Tag Archives: vegetable

Eating animal fat increases stroke risk — while vegetable fat may decrease it

Eating high amounts of red meat and animal fat can be bad for your heart, but vegetable fat may not be as bad. According to a new study, vegetable fat may actually decrease the risk of stroke. However, the findings are still preliminary, and the study has one big caveat: almost all participants were white.

It’s the first study to comprehensively analyze the impact on stroke risk from different types of fat, the study authors say, and the findings are intriguing.

“Our findings indicate the type of fat and different food sources of fat are more important than the total amount of dietary fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease including stroke,” said Fenglei Wang, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the department of nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Researchers investigated data gathered over 27 years from over 117,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2016) and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. At the beginning of the study (and every 4 years) participants were asked to complete food frequency questionnaires that included that amount and type of fat in their diets over the previous year. They split the participants into 5 groups (or quintiles) based on how much animal and vegetarian fat they consumed. Although self-reporting is not entirely reliable, it’s one of the best options researchers have for tracing the eating habits of a large number of participants.

“Among those who consumed the most non-dairy animal fat (in the highest quintile of non-dairy animal fat), the non-dairy animal fat intake is ~17% of total energy and vegetable fat intake is ~ 13%; among those who consumed the most vegetable fat (in the highest quintile of vegetable fat), the non-dairy animal fat intake is 10% and vegetable fat intake is ~ 20%,” Wang told ZME Science.

Out of all these participants, 6,189 had a stroke. Those in the highest quintile of non-dairy animal fat were 16% more likely to experience a stroke than those in the lowest quintile. Dairy products (such as cheese, butter, or milk) did not appear to influence the risk of stroke. Meanwhile, participants in the quintile that ate the most vegetable fat were 12% less likely to experience a stroke compared to those who ate the least.

“Our interpretation is that higher intake of non-dairy animal fat is associated with higher stroke risk, whereas higher vegetable fat intake is associated with lower stroke risk,” Wang explained for ZME Science.

However, the participants may not be representative of the entire population. Of them, 63% were women, all were free of heart diseases and cancer at enrolment, and most notably, 97% of them were white.

“Our findings might not be generalizable to other populations. Further studies are needed to investigate these associations in other demographics,” Wang explains.

There’s also a problem of not knowing what types of animal or vegetable fat participants consume. Researchers didn’t have access to this detailed information, which would be useful in evaluating this association, says Wang.

“For example, we did not observe associations between saturated fat and stroke risk. But the associations might differ for saturated fat from vegetable, dairy, or non-dairy animal foods. For future steps, finer categories will help us better understand how types and sources of fat are associated with the disease risk.”

Although these are still preliminary findings, the researchers do offer a suggestion: that we eat less animal fat, especially fat associated with red meat.

“We would recommend the general public to reduce consumption of red and processed meat, minimize fatty parts of unprocessed meat if consumed, and replace lard or tallow (beef fat) with non-tropical vegetable oils such as olive oil, corn or soybean oils in cooking to lower their stroke risk,” Wang concludes.

“Many processed meats are high in salt and saturated fat, and low in vegetable fat. Research shows that replacing processed meat with other protein sources, particularly plant sources, is associated with lower death rates,” said Alice H. Lichtenstein, D.Sc., FAHA, the Stanley N. Gershoff professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston, and lead author of the American Heart Association’s 2021 scientific statement, Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health, where the new study will be presented.

Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Why not both?

Credit: Pixabay.

Supermarkets place tomatoes in the vegetable aisles, but botanically speaking tomatoes are ripened flower ovaries and contain seeds, which technically makes them fruit.

This segues into the age-old question: are tomatoes fruit or vegetables? Here’s an answer you can try the next time this comes up with friends over drinks, which is sure to raise some eyebrows: they’re both!

What’s the difference between fruits and vegetables, anyway?

Fruits and vegetables have more things in common than differences. For instance, both are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Botanically speaking, all fruits have seeds and grow from the flower of a plant. For the purpose of simplification, vegetables are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves, and stems.

By this classification, it’s rather clear that seedy outgrowths such as apples, squash, and, of course, tomatoes are all fruits. It also makes cucumbers, green beans, and pumpkins all fruits.

Meanwhile, roots such as beets, potatoes, and turnips, leaves such as spinach, kale, and lettuce, and stems such as celery and broccoli are all vegetables.

However, people don’t eat or cook with a botanical atlas in hand. They might use a recipe book, though, where ingredients are mixed based on their culinary characteristics, such as texture, flavor, and taste.

So, if you ask a restaurant chef, rather than a botanist, what constitutes a fruit, he will come up with a totally different classification. He would tell you that fruits must have a soft texture and are generally sweet, while vegetables are blander, sometimes bitter, and have a tougher texture.

Fruits are considered deserts, whereas vegetables are suited for savory dishes like stews, salads, and stir-fries.

Tomato: both fruit and vegetables

So, scientifically speaking tomatoes are fruit, while in the kitchen most sensible people use them as vegetables.

Which weighs more, though? I guess if you want to be a wise guy, you can go ahead and insist that tomatoes are vegetables. In everyday language, however, people prefer to refer to things by their common usage.

The USDA, for instance, agrees that tomatoes are vegetables in its official listing. Legally speaking, the US Supreme Court also classed tomatoes as vegetables in 1893 when it ruled that imported tomatoes should be taxed under the Tariff Act of 1883, which does not apply to fruit.

“Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas,” Justice Horace Grey wrote in the court’s opinion at the end of the 19th century.

“But in the common language of the people … all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.”

Are you confused?

You came reading this article in hopes of settling this debate once for all. I’m sorry if you’re still confused. At least you’re not alone — the tomato is the official “vegetable” of New Jersey and the official “fruit” of Arkansas. Talk about a disagreement.

Bottom line: according to science tomatoes are fruits because they form a flower and contain seeds. Common culinary sense says that tomatoes are vegetables, though. For all intents and purposes, one can say the tomato is both a fruit and vegetable.

I think this line by Miles Kington from a century ago sums up this debate nicely:

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

Astronauts on the International Space Station will grow probiotic-rich broccoli

Just because you’re in outer space is no excuse to skip your 5 a day.

Space veggies

Space food is not the most appealing thing in the world. Sure, it’s nutritious and it’s exactly what your body needs for those months away from Earth, but astronauts would still benefit from growing their own vegetables — especially for longer missions to the Moon or Mars.

It’s not the first time astronauts have considered growing vegetables in space — in fact, this has been done before by NASA, and the veggies have actually been eaten. Yes, they were reportedly delicious. Now, NASA wants to expand its range of space veggies, but growing plants in microgravity is not the easiest thing in the world: You need a carefully managed environment, a steady source of light, and even then, we don’t know if all plants will grow properly.

But we’ll learn soon enough.

Astronauts will start growing broccoli from six seeds that were placed aboard the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft that launched this week from Wallops Island, Virginia, as part of a space station cargo resupply mission. Three of the seeds are regular seeds, while the other three were coated with two different species of bacteria, developed at the University of Washington: beneficial bacteria called probiotics.

These probiotics are expected to help the plants grow in the unusual, nutrient-poor environment. The special bacteria belong to a class called endophytes, and are expected to help the plants better develop in micro-gravity.

“It would be ideal if we could grow crops for astronauts at the space station or who are lunar- or Mars-based without needing to ship potting mix or fertilizer,” said Sharon Doty, a UW professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and a plant microbiologist who isolated and characterized the microbes used in this experiment. “We would like to be able to get plants to grow in what is available with a minimum input.”

Growing veggies on the International Space Station is no easy feat.

Remarkably, the probiotic ensemble was developed by students at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, The 11 students carried out ground-based tests which were successful: the probiotic bacteria helped the plants grow bigger and faster than normal. It remains to be seen if the same will happen in space.

“It would be ideal if we could grow crops for astronauts at the space station or who are lunar- or Mars-based without needing to ship potting mix or fertilizer,” said Sharon Doty, a UW professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and a plant microbiologist who isolated and characterized the microbes used in this experiment. “We would like to be able to get plants to grow in what is available with a minimum input.”

Not just broccoli

The microbes are encapsulated inside a coating that protects the seeds. As the seeds sprout, a camera will monitor them and take photos at regular intervals of time.

While a number of different vegetables have already been grown in space, this is the first time probiotics will be employed for plant growth. After the plants will grow in outer space, they will be brought back to Earth, where Doty and the students will measure their growth and development.

Doty has worked on this project for more than ten years, and so far, results indicate that the probiotics could help plants of all kinds, helping them convert nitrogen from the air into essential nutrients for the plant and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizer.

This work is part of the UW Astrobiology Program. When the program was started 20 years ago, it was the first of its kind.

“This is the first step in what I hope becomes a really long-term research program to develop habitation on Mars and on the moon in a very efficient way using natural symbiosis instead of trying to bring chemical fertilizer to those environments,” Doty concluded.

Eating vegetables can fight cognitive aging, new study reports

Want to keep your brain healthy? Eating your veggies can definitely help.

Vegetables are becoming favorites of those who want to stay physically fit, but as a new study shows, they’re important for those who want to keep their mind in shape as well. In a study conducted on 60 adults aged 25 to 45, it was revealed that participants with higher levels of lutein — a nutrient found in abundance in green leafy vegetables, as well as avocado and eggs — exhibited less cognitive decay than the rest of the group.

“Now there’s an additional reason to eat nutrient-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, eggs and avocados,” said Naiman Khan, a professor of kinesiology and community health at Illinois. “We know these foods are related to other health benefits, but these data indicate that there may be cognitive benefits as well.”

Lettuce rejoice

Lutein is one of the 600 known naturally occurring carotenoids. It is synthesized only by plants, but since chicken and hens are purposely fed such plants, it can be found, to a lesser extent, in eggs and chicken skin. Plants are still the main source.

Lutein has a number of health benefits. Most notably, it is known to contribute to eye health and prevent macular degeneration, as well as cataract. According to this new study, it can be just as effective at protecting your brain from cognitive degradation, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

Lutein accumulates in the eye and in the brain, which conveniently, also allows researchers to measure a person’s lutein levels non-invasively. The Illinois researchers took advantage of this and gauged participants’ lutein levels in the eye (which are correlated to those in the brain). They then placed electrodes on their scalps and monitored neural activity while the participants performed a task that required attention. It turned out that participants which had higher levels of lutein exhibited significantly higher neural activity than their same-age peers. Basically, middle-aged participants’ brains looked more like the ones of young participants.

This seems to be a clear indication that lutein protects the brain from cognitive decay, but it could also be a correlation vs causation debate. In other words, it could be that people who keep their minds healthier are inclined to eat more vegetables (or the other way around). However, researchers are convinced that lutein does protect the brain from decay, and encourage people to eat such foods to reap the benefits.

“As people get older, they experience typical decline. However, research has shown that this process can start earlier than expected. You can even start to see some differences in the 30s,” said Anne Walk, a postdoctoral scholar and first author of the paper. “We want to understand how diet impacts cognition throughout the lifespan. If lutein can protect against decline, we should encourage people to consume lutein-rich foods at a point in their lives when it has maximum benefit.”

A healthy mind and a healthy body often go hand in hand. Vegetables and legumes are healthy, filling, and eco-friendly. The fact that they also help our brains is the cherry on the cake.

There’s no need to stuff yourself with greens. Having a balanced, healthy diet that’s also tasty is what works wonders for you.

Sources of lutein

Since it is a nutrient which we can’t develop on our own, we need to get it from our food. As a solid rule of thumb, leafy greens tend to have a lot of lutein. If you want to be a bit more specific, we’ve got you covered.

Before we discuss the best sources of lutein, we have to make another short point. Lutein and zeaxanthin have identical chemical formulas and are isomers, but they are not stereoisomers. So when we’re talking about foods rich in lutein, we’re actually talking about lutein + zeaxanthin.

These are the richest foods in lutein, along with the lutein content in mg for one cup, cooked, according to the USDA. For comparison, a large egg yolk contains 252 micrograms of lutein and zeaxanthin (0.2 mg).

  • Kale (23.7)
  • Spinach (20.4)
  • Swiss chard (19.3)
  • Mustard greens (14.6)
  • Turnip greens (12.2)
  • Collards (11.8)
  • Garden cress (11.3)
  • Dandelion greens (9.3)
  • Green peas (4.2)
  • Summer squash (4.0)
  • Beet greens (2.6)
  • Brussels sprouts (2.4)
  • Sweet corn (2.2)
  • Broccoli (2.1)

The paper “The role of retinal carotenoids and age on neuroelectric indices of attentional control among early to middle-aged adults” is available online. DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00183

Space-grown veggies are delicious, astronauts say

As we were telling you yesterday, astronauts aboard the International Space Station were preparing for the first meal that involved space-grown veggies. It’s a remarkable moment, which might pave the way for future space exploration… and it’s delicious!

“That’s awesome,” exclaimed Nasa astronaut Kjell Lindgren, after he ate a piece of red romaine lettuce that was grown in a special box aboard the orbiting outpost.

American astronaut Scott Kelly echoed these feelings.

“Tastes good,” agreed US astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending one year at the research station. “Kind of like arugula,” Mr Kelly added, then used small bottles to spread extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on his leaf, much as one might spread ketchup and mustard on a hot dog.

Growing food in outer space is crucial if we want to ever achieve long-term space travel. For a mission to Mars for example, astronauts would travel about a year with current technology – with no way to resupply, that’s two years of travel, plus the time spent on Mars, so you need to pack a lot of supplies. Growing food is as sustainable on Earth as it is in space, and might alleviate some of that need.

“It was one small bite for man, one giant leap for #NASAVEGGIE and our #JourneytoMars,” U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly wrote on his Twitter account with a video of the crew consuming the vegetable.

But growing food in outer space is no easy feat, and we don’t really know how microgravity would affect the plants, and this is another reason why this experiment is so important. For starters, the planting is done completely different. The seeds are placed on a pillow-like material with nutrients and grow in specially designed chambers.

NASA first started growing lettuce in 2014, but they took it to Earth first for tests, to ensure that it’s safe to eat and to establish its nutritious value. They deemed it safe to eat, and astronauts loved it. So, we’re preparing for a long term space exploration mission, one delicious veggie at a time.