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Best Of Food Chemistry News

December 27, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

When you think of the word ‘chemistry’ an image of a science lab filled with beakers, flasks and petri dishes probably comes to mind. But you don’t need a Ph.D., safety goggles or a white lab coat to apply the power of this science as it relates to food. There are already scientists hard at work doing research in the field of food chemistry. All we have to do is pay attention to the papers they publish in the medical literature.

Most people understand that food selection is a major factor in how healthy a diet can be. Choosing to eat steamed asparagus spears rather than tempura fried asparagus makes all the difference. However, there other contributing factors as well, such as the concepts and techniques that can be applied in our very own gardens and kitchens.

Preserving the Healing Power of Broccoli - A soon to be published Australian study examined the effects of three different cooking methods (boiling, microwaving and steaming) on broccoli florets. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli are rich in select phytochemicals with diverse health benefits including chemopreventive properties. Steaming was determined the ideal cooking process as it preserved the greatest quantities of the therapeutic plant chemicals known as glucosinolates and sulforaphane. (1)

Basil Likes Water More Than Soil - Basil is widely believed to impart some of the health benefits commonly attributed to the Mediterranean diet. Now, Italian researchers have discovered that basil can be grown even more healthfully in a soil-less medium. It seems that hydroponic cultivation increases the levels of fat and water based antioxidants commonly found in basil including lipoic acid, phenols, rosmarinic acid, Vitamins C and E. (2)

Fresh Chicken Beats Frozen Chicken Every Time - Did you know that freezing does more than just preserve food? A new study published in the June 2010 issue of the journal Food Chemistry documents the chilling details. Long term frozen storage leads to oxidative damage to the naturally occurring fat and protein contained in chicken meat. This argues for the use of fresh chicken whenever possible. (3)

Selenium-Enriched Broccoli Sprouts May Fight Prostate Cancer
Source: BMC Cancer 2009, 9:414 (link)

Grow Your Own Herbs But Eat Them Dry - Food scientists from the Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland investigated the consequences of three different drying methods on the antioxidant content of six common herbs – basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. Antioxidant capacity was assessed using two objective measures known as the ferric reducing antioxidant property (FRAP) and oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). Air-drying was found to be the most effective way of maintaining the health promoting properties in the herbs tested. In fact, air-dried herbs exhibited higher FRAP and ORAC scores than fresh herbs, freeze-dried herbs and vacuum oven-dried herbs. The researchers also noted that 60 days of storage didn’t adversely affect the antioxidant potential of the dried herbs. (4)

Sprouts Like Sea Water - Sprouting is an economical way to increase your intake of essential nutrients and protective phytochemicals. But how you feed your sprouts can influence how they feed you back. A group of Chinese scientists recently discovered that germinating radish sprouts in a salt solution effectively increased the levels of several cancer fighting phytochemicals. The authors of the experiment coined the process “salt stress” and state that it “could improve the nutritional value of radish sprouts, and germination of sprouts under adequate salt stress could be one useful way to enhance health-promoting compounds of plant food”. That’s one use of salt that even doctors can get behind! (5)

The kitchen is the cornerstone of health or lack there of in most households. But just like any other specialized field, optimal nutrition requires making well informed decisions. In order to do that we need to recall the wisdom of the ages and embrace the insights that modern science adds to the mix. Mankind has been around for far too long to disregard historical eating patterns. At the same time, this is a very different environment than our distant ancestors used to populate. That’s why I think we need to integrate the best of the past with the revelations of the present.

Update: December 2010 - One of the most prominent debates in the field of food chemistry is the relative merit of organic vs conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. There’s a lot of hype on both sides of the issue. Thankfully, three recent publications can help determine which foods are qualitatively different based on growth environment. The first study comes courtesy of researchers from the Department of Food Science and Technology in Gwangju, Korea. Their analysis of conventional and organic green and red hot peppers reveals that the organic variety contain higher levels of important antioxidants including various flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin and quercetin) and Vitamin C. A separate investigation conducted at Washington State University examined the quality of California grown strawberries over a 2 year period. The inquiry discovered that organic strawberries had a “longer shelf life, greater dry matter, and higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds” than their conventional counterparts. But not all of the current data points to the superiority of naturally grown produce. The October 2010 issue of the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry documents an analysis from the University of Denmark which failed to find any statistically relevant differences between conventional and organic carrots, onions or potatoes with respect to “health-promoting” polyphenol content. This is a valuable illustration of why it’s important to stay informed in order to shop wisely and save money wherever possible. (6,7,8)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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7 Comments & Updates to “Best Of Food Chemistry News”

  1. meghmala Says:

    you have provided an exciting news.I love it.
    Herbs are very useful to our day to day life,Thank you for sharing those interesting articles.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Meghmala.

    Be well!

    JP

  3. anne h Says:

    I sometimes freeze meat (and chicken) just to kill any darn bug
    that might be lurking around.
    A quick flash freeze.
    Now I wonder if that’s not such a good idea?!

  4. JP Says:

    Anne,

    I suspect that the shorter the duration (of freezing) the better. I should add that cooking the meat ought to address the microbe issue. Freezing for purposes other than storage is unlikely to be necessary, IMO.

    Be well!

    JP

  5. JP Says:

    Update 07/10/15:

    http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2015/7/ehp.1409518.acco.pdf

    Environ Health Perspect – Advance Publication: 9 July 2015

    Organic Food Consumption during Pregnancy and Hypospadias and Cryptorchidism at Birth: The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa)

    Background: The etiologies of the male urogenital anomalies hypospadias and cryptorchidism remain unclear. It has been suggested that maternal diet and environmental contaminants may affect the risk of these anomalies via placental or hormonal disturbances.

    Objectives: To examine associations between organic food consumption during pregnancy and prevalence of hypospadias and cryptorchidism at birth.

    Methods: Our study includes 35,107 women participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) who delivered a singleton male infant. Information about use of six groups of organically produced food (vegetables, fruit, bread/cereal, milk/dairy products, eggs and meat) during pregnancy was collected by a food frequency questionnaire. Women who indicated that they sometimes, often, or mostly consumed organic foods in at least one of the six food groups were classified as organic food consumers in analyses. Hypospadias and cryptorchidism diagnoses were retrieved from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway. We estimated odds ratios (ORs) and 95 percent confidence intervals (95% CIs) using multiple logistic regression.

    Results: Seventy-four male newborns were diagnosed with hypospadias (0.2%) and 151 with cryptorchidism (0.4%). Women who consumed any organic food during pregnancy were less likely to give birth to a boy with hypospadias (OR=0.42; 95% CI: 0.25, 0.70 based on 21 exposed cases) than women who reported they never or seldom consumed organic food. Associations with specific organic foods were strongest for vegetable (OR=0.36; 95% CI: 0.15, 0.85; 10 exposed cases) and milk/dairy (OR=0.43; 95% CI: 0.17, 1.07; 7 exposed cases) consumption. No substantial association was observed for consumption of organic food and cryptorchidism.

    Conclusions: Consumption of organically produced foods during pregnancy was associated with a lower prevalence of hypospadias in our study population. These findings were based on small numbers of cases and require replication in other study populations.

    Be well!

    JP

  6. JP Says:

    Updated 05/27/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27226361

    J Sci Food Agric. 2016 May 26.

    Vermicompost and farm yard manure improves food quality, anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial potential of Cajanus cajan (L, Mill sp.) leaves.

    BACKGROUND: Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) leaves are a good source of nutrition and health benefitting phenolic compounds. However, its importance has not yet been effectively addressed. Presently, a two-year field experiment was attempted in an alluvial soil to comprehend the role of various organic and inorganic fertilizers and their combinations not only on soil quality, but also on production of foremost phenolic compounds and imparting antioxidant and antibacterial properties in C. Cajan under vermicompost treatments.

    RESULTS: Notable enhancements in crude protein, soluble carbohydrate, ash content and total flavonoid content were recorded in Cajanus leaves under vermicompost treatments. We detected a significant rise in carlinoside content in C.cajan leaves, which is known to reduce bilirubin concentration in hepatitis affected human blood. Farmyard manure treatments result a high crude fibre content coupled with a substantially high concentration of total phenols, and chlorophyll. In addition, incorporation of vermicompost with or without inorganic fertilizer in the soil had a significant impact on antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties of C.cajan leaves. Above and beyond, farmyard manure and vermicompost positively influenced the physico-chemical health of the soil.

    CONCLUSION: The present nutrient management scheme based on organic input not only induced a higher yield of C. Cajan endowed with improved antioxidant and antibacterial properties, but also enhanced the production of various phenolic compounds.

    Be well!

    JP

  7. JP Says:

    Updated 11/20/16:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27859352

    J Sci Food Agric. 2016 Nov 12.

    Evaluation of polyphenolic content and antioxidant activity in two onion varieties grown under organic and conventional production systems.

    BACKGROUND: Onions contain a number of bioactive compounds – in particular polyphenols. They are a rich source of such compounds in the human diet and offer significant health benefits to the consumer. Demand for organic crops is steadily increasing partly based on the expected health benefits of organic food consumption. The current study examines the influence of organic and conventional crop management practices on bioactive polyphenolic content of onion.

    RESULTS: We examined the effect of conventional, organic, and mixed cultivation practices on the content of total phenolics, total flavonoids and antioxidant activity in two varieties of onion grown over four years in a split-plot factorial systems comparison trial. Levels of total phenolics and total flavonoids showed a significant year on year variation and were significantly different between organic and conventional production systems. The levels of total phenolics, total flavonoids and antioxidant activity in generally were significantly higher (p < 0.05) under fully organic compared to fully conventional management.

    CONCLUSION: Organic cultivation practices resulted in significantly higher levels of potential bioactive compounds in onion.

    Be well!

    JP

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