Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ethylene is not a name for a girl

Because my company website is read by both consumers and produce managers, I list the ethylene production and sensitivity for each fruit and vegetable. No matter how well I spell it out, I always get a consumer demanding to knowing what the strange sounding word means and why we put it on our produce.

Ethylene, the word itself conjures up smoke belching chemical plants. But that's the furthest from the truth. Ethylene is a nature gas that fruits emit during their ripening process. Ethylene triggers the fruit's ripening process.

Produce managers want to know how ethylene sensitive their produce is so that they don't overripen something. That's why you don't see avocados right next to bananas, unless the store wants to sell guacamole (produce joke). And that's why you put an unripe piece of fruit in a paper bag with an apple or banana (both emit high levels of ethylene). The ethylene gas emitted by the apple or banana helps the unripe fruit to ripen.

So ethylene is our friend. Sorry, I always wanted to say something like that.

Humans and plants have some things in common. A harvested fruit and vegetable is constantly breathing, using its energy reserves to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

Plants also have hormones that regulate growth and development. Ethylene is one of these plant hormones and triggers the ripening process. Certain fruits continue to ripen after they are harvested. Like humans, plants can convert complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. Unlike humans, plants becoming sweeter in this process.

Papayas are a great example of this type of fruit. On the outside, the papaya is not the most cosmetically beautiful of fruit as it ages. But truly beauty is only skin deep; as it ages papayas get sweeter and sweeter. The grocery store cash register gal always looks askance at me as she rings up what has to be the ugliest fruit in the store. I don't care; once the skin comes off, it's the sweetest.

Avocados are another fruit that continues to ripen after harvesting. Avocados, like mangos and bananas, need to mature on the tree. They grow as big as they're going to get on the tree but only start to ripen when it's picked. So you never really eat 'just picked' avocados. Or I should say you'll never really enjoy eating 'just picked' avocados. You can barely cut them with a knife.

That's why Florida avocados, all 70+ types, aren't picked unless they have reached the optimum size for their type. Pickers go into the field with an avocado diameter measuring device. They only pick if the fruit measures beyond a certain size.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fat - the weighty topic

The third in an annual study taken by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) foundation shows some interesting consumer trends about how they perceive their health and what's healthy for them.

Taste and price continue to have the greatest impact on food and beverage buying decisions. Healthfulness as a factor is up 4 percent from 58% in 2006.

70% are concerned with the amount of fat they consume and 68% with the type of fat. Knowing the type of fat was important to survey respondents but knowledge about the types of fats that dietary guidance recommends consuming - including mono- and polyunsaturated fats - is limited.

I hear this played out in emails and blog posts. "Avocados have the good kind of fat." "I can eat as much guacamole as I want."

The good news
It's true avocados do have monounsaturated fat-- the "good" kind that actually lowers cholesterol levels. A 1996 study by researchers at the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Mexico that found that people who ate avocados every day for a week experienced an average 17% drop in total blood cholesterol. And their cholesterol ratio changed in a healthy way:
  • Levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or "bad fat") went down
  • Levels of triglycerides (associated with heart disease) went down
  • Levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or "good fat") levels, which tend to lower the risk of heart disease, climbed.

Researchers also discovered that avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance shown to significantly lower blood cholesterol levels.

Everything in Moderation
"Sneaking monounsaturated fats into a daily diet allows you to enjoy similar health benefits," says Melanie Polk, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition education at the American Institute for
Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.

"Used creatively," she says, "avocados can add variety -- and good nutrition -- to your diet."

Ms. Polk suggests mashing avocados and spreading it Instead of butter or cream cheese on bread or bagel. Instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich, top the sandwich with avocado slices. You'll be cutting out saturated fat and substituting monounsaturated fat.

Remember, though, all fat and that includes 'good fat' should be taken in moderation. No more than 70 calories a day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fuller fat

Avocados, nuts and olive oil are more filling than other foods because their unsaturateg fats trigger the release of a compound called oleoylethanolamide (OEA) in the small intestine. This activates a brain circuit that makes us feel more satisfied for longer.*

However good this fat may be, doctors still say to remember it is fat and only 70 calories a day should be eaten of it.

According to researchers at the University of California at Irvine.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Diabetics need not stay away

Should diabetics avoid tropical fruits? True, some of these fruits are high on a Glycaemic Index, but they're usually low in carbohydrates. Bottom line, tropical fruits are nutrient-rich, high in fibre, rich in antioxidants and a great source of carbohydrates. Read more on this nutritionist's blog.

Don't judge a drink by its color

Called the Morning After, the drink's color may cause you to look twice. But don't push it away, it's refreshing and light.

Blend together
- slices of 2 medium-sized oranges
- 1 cup of Caribbean Red papaya chunks
- 1 cucumber peeled and sliced.
- 1 tablespoon honey
- a handful of ice cubes

Perfect together: SlimCado Avocados and Limes

I rarely eat a SlimCado without a lime. The two go so well together, just by themselves. But with a little effort, you can make a great soup and salad dressing.

Avocado Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium-sized red onions; chopped
4 chopped garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 ripe SlimCado Avocados; peeled
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 quart chicken stock

- Over low heat, heat the oil in a large covered pot
- Add onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 10 minutes.
- Add SlimCado Avocados, lime juice and stock. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until SlimCados are soft.
- Puree with a hand held blender until very smooth.

Lime and SlimCado Avocado dressing
I've seen a couple of recipes floating around that argue you should use haas avocados and lemons in a recipe like this one. That's so Californian. Using SlimCados and limes give it a much more lighter taste but with added punch. What more could you ask for in a salad dressing?

1 ripe small- to medium- sized SlimCado Avocado*, peeled and mashed
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons sour cream or key lime yogurt
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon dill weed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon honey

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients. Serve on top of salad greens or a fresh fruit salad.

*Depending on the size of the SlimCado, you may want to double the recipe or add more of the liquid ingredients.

Peel limes first!

If you peel a lime before squeezing, the taste is less bitter - or so I'm told. I've never attributed a bitter taste to a lime. I find it less tart doing it this way, yes.

Anyway you squeeze it - peel on or off - here's a great limeade drink recipe.

- Peel and juice enough limes to make 1/2 cup lime juice
- Add: 1/8 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water
- Pour through cheesecloth to sort out the seeds and pulp