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Study: Adding color to your plate may lower risk of cognitive decline

A new study shows that people who eat a diet that includes at least half a serving per day of foods high in flavonoids like strawberries, oranges, peppers and apples may have a 20% lower risk of cognitive decline.

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A new study shows that people who eat a diet that includes at least half a serving per day of foods high in flavonoids like strawberries, oranges, peppers and apples may have a 20% lower risk of cognitive decline. The research is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study looked at several types of flavonoids, and found that flavones and anthocyanins may have the most protective effect.

Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plants and are considered powerful antioxidants. It is thought that having too few antioxidants may play a role in cognitive decline as you age.

“There is mounting evidence suggesting flavonoids are powerhouses when it comes to preventing your thinking skills from declining as you get older,” said study author Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, of Harvard University in Boston, Mass. “Our results are exciting because they show that making simple changes to your diet could help prevent cognitive decline.”

The study looked at 49,493 women with an average age of 48 and 27,842 men with an average age of 51 at the start of the study. Over 20 years of follow up, people completed several questionnaires about how often they ate various foods. Their intake of different types of flavonoids was calculated by multiplying the flavonoid content of each food by its frequency. Study participants evaluated their own cognitive abilities twice during the study, using questions like, “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering recent events?” and “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering a short list of items?” This assessment captures early memory problems when people’s memory has worsened enough for them to notice, but not necessarily enough to be detected on a screening test.

The people in the group that represented the highest 20% of flavonoid consumers, on average, had about 600 milligrams (mg) in their diets each day, compared to the people in the lowest 20% of flavonoid consumers, who had about 150 mg in their diets each day. Strawberries, for example, have about 180 mg of flavonoids per 100 gram serving, while apples have about 113.

After adjusting for factors like age and total caloric intake, people who consumed more flavonoids in their diets reported lower risk of cognitive decline. The group of highest flavonoid consumers had 20% less risk of self-reported cognitive decline than the people in the lowest group.

Researchers also looked at individual flavonoids. Flavones, found in some spices and yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, had the strongest protective qualities, and were associated with a 38% reduction in risk of cognitive decline, which is the equivalent of being three to four years younger in age. Peppers have about 5 mg of flavones per 100 gram serving. Anthocyanins, found in blueberries, blackberries and cherries, were associated with a 24% reduced risk of cognitive decline. Blueberries have about 164 mg of anthocyanins per 100 gram serving.

“The people in our study who did the best over time ate an average of at least half a serving per day of foods like orange juice, oranges, peppers, celery, grapefruits, grapefruit juice, apples and pears,” Willett said. “While it is possible other phytochemicals are at work here, a colorful diet rich in flavonoids–and specifically flavones and anthocyanins–seems to be a good bet for promoting long-term brain health. And it’s never too late to start, because we saw those protective relationships whether people were consuming the flavonoids in their diet 20 years ago, or if they started incorporating them more recently.”

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Nutrition

Drinking kombucha may reduce blood sugar levels in people with type-two diabetes

Kombucha is a tea fermented with bacteria and yeasts and was consumed as early as 200 B.C. in China, but it did not become popular in the U.S. until the 1990s. Its popularity has been bolstered by anecdotal claims of improved immunity and energy and reductions in food cravings and inflammation, but proof of these benefits has been limited.

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People with type-II diabetes who drank the fermented tea drink kombucha for four weeks had lower fasting blood glucose levels compared to when they consumed a similar-tasting placebo beverage, according to results from a clinical trial conducted by researchers at Georgetown University’s School of Health, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and MedStar Health. This finding, from a pilot 12-person feasibility trial, points to the potential for a dietary intervention that could help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and also establishes the basis for a larger trial to confirm and expand upon these results.

This finding was reported in Frontiers in Nutrition on August 1, 2023.

Kombucha is a tea fermented with bacteria and yeasts and was consumed as early as 200 B.C. in China, but it did not become popular in the U.S. until the 1990s. Its popularity has been bolstered by anecdotal claims of improved immunity and energy and reductions in food cravings and inflammation, but proof of these benefits has been limited.

“Some laboratory and rodent studies of kombucha have shown promise and one small study in people without diabetes showed kombucha lowered blood sugar, but to our knowledge this is the first clinical trial examining effects of kombucha in people with diabetes,” says study author Dan Merenstein, M.D., professor of Human Sciences in Georgetown’s School of Health and professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “A lot more research needs to be done but this is very promising.”

Merenstein continued, “A strength of our trial was that we didn’t tell people what to eat because we used a crossover design that limited the effects of any variability in a person’s diet.”

The crossover design had one group of people drinking about eight ounces of kombucha or placebo beverage daily for four weeks and then after a two-month period to ‘wash out’ the biological effects of the beverages, the kombucha and placebo were swapped between groups with another four weeks of drinking the beverages. Neither group was told which drink they were receiving at the time.

Kombucha appeared to lower average fasting blood glucose levels after four weeks from 164 to 116 milligrams per deciliter while the difference after four weeks with the placebo was not statistically significant. Guidelines from the American Diabetes Association recommended blood sugar levels before meals should be between 70 to 130 milligrams per deciliter.

The researchers also looked at the makeup of fermenting micro-organisms in kombucha to determine which ingredients might be the most active. They found that the beverage was mainly comprised of lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, and a form of yeast called Dekkera, with each microbe present in about equal measure; the finding was confirmed with RNA gene sequencing.

The kombucha used in this study was produced by Craft Kombucha, a commercial manufacturer in the Washington, DC, area. It has been re-branded as Brindle Boxer Kombucha.

“Different studies of different brands of kombucha by different manufacturers reveal slightly different microbial mixtures and abundances,” says Robert Hutkins, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the study’s senior author. “However, the major bacteria and yeasts are highly reproducible and likely to be functionally similar between brands and batches, which was reassuring for our trial.”

“An estimated 96 million Americans have pre-diabetes — and diabetes itself is the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. as well as being a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure,” says Chagai Mendelson, M.D., lead author who was working in Merenstein’s lab at Georgetown while completing his residency at MedStar Health. “We were able to provide preliminary evidence that a common drink could have an effect on diabetes. We hope that a much larger trial, using the lessons we learned in this trial, could be undertaken to give a more definitive answer to the effectiveness of kombucha in reducing blood glucose levels, and hence prevent or help treat type-II diabetes.”

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Nutrition

Go whole grain for a healthy heart

One way to level up the nutritional value of your meals is to better understand whole grains and why they are important for a heart-healthy diet.

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Eating healthy is a priority for many people but knowing where to start and with what foods may be a little trickier. One way to level up the nutritional value of your meals is to better understand whole grains and why they are important for a heart-healthy diet.

As a key feature of heart-healthy diets, whole grains like sorghum, oatmeal and brown rice are rich sources of dietary fiber, may improve blood cholesterol levels and provide nutrients that help the body form new cells, regulate the thyroid and maintain a healthy immune system.

However, according to a survey by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Heart Association, U.S. adults are least knowledgeable about refined vs. whole grains compared to other foods like fruits, vegetables and proteins. Also, when asked to identify whole grains and refined grains, most adults incorrectly believe multi-grain bread is a whole grain and only 17% believe sorghum is an example of a whole grain when it is, in fact, a nutritious whole-grain option.

If you’re looking to try more whole grains, sorghum is a primary ingredient in these heart-healthy recipes for Pancakes with Blueberry Vanilla Sauce, Raspberry Streusel Muffins and Garden Vegetable Stir-Fried Sorghum. These flavorful dishes can be part of an overall healthy diet as recommended by the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Good initiative, supported by the Sorghum Checkoff.

Find more heart-healthy meal ideas at Heart.org/healthyforgood.

Raspberry Streusel Muffins
Recipe courtesy of the American Heart Association and Sorghum Checkoff
Servings: 12 (1 muffin per serving)

Muffins:
            Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2    cups whole grain sorghum flour
1          teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4       teaspoon baking soda
3/4       cup low-fat buttermilk
1/3       cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3          large egg whites
1/4       cup canola or corn oil
2          teaspoons grated lemon zest
1          teaspoon vanilla extract
1          cup fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed if frozen

Streusel:
2          tablespoons whole grain sorghum flour
2          tablespoons light brown sugar
2          tablespoons uncooked quick-cooking rolled oats
2          tablespoons chopped pecans
2          tablespoons light tub margarine
1/2       teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make muffins: Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly spray 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In large bowl, stir sorghum flour, cinnamon and baking soda.

In medium bowl, whisk buttermilk, brown sugar, egg whites, oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture until batter is just moistened and no flour is visible without overmixing. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Top each muffin with raspberries.

To make streusel: In small bowl, stir sorghum flour, brown sugar, oats, pecans, margarine and cinnamon to reach texture of coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over muffins, gently pushing into batter. Bake 16 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. The USDA recommends cooking egg dishes to 160 F.

Transfer pan to cooling rack. Let stand 5 minutes. Carefully transfer muffins to rack. Let cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Garden Vegetable Stir-Fried Sorghum
Recipe courtesy of the American Heart Association and Sorghum Checkoff
Servings: 4 (1 1/2 cups per serving)

1          cup uncooked whole-grain sorghum
2          teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2          medium garlic cloves, minced
1          teaspoon gingerroot, peeled and minced                   
1          cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets, chopped, thawed if frozen
1          cup snow peas, trimmed and halved   
1/2       cup carrot strips, sliced into matchsticks
1/2       cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2       cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2       cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
2          large eggs
2          tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1/2       cup water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
1/4       cup green onions, diagonally sliced

Prepare sorghum using package directions, omitting salt. Once cooked, spread sorghum in even layer on rimmed baking sheet or 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. Let stand 5-10 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate, uncovered, 20 minutes, or until cool.

In large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat oil, swirling to coat bottom. Cook garlic and gingerroot 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook broccoli, snow peas, carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms and edamame 10-12 minutes, or until vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring frequently.

In small bowl, using fork, beat eggs and 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir water chestnuts and sorghum into vegetable mixture. Push mixture to sides of skillet. Pour egg mixture into center of skillet. Using heatproof rubber scraper, stir 1-2 minutes, or until partially set.

Stir vegetable mixture into partially cooked egg mixture. Cook 1 minute, or until eggs are cooked through and sorghum is heated through, stirring constantly. The USDA recommends cooking egg dishes to 160 F.

Remove from heat. Stir in remaining soy sauce. Sprinkle with green onions.

Pancakes with Blueberry Vanilla Sauce
Recipe courtesy of the American Heart Association and Sorghum Checkoff
Servings: 4 (2 pancakes, 1/4 cup sauce and 2 tablespoons yogurt per serving)

Sauce:
2          teaspoons cornstarch
1/3       cup water
1          cup blueberries
1          tablespoon sugar
1 1/2    teaspoons vanilla extract

Pancakes:
1/2       cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2       cup whole grain sorghum flour
1 1/2    tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2    teaspoons baking powder
1/2       teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2       cup fat-free milk
1/2       cup unsweetened applesauce
1          large egg
1          tablespoon canola or corn oil

Topping:
1/2       cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

To make sauce: Put cornstarch in medium saucepan. Add water, stirring to dissolve. Stir in blueberries and sugar. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Boil 1-2 minutes, or until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Cover to keep warm. Set aside.

To make pancakes: In medium bowl, stir oats, sorghum flour, brown sugar, baking powder and cinnamon.

In small bowl, whisk milk, applesauce, egg and oil. Stir into flour mixture until batter is just moistened and no flour is visible without overmixing.

Heat nonstick griddle over medium heat. Test temperature by sprinkling drops of water on griddle. Griddle is ready when water evaporates quickly.

Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake on griddle. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until tiny bubbles appear on surface and bottoms are golden brown. Flip pancakes. Cook 1-2 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown on bottoms. The USDA recommends cooking egg dishes to 160 F. 

Transfer pancakes to plates. Spoon sauce over pancakes. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons yogurt.

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Nutrition

Summer of Caesar

Put a twist on the classic Caesar salad this summer with crunchy textures and energizing flavors to keep the excitement rolling all season long.

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Summer celebrations come in many forms – backyard games, fun at the pool, time with family – but perhaps a favorite is enjoying fresh, delicious foods that are easy to prepare. Put a twist on the classic Caesar salad this summer with crunchy textures and energizing flavors to keep the excitement rolling all season long.

Capitalize on a food trend that’s all the rage with this easy-to-assemble Chicken Caesar Salad Charcuterie Board for a unique way to share a meal. Sliced chicken provides that familiar taste of grilled summer fare combined with hard-cooked eggs, fruits, veggies, cheese and crostini.

At the heart of the dish is the Fresh Express Twisted Lemon Caesar Chopped Salad Kit, which provides a spin on traditional Caesar flavor by adding in bright notes of lemon. The kit features crisp iceberg lettuce, colorful and sweet dried cherries, crunchy Parmesan cheese crisps and lemon white wine Caesar dressing to bring a little sunshine to each bite.

A convenient, ideal bed for this salad charcuterie board, the kits can also be enjoyed as an easy summer salad on their own and are available in the refrigerated produce department at grocery stores.

Visit FreshExpress.com for more mealtime inspiration and to find salad kits near you.

Chicken Caesar Salad Charcuterie Board
Prep time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8

3          packages (9.1 ounces each) Fresh Express Twisted Lemon Caesar Chopped Salad Kits
2          pounds sliced grilled chicken
16        slices crostini
1          cup chopped hard-cooked eggs
1          cup chopped celery
1          cup diced cucumber
1          cup chopped red onion
1          cup chopped apple
1          cup chopped tomato
1          cup shaved Romano cheese
1          cup chopped pecans
1          cup golden raisins
1          lemon, sliced

Place lettuce from salad kits in large bowl; place in center of large round cutting board or platter.

Arrange sliced chicken and crostini around bowl of lettuce.

Place salad dressings and toppings from salad kits in individual small bowls. Place eggs, celery, cucumber, red onion, apple, tomato, Romano cheese, pecans, raisins and lemon slices in individual small bowls.

Arrange bowls in circle around lettuce, chicken and crostini.

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