MCHS Fresh Salsa Fiesta #2

#5. They love to cook!

  • Gen z’ers love to express themselves through the meals they make
  • They like to make their own creations and often do not follow a recipe
  • Gen z’ers may take pictures of their creation and share on social media
  • They generally learned how to cook at an early age

Cooking is very empowering to them!

So… any of you that educate students; you know teachers, parents community members, have this unique opportunity to help shape the food habits of this young, amazingly socially conscious generation.  You can have a conversation with them about sustainable foods or explain the benefits of choosing more whole, nutritious foods. You can bring this information to life by taking them on a tour of a farm or community garden, introducing them to more fresh and local food manufacturers or just helping them learn how to cook – a skill that lasts a lifetime!

2018 Food and Nutrition Trends Clean Meat

Now here’s a very interesting food trend – Clean meat.  When we saw this, we thought – we have to find out more! CM is made from the cells of animals, eliminates the need for animal slaughter and supposedly tastes like the “real” thing.

How are they made? They take a tiny bit of muscle fiber from an animal, isolate the cells that are the precursor to skeletal muscle and start culturing them in a lab. The cells keep dividing and growing until you have an actual muscle that is “meat” ready to eat.

What products are being tested right now? So far, they have made ground meat, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and hamburgers.

Why are they doing this? The speculation is that these foods will be better for the environment, reduce animal suffering, eliminate antibiotic use and can be mass-produced.

Companies that have already jumped on the bandwagon: Hampton Creek, the makers of “Just Mayo” (the vegan mayo), have said they will have a product to market by 2018 while MosaMeat, a ground out of the Netherlands predicts they will have something to market by 2021.

“An inspirational look into a future where the cellular agricultural revolution helps lower rates of foodborne illness, greatly improves environmental sustainability, and allows us to continue to enjoy the food we love.”

 Kathleen Sebelius – former U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services

Source: https://cleanmeat.com/praise/

We’d love to hear what you think about this new trend.  Feel free to share you thoughts below or on our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AnOunceofNutrition/.

Fermented Vegetables

 

In sticking with our theme of gut microbe trends, I thought I would highlight a couple of probiotic powerhouses. One of the best – “fermented” vegetables.

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. It is high in fiber and provides a good source of iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. It is also considered a “cruciferous” vegetable, which have been shown to lower your risk of cancer.

Kimchi is also made from fermented cabbage. It also includes radishes, scallions and cucumbers and seasonings.  Kimchi is an excellent source of Vitamin K (64% of the daily recommended amount in a cup), iron (25% of the daily rec amt) and folate.  It also provides Vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and zinc. And since it’s a cabbage, it is also a “cruciferous” vegetable.

Pickled cucumbers, beets, onions, carrots, etc. – You get many of the vegetable benefits from these including Vitamins A and C. Plus, they have been shown to lower blood sugar, are excellent sources of anti-oxidants, help relieve muscle cramps and may treat restless leg syndrome. Just make sure it is the live, raw, fermented kind to help keep sodium levels low.

One final note:

The Vitamin C in cabbage becomes more bioavailable (more able to be digested and absorbed) when it’s fermented to become sauerkraut and kimchi. The process also creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics such as Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus that improve digestion and gut health.

Sugar is Sugar is Sugar – Really?

I’ve had many people tell me that they avoid fruit because of its sugar content.  But is it really the same as other sugars?

Basics: When sugar is broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, it causes the sugar levels in your blood to rise.  Your pancreas then releases a hormone called insulin to bring your sugar levels back down to normal, by pushing sugar into your cells. Your cells then release sugar in the form of energy to keep you going throughout the day. Sounds good, right?

But not all sugars have the same impact on your blood sugar levels.  Here’s the difference:

White table sugar or sugar is a highly processed, highly refined sugar.  It enters your blood stream rapidly and causes a significant spike in your blood sugar levels.  Large amounts of insulin are released from your pancreas to bring your sugar levels back down to normal, but sometimes it pushes them too low.  This results in what is known as the “sugar crash.” Headaches, feeling tired, lack of energy, inability to concentrate and craving more sugar may be the result.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is also an extremely refined, highly processed sugar – processed with sulfuric acid (think battery acid!). Because of their molecular structure, they are absorbed even more rapidly in the blood stream than sugar.  And they go straight to our liver where a bunch of chemical reactions turn them into fat. Over time, these fats build up in our liver and can result in a condition known as “non-alcoholic” fatty liver.  This condition may result in liver swelling or scarring (cirrhosis) and may even contribute to liver cancer or failure.

Fruit on the other hand is “sugar from nature.” It is absorbed much slower because of what it is packaged in.  Fruit is high in fiber!  Fiber slows the breakdown of sugar into our blood-stream.  This causes a slow rise in blood sugar and a small amount of insulin to be released from our pancreas.  This means that you have less blood sugar spikes and lows. A steady amount of blood sugar release gives you just enough to keep you alert and provides energy throughout the day. Fruit is generally high in water – so naturally low in calories and keeps you fuller longer. Plus fruit is generally loaded with Vitamin A and Vitamin C!

The bottom line, fruit can satisfy your sweet tooth without impacting your blood sugar levels, along with providing many other health benefits.  Sugar and HFCS – not so much.

Food for Thought: I’ve never heard of anyone experiencing the “sugar-crash” after they ate a piece of fruit! Have you?

Tune in for more discussions on sugar types in future posts……

Photo: Courtesy of “That Sugar Film”

Local Produce is Here!

I’m like a kid in a candy store in the summer.  There are SO many farmers markets to visit, and it gives me the opportunity to sample some unusual fruits and veggies that I may not have tried before.  Plus I always learn something new.  For example, last weekend I learned that palisade Bing and rainier cherries grown in Colorado are only in season for a few weeks (end of June – 1st week of July), so we have a small window of time to purchase them locally.

July – October is the height of the growing season in Colorado and so local fruits and veggies are in abundance.  Strawberries and lettuce are the earliest crops (in-season starting in June). This month we’ll start to see more tomatoes (to me they are the sweetest in July!) and some sweet corn.  Some farmers sell peppers now, but they are baby sizes.  The real sweet and hot peppers aren’t in season until August.

Why local produce? First of all you can meet the farmer that grows your food or even visit their farm.  A lot of local produce is grown organically – even if it’s not certified organic – which means no pesticides. It doesn’t travel very far from the farm to your table, so to me it tastes fresher.  Generally, it’s sold at neighborhood farmers markets, which is a way to bring the community together. And lastly it’s good for the local economy.

So what do you do with all of this amazing produce grown locally?

Why grill them, of course.  You may have heard that grilling meat releases chemicals called HCA’s that have been shown to cause cancer.  Fruits and vegetables do not release these chemicals and actually supply cancer-fighting nutrients instead.

Spring Onions: Two of my favorite grillers are spring onions and garlic scapes.  Spring onions look like scallions but have large bulbs at the top.  They are the beginning of a regular onion, but are harvested before they develop into a large, round mature onion. They are called spring onions, because they are planted in the fall and harvested the next spring. They have a highly-flavored, sweet taste that makes them perfect on the grill.  To eat, cut the top off and if desired the bottom green stem.  Slice like you would a tomato into thick pieces and grill with some olive oil and salt and pepper.  Spring onions are extremely high in Vitamin C and A and a good source of fiber, potassium, calcium and iron.  They also contain a small amount of protein.

Garlic Scapes: Have you ever seen a garlic bulb attached to a long, green, scallion-looking stem?  Well these are called garlic scapes.  They are harvested in late spring and you can generally find them throughout the summer. The garlic bulb attached to these scapes has a milder flavor and doesn’t seem to cause as many digestive issues as regular garlic.  The stems are great grilled and have a light garlic flavor.  Please note: The garlic bulb has a fibrous outer coating that needs to be removed first before grilling.  Grill as a bulb or separate the cloves and grill them individually.

Since there are many, many, many more in-season fruits and vegetables to write about, there will be more to come soon!