On World Health Day, #stayhome but do it in a healthy and active way

On World Health Day, #stayhome but do it in a healthy and active way

April 7 is World Health Day. It is paradoxical that this year we will celebrate it confined due to a global pandemic. However, although #Istayhome, life goes on and we cannot let our guard down when it comes to health.

Each of us associates the fact of being at home with different habits: some to tranquillity and rest, others to domestic tasks, others to family. Whatever your situation, there are no excuses to do it in a healthy and active way.

Let’s put ourselves in situation with some data from the 2019 health profile in Spain published by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development):

  • Spain is the EU country with the highest life expectancy: 83.4 years in 2017, which is 2.5 years above the EU average. Spaniards today can expect to live an additional 21.5 years after reaching the age of 65, 1.5 years more than the EU average. This increase in life expectancy was mainly caused by a considerable reduction in mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases, although mortality from Alzheimer’s disease increased as a consequence of the increase in life expectancy.
  • Spain has some of the lowest mortality rates from preventable and treatable causes, indicating that public health and healthcare interventions are, in some cases, effective. However, much remains to be done as estimates suggest that more than a third of deaths in Spain can be attributed to risk factors associated with behavioural habits, including tobacco use, poor diet, alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyle (see figure).
Figure: Percentages of deaths in Spain and in the EU attributed to behavioural risk factors. Source: IHME (2018), Global Health Data Exchange (estimates correspond to 2017)
  • In the case of smoking, an anti-smoking law was adopted in 2005 and was strengthened in 2010. The 2010 law strengthened the rules on the retail and advertising of tobacco products; increased protection for minors and non-smokers by expanding smoke-free zones to all public places; and promoted the application of smoking cessation programs, especially in primary care. At the same time, taxes on cigarettes were increased, by 3% per pack of cigarettes in 2013 and by 2.5% more in 2017, along with a 6.8% increase in taxes on rolling tobacco. All these measures have contributed to the fact that smoking rates have decreased in the last fifteen years. However, more than one in five Spanish adults (22%) continued to smoke daily in 2017, representing a higher proportion than the EU average (19%).
  • Regarding overweight and obesity, the data is even more alarming. In 2005, the NAOS Strategy, managed by the Spanish Agency for Consumption, Food Safety and Nutrition, aimed to curb the increase in obesity in the Spanish population. This was reinforced by the Food Safety and Nutrition Law adopted in 2011, also with the aim of reducing overweight and obesity in children, prohibiting foods and beverages with a high content of saturated fatty acids, salt and sugar in schools and, more broadly, tightening the regulations on children’s menus. Recently, work has been carried out to establish a set of indicators that allow evaluating progress in their application and for the execution of health promotion activities in the area of nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention (AECOSAN, 2019). In 2018, the Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare announced new measures to reinforce the NAOS Strategy and, among them, an initiative on a new labelling on the front of packages using the Nutriscore model. Using an easy-to-understand colour code (based on a “traffic light” approach), this initiative aims to provide citizens with more accurate information on the nutritional quality of food, although this measure has not yet been applied. In early 2019, the Ministry also signed an agreement with almost four hundred food companies that committed to reducing the content of saturated fatty acids, salt and added sugars in their products. However, the effects so far seem modest. In fact, the obesity rate has increased among adults, which may hinder progress in reducing cardiovascular mortality and other related causes of death: one in six Spaniards suffered from obesity in 2017 (17%), a increase compared to the figure of one in eight in 2001, also above the EU average (15%). This increase is related to poor physical activity among adults, as well as unhealthy nutritional habits: only about 35% of adults reported eating at least one vegetable a day. The same situation is found in the child-youth population. According to the PASOS study (2019), 14.2% of the child-youth population is overweight and obese as measured by BMI and 24.5% have abdominal obesity. The prevalence of childhood obesity has grown in the last two decades: 1.6% according to BMI and 8.3% according to abdominal obesity.

We cannot ignore the data. A healthy and active lifestyle contributes to our quality of life expectancy. Some basic recommendations:

  1. Move, live an active life: go up the stairs, go to work on foot or by bike whenever possible, choose games that involve movement to do with your children, dance, etc.
  2. Eat calmly: follow your feeling of satiety and not your emotions (avoid eating due to boredom, anxiety, etc.). Limit ultra-processed food (you can read further in the post: Realfood, fad or is it here to stay?). Include fruits and vegetables in all your intakes. Give priority to whole carbohydrates over refined ones. Vary the food every day. Eat quietly and if possible, in company.
  3. Hydrate yourself regularly throughout the day.
  4. Exercise daily: dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to the physical activity that you like the most and vary it.
  5. Rest and sleep between 6 and 8 hours a day.
  6. Spend time on activities you like: reading, walking, writing, dancing, painting, photography, movies, meditating, talking to someone who inspires you, etc.

Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits should be an ever-present motto in our lives, but it becomes essential in difficult situations like the one we are experiencing. It is at these times when initiatives like #AlimentActivos from FIAB (Federation of Food and Beverage Industries) take on special relevance. It is a website where they give us tricks and ideas, pose challenges for us and provide us with scientific data and information to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

Do not forget that, through social networks, you can follow a multitude of profiles that inspire us in matters of healthy eating and cooking, physical exercise at home, how to maintain good mental health, as well as stay positive and relaxed.

At CARTIF, #westayathome exercising #health.

October 16th, World Food Day: #ZeroHunger

October 16th, World Food Day: #ZeroHunger

#ZeroHunger is the motto for the World Food Day that is celebrated on October 16 leaded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) worldwide. #ZeroHunger is also part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Achieving #ZeroHunger is not only about feeding hungry people, but also about doing it in a healthy and sustainable way. Food safety in our times is not only a matter of quantity, but also of quality. Unhealthy diets have become the first risk factor for disease and death worldwide and that is why we need to reach the entire population a sufficient variety of safe, nutritious and affordable foods, while caring for the health of the planet on which we all depend. World Food Day asks us to take action in all sectors to reach #ZeroHunger, 100% nutrition.

But what is a healthy and sustainable diet? FAO itself determines that a healthy diet is one that provides nutritional needs to maintain an active life and reduce the risk of contracting diseases through the consumption of safe, nutritious and diverse foods. And a sustainable diet supports entrenched solutions to food production with a low level of greenhouse gas emissions and a moderate use of natural resources such as soil and water, while increasing food diversity for the future.

What is the current situation?

The high consumption of dishes rich in sugars, refined starches, fats and salt have become the basis of food for developed countries, limiting the consumption of traditional dishes made with vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etc. We cook less, move less and consume more prepared dishes. The result is that we are malnourished. Do you find it alarming? Don’t you think it’s for so much? Let’s see some figures:

  • Currently, there are already more people with obesity and overweight in the world than those who are hungry: almost 800 million people (672 adults and 124 children) in the world suffer from obesity and another 40 million children are overweight. However, it is estimated that there are about 820 million people who suffer from hunger (approximately one in nine).
  • Unhealthy diets along with sedentary lifestyles have overcome smoking as the main risk factor for disability and death in the world.
  • Approximately 2 billion euros are spent each year to treat health problems related to obesity.

These are some of the conclusions reached by FAO related to hunger and malnutrition but they are not the only ones. Our way of feeding ourselves is also having environmental consequences:

  • The environmental damage caused by the food system could increase from 50 to 90%, due to the higher consumption of processed foods, meat and other products of animal origin in low and middle income countries.
  • Of some 6,000 species of plants grown for food throughout the history of mankind, today only three species (wheat, corn and rice) supply almost 50 percent of our daily calories. We need to consume a wide variety of nutritious foods.
  • Climate change threatens to reduce both the quality and quantity of crops, reducing crops. Rising temperatures are also exacerbating water scarcity, changing the relationship between pests, plants and pathogens, and reducing marine resources.
  • The current food system – which includes farming, animal husbandry, processing, packaging and transportation – is responsible for 37% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated annually, and losses and food waste also collaborates with 8-10% of the total sum. Belén Blanco tells us in more detail in the post “Tell me what you eat… and I’ll tell you if it’s good for the planet”.

For all this, because they are realities, all together we must raise awareness of the problem of hunger, malnutrition, food waste, climate change, etc. FAO calls on all people to get involved in implementing some measure to achieve the #ZeroHunger.

Who are the actors involved in this change taking place? The answer is all. Modify the way of producing, supplying and consuming food. The involvement of the industry in limiting saturated and trans fats, added sugars and salt. Eliminate advertising and promotion in unhealthy foods and especially those aimed at children and adolescents. Implement educational programs on nutrition and health. Actions from all levels are necessary.

And I, as a consumer, what can I do? As a consumer, as a citizen, as a human being on this planet, you can. Think about how you consume, how you eat and act on your own, individual level and with the people around you. Here are a series of measures that can guide you:

World Food Day is not the only forum in which it strives to improve food security, but FAO also participates with WHO and other agencies in the implementation of the United Nations Decade of Nutrition Action (2016-2025). It aims to strengthen joint action to reduce hunger and improve nutrition worldwide and assist all countries in their specific commitments. The SOFI report is published annually to provide information on the progress made to eradicate hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition. The last one was published on July 15, 2019.

On World Food Day, FAO launches a strong message: we can end hunger and all forms of malnutrition to become the #ZeroHunger generation. But this will entail the joint action of all, from the commitment of each one of us in the change in the way we feed ourselves, to the cooperation between countries for an efficient transfer of technology, for example, through the correct decision-making of governments or by the involvement of private companies and the media.

The recommended intake of sweet consensus

The recommended intake of sweet consensus

Last July, EFSA published a protocol that sets out the strategy to follow for the collection of data that will be used for the development of a Scientific Opinion that establishes the maximum tolerable level of sugar intake. I know it could seem confusing, let me explain…

Tons of tweets and images often appear on social networks that show the amount of sugar that certain processed foods have. Associations such as sinazucar.org have been actively promoting it for some time. Thus, this topic is not new at all. The novelty is related to the publication by EFSA of a protocol that sets the strategy to follow in the collection of scientific data that will be carried out prior to the publication of the Scientific Opinion on the reference dietary level of intake of sugars for the European population that EFSA plans to publish.

This document will represent an update of the Scientific Opinion published in 2010 regarding reference dietary values ​​for sugars, carbohydrates and fiber (EFSA NDA Panel, 2010a). With the data available up to 2010, there was no conclusive evidence linking an effect of sugars on micronutrient density, insulin response to glucose, body weight, type 2 diabetes or dental caries significant enough to establish limits of maximum tolerated intake, adequate intake or reference intake of sugars. After 2010, several organizations have published recommendations on the recommended intake of sugars; however, quite disparate among them. For example, the World Health Organization recommends reducing the consumption of free sugars in life. For both adults and children, the consumption of free sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of the total caloric intake. A reduction below 5% of the total caloric intake would produce additional health benefits. Now, EFSA intends to evaluate the scientific basis that has emerged from 2010 to the present and to check if there is enough new evidence to establish a reference dietary level.

This request to EFSA, which comes from the competent authorities in the field of nutrition and health of 5 European countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), will not only respond to the need to update the existing evidence but also will constitute an act of consensus of terms referring to the sugars present in food. Currently, each one calls, labels and understands the sugar content of food at free will, which makes it difficult to study the literature, label food and establish conclusions about the cause-effect relationship and recommendations for the population. Some companies only express the total sugar content in the nutritional labeling of their food, others consider that what is really important is to know the content in “added” sugars, while others demand consensus to label and make recommendations about “free” sugars. Do you know the difference between the three terms?

  • Total sugars: all mono and disaccharides that are part of a food, whatever its origin.
  • Added sugars: all mono and disaccharides that are not part of the food naturally but have been added during processing, whether by the manufacturer, the cook or consumers.
  • Free sugars: all mono and disaccharides except those that naturally form part of whole fruits or vegetables (whether intact, dried or cooked).

That is to say, all the added sugars are free sugars but not vice versa. The key difference between added sugars and free sugars is that the free sugars also contemplate the sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates; while the added sugars do not contemplate them. Sugars naturally occurring in whole fruits and vegetables are not included as free sugars since there is no evidence that they have an adverse effect on health. In other words, free sugars would be synonymous with total sugars in all foods except fruits and whole vegetables.

A practical case to help us clear up this mess, please! For example, the sugars naturally present in a carrot juice in brick would be considered as free sugars; while the sugars naturally present in baby carrots packed in a modified atmosphere ready to eat, would not be considered.

Currently in Europe, most companies label their sugars in the form of total sugars. The USA was the first country in 2016 to establish regulations to force the declaration of all added sugars in the labeling of all foods. On the other hand, the Canadian health agency recently published a document in which it proposes to label foods rich in sugars, saturated fats and sodium as “high food in …” In the case of sugars, Canadians propose this declaration to be included in all foods that contain free sugars (not only added), so that this rule also affects fruit and vegetable juices and purées; while only dairy and whole fruits and vegetables stay out of this mandatory declaration.

Needless to say that if this lack of consensus affects the good understanding among professionals and experts in nutrition, even more it will confuse consumers. So in addition to this task of matching key terms to establish recommendations for intake and common labeling standards, education and consumer communication campaigns on the interpretation of nutritional labeling of foods are also necessary.

From CARTIF, we are committed to the dissemination of consumer education on nutrition and food issues, so we will remain aware to the publication of the Scientific Opinion of EFSA and of course, we will inform you of its conclusions in a clear and understandable way.

Trashcooking: the circular economy of food

Trashcooking: the circular economy of food

Who has not practice “trashcooking” in his kitchen? Aren’t you? It is high time to start. Keep on reading to know how.

“Trashcooking” is the new concept to call the old law of “the food is not pulled” coming from our grandmothers or what today could be called “the circular economy of food” in any article of an R & D + i magazine. That is, reusing the leftovers of one meal to make another or take advantage of the remains of an ingredient to make a new recipe. Some easy examples are cannelloni or croquettes with the leftover meat of the stew, the puree with the vegetables that the child did not want to eat the night before or the colorful and sweet fruit salad made with the fruits about to spoil of the fruit bowl.

Currently, the “trashcooking” especially in vegetables, but also in low-priced fish and meat, is putting to the test the knowledge and techniques of the best chefs to take exquisite dishes in which everything is used and nothing is thrown away. This way of proceeding has increasing support both of the heavyweights of haute cuisine who bet on sustainability through creativity, as well as consumers.

This incredibly beneficial initiative for the environment, it would be much more if it began to become fashionable in all European households as up to 88 million tons of food are wasted every year in the EU. These figures are alarming when we value them on the total: 20% of the food produced in the EU ends up spoiling. Food is wasted during all phases of the food chain, from agricultural production to final consumption. However, it is in households (53%) and in the transformation process (19%) where the most food waste is produced.

On average, a European citizen throws away 173 kilos of food a year. With the Netherlands at the top of the list (541 kg of waste per inhabitant per year) and Slovenia as the country that best manages the use of food (72 kg of waste per inhabitant per year). Spain is below the average (135 Kg), in place 17 of the list of a total of 27 countries. However, there is still a long way to go in improving the management of food. (Eurobarometer and FAO data, 2010 estimates).

And it is not the accumulation of waste itself that is solely responsible for the damage to the environment, but that wasting food also supposes an unnecessary use of scarce resources such as land, water and energy. For every kilogram of food produced, 4.5 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) is thrown into the atmosphere.

Faced with this worrying situation, the European Parliament is proposing measures to reduce these 88 million tons of food waste by 30% by 2025 and by 50% by 2030. Among the proposals include facilitating food donations, allowing VAT exemptions, or to emphasize the need to put an end to consumer confusion between the labels of preferential consumption and the expiration date.

At CARTIF, we have been thinking about circular economy for years, not yet in your kitchen, but in the revaluation of the by-products of livestock, agriculture and industry and its use in the elaboration of other components of added valued that might be used in human, animal, cosmetic, energy generation, etc. Now it’s your turn, you’re in charge of practicing “trashcooking” in your kitchen and helping our environment.

Edible flowers; the most glamorous realfooding

Edible flowers; the most glamorous realfooding

Perfect for decorating, giving, perfuming, infusing… and why not to eat? A few days ago we talked about “Realfooding”, an initiative that is fortunately taking positions in social networks and at the tables of many houses. For those who need a little more variety, color, taste or simply visual impact in their culinary preparations of real food, today we bring you this post in which we explain how to use this maximum exponent of “Realfooding”.

The use of flowers as part of our cuisine dates back centuries. Specifically known is the use of the pumpkin flower in Mexico, the violets in Roman culture, or in India, where the rose petals are part of the decoration of their most typical desserts. In Spain, this practice has not been so common, although perhaps unknowingly we are already using them in our kitchen because the cauliflower, artichoke, broccoli or chamomile are considered flowers.

Currently they have been in vogue thanks to international chefs who are introducing them in their creations, so that now it would not be strange to find as a starter of a menu a roasted artichoke perfumed with pink garlic flower, as a main dish a lamb shank confit with potato flower or as dessert a violets ice cream. And what a good idea! Because flowers, besides giving the dishes a great variety of colors, flavors and different aromas, improving the organoleptic characteristics, also help to increase the nutritional value of the meal.

Flowers are vegetables, with a water content higher than 80% and therefore have a low energy value, but with a high nutritional value, as they provide vitamins such as A, C, riboflavin or niacin; and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium. In some publications, flowers have been considered functional foods, since they contain bioactive substances such as phenolic compounds, carotenoids or anthocyanins with antioxidant properties.

There are more than 55 species of edible flowers known, with many applications and utilities at culinary level, both in salads and soups and accompanying white and red meats, fish, pasta and rice or desserts. For example, the seeds of the poppy are used to flavor pastry products and their petals for wines and oils; the chrysanthemum confers different colors and bitter taste to salads and sauces; or jasmine, with white and sweet flavor is used in bird or fish dishes. Of course, all of them “Realfooding 100%”

But beware! Not all flowers are edible. There are some toxic species such as belladonna, hemlock, oleander flower, aubergine flower or dulcamara, among others. Although there is not much regulation in this regard, in Europe they are considered traditional foods (EFSA Journal 2016; 14 (11): 4590) and as such, in order to be used in food, flowers must fulfill certain characteristics regarding their chemical composition and the form of cultivation (free of pesticides, herbicides and non-organic fertilizers) as well as being microbiologically harmless. Regarding the use of pesticides, edible flowers must follow Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 February 2005 on the maximum residue limits for pesticides in food and feed of origin plant and animal, which has been modified by EFSA on two occasions to change the maximum residue level of ametoctradin (fungicide) to 20 mg/kg and that of flonicamide (insecticide) to 6 mg/kg (EFSA Journal 2017; 15 (6):4869).

The impossibility of using pesticides and herbicides, together with the highly perishable nature of edible flowers, means that this product has a short shelf life and that during its cultivation, preparation and packaging it is necessary to take care of every detail. The temperature is one of the factors that most affects the quality of the flower, existing different needs between species. In general, refrigeration extends the shelf life of the product, but some species may be sensitive to cold. Another factor to consider is the reduction of perspiration to avoid losses due to dehydration. The high relation between the surface and the volume of the flower, and also the thin cuticle of the petals, makes it highly susceptible to the loss of water. Likewise, packaging will be important, which should be rigid, similar to that of strawberries and other delicate and highly perishable products.

There are already companies that grow, prepare and package flowers for use in gastronomy. Are you one of them? Do you need to expand your product portfolio, improve the performance of your process, change the packaging or increase the half life of your product? In CARTIF we can help you, contact us.

If on the contrary you are not interested in edible flowers at business level, from CARTIF we encourage you to make your own floral menu and to enjoy the real real food. Bon Appetite!