Archive For The “Health” Category

Research Indicates Financial Strength Closely Tied to Produce Purchases

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Consumers’ financial strength is closely related to how well U.S. retailers’ fresh produce departments perform, according to an IRI representative.

Jonna Parker, the company’s Team Lead for Fresh, said that IRI primary shopper research found that if Americas were to receive a second stimulus check from the U.S. government, they would be more likely to spend it on meat and produce than other food and beverages.

“In all, 21% of consumers said they would buy more meat, 20% more produce and 7% would purchase restaurant meals more often,” she said in a joint report by 210 Analytics, IRI and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). “This shows the fresh produce department performance is closely tied to financial strength.”

Consumers were also asked how the loss of a weekly unemployment benefit of $600 might affect shopping behavior.

“The top answer among current beneficiaries of the benefit was ‘buy less meat’ at 35%, followed by ‘buy fewer fresh fruits and vegetables’ at 29%, ‘buy fewer premium products’ at 24%, ‘switch more purchases to store brands versus national brands’ at 19%, and ‘buy fewer convenient meals to instead cook from scratch’ at 18%,” Parker said.

The joint report noted that fresh produce sales at U.S. retail in the week ended August 9 were up 9.5% year-on-year – putting it below the 12-13% weekly growth seen during July. Year-to-date through August, fresh produce department sales are up 11.1% over the same time period in 2019.

Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 27.4%. Joe Watson, VP of Membership and Engagement for the PMA, said that economic pressure “tends to have big impacts on grocery shopping”, including channel choice, the type of items and quantity bought, and the importance of price and promotions.

“During the next few weeks and months, it will be important to highlight the great value of fresh produce and home cooking,” he said. “At the same time, consumers appreciate help with recipe ideas and meal planning as that is an increasing area of struggle. We will also keep an eye on back-to-school that will look very different this year, which will once more impact year-over-year trending.”

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Organic food sales top $50B in 2019, up 4.6 Percent

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Organic food sales in 2019 exceeded $50 billion, including $18 billion for organic produce.

“The category continues to be the star of the organic sector and often the starting point for organic food buying,” The Organic Trade Association wrote in a news release. “Millennials and younger generations have grown up with organic and remain the growth drivers for this category.

“Organic produce makes up almost a third of all organic food sales, and organic fruits and vegetables — including fresh, frozen, canned and dried — have now captured 15percent of the fruits and vegetables market in this country,” OTA wrote.

The report describes the $18 billion in organic produce sales for 2019 as a nearly 5 percent increase from the previous year.

The United Fresh Produce Association’s FreshFacts on Retail 2019 Year in Review, which uses retail scan data from Nielsen, lists organic sales for fresh produce specifically as $5.9 billion, up 5.5 percent from 2018. Per the report, organic fresh vegetables surpassed $3.3 billion in 2019, up 3.8 percent from 2018, and organic fresh fruit made nearly $2.2 billion, up 7.0 percent.

OTA’s recently released 2020 Organic Industry Survey indicates continued interest in organics from many shoppers.

“Our 2020 survey looks at organic sales in 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak, and it shows that consumers were increasingly seeking out the organic label to feed their families the healthiest food possible,” Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of OTA, said in the release. “The pandemic has only increased our desire for clean, healthy food. Our normal lives have been brought to a screeching halt by the coronavirus. The commitment to the organic label has always resided at the intersection of health and safety, and we expect that commitment to strengthen as we all get through these unsettled times.”

The outlook for organic in the immediate wake of the pandemic is uncertain, according to OTA. Organic sales growth could slow because many consumers may be more price-sensitive, or growth could remain steady as consumers look for “cleaner” products in an effort to protect their health.

“It’s hard to know what’s ahead of us, but consumers will continue to trust in and depend on the organic label,” Batcha said in the release. “Organic producers and processors — indeed the entire organic supply chain — have been working around the clock through this difficult time to keep our stores filled with healthy, toxic-free and sustainably produced organic food and products. Organic is going to be there for the consumer.”

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Mariani Packing Launches Probiotics in Single-Serve Packs

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VACAVILLE, Calif. — Mariani Packing Company, the world’s largest independent family-owned producer of dried fruit, announced they are continuing their rich history of innovation by launching new Probiotic Single-Serve Packs. Based on the success of their best-selling Probiotic Dried Fruit line and consumer demand for on-the-go packaging, the new Probiotic Single-Serve Packs will come in a weekly 7-day supply carton, in two fruit varieties: Probiotic Apricots and Probiotic Prunes, in 1.4 oz each pack.

Mariani’s dried apricots and dried prunes contain soluble fiber, acting as a prebiotic, that may be a fuel source for probiotics to thrive. They are also naturally sweet, with no sugar added, and a good source of antioxidant vitamins A and E, vitamins B6, B12, potassium, and iron.

The GanedenBC30® probiotic active cultures in Mariani’s Probiotic Apricots and Probiotic Prunes are 10x more effective than yogurt cultures in surviving the transit through the harsh stomach environment into the gut. Just 1 serving per day may safely support your digestive health and immune system. GanedenBC30 is recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, as well as vegan, gluten-free, Non-GMO Project Verified, Kosher, and Halal certified.

“Today’s consumers are looking for convenient, healthy and on-the-go solutions that are nutritious and delicious. The new Mariani Probiotic Single-Serve Packs combine the natural prebiotics found in fruit with GanedenBC30  Bacillus Coagulans GBI-30, 6086® probiotics  to help boost immune and digestive wellness anywhere they are; at home, work, school, or travel,” states Bob Hyland, VP, Global CPG Sales & Marketing.

These new Probiotic Single-Serve Packs are the latest in Mariani’s full line of Probiotic dried fruit including Probiotic Cranberries, Raisins, Apricots, Berries & Plums and Prunes, available nationwide at Albertsons/Safeway, Walmart and most major retail grocery stores or online at www.mariani.com

About Mariani Packing Company
Mariani Packing Company, Inc. is the world’s largest independently and family-owned producer of dried fruits. Since 1906, the Mariani family has been providing premium quality dried fruit to consumers and customers all over the world. The Mariani family of products can be found in over 40,000 retail outlets in the United States and in over 65 countries worldwide.

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Watercress, the CDC’s Most Recommended Powerhouse Veggie, Boosts Immunity

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By B&W Quality Growers

Fellsmere, Fla. – As COVID-19 concerns escalate around the country, consumers are seeking immunity-boosting ingredients to incorporate in their diets. While it may be common knowledge that leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, there is a lesser known variety that reigns supreme when it comes to health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks watercress at the top of their list of Powerhouse Fruits and Veggies, the foods most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk.

B&W Quality Growers watercress is revered by health experts and restaurant chefs for its health benefits and flavor, but home chefs have yet to realize its full potential. Watercress boasts many healthy features, including anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, 28 vitamins, minerals and compounds, and it provides a great source of Vitamin C, proven to reduce cold and flu symptoms.

The vibrant green watercress from B&W Quality Growers, the world’s largest grower of distinctive baby leaves, is versatile and adds a peppery crunch to many dishes. It can be used in salads, smoothies, appetizers, entrees, and more.

“Self-care has become so important these days, and what better way to take care of you and your family than to feed them the most nutritionally-dense food on the planet,” says Mark DeLeo, CEO, B&W Quality Growers. “Not only is watercress packed with vitamins and minerals, it is deliciously versatile enough for chefs to create memorable takeout dishes and home cooks to spice up family favorites.”

B&W Quality Growers partnered with chefs to develop simple, yet flavorful recipes they can make in under 30 minutes, such as Watercress Frittata, Watercress Turkey and Pear Panini, and Watercress Hummus. For information about B&W Quality Growers and more chef-inspired recipes, visit www.bwqualitygrowers.com.

About B&W Quality Growers
For 150 years B&W Quality Growers has produced distinctive baby leaves® with unique flavor profiles including green watercress, exclusive red watercress, baby arugula, red kale, and baby spinach. With year-round availability from seasonal farms spanning eight states, B&W grows, packs and ships premium quality leaves to retail, wholesale, foodservice and specialty customers across North America and Europe. B&W’s products are certified Kosher, food safety compliant and naturally packed for maximum freshness. Learn more about B&W at www.bwqualitygrowers.com.

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New Study Explores Beneficial Affects of Blueberries

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The equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries, given as 22 g of freeze-dried blueberries, may beneficially affect areas of health in overweight men with type 2 diabetes, according to new research study.

The double-blind study was conducted at the Stratton Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Albany, New York. It found that intake of the equivalent of one U.S. cup of fresh blueberries (given as 22 g freeze-dried blueberries) resulted in clinically significant improvements in measurable indicators of type 2 diabetes – Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and fructosamine – compared to a placebo.

These indicators represent two ways to measure glycemic control in those living with diabetes. First, measuring HbA1c levels provides insight into long-term glycemic control, with the ability to reflect the cumulative glucose level history of the preceding two-to-three months. Testing fructosamine levels provides information on average blood glucose levels over a two-to-three-week time period.

The results also showed significantly decreased levels of serum triglycerides after blueberry consumption compared to placebo. Left untreated or uncontrolled, elevated blood triglyceride levels may increase the risk of serious complications such as cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of morbidity and mortality for individuals with diabetes.

“To date few human clinical trials have evaluated the potential beneficial health effects of blueberries in populations with type 2 diabetes,” said Kim Stote, Ph.D, MPH, RDN, who has a research appointment at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, and is the study’s lead investigator.

“While the results cannot be generalized to all populations, the evidence that a dietary intervention with a realistic serving of blueberries may be an effective strategy to improve metabolic factors associated with type 2 diabetes.”

Over an eight-week period, researchers studied 52 overweight male participants between the ages of 51 and 75 who had a medical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes for at least six months as indicated by hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) > 6.5 and < 9 and BMI > 25 kg/m2. During the study, non-insulin diabetes medications were prescribed to 100% of the participants.

Other inclusion criteria for subjects included no insulin use and no heavy exercise. Participants were randomly assigned one of two interventions: either 1) 22 g of freeze-dried blueberries (the equivalent of one U.S. cup/d fresh blueberries) along with their regular diet or 2) 22 g of a placebo powder (matched in energy and carbohydrate content to the freezedried blueberries) along with their regular diet.

Of note, fiber was not controlled in the study, which is known to influence glycemic response. Fasting plasma glucose and serum insulin were not significantly different after eight weeks of consumption of freeze-dried blueberries, compared with placebo.

Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, CRP concentrations, blood pressure and body weight were not significantly different after eight weeks of consumption of freezedried blueberries, compared with the placebo.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10). Approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when insulin is made by the pancreas, but the body’s cells gradually lose the ability to absorb and use the insulin. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing in the U.S. population due to aging, physical inactivity, being overweight and obesity status, all of which are serious risk factors.

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Strawberries Improve Heart Health in Male Teens, Study Says

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Teen age boys who are at higher risk for heart disease than their peers may benefit from eating a lot of strawberries, according to a recent small study. 

“The literature to date strongly supports the concept that the regular consumption of strawberries can be associated with improvements in cardiovascular health,” according to a University of California-Davis news release.

The study by UC-Davis researcherss Roberta Holt, Carl Keen and others, “Effects of short-term consumption of strawberry powder on select parameters of vascular health in adolescent males,” was published in the Food & Function journal. The study is the result of the 2019 Berry Health Benefits Symposium.

The goal of the study is to better inform dietary recommendations about the amount and frequency of strawberry intake to support cardiovascular health at each life stage.

The research team prioritized teenagers for their study because heart disease risk can begin in childhood. 

The study used only 25 teens, recording results an hour after consumption and again a week later. More studies, especially longer-term studies, are needed in a variety of populations because many factors influence how polyphenols in strawberries affect the heart, according to the release.

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California Strawberry Commission Issues an Open Letter

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During the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the food supply chain has been called upon to create stability for the country. As the largest agricultural employer in the country, California strawberry farms were among the first to implement CDC guidance. Strawberry farms are committed to protecting farm worker health, maintaining farm jobs and harvesting every box for American consumers.

For consumers, strawberries have a special role, as one of the top two fruits designated as high in vitamin C. During the spring (April 15-June 1) strawberries are the second most consumed, high in vitamin C, fresh fruit, after oranges.

Now, strawberry supplies are threatened by the COVID-19 peak in April and downward trend into May – which has already brought food service to a standstill and stores to regulate consumer access.

Perishable items will be most affected by the COVID-19 peak, especially crops such as berries that will be in full production during the same period of April through May. Blueberry farms in Florida, Georgia, and California, as well as California strawberry farms project more than 30% of the crop will be disrupted – threatening the loss of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars. For comparison, fresh strawberry retail sales were over $953 million during the 13 weeks ending June 16, 2019.

Our options are few: leave the crop to rot in the field or pick every box and have faith in our supply chain partners to get this important source of vitamins and nutrients into the hands of consumers, through supermarkets, food banks, online, and every other channel available.

Our choice is clear – harvest every box. We have asked the US Department of Agriculture for assistance and call upon every link in the supply chain to restock shelves and help us preserve over 70,000 jobs related to delivering healthy, nutritious strawberries to consumers, and for all to stay safe.

Sincerely,

Hector Gutierrez, Farmer & Chairman
Rick Tomlinson, President

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CU Research Finds Cash Can Help Stressed-Out People Eat More Produce

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By Sarah Kuta

At the end of a long day, it’s tempting to order a large pizza or grab a drive-through cheeseburger for dinner. But, if offered cash, you might be persuaded to eat fruits and vegetables instead (or at least add them as a side dish).

That’s what researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found to be true when they studied the effects of stress and incentives on fruit and vegetable consumption. The results of their study, titled “Stress and number of servings of fruit and vegetables consumed: Buffering effects of monetary incentives,” were published in October in the Journal of Health Psychology.

These results are an important contribution to the growing body of literature about the psychology of incentives and other public health topics. More broadly, the findings support the implementation of health programs that incorporate incentives—for example, companies that offer lower health insurance premiums for employees who exercise or visit the doctor for preventative care.

“What we know is that people tend to eat less healthy when they are stressed,” said Angela Bryan, professor of psychology and neuroscience and one of the study’s co-authors. “We wondered if we associated a more positive thing with healthy behaviors, is there any way we might be able to offset that stress effect? So, if you see a carrot less as something like, ‘Ugh, gosh, I have to eat a carrot’ and more, ‘I get paid to eat a carrot,’ does that mitigate the effects of stress on healthy eating?”

To get an answer to those questions, Bryan and graduate students Casey Gardiner and Sarah Hagerty asked a group of 128 participants to record their stress levels and the number of fruit and vegetable servings they ate each day for three weeks. Some study participants got paid $1 for each serving of fruits and vegetables they ate, up to $5 per day, while other participants received no incentive.

The experiment confirmed that people ate fewer servings of fruits and vegetables on days when they reported feeling stressed. But, notably, participants who received cash incentives maintained their daily fruit and vegetable consumption, even when stressed.

The incentives, in essence, shielded the participants from the negative effect stress would typically have on their diets. Even the researchers were surprised at the clear link between cash, food choices and stress.

“Obviously, we had the hypothesis that incentives might buffer the effects of stress and diet, but I didn’t think it would be this clear,” said Bryan. “I thought there might be a glimmer of something going on, so when we actually saw the effects and the size of the effects, I was pretty stunned.”

The researchers noted in their paper that future studies might improve upon their design by using a more objective measurement method, rather than having participants self-report. Future research might also track participants over a longer period of time to measure whether—and for how long—they kept up the healthy behaviors.

On a more personal level, the findings suggest that we should find ways to reward ourselves for making healthy choices—watching TV as a reward for eating fruits and vegetables, for example. 

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Walnut Consumption Linked to Health, Longevity in Women, Study Concludes

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FOLSOM, Calif. — According to a new epidemiological study, women in their late 50s and early 60s who consumed at least two servings of walnuts per week had a greater likelihood of healthy aging compared to those who did not eat walnuts. After accounting for various factors that could impact health in older adults, such as education and physical activity, walnuts were the only nut associated with significantly better odds of healthy aging.

In this study, which was supported by the California Walnut Commission, “healthy aging” was defined as longevity with sound mental health and no major chronic diseases, cognitive issues or physical impairments following the age of 65. Researchers found a significant association between total nut consumption (including walnuts, peanuts and other nuts) and healthy aging, but the link was particularly robust for walnuts.

By 2034, for the first time ever, older adults will outnumber children. Baby boomers (those 65 and older) are expected to make up 21 percent of the population, with more than half being women. The significance of this demographic turning point in our country’s history is clear – research that examines the aging process, including simple, low-cost interventions like healthy food choices, will be especially crucial to healthier lifespans.

Previous research from primary investigator Dr. Francine Grodstein, formerly of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has found that eating walnuts may have a positive impact on reducing the risk for physical impairments in older adults as well as cognitive decline. Additionally, others in the same research group have found decreases in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes – all conditions that become more common as we age. There is no one solution to slowing down the effects of aging, but adopting the right habits, like snacking on a handful of walnuts, can help.

In this study, Grodstein looked at data from 33,931 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) to evaluate the association between nut consumption and overall health and well-being in aging. Between 1998-2002, female nurses in the NHS were asked about their diet (including total nut consumption); evaluated for chronic diseases (such as cancer, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease); and assessed for memory concerns, mental health and physical limitations (including daily activities like walking one block, climbing a flight of stairs, bathing, dressing oneself and pushing a vacuum cleaner). Of the study participants, 16% were found to be “healthy agers,” defined as having no major chronic diseases, reported memory impairment or physical disabilities as well as having intact mental health.

Although previous research has connected a healthy diet, including walnuts, to better physical function among older men and women, this study only included women. More research is needed to understand if these results hold true among men. Additionally, participants were not assigned to eat walnuts or other foods; they were simply asked about their dietary choices. It is possible that subjects misreported their dietary intake since this information was collected by questionnaires. As an observational study, this does not prove cause and effect. However, this research sheds light on simple habits that can influence health during later years in life – such as eating walnuts.

The California Walnut Commission (CWC) supported this research. The CWC has supported health-related research on walnuts for more than 30 years with the intent to provide knowledge and understanding of the unique health benefits associated with consuming walnuts. While the CWC does provide funds and/or walnuts for various projects, all studies are conducted independently by researchers who design the experiments, interpret the results and present evidence-based conclusions. The CWC is committed to scientific integrity of industry-funded research.

The California walnut industry is made up of over 4,800 growers and more than 90 handlers (processors). The growers and handlers are represented by two entities, the California Walnut Board (CWB) and the California Walnut Commission (CWC).

California Walnut Commission
The California Walnut Commission, established in 1987, is funded by mandatory assessments of the growers. The CWC represents over 4,800 growers and approximately 90 handlers (processors) of California walnuts in export market development activities and conducts health research. The CWC is an agency of the State of California that works in concurrence with the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

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New Study Indicates Strawberries may Reduce Alzheimer’s Dementia Risk

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The risk of having Alzheimer’s dementia in older adults may be reduced by eating more strawberries, according to researchers at Rush University, Chicago.

A team led by Puja Agarwal analyzed data collected from 295 people — ages 58 to 98 and dementia-free at the start of the study — using food questionnaires and neurological evaluations as part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project between 2004 and 2018, according to a news release.

The association between frequent strawberry consumption and decreased Alzheimer’s dementia emerged and information on the link was published in the December 2019 issue of Nutrients. 

Researchers said there is a potential link between disease symptoms and more oxidative stress and inflammation. Strawberries appear to have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, possibly due to high content of flavonoids and vitamin C. Also, animal studies have shown strawberries improve neuronal function, cognition and some motor outcomes, according to the release. 

Strawberry intake ranged from zero to two servings a week in the Rush study. Researcher found for every single serving increase in strawberry consumption, there was a 24 percent reduced risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. 

Overall, participants eating one or more servings of strawberries per week had a 34 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia when compared to those consuming none or less than once per month.

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