This Week's Nutrition News Feed

By: Sara Reistad-Long
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Healthy green vegetables

In this week's news: time-warping with sprouted grains and hemp brownies; tracking down the four-leaf clover of kale; and betting the farm on farm-to-table real estate.

Sprouted Grains Hit the Big Time

Boomers might cop an eye roll when they hear of restaurant chain Panera Bread's new launch. Come May, the Saint Louis-based company plans to roll out a line of sprouted-grain bagels made with rye, spelt and oat groats. Sprouts, all too familiar to those who lived through the 1970s, are grain seeds that have been soaked in water until they germinate. This results in a more nutrient-dense, higher protein food. Thanks to trendy grains like quinoa, sprouted versions have been making a comeback as protein-rich power foods (Au Bon Pain recently featured a sprouted grain roll on its menu), which is exactly how Panera plans to market it. The effort hasn't been without its hiccups: An early version of the flax bagel made from whole seeds had to be reworked with a ground variety as consumers complained it tasted fishy.

Hemp Gets Respect (But Still Appears in Brownies)

Packed with all of the essential amino acids, hemp -- marijuana's legal, edible and only slightly less hippie-ish cousin -- is one of the few vegan complete proteins. It's also a decent source of dietary fiber, Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins (including B6 and folate) and minerals (such as zinc and magnesium). While it's been lauded for everything from increasing energy to stabilizing appetite, those looking for er, something more will be sorely disappointed should they try this raw chocolate brownie recipe the Washington Post recently published. Hemp contains only trace amounts of THC—.0001%.

The New, New Kale

It's an indisputable fact: Cute, hard-to-find things taste better. This week, one determined reporter reinforced that point when he dove taste-buds-first into the cult phenom of lollipop kale, a hybrid kale-Brussels sprout that looks just as adorable (and is said to taste just as delicious) as you might imagine. It's almost impossible to get your hands on, served only at a smattering of hip San Francisco eateries and rarely made available directly to consumers. All that is slated to change soon, though. Two companies plan to bring it to market in the coming months.

Farm-to-Table-Topia

They sound more like a reality TV gimmick than actual places to live, but agrihoods -- a relatively new term for housing developments clustered around working farms -- are a real thing. Encircling farmland the way other homes might a golf course, clusters of these communities are popping up like (organic, sustainably grown) mushrooms, replete with farm-to-table restaurants, community coffee shops and opt-in community-supported agriculture programs. Cut through the hype and it turns out there are some solid economic benefits to living this way: the farm can earn a profit and, often, a tax break for the agricultural land.

The Not-So-Skinny on Low-Fat Dairy?

A body of research on what's been called the “dairy paradox" seems to present yet another challenge to the notion that fat is, well, fattening. Case in point: When Swedish researchers recently studied the dairy-eating patterns of 1,782 men, they found that those who ate full-fat milk products tended to have a reduced risk of abdominal weight gain. A new study in the European Journal of Nutrition has drawn a similar conclusion, using a meta-analysis of 16 studies. Though the possibility of fatty acids having some kind of direct influence on metabolism hasn't been ruled out, the simplest explanation, according to Harvard nutritionist Walter Willett, is that the full-fat versions lead to more satiety (so we eat less, overall), combined with the fact that the fat in the reduced-fat dairy is often replaced with sugar.

Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong

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