Posts Tagged: nutrition
Consumers save over $41 a month after attending UC Cooperative Extension nutrition workshops
Consumers have seen their grocery bills rising over the last few months. To save money, buying store or generic brands and preparing meals at home are a couple of ways to adapt in the short term, according to UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educators.
UCCE nutrition educators offer tips and workshops to help families participating in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC program. With the information, the families are better able to make their food dollars last all month.
“After attending the workshop series, households across California were finding a savings of over $41 a month,” said Natalie Price, UCCE nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor in Los Angeles County.
Through a series of workshops and informational fliers, participating households have had success in reducing their food bill, improving healthy food knowledge, and improving food safety.
Currently UCCE offers EFNEP and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC lessons in 40 out of the 58 California counties. From Del Norte to San Diego County, nutrition educators are working with families to improve their diet quality and physical activity through a series of workshops available to eligible households. In a series of six to nine one-hour classes, families learn how to buy, store and prepare healthy, safe and nutritious food.
The EFNEP classes held throughout the state reach, on average, more than 17,000 participants, including attendees and household members of attendees. After taking the class, one participant said, “Before I only bought what was on sale, but now I have a shopping list. I have a menu of the week and I always look at the ingredients.”
Science-based nutrition information consistently ranks as one of the top areas of interest among the public, and these programs represent one of the premier opportunities to reach Californians with relevant resources.
“Over 90% of our program graduates reported (in post-class surveys) improved food resource management skills such as planning meals, making a shopping list, and comparing food prices, which has resulted in $19 to $64 grocery bill savings per month,” said Marisa Neelon, UCCE nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Knowing what to buy, how to prepare and what to eat are key to help households improve both costs and nutrition. As one participant commented, “[I make] a list before I go shopping and planning what I will cook to avoid overspending.” Knowing what to buy, how to prepare and what to eat are key to help households improve both costs and nutrition.
This success has been replicated in other counties and translated into major savings for families at the grocery store. These savings can add up and make a significant impact, especially in the current environment of rising food prices.
The UCCE nutrition educators shared their top tips to save money on food:
- Check the grocery flyers for the food sales
- Make weekly menus of the food needed for your family meals and snacks
- Buy store or generic brands instead of national brands
- Read food labels to choose items that are nutrient rich
- Purchase canned and frozen foods along with fresh items
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has a list of online resources for anyone interested in becoming more active and eating healthier at https://ucanr.edu/sites/resourcedirectory.
Scientists make the first large-scale estimate of live microorganisms consumed in the U.S. diet
Our diets provide us with the building blocks we need to stay healthy and fight disease. The nutrients in foods and beverages can be tallied up to know if we are getting what our bodies need. Yet what if a nutrient has been overlooked? For instance, friendly microbes in raw and fermented foods have not been measured as part of our diets — until now.
“Ultimately we want to understand if there should be a recommended daily intake of these microbes to keep us healthy, either through the foods or from probiotic supplements,” said Maria Marco, a professor in the food science and technology department at UC Davis. “In order to do that, we need to first quantify the number of live microorganisms we consume today in our diets.”
Marco co-authored a new study with a group of scientists that examined the number of living microbes per gram of more than 9,000 different foods consumed by nearly 75,000 adults and children. It found that around 20% of children and 26% of adults consumed foods with high levels of live microorganisms in their diet. Both children and adults increased their consumption of these foods over the 18-year study period. The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, is the first large-scale estimate of how many live microbes are consumed by Americans every day.
“This trend is going in the right direction. Exposure to friendly microorganisms in our foods can be good for promoting a healthy immune system.” said Marco.
Foods for gut health
Study authors examined the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to create the estimate. The health and dietary database contains extensive information on the foods consumed by Americans daily. Food science and fermentation experts assigned each food an estimated range of live microbes per gram, creating categories of foods with low, medium and high levels of live microbes. Foods in the high category included fermented dairy foods such as yogurt, fermented pickles and kimchi. Fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables were also good sources of live microorganisms, represented in the medium category.
The analysis was funded by a grant from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, or ISAPP. The microorganisms quantified in this study are not necessarily probiotics.
“By definition, a probiotic must be well-defined and have a demonstrated health benefit at a quantified dose. Live microbes associated with food as a category, however, do not generally meet the criteria of a probiotic,” said corresponding author Mary Ellen Sanders, executive science officer for the ISAPP.
The publication is part of a larger global effort to determine how live dietary microbes might contribute to health.
“There is no doubt that the microbes we eat affect our health. When we think of microbes in our food, we often think of either foodborne pathogens that cause disease or probiotics that provide a documented health benefit,” said co-author Colin Hill, a professor of microbial food safety with University College Cork, Ireland. “But it's important to also explore dietary microbes that we consume in fermented and uncooked foods. It is very timely to estimate the daily intake of microbes by individuals in modern society as a first step towards a scientific evaluation of the importance of dietary microbes in human health and well-being.”
Other scientists co-authoring the paper were ISAPP board members Robert Hutkins, Dan Merenstein, Daniel J. Tancredi, Christopher J. Cifelli, Jaime Gahche, Joanne L. Slavin and Victor L. Fulgoni III.
Editor's note: Maria Marco is affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources as an Agricultural Experiment Station faculty member./h3>/h3>
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources recently held a nutrition Facebook Live webinar on how to find healthy food options that fit your lifestyle. Over the lunch break on April 7, participants heard from three UC ANR nutrition experts:
- Javier Miramontes; UC Extended Food and Nutrition Education Program nutrition and program supervisor for Orange County
- Aba Ramirez; UC adult EFNEP nutrition educator for Los Angeles County
- Mary Blackburn; UC Cooperative Extension Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Advisor for Alameda County
The conversation began with Miramontes and Ramirez discussing the MyPlate nutrition plan, in which participants balance each meal with parts of each food group.
“Half of your plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables, but it's not a one-size-fits-all, as children and adults need different amounts of these foods,” said Ramirez.
The nutrition educators then highlighted choices from each of the food groups that are better choices than others for health.
“When choosing a protein source, make sure to look for low-fat meat options (i.e. grilled chicken instead of fried chicken) to reduce calorie intake,” Miramontes said. “Or try unsalted over salted nuts to cut down processed foods and sodium intake.”
As a follow-up, Blackburn addressed the tensions between a healthy diet and individuals' food intolerances and food allergies.
“A food allergy is when a food activates the person's immune system, whereas a food intolerance means someone will have difficulty digesting a food,” she explained.
People can have intolerances to foods from all across the MyPlate groups, including foods such as whole wheat bread, peanuts and tomatoes. This issue appears to be a growing problem, as Blackburn noted that “every year we see the number of (food intolerance) cases increasing and the number of foods belonging to these categories increasing.”
“We must take matters into our own hands,” Blackburn continued, “by selectively choosing foods and see how our bodies respond; if you find yourself consistently bloated after consuming a meal, it may be best practice to limit one of those foods for some time, and then see how your body responds.”
Blackburn described how individuals – by becoming their own body's scientists – can experiment with adding and removing different foods and seeing how their body responds.
Audience members were invited to ask questions of the speakers and to learn more about what they could do to achieve their own healthy food and nutrition goals.
A full recording of the webinar with captions is on Facebook. To date, the video has been viewed more than 23,000 times. Look for future UC ANR Facebook Lives on the UC ANR Facebook page that highlight the great work Extension educators are doing around California.
A U.S. federal government shutdown can represent a minor inconvenience, a delay in paychecks, or – for people living in some of the most difficult circumstances – an extended period of hunger and anxiety.
A study published recently in the journal Nutrients provides a unique glimpse into the shutdown experiences of participants in CalFresh – California's name for the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). Currently, about 42 million people participate in SNAP across the U.S.
In focus groups conducted in 2019 with 26 low-income CalFresh participants from four diverse California counties, participants shared how the 2018-19 federal government shutdown affected their SNAP benefits, their perception of the program and their faith in government.
One of the immediate effects of the 2018-19 shutdown was that February CalFresh benefits were distributed in January. And while that meant program participants saw extra benefits that month, they then had to wait 40 to 44 days until the March issuance – much longer than the usual 28 to 31 day cycle.
“What we saw with this study is that this extended lag in benefit receipt from January to March was devastating,” said Wendi Gosliner, senior researcher and policy advisor at the Nutrition Policy Institute of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, and an author of the study funded by UC ANR.
She recalled one participant who, despite having a gastrointestinal issue that requires a special diet, had to eat canned food from the food bank that made her sick – rather than go hungry while waiting for her March benefits. Others described cascading financial challenges after using rent money for food in February, or going into debt to pay for food and getting behind on other expenses.
The study also chronicles the experiences of a woman who was anguished to hear the suffering of her daughter, also a CalFresh participant: “She called me several times crying, ‘Ma, I don't – we don't have enough food. What am I going to do…? You know, I can't afford to this and this and this.' And I can't help her.”
For individuals grappling with food insecurity, the stress of feeding their families was compounded by the uncertainties of the government shutdown. And while many participants exercised their agency and resourcefulness in coping with the situation, they also felt a degree of powerlessness amid the “confusion and craziness,” as one person put it.
“No one knew how long that shutdown was going to last; no one knew if the March benefits were going to be paid,” Gosliner said. “And as we learned, there were all kinds of stories circulating out there about what was going on with the uncertainty – a lot of people didn't have the information about what was actually happening.”
Some participants, seeing the “double benefit” in January 2019, thought that it was the last-ever distribution and that SNAP was ending. Others described being unable to get in touch with the CalFresh agency to get their questions answered about the benefits. Most participants had not heard about the disrupted benefit schedule before receiving the benefits. As a result, many people in the focus groups shared that their overall faith in government had been shaken.
Improving customer service, boosting benefit levels and adjusting eligibility and benefit formulas to reflect high cost-of-living and expenses related to working were three recommendations that came from the focus group participants.
A fourth recommendation tackles the shutdown issue head-on: Don't let it happen again.
“Congress should do absolutely everything in their power to be sure that the program operates on the usual time schedule – even if the government is shut down,” Gosliner said.
In the context of the global pandemic, when financial and social inequities and physical and mental health disparities have been laid bare, ensuring access to healthful food is even more important. And with studies showing that hospitalizations increase with longer lags between SNAP distributions, Gosliner said the “absolute last thing” the overburdened health system needs is more people in emergency departments seeking acute care.
“It's the worst time to be having people who need money to feed their families face additional insecurity,” she said. “It's critically important that Congress acts to be sure that there is not any disruption in benefits.”
The authors of the study, “Participants' Experiences of the 2018–2019 Government Shutdown and Subsequent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefit Disruption Can Inform Future Policy,” are Wendi Gosliner, Wei-Ting Chen, Cathryn Johnson, Elsa Michelle Esparza, Natalie Price, Ken Hecht and Lorrene Ritchie.
The study can be found online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353319.
Drinking water safety, especially for children, has become an issue of heightened concern since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in 2014.
The National Drinking Water Alliance map has recently been updated to add over 235 new points linking to news reports of tap water contamination, with nearly half of the incidents emerging since 2019.
“We created the map to help community members, advocates and decision-makers visualize the tap water contamination landscape, particularly for incidents of lead that exceed state action levels,” said Christina Hecht, UC Nutrition Policy Institute senior policy advisor and National Drinking Water Alliance coordinator.
Residents can zoom in on their state to check for contamination incidents that were reported in the news. Red pins indicate lead contamination in schools and parks. Clicking on a pin on the map produces a pop-up box containing the name of the town, date and link to the news story.
“Although most tap water is safe for drinking, the number of dots on the map show that there are times and places where tap water is not safe,” Hecht said. “The only way to know if tap water has elevated lead is by testing through an accredited lab.”
The interactive map was created by the Nutrition Policy Institute and Informatics and Geographic Information System at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. The map only includes tap water contamination with lead and contaminants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For example, reports of perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, contaminating drinking water are not included because PFAS are not regulated by the EPA.
Although a few states now maintain some type of online database of results from school or childcare tests for lead in tap water, to date, there is no national database of lead exceedances in school or childcare drinking water.
The National Drinking Water Alliance map includes information on state policies and programs to test for lead in school drinking water. Almost one-third of U.S. states have enacted legislation providing policy to test for lead in drinking water in schools and, in some cases, in child-care centers. California tests for lead in drinking water at all public K-12 schools and posts the results online. Policies for mandatory testing have recently passed in Oregon and Vermont. New legislation has been proposed in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Connecticut. Voluntary programs are now present in every state, funded by nationwide federal grants supporting testing in child-care facilities and schools.
More information on each state's actions can be found on the interactive map at www.drinkingwateralliance.org/new-map, which was updated by Nutrition Policy Institute intern Laurel Denyer, a recent UC Davis graduate.
For more information about drinking water safety, and to propose additions to the map, please contact the NDWA at DWAalliance@ucanr.edu.