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Fri, Feb 24, 2017 AT 9:03 am - Eat Well
Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Blog Series: Plant-based Pest Solutions

By Jessica Huang

Photo via Jessica Huang

What degree/program are you pursuing at UCLA (include your year and focus)?

Hello! My name is Jessica Huang and I’m a third year undergraduate student pursuing a Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics degree and a Food Studies minor. I joined this major because I love looking at the details, even those under the microscope, and connecting them to the larger picture.

Talking synthetic chemicals at Mark Cuban’s RECESS Regionals. Photo via Jessica Huang.

What is the Global Food Initiative Fellowship?

The UC Global Food Initiative (GFI) was launched by President Napolitano in 2014.  It asks each of the 10 UC campuses to think critically about how we can nutritiously and sustainably feed a population that is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.  This issue is of direct importance to the UC community, where food insecurity among students and staff is of growing concern. The GFI Student Fellowship program provides funding to students working on research, internships, or other projects with a focus on food.

Can you tell us a bit about your project as a GFI Fellow?

For my project, I’m focusing on the sustainability and agricultural side of food studies. I have been developing and focusing on determining the benefits on natural plant-based pest solutions both agriculturally and in the home and office space. Currently there are options for natural pest control for large farms, however in the consumer side of the industry we are lacking choice. More specifically, I’m looking more in depth into the production of goods and produce and how the whole process, from farming in the fields to transporting to the groceries near you, can be more sustainable. In working with a fellow student, Nandeet Mehta, in his agricultural solutions startup, Pyur Solutions, I’ve been researching the advantages of plant-based, eco-friendly processes and chemicals for the agro-industry and the consumer industry. In conjunction, I wanted to explore sustainability in a greater scope and am the co-founder of S8, an organization that will expand the community focusing on sustainability and provide a platform for discussions across all disciplines and industries.

What inspired you to get involved in this project?

Growing up, I never truly saw the value in organic or natural produce. In my house, it was always, “why spend $5 for organic eggs when they taste exactly the same as $3 regular eggs?” It wasn’t until I started really looking into what goes on behind the scenes in the production of food, in America especially, that I began to understand the benefits of shopping and eating organic. In working with the Healthy Campus Initiative, I grew extremely interested in nutrition and food, and simultaneously wanted to apply my research background and science-minded self, and thus, my passion in food science and the agri-industry sprouted.

What has been most challenging aspects of your experience thus far?

In filing S8 as a non-profit organization, I have encountered the Mt. Vesuvius of paperwork that comes with trying to file a federally-recognized organization. There are a lot of nights sitting with dictionary.com open on one tab and a 50 page application or document on another. The amount of which I am learning, however, is invaluable and makes it all worth it.

Food for Thought Panel: How Nutrition is Tied to Success. Photo via Jessica Huang.

What has been most rewarding about your experience thus far?

In regards to Pyur Solutions, whenever we determine a positive effect that hasn’t been noticed before it lights me up. Sustainable agricultural solutions have the ability to combat a variety of issues in our environment and the research is just beginning. We have a lot to look forward in learning in the future and I’m beyond excited getting to be in the forefront of this with GFI, UCLA, and Pyur Solutions.

In starting my organization S8, my initial organization was a student org at UCLA called SNAC, the Student Nutrition Advocacy Club. We hosted an event called Food for Thought: How Nutrition Is Tied To Success with high-profile panelists including NBA athlete Metta World Peace, fitness coach Koya Webb, renowned scientist Dr. Luke Bucci, and others. It was truly an amazing experience to see students and adults, (especially those who maybe only came to snap a pic with Metta) excitedly scrawling notes in the margins of their program from the information they learned.

How does your work relate to the broader vision of the GFI?

Agriculture and food science play hand in hand into how foods are consumed. I think a lot of people ignore that side because farming isn’t always the most jaw-droppingly sexy topic, but it is equally important. Same with sustainability, the way the world operates today does not allow for the maximum opportunity and prosperity that could exist.

What’s one of your favorite articles, documentaries, books, or video clips about food?

The article that spoke most to me is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Annual Dirty Dozen Report that lists the filthiest produce offered in grocery stores everywhere, laced with chemicals that are a mouthful for me, even as the Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics major. How could you or I be expected to know what these chemicals are, let alone eat them? Definitely check it out here, especially if you are even slightly dubious about organics. It’ll make you think twice before you pop a chocolate strawberry in your mouth.

How can other students get involved in this issue or topic?

Join a student organization on campus, work with a nonprofit (they love passionate students), or intern! And the next time you’re grocery shopping, think twice before you make your selection. If you’re interested in hearing more or working about Pyur Solutions, S8, or have any questions about anything at all, email me at jessicakhuang@g.ucla.edu — I’m friendly, I promise!

Anything last thoughts you would like to share?

Turn your bottle of mosquito repellent or insect killer around to check out the ingredient list for chemicals like pyrethroids, piperonyl butoxide, or permethrin. Then, (shameless plug alert) stay tuned shortly for when Pyur Solutions can be found on the shelves near you full of ingredients you can actually recognize.

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Tue, Feb 21, 2017 AT 7:23 am - Eat Well
Answers to your Food Week questions on food, health, and climate

By: Hannah Malan, Graduate Student Researcher, EatWell

In fall, the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative hosted a Food Day panel discussion with three experts to help us better understand the environmental footprint of our food—our “foodprint.” We followed up with the panelists to answer some outstanding questions from our audience.

Meet the experts:

Dr. Jennifer (Jenny) Jay, PhD - Professor, UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability

Dr. Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD - Senior Dietitian, UCLA Medical Center and Assistant Adjunct Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Elliot Mermel - CEO and Cofounder, Coalo Valley (Cricket) Farm

1. Are there alternative options (better than beef) that are meat-based?

Beef and lamb are the most resource-intensive meats, with production resulting in 26 and 23 kg CO2-eq per kg, respectively. This includes methane emissions that occur during ruminant respiration along with the carbon footprint of the feed and maintenance of the animals. In contrast, pork and poultry produce 7 and 5 kg CO2-eq per kg, respectively. Eggs and nuts generate 4 and 2 kg CO2-eq per kg. Beans produce just 0.8 kg CO2-eq per kg. – Jenny

(In other words, poultry and pork have a smaller carbon footprint than beef and lamb; but eggs, nuts, and beans are best!)

2. People say soy is bad for you. Should we limit the amount of soy protein we eat?

Soy is not bad for you at all! Asian countries eat a ton of soy and they are some of the healthiest long-lived people! I’m more worried about the naturally-occurring hormones in dairy products than I am in soy. – Dana

3. What is the “role” of packaged/processed food in this conversation (e.g. vegetable chips, etc.) or is the message that we need to emphasize cooking and preparing meals from scratch?

Eating as close to nature as possible is best. Cooking and preparing meals from scratch is always healthier than restaurant or packaged foods. However, looking for packaged/processed foods with as few ingredients as possible, recognizable ingredient names, and that are also low in sugar and salt can also have a place in the diet. For instance, frozen fruits and vegetables with no added ingredients can be just as nutritious as fresh. – Dana

4. What are the best nutrient rich grains and foods to incorporate into a plant-based diet? I know a few: quinoa, amaranth, lentils, mung beans.

Farro, bulgur or barley, split peas, whole-grain/brown rice, black beans—almost any type of bean really! Wheat berries, spelt, etc. – Dana

5. I’ve heard feeding seaweed to cows reduces methane production. Is this technique legit?

Livestock are responsible for a huge fraction, 44%, of anthropogenic methane, a greenhouse gas with much more warming potential than carbon dioxide. There is some recent work showing that in a laboratory simulation of a cow’s digestive system, additions of relatively small amounts of seaweed (equivalent to 2% of the cattle feed) did result in greater than a 70% decrease in methane production. Some work with live sheep also has shown significant decreases.

The technology is new, so long term impacts on productivity and animal health have not yet been evaluated. Also, this technology would only apply to the feedlot segment of the animal’s life. Typically, cattle spend most of their lives on pasture and then move to a feedlot for “finishing.”

It is important to note that due to methane production throughout the lifespan (pasture and feedlot), the carbon footprint of ruminants is much, much higher than that of other protein sources (see my response to question 1). Even with the substantial reduction of methane from ruminant respiration during the feedlot period, there are still more climate friendly ways to gain protein. – Jenny

6. What should we do with our food waste if we don’t have access to compost bins?

Given the important role that reducing food waste can play in lessening our “foodprint,” we can all strive to get better at generating less waste. For example, we can take plastic containers with us to restaurants, which encourages us to pack up and eat later what we might have thrown away. This saves the disposable take out containers as well!  

Careful meal planning does take time, but it provides huge benefits in the way of reducing waste, increasing our consumption of healthy foods (and decreasing our reliance on those typically less-healthy last minute options), and saving money.  

Try to spend some weekend time deciding what you’ll eat during the week. You might really like the extra time this gives you to buy and prep the foods you’ll be eating. If you do tend to change plans a lot, you’ll need to be careful with buying perishables. Remember you can always freeze your veggies and leftovers.

Finally, it’s great to learn how to make a simple soup that can help you use up stray veggies, beans, and pasta in your fridge. This can be as simple as boiling up veggies in broth, and running it through your blender. Cashews and white potatoes will add a creamy texture.  Similarly, smoothies will help reduce fruit and greens waste—you can freeze fruits and greens ahead, and then spin them up for a quick and healthy breakfast. – Jenny

7. Is eating insects really a promising alternative to conventional meats?

Traditional diets across Asia, Africa, and Latin America incorporate insects as important sources of protein—often as delicious delicacies! While the act of eating insects is not yet a widely appreciated source of sustainable protein in the western world, with dwindling land, water, and resources and trending environmental-consciousness, insect consumption is more than just a fad; it’s the food of the future.  

Tens of millions of dollars has been injected into the edible insect industry across North America and Europe over the past few years and hopefully this belief in sustainable protein production will trickle down to the plates of consumers. – Elliot

8. How many crickets would you have to eat to make the protein gained in beef? Does this offset environmental benefits?

Comparing raw crickets and raw beef, per 100g, crickets have 8-25g of protein while beef has 19-26g of protein. In general, insects require six times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein and emit less greenhouse gasses.

From personal experience and basic research, I say that there are many environmental benefits (less land use, water and feed use, greenhouse gas emissions) of raising crickets compared to traditional techniques of beef production.  – Elliot

9. Can you talk about DIY, home-based insect production? Are you thinking about offering classes in mealworm husbandry?

One of the toughest parts of insect farming is dialing in the variables specific to the space you are raising them in. Since this is a natural aspect of all DIY projects, I encourage people to take the leap and go through the trial and error period. There are many open-source forums online that can help solve problems.

We are willing to offer basic help to anyone in need of insect raising advice but keep in mind that the majority of hindrances in an individual’s farming will be lack of insect-specific equipment, a market that is still in its larval stages.  – Elliot

“Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally accepted, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritional adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.” – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


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Fri, Feb 10, 2017 AT 12:08 pm - Eat Well
The Current Hottest Beverage Trend: Kombucha

By Phillip Cox

Photo via Google Images

Kombucha is one of the hottest health beverage trends today, despite having been around for centuries. Its  first recorded use was in China 221BC during the Tsin Dynasty. So what’s the big deal?

Let’s first take a step back and discover what kombucha actually is. Kombucha is a fermented tea which tastes like a fizzy apple cider. The tea is fermented exactly like wine, but with the Kombucha culture, called a “SCOBY,” which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

So why is it the newest health fad today? Well, according to WebMD, there has been much speculation about the numerous health benefits of kombucha including immune support, weight loss, reduced joint pain, cancer prevention, increasing energy, improving liver function, detoxification of the body, and digestion. People today are just now realizing and understanding that the probiotics in this drink can work wonders on their body and how it makes them feel.

Digestion support is one of kombucha’s potential health benefits (Dufresne, 2000). The abundance of probiotics and enzymes are what impart these potential digestive benefits. Kombucha has been speculated in experimental human studies to even be more effective than brand name drugs in treating conditions like heartburn and ulcers. Something that is very interesting is that kombucha can help maintain a healthy balance of candida yeast in the gut by populating it with what many refer to as “good bacteria” (WebMD).

For us college students, the energy that kombucha can give to its consumers might be important, especially for those 8am and afternoon classes! The fermentation of black tea produces iron; the tea also has a small amount of caffeine, and B vitamins, which are known to give energy to one’s body. In terms of cancer prevention, glucaric acid is in the drink, and has been also speculated to reduce incidences of cancer in humans (Dufresne, 2000). However, more scientific studies of this are needed to further prove this speculation.

Kombucha drinks can easily be bought at your local stores but often can run a high price range from around $3-5 per drink. As many of us are poor college students, we can save some money by making our own delicious kombucha at a fraction of the cost and it even makes for a fun and easy science project for you to do at-home. A picture of my very own kombucha brewing can be seen in the picture below.

Kombucha brewing on Phillip's countertop.

To make your own kombucha, you will need the following materials:

You need pH strips to test its acidity and a hydrometer to test how much alcohol is in your fermentation. You can easily order these on amazon using the links above. Some other things you will need are a quart-sized glass container as seen to the right, a stirring utensil, a cloth to put over the jar (you don’t want explosions!), and a rubber band.

Ingredients:

  • SCOBY
  • Sugar
  • Tea Bags (any flavor of your choice!)
  • Distilled Vinegar (only for the first batch)
  • Fruit for flavoring

The main ingredient that you need is the SCOBY, which can easily be purchased at your local healthy grocery store and even can be bought online here: SCOBY.

I would personally recommend the store Erewhon by the Grove in midtown Los Angeles (7660 Beverly Blvd A, Los Angeles, CA 90036). From research I discovered that this was the cheapest place you can buy a $25 Kombucha Starter-Kit. To make your kombucha, follow these steps:

1. Dissolve sugar in hot water in your glass container. The ratios of all the ingredients can be found here depending on how much kombucha you want to make or what size container you have.

2. Add the tea bags with flavors of your choosing to the glass

3. Let your tea jar cool after for around 10-15 minutes and then remove the tea bags.

4. Add a little distilled white vinegar to the jar as a starter. As you make more batches, you won’t need to add vinegar, simply save some kombucha tea from the last batch and pour it into the one you are brewing as a starter. This starter vinegar or tea makes the tea acidic preventing any harmful bacteria from growing in your kombucha.

5. This is where you want to take your pH strips and test the pH to make sure the pH is around 4.6. Add some more vinegar or starter tea if it is too high.

6. Take a small sample of your kombucha and save it for later for alcoholic testing.

7. With clean hands, drop your SCOBY into the jar.

8. Cover your jar with the cloth and secure it with a rubber band.

9. You can even add some fruit in their to flavor up your Kombucha even more!

10. Allow it to sit on your tabletop at room temperature for around a week.

11. Following this week, you want to test your pH again. The pH should be within the range from 3.2 to 2.8. If the pH is still too basic (too high), then you want to let it brew for a day or two more.

12. You also want to test the alcoholic content of your kombucha at this point as well. Take that small sample of pre-fermented kombucha and some from the finished batch and then use your hydrometer directions to measure both. Don’t want you to get drunk during your day of classes. Don’t worry though, the alcoholic content will usually not reach more than 0.5%.

13. Remove the SCOBY culture that is left and save it for your next batch.

14. Start filling up some bottles and you’re good to go with a healthy probiotic energy drink for class.

Ultimately, what the SCOBY culture does is that it turns that bowl of sweet tea into a drink full of healthy vitamins, minerals, and organic acids (Kombucha Background). The probiotics in this drink are also, as stated, very healthy for you.

However, I must warn you that kombucha is definitely an acquired taste. It’s vinegary taste may take some time getting used to, but considering all these health benefits, I think the time to get used to is worth it!

Kombucha does seem to have many proven health benefits that will make you feel energized and healthier. Go to your local grocery store and give it try. Who knows you may love it enough to start making your own!

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.


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Wed, Feb 1, 2017 AT 9:03 am - Eat Well
Olympic Diets

By Phillip Cox

Photo via Instagram (@SBNation)

Ever wonder what Olympic athletes put in their bodies to get them performance ready? Let’s take a peek into what astonishing and quirky diets these athletes fess up to. Eater Magazine notes that more than 10,000 athletes consumed 460,000 pounds of food a day at the 2016 Rio games this year!

Michael Phelps, who is the most successful Olympic athlete of all time, had a 12,000 calorie diet in 2008 when he was 23. Global News

notes that for breakfast he ate 3 breakfast sandwiches loaded with mayo and cheese as well as an omelette with 5 eggs, 3 slices of French toast, 3 chocolate chip pancakes, two cups of coffee, and a bowl of grits on top of all of that. For lunch, he would eat a pound of enriched pasta, 2 ham and cheese sandwiches, and 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks. Finally, for dinner, he would eat a pound of pasta, an entire pizza, and additional energy drinks. I guess that out-of-this-world athletes need out-of-this-world diets!

It might be interesting to note that other athletes have habits of their own. GQ Magazine notes that the world’s fastest runner, Usain Bolt, starts the day with an egg sandwich followed by a workout and then has a light lunch of pasta with corned beef, meat or fish. Throughout the day while training, he satisfies his appetite with mangos, pineapples, and apples. For dinner, he replenishes all those calories lost with a large meal of Jamaican dumplings, roasted chicken, lots of vegetables including broccoli — something he’s admitted that he’s not a big fan of.

Olympic Village Cafeteria. Photo via NBCSports.com

Simone Biles, who is a gold medal winning gymnast, told ABC News

that she eats pepperoni pizzas after every single meet! Seth Weil who is a member of the US rowing team uses peanut butter and jelly burritos in a flour tortilla to fuel himself.

It is important to remember that diet is no joke for these athletes. Eatright.org attests that, for athletes, nutrition is “one leg of the three-legged stool that supports their performance. Genetic endowment coupled with sport-specific training and coaching cannot stand on their own without proper food and fluid intake.”

Jason Machowsky is on the United States Olympic Committee Sports Dietitian Registry and works with Olympians as well and Olympic hopefuls (Interview with an Olympic Dietitian). He mentions that certain nutrition recommendations for Olympic athletes may not be suitable for the average person (like you and I). For instance, he notes that endurance athletes need more electrolytes and sugar while training versus a regular person. Endurance athletes demand lots of energy from their cells to contract different muscles throughout the body. Electrolytes like potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium are all necessary in allowing nutrients to pass through cell membranes, stimulating action potentials and enabling them to perform various metabolic processes during exercise. Cramps, side stitches, and muscle fatigue are all signs of electrolyte imbalance and thus for high endurance athletes, replenishment of electrolytes is especially important to maintain high active performance (Importance of Electrolytes).

However, Machowsky also mentions that everyone needs their fruits and vegetables! It may be interesting to note that Machowsky touches on the topic of eating disorders. He explains that some Olympic athletes take an extremely regimented approach to their eating to maximize their performance, but sometimes the athletes become too focused. The new-ish term coined in 1997, Orthorexia, is defined as having obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet. In Rebecca Rupp’s National Geographic article titled ‘When it Comes to Eating, How Healthy is Too Healthy?’, she discusses how Orthorexic lifestyles are controlled entirely by their diets and it consumes their lives. Although it is not an official eating disorder, Rupp has interviewed many first hand people who are recovering from this disorder and sees what a significant toll it has taken on their lives.

Machowsky declares that developing a balanced, healthy relationship with food is everyone’s best bet for long-term health, in the Olympics or not. Olympic diets may be specialized designed for high performing athletes, but there are many things that we as “normal people” can learn from. He says that Olympians having very strong self-discipline and endurance for their diets because they know it’s only for 4 years and they have their eyes set on the gold. Although not every one of us live for the Olympic competition, Machowsky makes a very strong point that individuals need to discover and set their own goal or “gold.” Olympic athletes act through a lens that allows them to focus on each decision and how it will affect their performance and ability. Individuals like us must strive for our own gold, whether it be a certain body mass index, specific weight or jean size, muscle mass, etc.

With a specific goal in mind, we can all make strategic decisions on what we should be eating to have our bodies perform at their best. And although most of our goals do not include Olympic medals, we can all definitely set small goals and achieve them. After all, we are UCLA students who do not shy away from any challenge!

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.


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Mon, Jan 30, 2017 AT 9:00 am - Eat Well
Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Blog Series: Lessons from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

By Carly Randolph

Photo via Carly Randolph

1. What degree/program are you pursuing at UCLA?

My name is Carly Randolph and I am currently pursuing my Masters in Public Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. I am in my second (and final!) year of the program. My focus is in Community Health Sciences and I am especially interested in nutrition, stress, diabetes, and chronic diseases.

2. What is the Global Food Initiative Fellowship?

The UC Global Food Initiative (GFI) was launched by President Napolitano in 2014.  It asks each of the 10 UC campuses to think critically about how we can nutritiously and sustainably feed a population that is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.  This issue is of direct importance to the UC community, where food insecurity among students and staff is of growing concern. The GFI Student Fellowship program provides funding to students working on research, internships, or other projects with a focus on food.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your project as a GFI Fellow?

During the summer of 2016, I worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) in the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Research and Evaluation Unit. I was able to get my feet wet in a variety of projects surrounding research, evaluation, and health education! I assisted with several projects pertaining to increasing healthy food options for consumers (employees, hospital visitors, and locals) and I researched traffic light classification systems for food, contract and solicitation processes, and tool validation techniques. During one of my projects, I created a recommendation sheet for the County to use in developing a traffic light classification system for food at County institutions and universities, where food is easily classified as healthy or unhealthy based on a red, yellow, green classification system. I also worked on gathering food environment, demographic, and geographic information on several County institutions and hospitals in order to assist the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). My favorite part of my internship was that I was able to participate in health education events at grocery stores, conduct key informant interviews with store-owners, and attend focus groups at a healthy food business conference.

4. What inspired you to get involved in this project?

My mom has struggled with diabetes ever since I can remember, and I have watched her have pick and choose specific foods to eat or not to eat as a result. Because of this personal connection to diabetes, I became especially interested in how nutrition and diet can mitigate some of the effects of diabetes. After taking a tour of LACDPH and learning about the nutrition and diabetes research performed there, I thought it would be the perfect fit for me!

5. What has been most rewarding about your experience thus far?

The most rewarding part of my experience was attending health education events at Northgate grocery stores. I was able to take children on tours of the produce section of the grocery store and play a scavenger hunt game with them. They had to go find certain fruits and vegetables and I would explain nutritional facts to them about each fruit or vegetable they found.

6.  How does your work relate to the broader vision of the GFI?

My work relates to the broader vision of the GFI since it addresses food security through providing the Los Angeles community with information about healthy food and access to nutritious food. My work surrounding healthy food procurement and nutrition education serves as a method to reduce food insecurity and address nutritional needs of Los Angeles citizens.

7. How can other students get involved in this issue or topic?

Other students can get involved in this issue by either working in collaboration with the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention or performing their own research on methods to implement healthier foods into various institutions, restaurants, and cafeterias.

8. What’s one of your favorite articles, documentaries, books, or video clips about food?

One of my favorite articles about food is “Do We Waste A Lot Of Pumpkins We Could Be Eating?” I love the taste of pumpkin and thought this was fascinating since pumpkins can be used in so many different ways, rather than being wasted and thrown away.

9. Anything last thoughts you would like to share?

I learned so much during my field studies and I am excited to continue to share all that I have learned with other GFI fellows, as well as with the general public. Feel free to contact me at carlyrandolph2@gmail.com with any questions or ideas you may have!


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Tue, Jan 17, 2017 AT 1:44 pm - Eat Well
Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Blog Series: School Gardens Grow Healthy Students

By Meghan O’Connell

Photo via Meghan O'Connell

What degree/program are you pursuing at UCLA?

I’m a second year graduate student pursuing my Master’s in Public Health (MPH). I study nutrition and food systems because I think the food we eat is integral to our health and well-being.

What is the Global Food Initiative Fellowship?

The UC Global Food Initiative (GFI) was launched by UC President Napolitano in 2014.  It asks each of the 10 UC campuses to think critically about how we can nutritiously and sustainably feed a population that is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.  This issue is of direct importance to the UC community, where food insecurity among students and staff is of growing concern. The GFI Student Fellowship program provides funding to students working on research, internships, or other projects with a focus on food.

Can you tell us a bit about your project as a Fellow?

As a GFI Fellow, I spent my summer working with Seeds to Plate, a volunteer organization based at Mark Twain Middle School in Mar Vista, CA. Six years ago, Seeds to Plate created a gorgeous 1/3 acre garden at Mark Twain that they use as a living classroom. Their mission is to “create and maintain a school garden that is integrated into the academic environment. The garden promotes a healthy food culture, nurtures physical and mental well-being, and provides hands-on gardening and eating experiences for students, families and staff to foster mutual respect, appreciation of diversity, community spirit, and sustainability of the earth.”

Seeds to Plate has a growing body of lessons that teach core subjects (math, science, history and language arts) through exploration of the garden. This summer I helped developed their curriculum.

How do school gardens align with the GFI’s mission?

Gardening can have a meaningful impact on many aspects of a student's well-being.  A 2009 review of 11 garden-based interventions found that working in a garden helps students build self-efficacy, fosters positive mental and emotional health, and aids in the formation of healthy eating and physical activity habits.

The review determined that youth who participate in school gardens experience a connection with nature that often results in successful academic and personal outcomes by building critical knowledge, attitudes and skills. Growing their own food also increases students’ willingness to try fruits and vegetables. Plus, they get a chance to be physically active in the process.

Teaching students from a young age to grow their own food, appreciate nature, and feed themselves nutritious food can go a long way to ensuring future generations approach food self-sufficiently and sustainably.

Can you talk about your favorite lessons that you worked on with Seeds to Plate?

Every lesson has three components: a classroom presentation, a hands-on gardening activity, and a healthy snack. My favorite lesson I worked on is a 7th grade history lesson on the Columbian Exchange. The lesson begins with the students taste-testing a batch of very basic guacamole, using only the ingredients native to the Americas: avocados, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Students are asked to identify the flavors they think are missing. They are then presented with a map of the world showing the place of origin of most of the edible crops they see at the grocery store or farmers’ market today.  

A discussion follows that touches on the major economic and social effects of the Columbian Exchange on Eurasia, Africa and the Americas. Students are asked to think critically about colonialism, the globalization of our food system, and how the exchange of food crops during and after the Columbian Exchange impacted the foods we eat today. Finally, students get a chance to go out in the garden and harvest the remaining ingredients for their guacamole (onions, garlic, cilantro, and limes). They finish making it together and then eat it with corn chips.

I loved this lesson because it got the students thinking critically, being physically active in the garden, working on their cooking skills, and trying a healthy snack all at the same time. It was exciting finding ways to use their own garden to teach the students more about the world and to make them aware of the origins of ingredients that they eat all the time.

Some other favorite lessons include a math lesson that lets students plan and plant their own garden bed to learn about perimeter, area, and volume; a science lesson that uses peas from the garden to teach about Punnett Squares and genetics; and a history lesson that challenges students to design their own irrigation system after learning about agricultural techniques in Mesopotamia.

What was most challenging part of your fellowship?

This project was definitely a challenge for me.  I have previous experience working in schools — I worked at a secondary school in Kyrgyzstan while I was in the Peace Corps helping to develop their English as a Second Language and Health curriculums.  But this was my first time working in a garden and with the Common Core standards. I also had to familiarize myself with the 6-8th grade curriculums for math, science, history and language arts. Trying to develop interactive lessons that incorporated all of these elements was pretty tough!

The most rewarding part?

Getting to see the students participate in lessons I worked on was a great experience for me. I think there is so much value in learning that happens outside of the traditional classroom. I watched core subjects come alive for students when they could actively experience them instead of just reading about them from a text book. The garden became a space for students to explore learning outside of their comfort zones.  The lessons teach students to explore nature with inquisitiveness and appreciation instead of fear, disgust, or indifference. They learn about each component of their garden’s ecosystem, from the soil, to its water source and climate, to the birds and insects that pollinate the plants, to the fruits and vegetables that they plant and watch grow.

The garden helps establish healthy social norms in their school and provides them with the knowledge and skills they need to form healthy habits. When students learn what it takes to grow their own food they understand its value in a way that is not possible to comprehend by eating a bag of chips in front of a television screen.  

I was honored to work with Seeds to Plate this summer and to see firsthand the benefits of garden-based education in middle school students.  Their future goals include implementing a basic version of their curriculum in other neighboring schools.  The opportunities they provide students at Mark Twain are so valuable and I am excited to see the program grow!

How can other students get involved?

You can learn more about Seeds to Plate here. They are always looking for volunteers!

Photo via Meghan O'Connell


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Tue, Jan 10, 2017 AT 10:48 am - Eat Well
Developing a Healthier University with Walter Willett

By Phillip Cox

Walter Willett has become a household name to the thousands of professionals working in the expanding field of food science and nutrition. He has achieved more than you can imagine. The physician, nutrition researcher,  Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, and chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health is the most cited nutrition researcher in the world and the second most cited author in clinical medicine, with over 1500 published scientific articles, a full nutrition textbook, and 3 best-selling diet and nutrition books. It’s safe to say he holds a lot of influence in this field, playing an especially large role in the science of the American diet. Willett is now a Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and the Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, as well as a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

I had the opportunity to attend a seminar where Dr. Willett talked about all his experiences within the food realm and the initiatives he is a part of early February of 2016. At first, to me he was just a man with an unmistakable mustache, talking about how he once had a McDonald’s veggie burger at an airport that was so unbelievably revolting that he was convinced McDonald’s made it bad to turn people away from the healthier option. However, it took only took a few more sentences for me to become mesmerized by Willett’s discussion of food issues and projects.

Harvard’s Food Literacy Project

As Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Willett has taken the lead on food and nutrition initiatives at Harvard, running a similar program to the Healthy Campus Initiative here at UCLA. The professor is working with Harvard’s food services to develop a Food Literacy Project that consists of educating students about healthy foods, guiding on food resources available throughout campus and Boston, and conveying the principles clinically at Harvard Health Services. His program is school wide and advocates for a healthier lifestyle through better knowledge of the nutritious value certain foods bring as well as the food resources available to students.

Willett had early success with his program. In a joint effort with food services, Willett removed trans fats and reduced sodium in all foods of Harvard’s dining halls by 25% without students even noticing. Through this program he is teaching active fellowship students about the food system at Harvard, introducing them to the leadership involved, and utilizing students’ connections to other students in order to engage the community and connect food-related initiatives and projects to students.

Harvard utilizes a housing system where 90% of the students live in houses all 4 years and eat dining hall food during this time. The Food Literacy Project is efficient in getting connected to students by utilizing its fellows in each of the houses to act as the go-to source for food education. Similar to how the Healthy Campus Initiative here at UCLA is establishing a student presence by utilizing its student connections and outreach within the resident halls and through a variety of clubs. Through their Literacy Program, table tents that come on a rotating basis are set up near the dining halls with fellows and other individuals there to educate people about healthy food choices with posters and other materials. Through this program, they’ve even noticed a 50% increase in students from freshman year to senior year choosing brown rice over white rice.

Struggles Faced

However, Willett highlighted that a real struggle of the overall program is a lack of a formalized curriculum. They get passionate students and researchers involved in the program, but after 4 years they are gone. The problem Willett is facing is that there is a lack of a formalized curriculum and organization that would allow a continuous recycle of information from older students to younger ones. This lack of organization leads to many active students graduating with valuable information that is not utilized in subsequent years. Furthermore, the lack of career advantage for professors to teach these types of courses limits the numbers of courses they can provide and thus diminishes the interest he could gain from students. Willett’s passion for nutritional science is clear as he strongly says that he’s seen people even change career directions entirely because of some courses they took. He remarks that this field is open to a variety of different people with different interests from biology, physiology, education, public policy, to large-scale data research. Though he’s really disappointed that some of the most popular classes such as Global Nutrition, Nutrition, and Health, can’t be offered as much because they just do not have the resources for them.

Tackling Sugary Soda at Harvard

One example of Willett’s success is the change in availability of sodas at Harvard dining halls. At Harvard, he ideally does not want to eliminate those soda options, (partially due to the company contracts they have in dining halls), but just encourage students to move away from them or provide less sugary options. He’s developed a 3 color categorization for sugary drinks, with red (obviously indicative of being bad) being for drinks above 1g/oz of sugar, yellow being artificial sweeteners, and green being no sugar. By labeling these drink options at the soda machines with small stickers and providing a sign with the corresponding description of each color, he was able to influence student decisions towards less sugary options. Harvard dining has even made great leaps to reduce their 100% fruit juice to 50%, decreasing the sugar intake by a lot.

Tackling Sugary Soda at UCLA

Right here on campus at our very own lovely Bruin Plate, or BPlate, we have no commercial sodas served. All of the drinks at BPlate are made with carbonated water and fruit extracts that make for a delightful spritzer in our mouth. According to a BPlate Manager, these sodas have reduced sugar content over commercial sodas. I remember when Bplate opened, everyone was very excited about those spritzers. UCLA has done an exceptional job with BPlate being the ideal and premier healthy campus dining hall.

Harvard Food Literacy Project, https://dining.harvard.edu/food-literacy-project

Beyond the Universities

Willett is clearly a man with hands in a thousand different pots and his visions for a healthier world are inspiring. He truly wants to bridge this gap between science and diet, to create a reformed policy that overall benefits all of society, whether it be at Harvard or in small towns. His impact has even been seen when he was part of the program that influenced Starbucks to include wheat products into their menu of foods as opposed to pure white flour.

Walter Willett’s visions for a healthier campus and a healthier society are not far from our reach. As students we can make those visions reality by telling our friends and spreading the word about resources, like the Healthy Campus Initiative. Soon enough we will realize that it doesn't take much to make a change. As an undergraduate student here at UCLA, Walter Willett taught me from his seminar that being a part of something bigger than myself, like the Healthy Campus Initiative is truly empowering and gets me excited about what I can do to make a change on my campus. In writing my blogs, I hope to reach a large community and influence people to live healthier lives and learn more about all the initiatives going on around campus.

UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, http://healthy.ucla.edu/

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the EatWell Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.


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Mon, Jan 9, 2017 AT 12:37 pm - Eat Well
Global Food Initiative launches online toolkit to improve school food

By Meghan O’Connell, MPH student and Healthy Campus Initiative and Global Food Initiative GSR

Photo via Adobe

The University of California’s Global Food Initiative (GFI) has launched a free online toolkit aimed at providing anyone working with preK-12 schools with resources to help improve school food, nutrition education, and sustainability.

In 2014, over 17% of children and adolescents nationwide were obese. The National School Lunch Program provides over 30 million lunches per day to students across the country, with school meals providing almost half of daily calories for kids enrolled in breakfast and lunch programs. This puts schools in a uniquely important position to both serve healthy food to students, and also to provide them with the tools and education they need to form healthy, lifelong habits.

“What you eat not only impacts health, it also is strongly linked to academic achievement,” said Wendy Slusser, associate vice provost for UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative, who led the GFI project. “This toolkit offers resources to help organizations provide students with equitable access to healthy food, so they can eat better and maximize their opportunities for academic success.”

The newly launched Good Food for Local Schools website brings together resources from all of the UC campuses and beyond to provide educators, school administrators, community organizations, and parents, with resources to make good food a reality in their schools and communities. Resources span various sectors from full nutrition and gardening curriculums, to toolkits that guide operational change, to relevant research and policies surrounding school food, to service oriented projects and programs.

The range of resources includes the following:

a school nutrition curriculum,

• guides for rethinking school lunches and planning school menus,

an agenda for creating a new regional food system,

research to support healthy school meals,

a sample school food donation policy, and.

a documentary about the school food chain.

The toolkit was developed by members of the UC GFI community, who work with school districts all over the state to procure, cook, serve and teach about healthy and sustainable food.  The site was created in close collaboration with the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, as well as representatives from local school districts and experts from community nonprofits.

The EatWell Pod of UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative is featured on the site, serving as an exemplary model for how a university can engage with local food systems through curriculum, on-campus programming, and community engagement.  

Other UCLA featured resources include:

1. Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program

2. DIG Campus Garden Coalition

3. Fit for Healthy Weight Program

4. Transforming Corner Stores: Integrating Health, Food and Community

5. How to Set Up a School Salad Bar Manual

For more information about Good Food for Local Schools, please visit http://goodfood.ucla.edu.

____________

UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative works closely with the UC Global Food Initiative.  The GFI, launched by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2014, addresses the critical issue of how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025. The initiative aligns the university’s research, outreach and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions — throughout California, the United States and the world — for food security, health and sustainability.


Mon, Dec 5, 2016 AT 9:51 am - Eat Well
Chocolate Crickets: A Beginning to Food Week

By Phillip Cox

Photo via the Daily Bruin

News articles across the internet and random links on Facebook are constantly expressing how harmful it is to eat meat because of how the meat is made and processed. However, few of these sources provide alternative, delicious options. Take for example this news article by PBS, which cites scientific studies showing the correlation between consumption of processed meats and colorectal cancer. It’s difficult to truly listen to what articles like these are trying to get across when most meats are so widely accepted in society and used in many foods today.

Attending the Food Day Panel Discussion a few weeks ago, organized by UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative was extremely eye opening. National Food Day is recognized annually on October 24 and was established by the Center for Science in the Public Interest to celebrate healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food (National Food Day). This panel celebrated Food Day with a discussion featuring experts in nutrition, environmental sustainability, and food science. Specifically the panel featured Dr. Dana Hunnes (Senior Dietician at UCLA Medical Center), Elliot Mermel (CEO and Cofounder of Coalo Valley Farms), Dr. Jennifer Jay (Professor at UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability), and moderated by our own Dr. Wendy Slusser, Associate Vice Provost of UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative.

When I first walked into the event at 12pm Monday of October 24, I immediately encountered a table full of vegan dishes. Food from apple vegan chicken to beet salad to kale and quinoa salad and finally some delicious cucumber water filled the tables. This was what they called a “Flexitarian Lunch.”  A flexitarian diet is one that is primarily plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat products. This type of lunch gave attendees like me the opportunity to experience what a common lunch is for those who follow a flexitarian diet.  

Photo via Phillip Cox

The Food Day Panel first started off talking about the damage to the environment that is caused by meat-based farms. They emphasized the increase in greenhouse gases is mainly caused by cows and pigs. Some European studies have even identified an increase in greenhouse gases upwards of 18% to 31% of the total EU emissions as a result of livestock farming (European Commission, 2006). The panel discussed alternatives to eating meats, which included many different types of plants as substitutes. One strong point that they made was that an individual could receive the necessary amount of daily protein from eating a reasonably-sized portion of vegetables instead of meat. A common approximation is a 3 oz portion of chicken equaling 1 cup and 2.5 tablespoons of lentils or 1-1.3 cups of black beans. This was very informative because I feel that many people do not realize the amount of nutrients you can get from simply eating plant-based foods.

After a general discussion about the effects of eating meat, Mermel began talking about his unique cricket farm.  Attendees were offered samples of his chocolate crickets, and I found them quite delighting. I initially found the crunchiness of the cricket exoskeleton a little unsettling. However, after swallowing it and letting my taste buds really marinate the chocolate taste, I could not taste the cricket at all. It was sweet and creamy as any chocolate would be. I’m thankful I tried them, but would you have tried them? The crickets eat an all-organic diet of fruits and vegetables that are grown on the farm as well. Thanks to people like Mermel, eating insects is becoming more and more popular and socially acceptable now!

Not only are the crickets nutritious, but they are raised in an environmentally friendly way as well. Mermel talked about how the farm utilizes an aquaponics system. This aquaponics system combines conventional aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroculture (growing plants in water instead of soil). The farming requires little resources and the resources that are used (water) is continually recycled. In addition to the discussion of the cricket farm, Dr. Hunnes briefly talked about the effects of processed meat on our bodies and lifestyle while Dr. Jay discussed the impact of agriculture on the environment.

Reflecting on the panel’s discussion, I’ve come to realize that educating and convincing people seems to be the biggest struggle. Even my friends are not as open to making changes in their current diet because they are comfortable with their current lifestyle. Stepping out of that comfort zone takes not only a risky jump but also an open mind. Consequently, T\the panel stressed the importance of sharing information and continuing to educate friends and acquaintances about different alternative options to meat.

Attending this discussion made me more aware of alternative diets and I look forward to potentially incorporating some of these ideas I learned about into creating delicious and environmentally friendly meals! I’ve even already looked into some new flexitarian recipes.  It’s events like these that truly make me think about what I’m eating and I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn about something important to me outside of my immediate educational curriculum. I look forward to attending more events like these that make me mindful of what I’m eating.

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.

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Mon, Oct 31, 2016 AT 8:29 am - Eat Well
Tricks to Enjoy Your Treats: How to Mindfully Enjoy Your Candy on Halloween

By Danielle de Bruin

Photo via Google Images

Halloween is my second favorite holiday (nothing beats Christmas for me!). I love dressing up in clever costumes and going to parties with my friends. However, there is one part of Halloween that can be hard and stressful for me: the candy.

I have a huge sweet tooth, so I would always want to partake in the tradition of fun sized candy bars and pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cups on Halloween. However, sweets were a huge trigger for me. I thought of candy as a “bad food” and eating it made me feel guilty and shameful. As a result, I had a really hard time finding a balance with Halloween candy. Some years I’d eat so much that I’d be doubled-over in pain from a stomachache, while others I’d restrict myself to just one or two pieces and then jealously watch my friends enjoy the Kit-Kats and Reese’s Pieces I so desperately wanted. Whether I was restricting or binging, I’d worry about the impact those extra calories would have on my waistband.

It wasn’t until I learned about mindful eating that my relationship with Halloween candy, and other foods, began to improve. To eat mindfully is to eat with intention and attention; it is to eat with the intention of bringing yourself both nourishment and pleasure and with careful attention to what you’re eating, your feelings about your food, and the effect food has on your body. In today’s society, it’s incredibly easy to eat mindlessly; I often find myself eating in front of the TV or on the way to class, and when I’m focused by the TV or putting one foot in front of the other I’m certainly not paying attention to the food I’m putting in my mouth. To put it simply, if you’re not paying attention to your food, how could you possibly fully experience it and enjoy it?

When I would eat candy on Halloween, I was never just eating it; I was thinking about how many calories were it in, wondering if people were judging me as I ate it, and repeating over and over to myself “Candy is bad for you” or “You shouldn’t be eating this.” In other words, I wouldn’t eat my candy with attention or the intent to enjoy it and was consequently left unsatisfied because I had never fully enjoyed the candy. Furthermore, without feeling satisfied, I would often reach for another piece, and then another, and then another...until I had acquired a stomachache and feeling of self-hatred for letting myself go “too far.”

However, since I learned about mindful eating, I’ve established a much better relationship with Halloween candy and learned some tricks to help me cope with the anxiety that used to plague me every Halloween. If you’ve ever experienced stress or anxiety around sweets, here are my tricks to enjoying treats on Halloween:

1. Actively enjoy your candy. Eat it mindfully and be completely present while you’re enjoying your sweets. That means don’t eat it in front of the TV or while you’re writing that essay that’s due this week. Savor the flavors, textures, scents, and shapes of the candies you choose to enjoy. If you fully engage with your food and give it all your attention, you’re more likely to enjoy it and feel satisfied later.

2. Lose the rules. When you tell yourself you can’t have something, or you can only have a fixed number of something, chances are you’ll want it even more. For me, when I told myself I couldn’t have more than one or two pieces of candy, all I could think about was candy and how much I wanted it. So, even when I ate those one or two pieces I didn’t enjoy them because all I could think about was how I wanted more.

3. Instead of imposing rules on yourself, listen to you body. Are you full? Are you hungry? Do you really want that Hershey’s Kiss or do you want it just because it’s sitting right in front of you? If you’re really craving something, your body will let you know, so listen to it! Also, remind yourself that the candies associated with Halloween are available year-round. If you’re not in the mood for candy today, today’s not your only opportunity to enjoy it! You can always have it as a treat on another day.

4. Remind yourself that foods are not inherently “good” or “bad.” These are labels that society has attached to certain foods, not explicit qualities of foods. Yes, some foods are more nutritious than others, but it’s also important to remember that we eat for nourishment and pleasure. Less nutritious foods can still be a part of a nutritious diet when they’re enjoyed in moderation. So, if you find yourself labeling candy as “bad” and something that should be avoided, remind yourself that it’s okay to eat less nutritious food for pleasure from time to time.

I hope these tricks help you enjoy your Halloween to its fullest. If you have any tricks that weren’t listed above, please share them with me by sharing on social media or commenting below!


Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


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Tue, Oct 25, 2016 AT 8:08 am - Eat Well
The Healthiest Building On Campus

By Phillip Cox

Photo via the Luskin Center Website

As every UCLA student, staff, or faculty member must know by now, there stands a newly finished classic red, brick building next to Pauley Pavilion. Many, however, still wonder what exactly this building is. Most are just thankful for the construction project being complete!

This new tall building is the newly finished Luskin Conference Center, arguably the healthiest building on UCLA’s campus. It’s quite a building, accompanied with 254 welcoming guest rooms, a full-service Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and lounge called Plateia, a fitness center, and valet parking. This building is open to host a variety of conferences, meetings, and events, bringing together “scholars, innovators, leaders and the diverse campus community setting the stage for building relationships, exchanging ideas and making breakthroughs possible” (Luskin Conference Center Information).

What’s equally as amazing is that the Luskin Conference Center is Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified. The building features a number of green building elements: 30% of the building materials are comprised of recycled materials and 10% were procured from within 500 miles, 50% of the wood used is FSC certified from sustainably managed forests, all materials used in the interior of the building are low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), and the construction team diverted 96.5% of construction water from landfill through the use of advanced recycling techniques (Luskin Conference Center Sustainability).

Specifically, the Food-Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative had great influence in the development of Plateia, the in-house restaurant at the conference center. Plateia is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant serving seasonally fresh vegetables and fruit with a minimum of 20% coming from sustainable, socially responsible, and humane sources. Dr. Wendy Slusser, the head of HCI, and Eat Well pod members ensured their healthy principles were heard by restaurant designers and executive chef Todd Sicolo to ensure the restaurant was serving a healthy and balanced meal that not only students could go to, but visitors to our campus. With food grown within 500 miles of the campus, environmentally friendly USDA Certified Organic ingredients, fair trade certified, and cage free or free-range food, Plateia is healthy, fresh, and sustainable. It even gives the resident B-Plate a run for the healthiest food option on campus! As Plateia is part of a public university, its waiters cannot accept gratuity for service. However, some diners still leave tips after dinings, so the Eat Well pod is in the process of discussing how these tips can be put towards other healthy initiative’s on UCLA’s campus, such as the food closet in the Student Activities Center.

During the Luskin Conference Center’s grand opening on October 7, 2016, the Healthy Campus Initiative was given the prestigious opportunity to host an exhibit in one of the smaller conference rooms. With the Tobacco Free Campus initiative fully established for a few years now, Breath Well Pod members were discussing working on improving enforcement practices with active volunteers on the look-out for those breaking the rules. With dance music coming on every 15 minutes, Move-Well pod demonstrators got us shaking our arms and legs for 5 minutes. They even encouraged us to give their hand-pedal machine a try. With EEG headpieces lined up like a sci-fi movie, the Mind Well table drew me in and helped me discover what it’s like to have your brain signals monitored. Get excited Bruins because according to the Be Well Pod, Bruin Bikes for quarterly rent will be available throughout campus starting next spring; so, say goodbye to those long treks we all know about! Making my final stop at the Eat Well Pod table, I popped a miracle berry in my mouth and what it appeared to be magic made a lime taste as sweet as an orange. It’s not actually magic, check out the science behind it here. The Healthy Campus Initiative established a great presence at the event and spread awareness of their principles and initiatives revolving around healthy living to many people who had not yet discovered our great organization.

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.

Mon, Oct 24, 2016 AT 9:08 am - Eat Well
Battle of the Burritos: Understanding the Footprint of What We Eat

By: Hannah Malan, Graduate Student Researcher, UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative EatWell Pod

Photo via Eat Well Pod

As part of our Food Day celebration this year, the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative EatWell pod collaborated with Jennifer Jay, Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering, to create an infographic that compares the nutrient data and environmental impact of two different recipes for one much beloved food item: the burrito.

We created two burritos – one bean and veggie, one beef and cheese – and compared their overall nutrition profile as well as the carbon footprint of the ingredients inside. The results were impressive. While similar in calories and protein, the beef burrito had 10x the footprint of the veggie burrito.

We asked UCLA Health System Senior Dietitian, and Fielding School of Public Health Adjunct Assistant Professor Dana Hunnes to comment on our results.

From a dietitian’s perspective, can you help us better understand the difference between eating a veggie versus meat burrito?

Swapping out plant-proteins and vegetables in general is always great for your health and the environment (as we can see from this infographic).

From the perspective of our health, there are so many vitamins and minerals that are present in plant-based foods, along with antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and just a whole host of nutrients that can only be found in plant foods.

We do not need nearly as much protein as “we’ve been ‘taught’ to believe” that we do. In fact, according to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), we really only need roughly 0.8g/kg of protein per day, even for active adults!

What does this mean?

It means that a 135-pound female (~61kg) only needs about 49 grams of protein each day. A 180-pound male (~81kg) only needs about 65 grams of protein each day.

These are really quite easy to obtain! After all, almost everything has protein in it! Not only that…but, this study shows that body builders, really only need around 1.3-1.5grams/kg of protein…so, even if you’re a body building athlete, you still only need ~105grams of protein per day, not the stereotypical 3x as much protein.

The bean burrito has 23 grams of protein! That’s nearly 2/3 of what a healthy female needs over the course of the day, and roughly ½ what a healthy male needs. The beef burrito has slightly more protein (28 grams), but a much larger (10x) carbon footprint. It's also important to note that we can only absorb up to 30 grams of protein at any one time, so both burritos are approaching that limit.

You also wrote your PhD dissertation about climate change and sustainable dietary patterns. Can you comment on the environmental impacts of the two burritos?

Aside from all the healthy nutrients that are more likely to prevent and/or mitigate chronic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney disease), plant-based proteins (think: beans, legumes, quinoa) and a plant-based diet is extremely good for the environment.

As you can see from the side-by-side comparison of carbon equivalents from the two diets, the plant-based burrito is much better. Roughly 10% the amount of CO2 equivalents as the beef burrito.

In addition to driving less and using less electricity, the FASTEST, EASIEST, AND BEST way to reduce our carbon footprint is to eat a plant-based diet. We do NOT need meat in our diet, and in fact, there is evidence to suggest that meat-heavy diets increase the risk of and exacerbate already-present chronic diseases, and are pro-inflammatory.

So, from a personal-health perspective, and an Earthly-health perspective, the best thing we can do is eat a plant-based diet.

What are Americans actually eating?

According to the FAO’s 2012: World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050 report, average per capita intake of meat for the United States is roughly 200 pounds per person per year, and will increase to 212 pounds per person per year in the next decade.

In developing countries, current intake is roughly 62 pounds per person per year, and is expected to increase to roughly 93 pounds per person per year over the same time frame. This represents a huge problem since the developing world’s population is going to increase far faster than the developed world’s.

We in the United States and other developed countries need to demonstrate our commitment to reducing our meat consumption if we expect the rest of the world to follow suit.

But aren’t high protein diets good for weight management and keeping us full?

Consuming a whole-foods plant-based diet – meaning non-packaged, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocados, healthy vegetable fats (olive oil) – increases satiety because it has such high volume and water content.

Of course, consuming packaged plant-based foods (i.e. Doritos) will lead to weight gain and low satiety because there is minimal volume, for a lot of calories.  But, consuming multiple foods from those listed above will increase satiety, and can certainly help with weight management and weight loss.

It’s about diet quality!  Protein does enhance satiety, but overdoing protein can just lead to more fat-storage. Any time you omit a food-group you are likely to lose weight, which is what Atkins/high-protein diets essentially do. I am advocating that we omit the animal-proteins group…similar concept; but switches the ‘food pyramid.’

Learn more about our Food Day campaign, check out our favorite food films, and see what UCLA Dining is doing to reduce our campus ‘foodprint.’

Read more from Dana on her Huffington Post blog.

Join the conversation #FoodDay2016 #UCFoodForAll #UCLALiveWell


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Mon, Oct 10, 2016 AT 12:08 pm - Eat Well
Snap, Post...and then Dig In!

By Phillip Cox

Have you been to a trendy restaurant recently? Standing on chairs, rearranging table settings, or rolling up the blinds to get natural light just to get the perfect picture of your food has become commonplace. Food bloggers, instagrammers, and tweeters of food are rampant, which raises the question: are people going to restaurants to eat and just happen to take pictures or are people going to restaurants to just to get these beautiful pictures? Is instagramming changing the face of how we dine?

I can personally speak for my sister when I say that instagramming has changed the way she dines. Snapping a picture of her food prior to eating her first bite has become a ritual. Just look at these snaps below. The decadence!


"Homemade Thai Yogurt in Thailand" via Kelly Cox (@kelll_e) on Instagram

"Thai Tea Ice Cream Sandwich" via Kelly Cox (@kelll_e) on Instagram

Instagram has become a way of life for millennials; we instagram while we groggily wake up, in between classes, and as we fall asleep. As a result, we are incessantly shown pictures of beautiful food, colorful plates, and locally cold brewed coffee. We are constantly reminded of the endless dining options out there, and thus often may feel a sense of “FOMO” or fear of missing out. And if not FOMO, at least a minor nudge that these are places that provide beautiful food. Subsequently, once you do make it to these hot spots, you want to be part of the trend, and you also stand by the window for natural light, in order to capture the undeniable beauty of the food you’re indulging in.

This cycle indeed changes the way we eat and appreciate food, and from the opposite end, changes the way eateries present and cook their food. Take a look at Trisha Toh, food blogger extraordinaire @TRISHATES and just look at her photo on the left below. Plain and simple, her instagram is art. Or look at @HUNGRYNYC, photo on the right below. You will undeniably salivate looking at these pictures of food. Social media has unintentionally changed the way we appreciate, taste, and indulge in food. NY Mag even notes the show on FYI called Food Porn, in which the most famous instagrammed dishes are shared!

Homemade Curry via Trisha Toh (@trishates) on Instagram

"Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict" via hungrynyc (@hungrynyc) on Instagram

The Journal of Consumer Marketing proves with their research that taking pictures before one eats can actually make food taste better. The Journal specifically notes that when consumers take pictures before eating their food, “it increases attitudes and taste evaluations of the experience when consumption actually takes place.”

Even more interesting, the journal notes that taking pictures as well as seeing others eat healthy foods through their pictures will actually make healthy foods more enjoyable. The world of food is no longer just about being in the moment and enjoying it, it’s about savoring it through social media. Timeout Magazine notes that Instagram has caused consumers to not be able to enjoy their food without a few likes. Countless studies have shown that consumers who take those pre-food snaps perceive the food to be tastier and more pleasurable, explaining why many people have developed this ritual to get the full experience out of their meal.

NYMag studies show that the reason behind the increase in satisfaction after photographing food, is “delayed gratification.” Essentially, by delaying the intake of food in order to take a photograph, we increase awareness thus allowing more savoring of foods. In other words, stop and snap the roses!

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.




Fri, Oct 7, 2016 AT 10:26 am - Eat Well
7 Reasons Why I Love BPlate

By Danielle de Bruin

Today, October 7th, is Bruin Plate’s 3rd anniversary since its grand opening in Fall 2013. The health-themed dining hall, lovingly dubbed BPlate by UCLA students, opened my freshman year and has since played an important role in my UCLA experience; it’s where I bonded with classmates over the fear of looming midterms and gossiped with floormates over the latest dorm drama. Beyond its delicious food and the many fond memories I have of it, here are seven reasons why BPlate deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary today (and every other day too):

1. Before I ate at BPlate, I had no idea that chickpeas and garbanzo beans were the same thing nor had I heard of farro or wheatberry. BPlate introduced me to so many new, nutritious foods and gave me the perfect environment to sample them without fear. I likely wouldn’t have ordered seitan or rainbow chard on a menu or bought it at the supermarket, because I wouldn’t have wanted to “waste” money on a food I might not like. At BPlate, however, I could be adventurous without fear -- if I didn’t like something, I could just venture back into the dining hall for something new. BPlate also helped me re-discover foods I’d previously thought I disliked. I used to hate Brussels sprouts and kale, but after trying the delicious BPlate versions I love them both and even cook them in my apartment now!

2. BPlate has done wonders in reducing the stigma surrounding health food on UCLA’s campus. Many mistakenly believe that eating healthfully means cutting out all carbs or eating only salads, but BPlate proves that eating healthfully can be both delicious and exciting. Personally, I used to think that any amount of dessert was unhealthy. However, BPlate’s inclusion of desserts like frozen yogurt, mini tarts, and fresh fruit showed me that dessert can be part of a healthy diet when enjoyed in moderation.

3. BPlate’s architecture is one of my favorite parts about the dining hall. It’s almost always a beautiful, sunny day on UCLA’s campus and when the sun is shining I prefer to spend my time outdoors rather than inside buildings with artificial light. However, BPlate’s floor-to-ceiling windows allow me to enjoy sunlight and delicious food at the same time. The great views of campus are an added bonus.

4. BPlate is incredibly environmentally conscious. Over 30 percent of the food served in the dining hall is sustainable and locally sourced; it serves vegetables from local farms, free-range chickens, cage-free eggs, and fair-trade teas and coffees while composting 100% of pre- and post-consumer waste. Even the floors are made of recycled material. Eating at BPlate makes me feel like I’m doing something good for both myself and the environment.

5. As an incredibly indecisive person, I find eating in dining halls very stressful. There are so many dishes to choose from, which often leaves me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Before BPlate opened, finding healthy options added to my dining hall stress. BPlate, however, makes finding healthy options infinitely less difficult and stressful. Every dish is created with nutrition and health in mind; all dishes are less than 400 calories and less than 30% of all calories come from fats. When eating at BPlate, I know that any dish I choose will be a healthy, nutritious option, which relieves much of my dining hall stress -- the only problem is that all the healthy options a BPlate are so good that I have trouble deciding between them!

6. While at your average dining hall servers might hurriedly toss a scoop of mashed potatoes or piece of chicken on a plate so they can serve students more quickly, at BPlate servers pay meticulous attention to the presentation of the food they serve. Every dish at BPlate has its own unique design and each plate is a work of art in and of itself. I love the presentation of the food at BPlate, because it makes me feel like I’m eating in a restaurant, not a college dining hall. I also found myself being more appreciative of the food in front of me when someone had taken the time to present it so beautifully. My experiences fall in line with one study, which found that presenting food in an aesthetically pleasing way enhanced consumers’ experience of their food.

7. I grew up in a very meat-oriented household, so before eating at BPlate I thought all vegetarians and vegans ate was salad and pasta. However, BPlate has since showed me that vegetarian and vegan diets are not at all limiting. Many of my vegetarian and vegan friends love BPlate too, because it offers them such a wide variety of plant-based options compared to typical dining halls. BPlate’s vegetarian options are so good that I often choose them over the meat dishes!

What do you love about BPlate and/or what has eating at BPlate taught you? Share your experiences with me at livewellblog@ucla.edu or on social media!

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


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Mon, Oct 3, 2016 AT 7:21 am - Eat Well
Delicious and Nutritious — Seasonal Fall Foods and Recipes

By Danielle de Bruin

Fall is here...and so are many delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables! From pumpkin to pears to beets, fall is full of delicious flavors. While our global food system allows us to find most types of produce in supermarkets year-round, eating seasonal foods is better for the health of our bodies and our environment. Produce can only develop its full flavor and nutritional content when it’s grown in season, making seasonal foods tastier and more nutritious. Seasonal foods are also better for our planet, because they can be grown locally. This means that the foods do not have to travel as far to reach your local supermarket, reducing pollution and the carbon footprint of your meal. Keep reading to learn what fruits and vegetables are in season this fall and delicious recipes you can use them in!

Photo via Google Images

When it comes to seasonal fall foods, pumpkin is probably the first thing that comes to most people’s minds. However, pumpkin isn’t limited to pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice lattes; it can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and a 1 cup serving packs 245% of the daily need for vitamin A! Use the squash to make Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Pancakes, or a Caramelized Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Salad.

Photo via Google Images

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap in mainstream media, but the vegetable is incredibly nutritious and can be cooked in many delicious ways. They are high in vitamins C and K and low in calories. Try them in one of the following recipes: Warm Quinoa Brussels Sprouts Salad, Honey Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, or Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Kale Salad with Apple.

Photo via Google Images

Cauliflower is also super high in vitamin C and is incredibly versatile. There are hundreds of recipes on Pinterest and other websites that can teach you how to turn cauliflower into pizza crust, rice, or tortilla alternatives for an added dose of veggies. You can also keep the cauliflower intact with one of these recipes: Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry, Roasted Garlic Cauliflower, or Roasted Cauliflower Tacos.

Photo via Google Images

Pears make an easy sweet Fall treat, plus they’re packed with fiber too! You can eat them as a snack, as part of your meal or as dessert! Try one of these tasty recipes: Baked Pears with Walnuts and Honey, Sweet and Spicy Pear Salsa,or Pear Balsamic Salad with Dried Cherries and Candied Walnuts.

Photo via Google Images

While the sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows that your aunt makes for Thanksgiving might not be your healthiest option, there are tons of healthy ways to eat nutritious sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are densely packed with many important nutrients; they are great sources of fiber, vitamins A and C, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. Cook one of these delicious recipes next time you buy sweet potatoes at the Farmer’s market: Vegan Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry, Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata, or Sweet Potato Black Bean Hash.

Photo via Google Images

Butternut squash is another one of fall’s delicious squashes. Like sweet potatoes, the squash is a great source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese, but it has its own unique flavor. Try using it to make Butternut Squash Burrito Bowls, Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna, or Roasted Butternut Squash with Spiced Lentils.

Photo via Google Images

Finally, add some color to your plate with some beets! Beets are a good source of folate and can easily be incorporated into simple dishes. Beet Hash with Eggs, Smoky Black Bean Beet Burgers, and Balsamic Beet Salad are all great options.

So, while it may be hard to say goodbye to your summer tan and weekly trips to the beach, all the new flavors available in Fall make the seasonal change a bit more bearable! 


Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.



Wed, Sep 28, 2016 AT 10:24 am - Eat Well
Six Quick, Healthy Meals to Make in Your New Apartment

By Danielle de Bruin

While moving into the apartments comes with many new freedoms (no more room inspections!), the transition is also accompanied by many new responsibilities, including cooking. For many students, this will be the first time they will be responsible for planning their own meals, which can be a daunting task. If you’re new to the apartments and need some inspiration on where to get started, check out one or more of these easy, nutritious recipes!

Photo via goeatandrepeat.com

Greek Yogurt Breakfast Bark

This recipe is easy, versatile, and perfect for when you’re running late to class! Use your favorite berries and favorite granola to customize the bark to your liking. Not sure which berries to use? Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all high in fiber, vitamin C, and manganese and blackberries and blueberries are additionally great sources of vitamin K. Paired with granola and greek yogurt, this bark is also a great source of whole grains and protein. Try making the bark on a Sunday night and placing it in plastic bags so all you have to do is grab a bag on the way to class throughout the week.

Photo via foodiecush.com

Egg and Vegetable Breakfast Sandwich

With egg whites, avocado, and veggies, this breakfast sandwich is packed with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Avocados also pack more potassium than bananas and spinach is high in iron, which helps red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body. Use your favorite bagel flavor and favorite type of cheese to customize it to your liking. However, the best past of this recipe is that you can make the eggs in the microwave if you’re in a rush!

Photo via yummyhealthyeasy.com

Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

This dish is so easy and filled with important nutrients. The black beans and quinoa in this dish are great sources of plant-based protein and fiber; the black beans also provide potassium and the quinoa contains iron and all nine essential amino acids. The zucchini is also high in vitamin C, which helps to lower blood pressure and protect against clogged arteries. Make extra and reheat it in the oven for lunch or dinner the next day.

Photo via hip2save.com

Chicken Stir-Fry

This stir-fry recipe is super versatile because you get to pick the veggies! Try stopping by the UCLA Farmer’s Market once a month on Wednesday’s or the Westwood Farmer’s Market between noon and 6PM on Thursdays for whatever vegetables happen to be in season. The ginger in this recipe adds a ton of flavor and has anti-inflammatory compounds. Serve with brown rice for an added dose of fiber, manganese, and selenium.

Photo via pinchofyum.com

Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie

This frittata recipe is a delicious meal you can eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! The eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin B12 while the corn adds magnesium and vitamin B6. To make the dish even easier to prepare, use canned corn instead of cutting it off the cob. Serve with whole grain bread for a complete meal.

Photo via gimmedelicious.com

Roasted Chicken and Veggies

This recipe is packed with nourishing vegetables — including vitamin C-rich bell peppers and broccoli packed with vitamins C and K — and it can be made in just one pan! If you’re new to cooking, the website even has a video instructing viewers on how to assemble the dish. Serve with quinoa, farro, whole wheat cous cous, or your favorite grain.

If you make any of these recipes in your new apartment or if you have another favorite easy, nourishing recipe, please share your experience with us at livewellblog@ucla.edu or on social media!

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


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Thu, Sep 1, 2016 AT 9:26 am - Eat Well
Feed Your Busy Brain: 3 Foods that Will Boost Cognitive Function

By Miso Kwak

Whether you have been enjoying a relaxing vacation, taking classes, or doing an internship, the summer break is now quickly coming to an end. Once the school year begins, we will be once again faced with the fast-paced life at UCLA, consisting of classes, assignments, extracurricular commitments, and packed social calendars. While we’re so busy at UCLA, it is easy to overlook our diet. However, planning our meals and including certain foods in our diets can actually help us to manage our busy lives at UCLA!. Three foods in particular — eggs, tomatoes, and spinach — can boost the health of our brains. These three foods are easy to access, whether you live on the Hill or off-campus, and easy to incorporate into various recipes according to your taste.

Eggs

Photo via Google Images

Eggs are not only versatile — they can be cooked in countless ways, from scrambled to fried to boiled, just to name a few — but also rich in choline, a nutrient that is similar to Vitamin B. A study from Boston University suggests that there is a positive association between choline consumption and cognitive performance. Subjects who had higher intake of choline in their diet performed better on verbal memory and visual memory tasks. In addition, authors of the study indicate that choline plays an important role in producing acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is essential for normal cognition and brain function.

Tomatoes

Photo via Google Images

From sandwiches to soup to pasta sauce, the tomato can be a part of the daily diet in numerous ways. Tomatoes are packed with beneficial nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and a wide array of antioxidants. Among them, the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene stand out as brain-boosting nutrients. As this Psychology Today article suggests, these antioxidants are helpful in eliminating free radicals, which are highly reactive chemical compounds that can damage important cellular components. Additionally, lycopene regulates genes that influence inflammation and brain growth.

Spinach

Photo via Google Images

Another common, versatile, brain-boosting food is spinach. Spinach can easily be added into a wide variety of dishes such as salads, omelets, curries, smoothies, and quesadillas. Spinach is a rich source of lutein, an antioxidant that protects the brain against cognitive decline. This study showed that over a period of 20-25 years, the frequency of spinach consumption and other leafy vegetables was inversely correlated with cognitive decline. Plus, spinach offers many other health-promoting qualities. It’s high potassium content aids in lowering blood pressure and it’s high fiber content promotes good digestive health.


Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


Tue, Apr 26, 2016 AT 10:39 am - Eat Well
Wake Up, College Students: Here’s The Science On Sleep

By: Phillip Cox, UCLA undergraduate student

Sleep is something we all love, so why do we constantly put it last on our ever-lengthening list of priorities? You may have heard the sayings, “health is wealth” or “health is happiness.” Well, research has absolutely proven that sleep is key to health and happiness.

More Sleep = Better Life Decisions

Although pop culture claims otherwise, there is more to college life than going to parties, binge-watching TV and doing schoolwork. College students care about being good people and building a rewarding life - it’s a big part of who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and how we understand our place in the universe. And guess what? Proper sleep is a huge piece of that puzzle. In a 2011 study on sleep and unethical behavior, researchers found that sleep quantity is positively related to self-control and negatively related to unethical behavior. In other words, getting enough sleep helps us assess and make better decisions for ourselves - and those around us.

More Sleep = Improved Quality of Life

I think it’s safe to say we all want a sense of wellbeing and happiness. As explained in an article on the emotional brain and sleep, “deprivation of sleep makes us more sensitive to emotional and stressful stimuli and events in particular.” The author notes that our REM-sleep directly affects our next day mood and emotion. Think about it: our days are a constant torrent of emotional events. And it has been proven that sleep determines the way we receive, perceive and cope with these events.

More Sleep = Better Grades

Our foremost purpose in college is to get an education and perform academically to the best of our abilities. Why, then, does the population of college students, around the world, get the least amount of sleep? I’m sure you’ve heard it from your parents, your teachers, and your mentors: “Get a good night’s rest before your midterm,” or “You might think the all-nighter is going to help you do better, but it won’t.” Whether we feel that the all-nighter will give us that edge or not, our teachers, parents, and mentors are correct. I can’t stress how closely connected academic performance and cognitive ability are to quality of sleep. Believe me, I tried researching the benefits of all-nighters and coffee binges! According to the literature, “Sleep loss is frequently associated with poor declarative and procedural learning in students.” When sleep was restricted, neurocognitive and academic performance declined. Period.

Sleep Deprivation = Greater Risk of Chronic Disease 

Did you know that Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, and metabolic syndromes (obesity, blood pressure elevation, high fasting serum concentrations of triglycerides and glucose, and low serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) are all significantly related to quantity and quality of sleep? Take one study that restricted sleep to four hours per night for one week in young, normal weight men. In a single week, these men increased body weight and exhibited endocrine and metabolic changes consistent with the presence of metabolic syndrome! Imagine what more than one week of sleep deprivation can do.

Who is With Me?

Imagine a world of happy, emotionally well-adjusted, morally inclined, over-achieving students. Start the revolution on your campus by getting more sleep!#SleepRevolution #UCLALiveWell

This post is part of our series on sleep culture on college campuses. To join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at abigail.williams@huffingtonpost.com. And you can find out here if the #SleepRevolution College Tour will be visiting your campus, and learn how you can get involved. If your college is not one of the colleges already on our tour and you want it to be, please get in touch with Abby.

Follow UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HealthyUCLA

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Tue, Mar 8, 2016 AT 3:02 pm - Eat Well
Paging All Chocoholics: Chocolate Is Good For You (In Moderation, That Is)

By Susan Salter Reynolds and Wendelin Slusser

Every month new test results pour in to confirm what all chocoholics know: Chocolate is good for you. Decreased blood pressure, improved blood vessel health, and improved cholesterol levels are just a few of the benefits.

Flavinoids, Our New Best Friends

Chocolate contains flavonoids--antioxidants also commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine. According to Eric L. Ding, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, the polyphenolic flavonoids in cocoa have the potential to prevent heart disease. Flavonoids help decrease "bad" LDL cholesterol among people under age 50, and increase good HDL cholesterol. In addition, chocolate has been found to improve elevated blood pressure.

A Little Bad News

You cannot simply eat as much chocolate as you want without increasing your level of physical activity, or you will gain weight. Raw chocolate contains high levels of cocoa butter, rich in saturated fat, some of which is removed and added back in varying amounts by chocolate makers, as well as other fats, sugars, and milk. Cocoa butter is made up of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids (saturated fats). While saturated fats have the reputation for increasing the risk of heart disease, stearic acid has been shown neither to increase nor decrease cholesterol. Therefore 2/3 of the cocoa butter fat is either healthful or not harmful. In addition, try to avoid chocolate close to bed time as it (and other caffeine-filled food and drinks) can keep you awake.

Buy the Best

The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidant properties it contains. Darker and finer chocolates also contain higher percent of cocoa butter as the fat (of which the majority of the fat is not harmful, as described above). The specific flavanol thought responsible for these positive antioxidant health effects is called epicatechin and is found in dark chocolate but only found in minimal amounts in white or milk chocolate.

In addition, consuming no more than one ounce every other day of chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa is considered to be the "sweet spot" for not consuming too many additional calories (170 calories) and receiving the benefits from its positive impact on blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.

Of course don't forget to eat other flavonoid rich foods such as apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries.

And the Plant is Beautiful

The scientific name of cocoa is Theobroma Cocoa. The tree thrives in a tropical environment and is always full of flowers--yellow-white to shades of pink. The fruits are 15 to 20 cm long, grey or dark red when unripe, bright red or golden when ripe, and contain up to 40 seeds, otherwise known as beans. Like wine, the soil in which cocoa trees grow gives them a specific terroir, a scent and taste that is unique to their ecosystem.

The cacao tree was discovered over 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. The first people known to have consumed cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 A.D.). They mixed ground cacao (cocoa) seeds with seasonings to make a bitter, spicy drink that was believed to be a health elixir. To the Mayans, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. The Aztecs also believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree.

This should be all you need to justify your habit! Few pleasures come so well recommended.

Follow UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HealthyUCLA

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Tue, May 12, 2015 AT 4:27 pm - Eat Well
When it Comes to Bacteria, Trust Your Gut

By: Monica Morucci

If asked, you would likely define yourself as human. Technically, however, you are only 10% human; our human cells are outnumbered by bacterial cells 10 to one.

The trillions of bacteria that live on and inside us, called the human microbiota, are often associated with illness, but are important for many processes that maintain our health.

The gut microbiota — the community of bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract— is the densest community, numbering 1012 bacteria per gram.

Some of the plant foods we eat contain starches and sugars that our body is unable to break down; our gut bacteria do this for us so that we can harvest energy. Additionally, bacteria produce precursors to vitamins B1 and B6, which help the body process nutrients. Perhaps surprisingly, our main sources of vitamin K are bacterial synthesis and leafy green vegetables.

Gut bacteria can also contribute to unhealthy forms of metabolism. A 2009 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that obese and normal-weight individuals have distinctly different intestinal communities. They hypothesize that these distinct bacteria promote an increase in energy uptake from the intestine, resulting in obesity.

The phenomenon of “gut feelings” may have support in new research between the gut and the brain. Increasing evidence suggests that gut bacteria influence gut-brain communication through the gut-brain axis—the bi-directional communication route between the GI system and the brain. Additional human studies are needed, but current science suggests that the gut microbiota may affect anxiety, mood, cognition and pain.

So, how can we support “good” gut bacteria? Probiotics, or preparations of living bacteria that improve’s the host’s intestinal bacterial balance, can be consumed as dietary supplements or as components of fermented foods like yogurt, kim chi, and kombucha. The beneficial effects of probiotics may be temporary, however, as they often last only a short time after ingestion. Another approach is to consume prebiotics, or fibers that can enhance the growth or activity of good bacteria. These are found in onions, bananas, wheat, artichokes, and garlic.

Understanding of the human-bacteria connection is still in it’s infancy, but it is apparent that our actions, like what we choose to eat, can affect our bacterial residents, which in turn have profound influence on our health. Stay tuned as more breakthroughs change our concept of what it means to consider ourselves “human.”

Read more about the human microbiota in my article “Say Hello to Your Little Friends” in Volume 15, Issue 2 of Total Wellness Magazine. Visit http://labs.pharmacology.ucla.edu/lilab/ to find out about the microbiome research occurring right here at UCLA.


Image ​source :http://bflm.wzw.tum.de/index.php?id=11&L=1, TUM Technische Universität München







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Sun, Apr 19, 2015 AT 2:56 pm - Eat Well
Meet Our Speakers!

Meet Our Speakers!

This month we would like to highlight three speakers who will be presenting at the Healthy Campus Initiative Symposium on behalf of the Eat Well Pod on April 30th from 4pm-8pm in Covel Commons! We asked our speakers to provide their name and job title, the title of their presentation (as a teaser – you’ll have to come to the symposium to get all the juicy details!) and the answers to a few fun questions.

We hope to see you at the HCI Symposium on April 30th from 4pm-8pm for activities, interactive presentations, and a delightful meal! All of these things are FREE for students. Email HCISyposium@ucla.edu to register!

Ashleigh Parsons - Creative Director and Founding Owner of Alma Restaurant

Presentation title: A Case for Imperfection

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

Kale because it's healthy and delicious

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Learn fluent French because I love the way it sounds

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

I like to cook for myself with friends & the people I love -- those are the meals I crave more.


Alexa Delwiche - Managing Director of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council

Presentation title: The Good Food Purchasing Program: Building a Local & Sustainable Food Economy for Los Angeles 

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

I eat an organic apple from my local farmers' market every day, unless it's seasonally unavailable. BUT if we are talking fantasy world, I would eat a breakfast burrito from the Cantina in Isla Vista, CA every day (note that I did try that in college with disastrous consequences for my wallet and waistline). 

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Speak another language - I've tried unsuccessfully many times

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

I'm a working mom of a six-month old baby - any meal that someone else cooks for me is amazing. My husband has become my favorite chef.  


Alice Bamford - Creative Director and Founding Owner of Alma Restaurant

Presentation title: A Biodynamic Perspective

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

One Gun veggies and salad

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Grow wings and fly! Freedom and Perspective.

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

Grilled Langoustine sprinkled with oil and lemon, Salt baked whole Seabass with homegrown olive oil and a simple salad of tomatoes and arugula finished with freshly picked figs and homemade lemon, mint and Leoube rose sorbet. [It was] south of France at my family's organic Vineyard Leoube.

It was a happy celebration for my Mum and my birthday surrounded by close friends and loved ones at the end of Spring last year.



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Wed, Mar 4, 2015 AT 8:17 am - Eat Well
Celebrate National Nutrition Month®

By: Catherine Hu, 4th-year Undergraduate at UCLA studying Psychobiology

Juggling multiple exams, papers, and extracurricular activities are just a sample of the busy life of a college student, so throwing in healthy eating habits into the mix can be challenging. As stress builds and late nights heighten sweet and salty cravings, students often binge on less nutritious items; eventually, these continued habits can take a toll on their health.

In support of National Nutrition Month®, a campaign that encourages mindful eating and exercise, here are some ways to “Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle.”

Snacking Instead of chips, reach for a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or a carton of low fat yogurt to curb pangs of hunger. Nutritionally dense snacks can help provide fuel for optimal studying. Not only will these alternatives help meet nutrient needs for the day, but they can also prevent overeating at the next meal.

Meals For your meals, try to incorporate fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna into your diet. This nutrient is correlated to improved brain function and cognition, perfect for increasing focus during lecture. Look for whole grains for energy, as well as leafy green vegetables chock full of antioxidants to help delay brain aging.

Students often eat too quickly so that they can return to their schoolwork, only to feel too full and lethargic in doing so. It takes about 20 minutes for the body to indicate fullness to the brain, so it is easy to overeat if only 10 minutes are spent eating. A way to combat this is to have meals with friends, as the time spent socializing may help slow down eating. In addition, instead of scrolling through your phone or watching videos during dinner, consider focusing solely on the meal in front of you and savoring the flavors of each bite. This can help increase awareness of the food and the time taken to consume it.

Hydration Since the body is 60% water, be sure to drink adequate amounts of water daily (about 2.2 to 3 liters). Water is important, because food that is consumed and stored as energy in the body need to be hydrated with about 4 times as much water per gram of food. In addition, water helps flush body waste as well as deliver oxygen throughout the body. Carry a water bottle around to as a reminder to drink, and make sure to increase intake of water during exercise.

By making a couple of changes and substitutions in your diet, it is not too hard to have good nutrition as busy college student. Once National Nutrition Month® is over, continue to maintain these habits for a healthier lifestyle.

For more information on National Nutrition month, visit http://www.nationalnutritionmonth.org/nnm/


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Sun, Feb 1, 2015 AT 4:12 pm - Eat Well
Resolve to Un-Diet


By: Eve Lahijani, M.S., R.D. UCLA Residential Life Nutrition Health Educator

Dieting to lose weight is among the most popular resolutions of every new year. Unfortunately however, 95-98% of the people who go on a diet with the intention to lose weight - either don't lose weight at all - or if they do lose weight, they eventually gain it back, and usually with additional pounds and even more obsessed with food.

Furthermore, despite our past 'failure' with diets, many of us return to them year after year to achieve our weight loss goals. Each time the weight is not lost or finally regained we blame ourselves. This frustrating pattern can be repeated indefinitely until we feel hopeless and defective for being unable to simply weigh less!

After all, how hard can it be, right?

The truth is, it is not your fault!  Diets don't work, they actually set you up to fail!  That is, dieting itself causes food obsession, cravings and binges - which usually results in weight gain!

Here are some of the reasons diets suck:

·  Restrictive mentality: feeling deprived triggers the survival mechanism that backfires in the form of binges.

·  Denies enjoyment: feeling guilty for eating can make it difficult to savor meals leaving us unsatisfied at best, causing us to eat even more.

·  Encourage disconnect between body & mind: following arbitrary diet rules alienates us from our body's inherit wisdom.  Those who get good at ignoring hunger are also good at ignoring fullness and are more likely to over eat.

·  Loss of power: following rules and regulations set by the The Diet is not natural, enjoyable or sustainable.  The inner rebel comes out and has you do the exact opposite of 'the rules'!

·  Avoids the issue: for many, eating may be due to stress, boredom, loneliness, excitement, etc - dieting makes food more emotionally charged - so you are more likely to eat emotionally if you restrict food!

**Ugh, it's all so crazy making!... And solvable :)

So this year instead of going on a diet learn how to:

•  Make conscious food choices that are supportive and satisfy YOU!

•  Enjoy food, tune in to every bite so you can finally feel satiated (and easily stop eating)!

•  Reconnect to your body's wisdom to know exactly when, how much and what to eat!

•  Redeem your power and finally be in control of what you eat!

•  Face the issues by distinguishing between physical hunger and emotions - and address each of them accordingly!

By mastering the above points weight will naturally adjust to what is right for you! Not to mention all of the other benefits that come along with eating consciously - including, improved wellness, better focus, increased energy, less medications, enhanced enjoyment, etc!!  

**Warning: making peace with food may make you happier, activate inner peace and cause spontaneous joy**

Happy Eating!  

Eve

See this blog post, and many others, by Eve at: http://www.vitamineve.com/Nutrition_Nibbles


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Mon, Jan 12, 2015 AT 6:37 pm - Eat Well
Influencing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015

By: Janet Leader, MPH, R.D. 


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), established jointly by the US Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, drives the policies behind federal food programs and nutrition education.   While many of us wish the DGA would be more specific, more progressive and a little less industry-influenced, this is what we have for now.  Before 1980, there were no national guidelines at all.

As a nutrition advocate, I asked the question:  how do we influence the next DGA in 2015?  This is the challenge I put to students in CHS 130, Nutrition and Health.

A little background:  Every five years, the DGA is reviewed and updated, a process that takes almost two years.  According to their website, the government “appoints a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) consisting of nationally recognized experts in the field of nutrition and health. The charge to the Committee is to review the scientific and medical knowledge current at the time. The Committee then prepares a report for the (HHS and USDA) Secretaries that provides recommendations for the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines …”

The DGAC provides a public comment website, open to everyone. This is how the students worked together to influence the next set of policies.  Working in small groups, they selected issues they felt passionate about and wrote opinion papers.  Topics included:

·  Requiring industry to fortify non-dairy milks (nut, soy, rice) sold in schools with vitamin D

·  Encouraging the promotion of vitamin D to African-American populations of child-bearing age

·  Establishing a behavioral strategies section in the DGA to provide helpful ways to implement recommendations

·  Requiring the integration of nutrition education into the national Common Core standards for education

·  Reducing sugar-sweetened items sold in schools, based on the California model

·  Using the DASH diet to influence food package labels

·  Adding water to the My Plate model

Over the next few months, you will see some abbreviated versions of these papers in the Eat Well blog.  Or, you can go to the DGA 2015 website to see them online.

Be on the lookout for the 2015 edition of the DGA to see if they were successful!


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Tue, Nov 25, 2014 AT 10:25 am - Eat Well
Discover Dig at UCLA

By: Ian Davies, 4th-year Undergraduate at UCLA studying Environmental Science and GIS

Every Sunday at around 12:30, students gather at a little plot of land tucked away in the back of Sunset Rec. They pass through a modest bamboo fence, arm themselves with shovels, watering cans, and hoes, and descend on the fourteen vegetable beds and surrounding fruit trees.

This motley crew of undergraduate and graduate students might not look like a gardening collective, but their volunteer work helps operate the largest student garden on campus. Dig at UCLA: The Campus Garden Coalition, is a group I help run which repurposes underutilized spaces on campus into productive fruit, vegetable, and herb gardens for student use. None of us were experienced gardeners when we began. Rather, we were experienced eaters brought together by a mutual interest in food policy and the worrying disconnect between consumers and food production.

The result is delicious and educational. In the warm weather, we feast on fiery-colored tomatoes and curiously-shaped summer squash, while in the winter we enjoy dark leafy greens and root vegetables.

We nourish our minds as well as our bellies. We host workshops on gardening techniques, offer tours of our garden space, and transform our modest plot every week into a space for discussing food and sustainability.

Caring for own my food from vulnerable seedling to harvest has conferred a deeper appreciation for the farm systems which feed us all. I’ve also realized that for all of us, a little ingenuity can transform even the most cramped spaces into urban gardens, be it an apartment balcony or a bathroom windowsill. Gardening may not have been the easiest hobby to pick up at the beginning, but I’m happy to say I’ve found a life-long passion that I love sharing with others.

Dig at UCLA meets every Sunday at 12:30pm in the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. No experience necessary! Visit us online at http://digucla.weebly.com to keep up with the latest updates, including the upcoming construction of a new community garden at Hershey Hall.



           

 


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Tue, May 6, 2014 AT 2:26 pm - Eat Well
What I know, what I do…
By: Michael Goldstein, Associate Vice Provost, Healthy Campus Initiative

Everyone has a favorite comfort food.  For me it’s Jelly Belly Sours.  No, not the full array of a zillion Jelly Belly flavors.  I’m Mr. Willpower when it comes to them.  But, just Jelly Belly Sours… that’s a different story.

Now I am pretty well informed about the research on how availability influences the amount we eat.  I know that there are scores of studies showing that, regardless of how hungry we are, if someone offers larger portions, we eat more.  Offer us bigger plates or serving spoons and we will take more and eat more.  And plenty of studies have shown that the enjoyment or satisfaction that we get from a food we love also depends on portion size.  We feel just as satisfied with a small amount as long as there isn’t more around to tempt us.

But back to those Jelly Belly Sours.  If you want them, you have to go to the supermarket where you can find them in little 3.5 ounce bags for about $3.50 or $4.00.  What a rip off.  The whole thing couldn’t cost the international Jelly Belly cartel more than a quarter.  Once I overcome my anger at the price and buy them I usually find that my craving is satisfied after one or two hands full; leaving the rest for another day.  But here on campus it’s a different story. The candy shop in Ackerman Union has a huge, clear canister filled with Jelly Belly Sours, and I have the “freedom” to take the exact amount I want.  I control the lever that sends them spilling into the big bag they give you.  I know how just much I need to feel satisfied and that’s what I take.  For the past few visits, I’ve kept my receipts and guess what?  Each and every time I wind up buying a good deal more than 3.5 ounces; sometimes a lot more.  Well, at least I must be lots happier with so much more of my favorite snack.  Not really. In fact, it usually turns out that all I can think about when those final precious beans enter my mouth is that huge, beautiful canister at the store.  I say to myself, “If I’d only held the lever down a few more seconds I‘d have some more, and that would be what I really need to satisfy myself.”

Of course, I’m strongly in favor of “freedom of choice” when it comes to most everything, especially Jelly Belly Sours.  But then, again…


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Tue, Apr 8, 2014 AT 4:41 pm - Eat Well
Beauty and Richness of Food in Own Lives and Cultures

By: Janet Leader, MPH, RD, Associate Director of Nutrition Services, Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health 

With all of the buzz on campus about nutrition, I’m excited to teach a resurrected course this spring:  CHS 130, Nutrition and Health.

Here’s what I hope will happen in the class.

Students will take a look at the beauty and richness of food in their own lives and cultures.  From there, they will share their cultural choices with others, and learn why those choices are so important to them.  They will explore the basic concepts of nutrition and apply them to their own lives and real-world issues.

Using outside readings and films, students will come to class prepared to discuss controversies and conduct activities that will allow them to analyze their own diets and those of others.  They will recognize the changes that occurs in all of us as we move from being an infant to youth to adult and then to our senior years.  What are the changes in nutritional requirements as we move through these stages in our lives?  What are the healthiest way to meet those requirements?

We will also discuss how our behaviors and environments influence what we eat.  Why and how does it matter if you grow up in South LA vs. Santa Monica?  What changes are happening in our eating environment, both for the worse and for the better?  How can we make a difference in those changes?  Visiting community programs that apply nutrition and behavior theory, and inviting interesting guest speakers will excite more discussion.

I look forward to sharing my enjoyment of nutrition sciences and food with the UCLA students.  While the class is currently full with a waiting list, it will also be offered in the summer.

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Tue, Mar 4, 2014 AT 7:01 pm - Eat Well
My Adventure with the CSA Box
By: Julie K Kwan, MS, AHIP
Associate Director, UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library and UCLA Science and Engineering Library
Distinguished Librarian, UCLA Library

Last winter, a colleague posted on her Facebook page that she could get CSA boxes in her building. I assumed, enviously, that the boxes were delivered to her apartment building, but I soon learned it was the building where both of us worked! I had been looking for a CSA source for some time, and here it was right in MY building. I signed up immediately!

I was awestruck as I opened my first box. It was beautiful -- the color, the texture, the smell. The carrots were short and fat. The avocado was gigantic. The leafy greens were shiny. I looked forward to the weekly surprise, wondering "what would be in the box this week?"

The first six months I read and tested recipes, explored new techniques, and practiced my cooking skills until they were perfect. I sautéed greens, braised carrots, and roasted beets. I started noticing changes in the way I ate. I started spending more time in the produce section at the grocery store. By spring, I started a garden in my back yard. And, it all started with a Facebook post!

South Central Farmers Cooperative delivers to several locations on the UCLA campus. You can sign up and go to the National Agricultural Library’s Community Supported Agriculture page to learn more and to find other farms and locations. 


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Fri, Feb 7, 2014 AT 4:50 pm - Eat Well
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
By: Peter Angelis, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Housing & Hospitality Services, UCLA

It may already be the month of February, but it’s never too late to start thinking about personal health and wellness goals for 2014.  When I look around our own work environment at UCLA, I see tremendous opportunities for making healthy choices in the foods we eat and in our daily physical activity habits.  

On the nutrition front, in Fall Quarter 2013, we opened “Bruin Plate” our newest dining hall on Campus and the FIRST health-themed dining hall in the United States.  If you haven’t tried it, please join us for breakfast, lunch, or dinner to taste a variety of unique dishes using unprocessed and sustainable “superfoods” like: kale, farro, quinoa, legumes, acai berries, lentils, and more.  The beauty of Bruin Plate is that making healthy food choices is not only easy, but extremely enjoyable because the flavor combinations are thoughtfully conceived and executed.  The feedback from our students, the main consumers of Bruin Plate’s fare, has been overwhelmingly positive and the number of people dining at this new venue has exceeded our estimates.  Perhaps it begs the question to ask why students are choosing “mindful eating” over the traditional dining hall “comfort foods” such as hamburgers, pizza, and fries.  Whatever the personal factors are for making this nutritional switch, we are excited to offer these new culinary choices and we are delighted that they are becoming so popular.  

Another positive health trend that is developing in my own office is the example of fellow team members who are making physical activity a priority in their daily lives. Many of us have become “Fitbit” friends and we share in a collegial competition to obtain our minimum of 10,000 footsteps per day.  We are both walkers and runners and, with the LA Marathon coming up in March, we enjoy the convenience of training opportunities at our doorstep – whether it’s Drake Stadium for a noon stair climbing session or a fast walk along the perimeter of Campus.  Then, there are our BHIP aficionados who work-out at 6:15am before they even start their day in the office!  I encourage you to find your physical activity niche at UCLA with so many opportunities for improving your daily health through fitness.

I started running at the ripe old age of 50, and wish I had started decades ago.  My first mile was a very unpleasant experience.  Amazingly by my 10th try, I was up to the magical 3 mile mark and never looked back.  I really enjoy it and find it meditative and fulfilling.  It gives me an aerobic buzz that lasts many hours into the evening while clearing my mind in a way that separates work from life outside of work.  Running also gives me a perspective of LA that I had never realized before. We really live in a city that can be navigated without a car, bike or bus.  By taking differing tracks across town, you see new neighborhoods and stumble across places that you would never find just driving by. 

My usual midweek run is the campus perimeter at 4.2 miles, preferring to handle it in the counter clockwise direction- although the Hilgard Hill is always a challenge even when warmed up by that point.  I’m curious when I run, why others go the clockwise route.  I sometimes wonder if they know something I don’t and I begin to second guess my strategy.  This sort of thinking helps me clear my mind and takes my thoughts away from the rigors of running.  Pandora is also an inseparable part of my running experience, where I rely on EDM to guide my pace and rhythm to match the incline or decline that confronts me (I’m an opera lover too but find that it really does not suffice for running).

On weekends, I often run from the Wooden Center to the Santa Monica Pier, which is roughly a 10K (6.2 miles) depending on whether you head down San Vincente or Montana after the VA.  After a cup of coffee and lunch, I can take the bus back to Westwood.  I think my running has greatly enhanced my understanding of the importance of eating right and getting exercise.  It has also allowed me to see the incredibly special places that are UCLA and LA.  

If you don’t know where to get started or if you are looking for an opportunity to meet fellow UCLA community members who are making their New Year’s health resolutions into a reality, sign-up for the “True Bruin Move and Groove 5K Run/Walk” on March 30, 2014.  It’s being sponsored by UCLA’s staff assembly and the Healthy Campus Initiative, and this inaugural event is going to be a lot of fun.  Plus, it’s an opportunity to show-off our beautiful Campus to your loved ones as registration is open to everyone.  Start planning those healthy New Year’s resolutions today – you deserve it.

Enjoy a healthy and happy 2014!

Resources:To learn more about Bruin Plate and see photos of healthy menu items, you can visit: http://bruinplate.hhsmarketing.org/index.php

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Wed, Dec 11, 2013 AT 4:10 pm - Eat Well
Classics in Eating Research: Babies are masterful eaters

By A. Janet Tomiyama, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology

Everyone knows that we need to eat healthy to be healthy, but that’s often easier said than done. There are a lot of different foods out there, and it’s hard to keep track of all the different vitamins and minerals we need. I don’t know a single person who keeps a running tally of their recommended daily intake of, say, Vitamin E to make sure they’re getting 100% each day. I certainly don’t!

That’s why the study I’m about to describe to you is so amazing. First of all, it was published all the way back in 1928, but still remains a classic today, and I include it every year in my Introduction to Health Psychology (PSYCH 150) class. Second of all, I think it has some of the neatest research findings I’ve encountered.

Clara M. Davis, the author of the study, took 15 little 6-month-old babies and let them eat whatever they wanted, for every single meal, from of an array of 34 different foods. Some of the foods the babies got to eat sound funny today – things like bone jelly, brains, and both sweet and sour milk. Others are more familiar, like carrots, peas, beef, and oatmeal. The nurses were told to never offer food or interfere in the babies’ eating in any way. This sometimes led to what Clara Davis described as, “a dietitian’s nightmare – for example, a breakfast of a pint of orange juice and liver; a supper of several eggs, bananas, and milk.”

But here’s the surprising thing: the babies’ health at the end of the study was perfect. (Many doctors were brought in to check). Somehow, the babies had the intuitive ability to get the optimal balance of macro and micronutrients.

The most astonishing example of their masterful intuitive eating was demonstrated by one of the babies who entered the study with rickets – a disease in which the bones are too soft due to malnutrition. Davis describes, “…we put a small glass of cod liver oil on his tray for him to take if he chose. This he did irregularly and in varying amounts until his blood calcium and phosphorus became normal and x-ray films showed his rickets to be healed, after which he did not take it again.”

There are many lessons we can learn from this study. For example, maybe it’s not so important for parents to force their children to eat what they believe is a healthy meal. Maybe we need to be eating more brains. (Just kidding.) If you want to read the study for yourself, you can find it here – it’s short and very charmingly written. As we head into holiday season, it might be worth it to take a moment, check in with your body, and see what it’s hungry for.

~See Dr. Tomiyama's website for additional information: www.dishlab.org

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Wed, Nov 13, 2013 AT 9:43 pm - Eat Well
Seasonal Foods

Modern technology and transportation systems have enabled us to obtain various types of foods year-round. However, the quality of fruits and vegetables fluctuate with the seasons. Seasonality refers to a food’s peak harvest time. In turn, what is considered to be “seasonal” will vary widely depending on the crop’s geographical location.  We are lucky to live in California, since the almost perfect weather and rich soil contribute to a wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables and extended seasons for some produce. 

Reasons to Eat Seasonally:

If a food item is not in-season locally, it is likely to have been grown in another part of the world and shipped to your market. This transportation process contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and results in a high carbon footprint. Fruits and vegetables that are in season have a more full-bodied flavor than those that are not. Transporting crops requires them to be harvested prematurely. Fruits don’t ripen as effectively after being picked from their native plants and refrigerated. When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive. Eating seasonal food supports the local farming economy.

Resources:

To learn more about seasonal fruits and vegetables, visit the Southland Farmers’ Market Association at: www.sfma.net/consumer/inseason.shtml

Farmers Market @ UCLA Calendar:

http://www.e3ucla.org/farmers-market.html

For information on purchasing and a seasonal, locally grown produce in pre-arranged community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes with pick up locations at UCLA, go to:

http://www.sustain.ucla.edu/our-initiatives/food-systems/csa/

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Tue, Oct 8, 2013 AT 1:07 pm - Eat Well
Using Your iPhone to Improve Your Eating Habits and Live Healthier

Life at UCLA can be demanding- between classes, friends, homework, sports, and clubs- we often forget how important it is to take care of our bodies and to think positively about them. We’re very excited to announce an innovative and convenient way to help you develop healthy eating and exercise habits coming to UCLA in January! The Healthy Body Image program is an online program that can be accessed right from your iPhone or computer. It begins with a survey that helps identify which tips and skills would be most helpful for you. We understand each person is different, so the program is designed to fit your unique needs. You’ll complete engaging activities, learn healthy tips to treating your body right, and anonymously connect with other college students who are also using the program to help them live healthier lives. 

The Healthy Body Image program has been used by thousands of college students just like you. Our technology partner, ThriveOn, has developed an iPhone app and online platform to help you access Healthy Body Image anytime, anywhere. UCLA will start enrolling interested students in January 2014. Check the CAPS website when you return from winter break to get the link to the survey! For more information on this exciting program, check out our website: https://thriveon.com.

Be sure to look out for our flyers next quarter for information about how to sign up! Feel free to email CAPS Psychologist Gia Marson, Ed.D. at gmarson@caps.ucla.edu. Dr. Marson, Director of the CAPS Eating Disorders Program, is UCLA’s campus coordinator for this online Healthy Body Image Program.  

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Mon, Sep 16, 2013 AT 4:56 pm - Eat Well
Graduate and Professional School Students: How Do You Eat Well?

It’s the beginning of September, and our office, the Graduate Student Resource Center, along with the Graduate Students Association (GSA), is planning for Graduate Student Orientation and Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity Graduate Welcome Day. These campuswide events introduce our new graduate and professional school students to the programs, services, offices, and involvement opportunities UCLA provides.

We want you to have enough information and support to make the most of your time here at UCLA, and to achieve your academic, professional, and personal goals.To that end, we want to hear from you! What’s keeping you from eating well on campus? Or, if you are eating well already, tell us how you do it! 

For new graduate and professional school students: watch for the Healthy Campus Initiative table at the Graduate Student Orientation Resource Fair to learn more about wellness and healthy eating on campus. There are also tours of the John Wooden Center during the afternoon, Recreation mini-workshops, and a wellness panel.  Seegsrc.ucla.edu/orientation for more information. 

For new and continuing graduate and professional school students: Have questions about resources and getting involved on campus? Ask our office at gsrc@saonet.ucla.edu, see us in B-11 Student Activities Center, or find us at facebook.com/uclagsrc and @uclagsrc on twitter. 

And welcome to UCLA!

Graduate and professional school students, let us know:

  • How do you eat well at UCLA? What tips do returning students have for new ones?
  • What challenges keep you from eating well on campus?
  • What would you like to learn about eating well?

~Valerie Shepard, Ph.D.
Program Manager, UCLA Graduate Student Resource Center

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Tue, Aug 27, 2013 AT 11:46 am - Eat Well
The Journey to Healthy Eating at UCLA Health

As the Director of Nutrition for the UCLA Health System, I am proud to say that in recent years we won the 2007 California “Fit Business” Bronze Award from the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness and the 2013 Food-Climate-Health Connection Award from Practice Greenhealth for our work on healthy food and sustainability. 

This has been a journey, however.

Back in 2006, my boss retired, and I had recently been promoted to my current position Director.  The then CEO of the Health System decided that there would be a Wellness Initiative and appointed me as co-chair.  We were busy talking about healthy food and healthy lifestyles.

I was in my office when I received a page from Media Relations.  It said “Patti, call me ASAP.  Your department is going to be featured on Good Morning America tomorrow.”  I was so excited.  But my bubble burst when I called and was told that the reason we were going to be featured on Good Morning America was because a nutrition publication had done an expose on French Fries in hospital cafeterias and ours had the third highest amount of trans fats of hospitals audited.  Not good.

Well, we no longer have French Fries or any fried foods in any of our facilities.  We also no longer cook with any trans fats.  We have vegetarian entrees every day and often vegan entrees.  Every Monday we have a “Meatless Monday” and educational materials on reasons to eat less meat.

Our CEO, Dr. Feinberg has been a great supporter of wellness and sustainability.  He has supported initiatives such as reducing the price of the salad bar by $2.00 a pound to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables and purchasing compostable disposables since our waste is now separated into compost, recycle, and landfill with very few items going to landfill, in support of the UC Sustainability goal of zero waste to landfill by 2020.

Much of our produce and dairy are from local sources or are organic, so we currently have 25% sustainable food and beverage purchases, surpassing the UC goal of 20% by 2020 seven years early. 

Dr. Feinberg signed the “Healthy Food in Healthcare” Pledge, and we have signed on to all three of the Healthy Hospital Initiatives, which include reducing purchases of meat, increasing the purchases and healthy beverages, and increasing the purchase of sustainable foods. 

In our Dining Commons and Cafeterias we have our “Green Apple” labeling to promote items that are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and high in fiber.  We have moved whole fruit to the checkout area to encourage healthier point of sale purchases.

We also use the green apple on the patient menu.  Our “Signature Dining” Meal Service for patients offers hotel style room service from a menu of over 40 ethnically diverse entrees served on upscale china.  The healthier entrees are marked with the green apple logo.

We have come a long way since the French Fry Fiasco but we still have room to improve.  While we have the nutritional analysis for every menu item, it is located in binders and customers have to ask for it.  We are working to purchase a digital menu board so patrons can see at a glance how many calories or how much sodium is in an item.  We are planning to start up a farmers market and to have healthy beverage labeling. 

I would like to end by giving a little information on beets.  I look forward to seeing you in the Dining Commons!

A Few Fun Facts:

Beets are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.  The darker red the beet, the better for you, and the more healthy anthocyanins it contains, compounds that may help prevent cancer and ward off allergies.  Beets are also a great source of Betain, a digestive enzyme that can help calm a queasy stomach.  Beets are especially good in pregnancy due to their high levels of B6 and other B-vitamins, and are one of nature’s sweet foods.

How to Enjoy - A Few Quick Serving Ideas for Beets:

  • Grate raw beets for a tasty and colorful addition to salads.
  • Steam beets for 15 minutes.  Once soft, peel skin off beets and cut into bite size pieces. 
  • Marinate steamed beets in fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs. 


Patti Oliver, MS, RD, MBA
Director of Nutrition
UCLA Health System

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Wed, Jul 10, 2013 AT 2:52 pm - Eat Well
Students Eat Well with the help of College Library’s Cookbook Collection

In April 2013, the College Library launched a community cookbook collection, an eclectic mix of books relating to food and cooking and curated by students. According to Danielle Salomon, the librarian in charge of the collection, 

“It is an opportunity to test a new model of student involvement in library collections, while supporting students’ growing interest in food. Students ‘curate’ the collection by determining what the community needs and selecting the titles.” 

She has been working with Joshua Lu and the student-run Bruin Culinary Community  to select and display the books. Students gain experience in collection development and develop an understanding of how university libraries function.

The collection includes books by Alice Waters, the grande dame of the seasonal food movement, including The Art of Simple Food and Chez Panisse Vegetables, and Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food, which provides advice on how to select quality food from your local grocery or farmers’ market. Two other key titles are Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, which has formulas for basic ingredients upon which the creative cook can experiment and embellish, and Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg’s The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity…, which features food and flavor combinations. Also included are books by renowned California chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc at Home and Bouchon Bakery, both of which have “doable” recipes as well as his more complex The French Laundry Cookbook. An international focus reflects the diverse student cultures at UCLA and includes titles such as Fischia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking, Shizuo and Yoshiki Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, Naomi Duguid’s Burma: Rivers of Flavor, Rachel Hogrogrian’s The Armenian Cookbook, Patricia Smouha’s Middle Eastern Cooking, and Cherie Twohy’s The I Love Trader Joe’s Around the World Cookbook. Several books on wine and beer are also included.

Amy Rowat, Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology and Physiology who teaches Physiological Science 7, Science and Food: Physical and Molecular Origins of What We Eat, says 

“the collection is…important for the curriculum: students perform independent projects, and being able to consult books in a real live library is essential. In my class, we also learn to dissect recipes and explain the scientific role of each ingredient.” 

Rowat’s course concluded with an apple pie bake-off . Each student project focused on an area of scientific inquiry and was tested by a panel of judges. Evan Kleinman, host of "Good Food" for radio station KCRW, wrote about the contest in her blog entry, Google vs Librarians: When it Comes to Recipes, Old Fashioned Research Trumps Technology  saying: 

“If you want to learn how to make a recipe that has very few ingredients don’t turn to a search engine to find the best recipe to do it, ask a librarian to help you instead.” 

And that is exactly what this collection is intended to do.

The cookbook collection is housed in the College Library, in the Powell Library Building’s East Rotunda, which formerly housed unbound journals. Books are listed in the UCLA Library Catalog with the location “College East Rotunda Cookbooks”. For more information, contact Danielle Salomon at daniellesalomon@library.ucla.edu.

The UCLA Library includes other materials in its collections that support an understanding of cooking and healthy eating. One example is The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, located in the College Library Reference Collection, is a comprehensive guide to fresh and whole foods, with guidance on selection, storage, and preparation of a wide range of foods, with suggestions for how to serve and combine with other foods. In fact, the UCLA Library has the second largest cookbook collection in California. The UCLA Library’s Department of Special Collections has actively acquired cookbooks produced in California as valuable historical and social documents. The collection includes the first Spanish-language cookbook published in California as well as modern cookbooks relating to the organic and whole foods movement (try searching the Library Catalog for ‘cooking – California’ as subject. Also of interest is the online exhibition, Spices: Exotic Flavors and Medicines, developed by the History and Special Collections Division of the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library. 


Julie K. Kwan
Associate Director
UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library & UCLA Science and Engineering Library

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Thu, Jun 20, 2013 AT 2:50 pm - Eat Well
I Don't Get Hungry

Every now and then I come across an individual that assures me that they don't get hungry.  They insist that they just don't have that 'issue', they are beyond it - as if hunger was a weakness. 

Well let's examine this 'issue' closer. 

Getting hungry is normal and a sign of good health.  It's an indicator that your body is burning fuel and having regular bowel movements. 

In other words, getting hungry is great!  It's a marker that your body is functioning properly and THE PERFECT time to eat! 

So when people claim that they don't get hungry - or that they 'forget' to eat it is usually a clue that they have lost touch with their body's signals and/or afraid to trust them.  This can become a problem, as people who are out of tune with their bodies are more likely to under eat, overeat, eat emotionally, suffer from poor energy and a lack of well being. 

The good news is that tuning in with the body can be relearned! 

Here are some tips to help you reconnect with your body: 

  • Avoid going over four hours without eating while you are awake. 
  • After you eat, calculate the time in 3-4 hours - at that time check in to see if you feel that eating will re-energize you. 
  • If the answer is yes - great, eat!  If the answer is no or unsure check back in 20 minutes later.  Note, once you go over 4-5 hours without eating, chances are it's time to eat (there's only so long blood sugar levels stay at a healthy level). 
  • If you notice that your hunger returns before 3-4 hours that's ok too.  It may be that your last meal/snack sustained you for a shorter time span.  BTW, good for you for sensing your hunger, welcome back to your body :) 
  • Take it easy, relearning your body's signals is like an adventure - let go of expectations and enjoy the journey. 
If you need support with this process, I am here to help!!  Contact me for additional support. elahijani@saonet.ucla.edu 

Eve Lahijani MS, RD
Nutrition Health Educator
UCLA Bruin Resource Center

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Tue, Apr 30, 2013 AT 3:06 pm - Eat Well
A Welcome Address from Eat Well

My father would tell me you are what you eat all of the time, but it was not until my high school nutrition class that I linked the science with food and fully understood this old adage. And now, thirty-five years later, as an Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health, I am leading the Healthy Diet/Nutrition Pod to support Chancellor Block’s Healthy Campus Initiative to make UCLA the Healthiest Campus in the country.

The Healthy Diet/Nutrition Pod’s goal is to make the healthy eating choice the easy eating choice. And what is the recipe to reach this goal?

When we took an inventory of the assets on campus that support healthy eating we found all of the ingredients (ok are you still with me on the food metaphors?). It was truly like a treasure hunt. We identified a whole pool of innovative student organizations, classes, sites and key stakeholders who are working on healthy eating on campus that included:


  • Student, staff, and faculty leaders related to food
  • Places where food is purchased and eaten on campus,
  • Student, staff and faculty dining facilities,
  • Access and availability to water stations,
  • Vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens and potential spaces for additional gardens i.e., “interstitial spaces.”

Our goal is to build on these campus assets for healthy eating. The primary objectives of the Nutrition Pod are to: 

1. Enhance nutrition educational opportunities: in the classroom, community, at point of purchase and in extracurricular activities

2. Increase access and availability of healthy foods, beverages, and locations to eat

3. Support on-going gardens on campus and introduce additional thematic gardens in interstitial spaces 

4. Increase access and availability of water on campus.

The nutrition pod’s activities have brought together a diverse group of faculty, students and staff who have been meeting monthly. Projects initiated have included the medicinal garden by the Ronald Reagan and Mattel Children’s Hospital; delivery of 10 tons of free compose from Whole Foods to support the student fruit and vegetable garden at Sunset Canyon Recreation; the creation of Fiat Lux Courses with titles like: You are what you eat: food and chemistryGrowing the Angeleno Foodscape—Urban Gardening Movements in LAEating and Our Food Chain;  and Nourishing Emotional Health through Creative Process; participation in the Alice Water’s Panel focusing on School Food at Royce Hall; working on increasing water stations in the undergraduate dining halls; supporting the HCI grant program to the student organizations on campus; and sharing evidence base interventions with the key decision makers who have adopted them on campus such as making water more available at point of purchase.

How can you get involved in the HCI Nutrition Pod?

1. Share a recipe and tell us why it is healthy and means something to you.

2. Volunteer to write one of our monthly blogs.

3. Help plant in our next garden day.

4. If you are part of a student organization apply for funding in the next  round.

5. If you are faculty, consider offering a Fiat Lux course under our umbrella and we will help you with the administration of it.

6. Make a commitment to yourself to support your own health and eat healthfully!

7. Support purchasing the healthful foods on campus.

8. Give us your ideas on how we can support you and your colleagues in your efforts.

We welcome everyone to get involved and Bon Appetit!

At the end of each blog, we will feature a nutritional pearl of wisdom. For the inauguration, I will feature one of my favorite foods, chocolate, and while you might think chocolate is not part of a healthy diet, you will learn otherwise especially the dark chocolate containing 60-70% cocoa. Of course the potential health effects need to be balanced with the caloric intake! 

-Wendy Slusser, MD, MS

The Benefits of Chocolate: More Research Needed(Much, Much More!)   

By Susan Salter Reynolds

Every month new test results pour in to confirm what all chocoholics know: Chocolate is good for you. Decreased blood pressure improved blood vessel health, and improvement in cholesterol levels are just a few of the benefits.

Flavinoids, Our New Best Friends

Chocolate contains flavonoids—antioxidants also commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and coffee. According to Eric L. Ding, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, the polyphenolic flavonoids in cocoa have the potential to prevent heart disease. Flavonoids help decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol among people under age 50, and increase good HDL cholesterol. Chocolate consumption has also been linked to reductions in risk factors for diabetes, as well as resistance to the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar.

It Gets Better (Chocolate Doesn’t Make You Fat?)

In recent studies, consumption of chocolate does not appear to change triglyceride levels of study participants or make them obese. (Triglycerides are a type of blood fat that have been linked to coronary artery disease when levels are elevated above normal.)

A Little Bad News

You cannot simply eat as much chocolate as you want, without increasing your level of physical activity, or you will gain weight. Raw chocolate contains high levels of cocoa butter, rich in saturated fat, some of which is removed and added back in varying amounts by chocolate makers, as well as other fats, sugars, and milk. (However, most of cocoa’s fat comes from stearic acid, which does not raise LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) as do most other saturated fats. In fact, one-third of chocolate's total fat comes from stearic acid.

Buy the Best

The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidant properties it contains. Darker and finer chocolates also contain higher percent of cocoa butter, which contains the stearic acid. Most commercial candy bars contain only 20 percent cocoa butter.

And the Plant is Beautiful

The scientific name of cocoa is Theobroma Cocoa. The tree thrives in a tropical environment and is always full of flowers--yellow-white to shades of pink. The fruits are 15 to 20 cm long, grey or dark red when unripe and bright red or golden when ripe, and contain up to 40 seeds, otherwise known as beans. Like wine, the soil in which cocoa trees grow gives them a specific terroir, a scent and taste that is unique to their ecosystem.c

The cacao tree was discovered over 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. The first people known to have consumed cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 A.D.). They mixed ground cacao (cocoa) seeds with seasonings to make a bitter, spicy drink that was believed to be a health elixir. To the Mayans, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. The Aztecs also believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree.

This should be all you need to justify your habit! Few pleasures come so well recommended…..

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