Hello, from the skies of middle America. As I write this post I am flying back to San Francisco after spending 5 days in Boston for the National Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE). I am returning with new friends, a swag full of healthy snacks, and an expanded repertoire of nutrition knowledge. Technically I should be wiped, but I am still too energized and excited to notice the sleep debt. Between the Autumn foliage, nutrition intel, food samples, and social events, it’s been a wonderful trip to the Bean! With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the coolest things that I learned while I was away.
1. Getting yourself in a bog is not always a bad thing.
My first trip to FNCE begun with an excursion to Gary Gerretson’s cranberry bog in Carver, MA on Saturday morning. Getting in waders, and stomping around a cranberry bog is one of the most interesting (and magnificent) things I’ve done for work. I always thought that cranberries were grown under water, but they actually grow in the ground on vines. Flooding only takes place when the berries are ready to pick. During harvest, an open tractor with a beater-like attachment unearths the cranberries, and collects the fruit. Thanks Ocean Spray and Jenny Rawn for planning such a fascinating excursion!
2.‘Fun is the most underutilized business strategy’.
This one came from real estate mogul, Barbara Corcocan’s, keynote speech on Saturday afternoon. During her no-B.S. address, Corcoran talked about how she folded fun into company culture. For example, she once threw a cross-dressing party for her employees, and would spontaneously uproot her team from the office for surprise adventures. This got me thinking about importance of fun not just as a management tool, but also as a means of relaxation and recovery. I think we could all use a little more fun in our day-to-day.
3. Your gut talks to your brain more than you think.
The gut-brain superhighway lecture may have been the most popular session that I attended at FNCE, and for a good reason. This is truly fascinating stuff! Early research indicates that your gut bacteria ‘talks’ your brain via the vagus nerve, neurotransmitters, hormones, and by-products of bacterial fermentation. Alterations in the gut ecosystem have been proposed as an underlying mechanism for psychological conditions, and there’s a few small studies to support it. Expect more information on this soon. In the meantime, this provides another reason to nourish your gut (more about this here)!
4. Fiber does more for your digestive system than keeping you regular.
Good news for fruit and veggie lovers. Eating lots of fiber from many sources not only helps you poop, it also increases the diversity of bacteria living in your gut. Why is this important? Having lots of different types of bacteria in your GI tract appears to assist with nutrient digestion, and short chain fatty acid production. Short chain fatty acids influence everything from energy expenditure, to appetite, and even cancer development. Again, this is another area we can expect to hear more about in the future.
5. Want more muscle? Pay attention to essential amino acids, especially after exercise.
This hot tip comes from Uconn Professor, Nancy Rodriguez. If muscle-building/maintenance is a concern, then prioritizing proteins containing all the essential amino acids (aka complete proteins) is worth considering. Complete proteins are rich in leucine which appears to trigger muscle protein synthesis (more about this here). Foods that are complete sources of protein include: milk, yogurt, eggs, lean poultry, lean red meat, and tofu. This tid-bit is particularly important for athletes and older adults.
Look out for 5 more cool things that I learned at FNCE over the next couple of days. For now, it’s time to claw back some of that sleep debt.