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How to Eat More Green Red & Yellow Vegetables – Clare Collins

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This is tragic, given high vegetables intakes are associated with better health, including a lower risk of heart disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes.

For every extra 200 grams of vegetables and fruit eaten each day, there’s an 8 per cent reduction in the risk for heart disease, a 16 per cent risk reduction for stroke and a 10 per cent reduction in risk of dying from any cause, according to research using data from 95 individual studies.

 

When the researchers drilled deeper into specific types of vegetables and fruit, they found that eating more apples and pears, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables (like bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radish, swede, turnip, and watercress), green leafy vegetables and salads were all associated with a lower risk for heart disease and death.

They also found a lower risk of getting any type of cancer among those with the highest intakes of green-yellow vegetables such as carrots, corn, pumpkin, zucchini, green beans and cruciferous vegetables.

Across the globe, about 7.8 million deaths are attributed to low intakes of vegetables and fruit.

But in a country like Australia, you’d think it would be easy to eat your greens, as well as a range of other vegetables.

Reasons for not eating them include not liking the taste, a perceived lack of time or cooking skills, and lack of access to fresh produce.

These are all barriers to boosting our vegetable intakes — so let’s check them out in more detail.

Taste

If you hate vegetables, it could be because you have inherited “super-taster” genes.

About 20 per cent of the population are supertasters and rate cruciferous vegetables as tasting up to 60 per cent more bitter compared to non-tasters, who make up about 30 per cent of the population.

What they are “tasting” is a naturally occurring chemical called glucosinolate that is released more when vegetables are cut, cooked or chewed.

Being a super-taster probably offered a survival advantage in ancient times, because it would have meant you were better able to detect poisonous substances (which tend to be bitter), and work out which plants were safer to eat and which to avoid.

The good news is that repeated exposure to these bitter tastes means you do learn to like them over time.

If you hang around with others eating lots of vegetables, or if your parents and household members eat a lot of vegetables, then you will end up eating more too.

True supertasters will like vegetables that are not bitter more, including beans, beetroot, carrots, corn, eggplant, lettuce, onion, peas, pumpkin and sweet potato.

Cooking

If vegetables are off your menu because of how they taste, it is worth a rethink on the way you’re preparing them.

How you cook vegetables can improve their taste and for super tasters, can mask the bitterness.

Try some of these fast and easy tricks at home:

  • Add a “decoy” flavour. Piperine is the ‘hot’ taste in black pepper. Adding it, or chilli or other spices, distracts your taste buds from noticing the bitter taste of vegetables.
  • Mask the taste by using cheese sauce. Make it fast by dissolving a heaped teaspoon of cornflour into a half cup of reduced fat milk in a microwave-proof jug. Cook on high for 30 seconds, stir and add a cheese slice broken into pieces, and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir again, cook for another 30 seconds, then stir until the melted cheese is fully dissolved and the sauce thickens.
  • Cook briefly by stir-frying, microwaving or steaming, so they’re still a bit crunchy.

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Access

In some regions of Australia, getting good quality fresh vegetables at a reasonable cost is a major challenge. Prices of vegetables can be more than double the cost of supermarkets in cities.

This is where modular farms — small indoor farms the size of a shipping container — could potentially help in terms of access and freshness.

A modular farm can be placed just about anywhere from a busy city to a rural community, with the caveat that these farms still need water, although the amount is conservative. However, the power usage is high because they need to run lights 24 hours a day.

Another way to improve your access to a regular supply of vegetables, if distance or affordability is a concern, is by using canned and frozen varieties.

For canned vegetables, choose the salt-reduced varieties where possible. Frozen vegetables on the other hand, are frozen within hours of being harvested and can be even “fresher” that what you buy at the supermarket.

And if you live within a reasonable distance of a market, you could set up a local co-op and take turns to buy in bulk direct and distribute to the members. The Sydney Food Fairness Alliance have a guide to setting up a food co-operative.

 

 

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Why Asparagus Makes Your Urine Smell

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If you’ve ever noticed a strange, not-entirely-pleasant scent coming from your urine after you eat asparagus, you’re definitely not alone.

Distinguished thinkers as varied as Scottish mathematician and physician John Arbuthnot (who wrote in a 1731 book that “asparagus…affects the urine with a foetid smell”) and Marcel Proust (who wrote how the vegetable “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume”) have commented on the phenomenon.

Even Benjamin Franklin took note, stating in a 1781 letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels that “A few Stems of Asparagus eaten, shall give our Urine a disagreable Odour” (he was trying to convince the academy to “To discover some Drug…that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreable as Perfumes”—a goal that, alas, modern science has still not achieved).

But modern science has, at least, shed some light on why this one particular vegetable has such an unusual and potent impact on the scent of urine. Scientists tell us that the asparagus-urine link all comes down to one chemical: asparagusic acid.

Asparagusic acid, as the name implies, is (to our knowledge) only found in asparagus. When our bodies digest the vegetable, they break down this chemical into a group of related sulfur-containing compounds with long, complicated names (including dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone). As with many other substances that include sulfur—such as garlic, skunk spray and odorized natural gas—these sulfur-containing molecules convey a powerful, typically unpleasant scent.

All of these molecules also share another key characteristic: They’re volatile, meaning that have a low enough boiling point that they can vaporize and enter a gaseous state at room temperature, which allows them to travel from urine into the air and up your nose. Asparagusic acid, on the other hand, isn’t volatile, so asparagus itself doesn’t convey the same rotten smell.

But once your body converts asparagusic acid into these volatile, sulfur-bearing compounds, the distinctive aroma can be generated quite quickly—in some cases, it’s been detected in the urine of people who ate asparagus just 15-30 minutes earlier.

Of course, the whole asparagus-urine scent issue is complicated by an entire separate issue: Some people simply don’t smell anything different when urinate after they eat asparagus. Scientists have long been divided into two camps in explaining this issue.

Some believe that, for physiological reasons, these people (which constitute anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the population) don’t produce the aroma in their urine when they digest asparagus, while others think that they produce the exact same scent, but somehow lack the ability to smell it.

On the whole, the evidence is mixed. Initially, a pair of studies conducted in the 1980s with participants from France found that everyone produced the characteristic scent, and that a minority of people were simply unable to smell it. People with the ability to detect the scent, though, were able to smell it even in the urine of those who couldn’t smell it, indicating that the differences were rooted in perception, not production.

More recent studies, though, suggest the issue is a bit more complicated. The most recent study, from 2010, found that differences existed between individuals in both the production and detection of the scent.

Overall, scientists now conclude that most of the difference is in perception—that is, if your urine doesn’t seem to smell any differently after you eat asparagus, it’s likely that you simply can’t perceive the sulfurous compounds’ foul odor, but there’s a small chance it’s because your body digests asparagus in a way that reduces the concentration of these chemicals in your urine.

It’s still unclear why some people don’t produce the smell, but we do seem to have a clear explanation of why some people don’t perceive it. In 2010, the genetic sequencing company 23andMe conducted a study in which they asked nearly 10,000 customers if they noticed any scent in their urine after eating asparagus, and looked for genetic similarities among those who couldn’t.

This peculiarity—which you might consider useful if you eat asparagus frequently—appears to stem from a single genetic mutation, a switched base-pair among a cluster of 50 different genes that code for olfactory receptors.

We’re still waiting for some enterprising team of scientists to attempt gene therapy to convert smellers into non-smellers—but given other priorities to use genetic modification to cure blindness and breast cancer, it seems likely that those suffering from asparagus-scented urine might have to wait a while.

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