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Diet change works swiftly in reducing risk

University of Auckland - 31 Jan '13

NZ Avocado contributed to the study detailed below through the provision of avocados to the participants throughout the trial.

A study by Lynnette Ferguson, Professor of Nutrition at The University of Auckland, has shown that a change in diet can be effective in reducing inflammation over a period of just six weeks in healthy New Zealanders.

The research has also shown that short-term studies with relatively small numbers of participants are capable of yielding robust research results, which has major implications for the cost of human clinical trials.

"Inflammation,” says Professor Ferguson, "can be the catalyst for chronic human diseases, including Alzheimer's, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, as well as various autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's Disease and type 2 diabetes.”

"It has been established in many studies that this inflammation can be reduced through a diet which is high in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, fruit and vegetables, nuts and whole grains, and is low in refined grains, saturated fats and sugars.

"Many of these dietary components characterise the ‘Mediterranean diet', which has been shown to protect against chronic disease.”

What Professor Ferguson set out to investigate was whether there was evidence of inflammation in apparently healthy New Zealanders and whether changing their diet for just six weeks would reduce this evidence.

To do this she looked at bio-markers including the C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a standard marker for inflammation and can be measured through blood tests.

Thirty healthy volunteers, selected for their initially "poor” diets, were encouraged to cut out refined and processed foods and to follow a Mediterranean-type diet over the six weeks of the study, with increased amounts of fish, vegetables, unrefined cereals and "good” fats such as olive oil and avocado. They were given some foods, including salmon (for one meal a week), and were provided with recipes for healthy eating. The biggest difference from a standard Mediterranean-style diet was the use of gluten-free foods.

Participants, randomly assigned to high and lower-intervention groups, provided blood and urine samples at the beginning and end of the study, completed a four-day diary in the final days, and completed questionnaires about their diet and lifestyle, as well as attending workshops led by expert dieticians.

"This was a small study, intended to be a pilot for a much larger study of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases such as Crohn's Disease, but the results turned out to be highly statistically significant,” says Professor Ferguson. "Overall average daily fat intake was considerably reduced, and much lower percentages of saturated fat were consumed.”

The self-reporting of volunteers was corroborated by the blood tests, which showed a corresponding reduction in the bio-markers for inflammation. It demonstrated that the high-intervention diet had altered gene expression within six weeks.

"This is a remarkable result,” says Professor Ferguson, "since it shows that average people, many of them young and with no health conditions, can, through an improvement in diet, significantly modify the biomarkers that indicate the risk that they could develop a chronic disease later.”

The larger research project for which this was a pilot or "proof of principle” study is one which is examining the effect of a change to a Mediterranean-type diet (similar, though not identical, to that in the pilot study) on people suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

It has been established that there are several different genotypes characteristic of people suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and that each of those genotypes responds differently to particular types of diet or dietary items. The current research project is concentrating on those who have the most common genotype for the disease, though the ultimate aim is to formulate different diets tailored to the needs of the whole range of genotypes.

Results are being analysed now and look "highly encouraging”, says Professor Ferguson. The findings will be available in March.

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Green carpet rolled out for launch of New Zealand Avocado's biggest season ever

There’s only one fruit with enough star power to attract a high profile crowd and shine at its own official season launch party – New Zealand’s amazing avocado. A "green carpet” event was held at Ostro’s Screening Room in Auckland on 17 August to celebrate the beginning of the 2016-17 avocado season. Attending guests include New Zealand celebrities, influential social media bloggers, high-profile chefs and New Zealand magazine editors - all of whom are influential New Zealanders who love avocados. Avocados are set to return to our lives in a big way. Avocado trees bear fruit biennially, meaning they can produce a small crop one year which is often followed by a large crop the next. Thankfully this summer is set to deliver a whopping 7.6 million trays – nearly double the volume available last year. NZ Avocado Chief Executive, Jen Scoular says this launch celebrated not only the biggest crop they have ever had, but also the fact that they are nearly half way to achieving their sales goal of $280 million by 2023. "Our nation is full of diehard avocado fans, so for many Kiwis 2016 is the year of the New Zealand avocado!  It’s also perfect timing for the All Black’s test this weekend, as we all know they are big avocado fans and the country can enjoy avocado dips and goodies while supporting our men in black.” NZ Avocado hosted the launch party to celebrate the fruit’s enormous popularity and showcase its great flavour, versatility and health benefits. Guests were served five different avocado dishes to help whet their appetite and inspire new ideas about how to serve and enjoy this delicious fruit. Popular author and Healthy Food Guide nutritionist Claire Turnbull spoke at the event about the incredible health benefits avocados have to offer. Avocados can legitimately be called a "superfood”. They’re full of healthy monounsaturated fats which are great for your heart and cholesterol levels, and help keep your appetite under control. They’re also packed with a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals, are low in sugar and sodium, and are a good source of dietary fibre. Thanks to a growing body of scientific and nutritional research, avocados have never been more popular. They’re now the star attraction on breakfast menus worldwide, and have been called the "Oprah of Instagram” thanks to the number of snaps people post of their favourite avocado creations.  "The social media buzz and excitement around avocados returning to our supermarket shelves is unbelievable, so we want to grab this opportunity to showcase and celebrate everything we love about this amazing fruit,” says Scoular.

New Zealand avocados back on the menu soon

New Zealand restaurants and cafes are being encouraged to follow global health and food trends with the inclusion of avocados on their menu, as a way of attracting more customers through the door. There is good news for café owners and restaurateurs in that over the next month avocado supply will build with a forecast record crop this season, which will ensure plenty of avocados are available for everyone to enjoy this spring and summer. Jen Scoular, Chief Executive of NZ Avocado says avocados are trending everywhere and by July there will be plenty available to be included in café and restaurant menus. "Avocados have become a versatile and innovative ingredient on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus worldwide. Diners love to see the healthy avocado being used in different ways – and what makes New Zealand avocados even better is that all fresh avocados sold in New Zealand are grown in New Zealand.” Avocado sushi, smoothies, avocado fries, hummus, pasta sauce and salad dressings are all trending, while classic combinations such as smashed avocado on toast, with eggs, in salads and sandwiches are reaching new culinary heights. Mikey Newlands, Executive Chef of Bracu Restaurant in Auckland loves using avocado in his dishes.  "As they are super nutritious, using New Zealand avocados in cooking is a great way to add vitamins and minerals to dishes.  Many of my customers say that dishes that utilise avocado are clean, light and easy to eat and something they could eat everyday rather than leaving them feeling heavy or overfed.”  Avocados and Mexican food are strongly linked and there has been a visible rise in the popularity of Mexican restaurants in New Zealand including franchises Mad Mex and Mexicali Fresh.  Mad Mex New Zealand Group Managing Director, James Tucker, says that on average they use around a tonne of fresh avocados weekly. "Our amigos love our freshly prepared guacamole that is made from real avocados every single day and proves to be a very popular extra on our menu.”  "Avocado makes for a very healthy, nutritious and authentic add-on to any of our menu items. Whether added to burritos, tacos or as a side served with tortilla chips, guacamole is a key component to Mexican cuisine and is served all year round.”  New Zealanders are obsessed with this delicious healthy fruit, following a world-wide foodie trend to enjoy avocados at any time of the day or night and international chefs are now going to great lengths to showcase this super fruit on their latest menus, using their expert knife skills to prepare delicate ‘avocado roses’ and ‘shaved avocado ribbons.’ These visually-stunning tricks are re-inventing the way diners can eat avocado on toast or enjoy avocado as a salad, sandwich or pizza topping. Die-hard avocado lovers are always looking for inventive new ways to enjoy their favourite fruit, and almost all cuisines can now incorporate avocados into their menus in one form or another. Sweet avocado dishes are also growing in popularity including brownies, cheesecake, ice-cream, chocolate mud cakes and a range of other desserts and baked goods. One of the reasons avocados have become so immensely popular is their amazing health benefits. Diners know that choosing an avocado dish off the menu is a guilt-free way of treating themselves to a delicious meal. Avocados are packed full of healthy monounsaturated fats which are great for cardiovascular health and help keep you fuller for longer. They are also low in sugar and sodium, are a good source of dietary fibre, and contain vital nutrients such as vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, vitamin C and potassium. Consumer research conducted late last year showed 90,000 more New Zealand households bought avocados last season (2014-15) compared with the year before and avocados produced record-breaking domestic sales of $41 million during the 2015-16 season.  "More people are savouring avocados every season and in our increasingly health-conscious society, that trend is only going to continue.” Says Scoular. "We’re looking forward to seeing what new avocado-inspired ideas New Zealand’s food service industry can serve up this year to ‘wow’ their customers and take things to another level.”

Avocados cholesterol lowering properties

They are a great addition to a salad or smoothie. But for many, the avocado has come to be seen as a guilty pleasure. Though classed as a fruit, it is not typical in the fact that rather than being high in carbohydrate, avocados are high in fat. Fat has long been hailed the dietary enemy number one, but as the tables turn and the scientific spotlight shines more acutely on sugar, so the benefits of the humble avocado are being realised.  A new study has revealed adding the green fruit to your diet can aid weight loss.    Furthermore, the fruit reduces a person’s risk of heart disease, according to scientists from the Hass Avocado Board, in California. Emiliano Escobedo, executive director, said: ‘This study supports the body of research showing the many benefits that fresh avocados have to offer when consumed in everyday healthy eating plans.’ The findings fall in line with recent recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines stated that making small shifts in food choices can make a difference – including shifting from solid fats to oils, such as the oil in fresh avocados. The new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, confirmed that swapping solid fats for avocados can ‘significantly change lipid profiles'. Scientists analyzed 10 unique avocado studies with 229 participants. The researchers assessed the impact of avocado on cholesterol levels. They found that consuming one to one-and-a-half avocados per day ‘significantly reduced total cholesterol'. Additionally, it also limited the 'bad' low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides when substituted for sources of fat. Corresponding study author Dr Sachin Shah noted that the results showed that even healthy study subjects showed significant reductions. Dr Nikki Ford, director of nutrition for Hass Avocado Board, said: ‘Fresh avocado, as part of a balanced diet, and as a cholesterol-free substitute for solid fats, can help be part of the solution for maintaining normal cholesterol levels.   ‘Beyond their naturally good fats, avocados are also a delicious way to boost fiber… and fruit intakes, both of which are under consumed in American diets.’ Having high levels of bad cholesterol is known to be a major risk factor for heart disease, according to the study. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for one out of every four deaths – and it is the number one killer of men and women. Heart disease is also one of the leading causes of disability. The study noted that additional research must be conducted to look at the impact of avocados on major adverse cardiovascular events. Furthermore, the optimal amount of avocado and frequency of use needs further evaluation, the scientists noted. Mr Escobedo said: 'Clinical studies are currently underway to investigate the relationship between avocado consumption and risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, support of weight management and healthy living.' 

Kiwi love affair with avocados growing stronger

More New Zealanders are declaring their love for avocados than ever before and Nadia Lim has devised a special Valentine’s Day treat that’s sure to tempt any chocolate lover. The latest research conducted by Nielsen Homescan shows 90,000 more Kiwi households are buying avocados than in previous seasons. In fact, New Zealanders bought avocados 5.5 times last season on average (compared with just 4.8 times in 2013-14) so now is a great time to experiment with new avocado recipes. Cook, dietician and avocado lover, Nadia Lim, has created a mouth-watering avocado chocolate ganache cake - a twist on a traditional chocolate cake. "The chocolate ganache on this cake uses avocados and coconut milk as the delicious ingredients that give it its creaminess, however the whole cake is also dairy free!  The cake itself is super moist and rich, with the help of rich avocado oil. "Avocados are simply amazing when whizzed up with melted chocolate, producing a thick, silky, creamy ganache.” Lim says if you’re not planning to eat the cake straight away, you can freeze it before it is iced. But the ganache is best made fresh. "This is a great recipe to try on Valentine’s Day because it is decadent, moist and a total treat.” "Introducing more avocados into the diet of your loved one is a delicious gift,” Lim says. Click here for the recipe. 

Picture perfect at Taste of Auckland

From 5-8 November, a team from NZ Avocado interacted with more than 6000 attendees at the Taste of Auckland festival held at Western Springs, Auckland. Over the course of six sessions during the four days of the festival, attendees who visited NZ Avocado’s stand were treated to an ‘Instagram worthy’ setting where we performed cooking demos, handed out recipe cards and booklets, as well as various delicious and beautiful looking avocado samples.     During the weekend we aimed to connect with avocado loving consumers and inspire them to try new avocado recipe ideas. We also gave them tips on how to pick the right avocado and how to correctly store avocados at various stages of ripeness.   Our stand was designed to look like a real life kitchen – bright, modern and eye catching. One wall of the stand was covered in images of delicious looking avocado dishes, while the other wall depicted a kitchen background with a window looking out onto an avocado orchard. Our Amazing Anytime bright blue was everywhere on our stand, making it one of the first stands that attendees eyes were drawn to as they walked through the festival entrance. The "kitchen” was artfully decorated with avocados displayed in glass bowls, cut flowers in vases, and various complementary ingredients for the samples being shared – making our stand look a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.  Clean-eating, avocado loving and MotivateMe NZ founder Makaia Carr joined us during the Friday and Saturday afternoon sessions. She spent her time chatting to the audiences about her love for avocados while she demonstrated three trendy avocado recipes – a breakfast smoothie, avocado bliss balls and guacamole.  We had a selfie competition running during the weekend to invite interaction via social media. Visitors to our stand were encouraged to take a selfie somewhere on our stand, post it to social media and use the hashtag #nzavocado – by doing this they went into the draw to win an amazing avocado bliss ball prize pack.  Over 20,000 keen foodies enjoyed the beautiful sunny weather throughout the entire weekend. Those who visited our stand were eager to try the delicious avocado samples we had on offer – avocado with either cherry tomatoes or smoked salmon on toast, an avocado and blueberry breakfast smoothie, guacamole, avocado bliss balls, avocado and white chocolate tarts, and avocado crème filled cherry tomatoes. We had a lot of support from our loyal ‘Friends of NZ avocados’ – Go Nutz, Vogels, and NZ King Salmon – as well as support from new ‘Friends of NZ avocados’ – Beekist, Whitakers, Sujon Berries, RealFoods NZ, Down at the Farm, and Fire Dragon Chillies.   We received fantastic feedback from visitors in regards to our stand and everyone seemed to enjoy the avocado samples they tried – we had people coming back for more! Visitors to our stand had many questions about avocados and were very interested in our industry.

Kick start your kids' healthy eating habits with avocado pizza

School  holidays are a great time to experiment  in the kitchen and encourage your kids to eat new foods – and avocados should be  top of the list of healthy things to try.  Avocados are a nutritional powerhouse and their creamy texture appeals to children of all ages. They are full of fibre to help energise and sustain busy youngsters. Plus they are also sugar-free, low in salt and a source of ‘good fat’ which is important for a healthy heart.  Eating avocados can also help your child’s body absorb more vital nutrients from other foods they consume. Avocados contain more potassium per 100 grams than a banana, and are a source of folate and antioxidants – that’s why they’re considered ‘nature’s superfood’.  While some kids are reluctant to eat anything green, pizza is always a winner. Try this delicious Avocado Pizza recipe to get your kids in the kitchen these school holidays so they can learn how to become healthy Avo-heroes! Avocado and Bacon Pizza Avocado and bacon go so well together on pizza, and this recipe is one that the kids will love to make and eat! Makes 2 pizzas, enough to serve 3-4 people Prep time: 20 minutes 40 minutes rising time for the dough           Cook time: 12-15 minutes Pizza base (makes 4 pizza bases) 1 cup (250ml) warm water 1 tablespoon active dried yeast 1 teaspoon sugar450g high grade flour 1 tablespoon olive oil1 teaspoon salt Toppings 1 x 400g can crushed or pureed tomatoes 1 red capsicum, sliced 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese 2 avocados, sliced 200g bacon, cut into pieces and fried ½ red onion, very thinly sliced To make the pizza dough, put the warm water in a mixing bowl and add the yeast and sugar. Stir gently. Leave in a warm place until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Mix well.  Place the flour, olive oil and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and mix well to form a dough (note: there may be some left over flour in the bowl once you’ve formed the dough, this is fine). Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, then place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel or clingfilm and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk (about 40 minutes). Once it has risen, knock back the dough and divide into 4 even pieces. This recipe uses 2 pizza bases so you can refrigerate or freeze the other 2 pieces of dough (wrapped well in clingfilm) to use at a later date. Alternatively you can cook all four pizzas, and just double the amount of toppings listed above! Preheat oven to 230degC. If you have them, place two pizza stones on separate shelves in the oven to preheat. Alternatively preheat 2 oven trays. Get them really hot (this helps the bases crisp up on the bottom). Lay each pizza base on a sheet of baking paper and roll them out to get a nice thin base. Spread tomato sauce over each base, leaving an edge for the crust. Sprinkle over mozzarella and arrange red capsicum and red onion on top. Carefully lift up the baking paper with the pizza on top and place on hot preheated stone or tray. Cook the pizza until the base is crisp and the cheese is melted and golden, about 12 minutes. Take pizzas out of the oven and arrange slices of avocado and bacon on top. Slice and serve!   About New Zealand Avocado The New Zealand avocado industry is the third largest fresh fruit export from New Zealand. NZ Avocado Growers' Association Inc. (NZAGA) and Avocado Industry Council Ltd (AIC) – collectively NZ Avocado, operates under the Horticultural Export Authority Act to set mandatory industry standards for all fruit exported from New Zealand. NZ Avocado also facilitates access for avocados to off shore markets. NZ Avocado works with the industry to promote New Zealand avocados and provide technical information to all growers of which there are over 1,350 based mainly in the Bay of Plenty and Northland. 

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