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‘Nudges’ try to help college students live healthier

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Internet lessons and “tailored” text alerts can help some young people adopt healthier lifestyles, according to a national study aimed at preventing weight gain.

Although experimental group students didn’t gain or lose more weight than their control group counterparts, researchers remain hopeful the Internet-message approach can work because it helped college students progress from what researchers call the “contemplative stage” to the “action stage.”

An example of the contemplative stage would be someone who’s thinking about trying to eat fatty foods less frequently, but hasn’t taken action to do so, while someone at the action stage would choose to eat a salad, instead.

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Family Day at the Dairy Farm canceled for Oct. 25

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Livestock, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ongoing weather issues have forced the University of Florida to cancel its Family Day at the Dairy Farm open house, which was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 25.

“We’re very sorry to have to cancel, but heavy rainfall in late September and early October created wet conditions in the pasture that serves as our visitor parking area,” said Jerry Wasdin, one of the event organizers. “We’re concerned that the ground will not dry out in time to provide reliable parking at the event, and cars might get stuck in the mud.”

Organizers have ruled out the possibility of rescheduling the event for a later date in 2014, Wasdin said. Possibilities for a 2015 open house will be discussed in the weeks to come.

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UF/IFAS study shows flavor trumps health for blueberry buying

Topic(s): Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Nutrition, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Taste trumps health benefits for blueberry buyers, sending a strong message that fruit consumers value flavor most, new University of Florida research shows.

About 61 percent of blueberry consumers buy the fruit for its flavor, while 39 percent do so for psychological reasons, according to two national online surveys. By “psychological,” researchers mean those consumers may buy blueberries because they believe the fruit, which contains antioxidants, provides health benefits.

UF horticultural sciences assistant professor Jim Olmstead will use the data as he breeds new types of blueberries. Olmstead uses traditional breeding methods to create blueberry cultivars that have traits consumers want.

“What we’re trying to determine is: What is the consumer’s perception of the ideal blueberry? What should it look, taste and feel like?” said Olmstead, a faculty member with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS study: When it comes to gluten-free diets, unfounded beliefs abound

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – While necessary for some, many people eat gluten-free diets because they believe they’ll gain certain health benefits, but these beliefs are not all supported by research, a University of Florida nutrition expert says.

Those with celiac disease, or about 1 percent of the U.S. population, must follow a gluten-free diet because it’s the only treatment for their condition, said Karla Shelnutt, a UF assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences. But gluten-free diets can lack essential nutrients if a person does not eat a balanced diet and/or take a multivitamin supplement.

Unlike their conventional counterparts, refined gluten-free foods, for the most part, are not enriched or fortified with essential vitamins and minerals.

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Offer kids whole grains; they’ll eat them, UF/IFAS study shows

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many parents presume their children will shun whole grains because they think they don’t like them, a University of Florida researcher says, but a new UF study may start to debunk that idea.

If whole grains are offered, kids eat them, according to a new study by researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Specifically, former graduate student Allyson Radford and two faculty members found children ate whole- and refined-grain foods in equal amounts.

“We tried to choose foods we thought kids would enjoy, such as cereal bars, macaroni and cheese and SunChips and found that they ate the ready-to-eat snack foods the most,” said Radford, one of the study’s authors. “We were interested to see if they would eat the whole-grain foods as much as the refined-grain foods, and so we were pleasantly surprised that they would eat the same amount whether the food was whole or refined.”

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Online tool lets Florida producers, customers find each other

Topic(s): Economics, Families and Consumers, New Technology, Nutrition

From farm gate to dinner plate, consumers are looking for more local food options.  According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture, industry estimates put local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the market’s growing importance.

A revamped online tool, called Florida Food Connect, at www.floridafoodconnect.com, offers agricultural producers an easy-to-use way to reach new customers and offers consumers an easy way to find local growers of the freshest foods.

Florida Food Connect offers large and small producers and growers opportunities to diversify sales and build profitable relationships.

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UF/IFAS-tested treatment retains avocado taste, smell while keeping it fresh

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Nutrition

Avocados growing on a tree.  Avocado fruit.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new liquid treatment may keep a Florida avocado hybrid fresh longer, a finding that could expand the avocado’s marketability, a University of Florida study shows.

Former UF doctoral student Marcio Eduardo Canto Pereira used ethylene as well as liquid and gaseous forms of 1-methylcycloprene on Booth 7 avocados, a combination of West Indian and Guatemalan varieties. Ethylene is a natural plant hormone produced by fruits and can be applied to speed the ripening process ─ as is done commonly with bananas and tomatoes ─ while 1-methylcycloprene slows the process.

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UF/IFAS study shows promise for antioxidants extracted from grape seeds, skin

Topic(s): Agriculture, Nutrition

Maurice Marshall.  Professor, PhD.  Food Science and Human Nutrition.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Soaking muscadine grape seeds or skins in a solution of enzymes can boost antioxidants extracted from the fruit, creating possible new uses for grape leftovers, which are loaded with nutrients, a University of Florida study shows.

After making wine, a producer typically sends the grape seeds and skins to a landfill, said Maurice Marshall, a UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition professor and study co-author. But by using cellulase, pectinase and glucosidase, scientists found the grape seeds and skin aren’t just a waste product. The enzymes increase the antioxidant activity, from the grape seeds and skins. New uses could include food additives or nutritional supplements.

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UF/IFAS study: Some consumers confuse ‘local’ with ‘organic’ food

Topic(s): Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With more people buying local and organic food, consumers should know the difference between the two so they recognize what they’re buying, but nearly one in five still confuse the terms, a University of Florida researcher says.

Newly published research, done in partnership with three other universities, aims to help local and organic food producers and sellers target their marketing messages to reinforce or dispel consumers’ perceptions. The organic-food industry has spent millions of dollars building brand awareness, only to see some consumers confuse “organic” food with “local” food products, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist and the study’s lead author.

Hayk Khachatryan, a UF food and resource economics assistant professor, worked with Campbell and others to survey 2,511 people online in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 and found 17 percent thought the terms were interchangeable, the study said.

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UF/IFAS part of $4.9 million national child obesity study

Topic(s): Agriculture, Families and Consumers, Nutrition, Research
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida students will create obesity prevention programs for their peers and later, for high school students, as part of a $4.9 million federal research and extension grant awarded last week.

University of Tennessee Assistant Professor Sarah Colby will lead the national study, called “Get Fruved,” a phrase that alludes to fruits and vegetables.

“Get Fruved” is a campaign that uses peer interaction to try to get high school and college students to eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise more and manage stress more effectively.

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