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“Some kids like veggies and some don’t”—how many moms have said this when describing their picky eater’s preferences? Researchers are discovering that perhaps veggie consumption isn’t just a case of the veggie-lovers versus the veggie-haters, however, but more a case of nutrition education.

We can all agree that kids are like sponges; they absorb virtually everything that comes their way and they are avid learners. Researchers at Stanford University set out to see if they could encourage kids to eat more veggies by teaching them about the health benefits of doing so, rather than offering ultimatums (no dessert until you’ve eaten your peas!).

Their study, conducted over a three-month period and published in Psychological Science, took kids’ natural curiosity as a starting point and covered nutritional information in five storybooks aimed at preschoolers. The books tackled seemingly lofty topics such as:

  • Food categories
  • The importance of dietary variety
  • Nutrients as bodily fuel
  • Digestion and its functions
  • The role of microscopic nutrients in health

Of course these topics were presented in an accessible and entertaining manner for preschoolers, but the focus was still on education. The hypothesis was that by learning more about why they should eat their veggies and what these foods did for their bodies, preschoolers would want to naturally make more veggie choices as their snacks. The focus of the research was on choice and helping to encourage children to make these healthy decisions. During snack time, one group of preschoolers read about nutrition in their storybooks while the control group carried on with snack time as usual….

And the results? The children actively learning about nutrition displayed an impressive understanding of the subject and more than doubled their snack time veggie intake by choice. The control group’s veggie intake remained about the same but the kids learning the why behind their choices saw a dramatic increase in veggie consumption during the study.

Researchers want to find out what this type of conceptual teaching does for kids’ veggie intake over the long-term, but the initial results are certainly promising for moms everywhere!

Source: “Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies. A New Approach to an Age-Old Problem,” Science Daily, July 2013.

Control Group, Dietary Variety, Digestion, Food Categories, Haters, Health Benefits, Learners, Natural Curiosity, Nutrition Education, Nutritional Information, Psychological Science, Snack Time, Sponges, Stanford University, Storybooks, Time One, Ultimatums, Veggie Choices, Veggie Lovers, veggies Hide

A recent NPR article helped shed some light on a fascinating new field of scientific inquiry, namely how important our microbe population is to keeping us healthy and alive. We are rapidly coming to understand that we cannot live with our microbes, the trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that live in and on our bodies.

These microbes live on our skin and in our guts. They live in our noses and in the mucus our body uses to protect itself. Scientists featured in the article report that our bodies are home to 10 times more microbial cells than bodily cells. Their numbers are so staggering that as much as 99% of the genes in (and on) our bodies are microbes’ genes and not our own. But it is a mistake to think of these microbes as foreign. They are as much a part of what makes us “us” as the color of our eyes and our genetic inheritance.

Me and My Microbiome
Scientists are calling your microbiome, which includes the critical balance of healthy bacteria in the gut, the 11th organ system because of its many functions. Your microbiome:

  • Supports healthy digestion and immunity from your center, your gut
  • Shapes the way your immune system handles invaders by “teaching” the body which microbes are healthy and which aren’t from birth
  • Contributes to how much fat you store and how much energy you have
  • Signals the brain to impact your mood and behavior

The NPR article went on to reveal that Americans are at a microbial disadvantage due to the inundation of antibiotics in our society. We are exposed to a smaller pool of microbes and so our microbiomes are less diverse. A diverse microbiome is a strong microbiome that may be able to handle health challenges more effectively.

Remembering that our microbiome is such a pervasive part of our health is key. Not all microbes are germs to be avoided at all costs, and you need healthy microbes such as beneficial bacteria to stay healthy.

Source: “Staying Healthy May Mean Learning to Love our Microbiomes” NPR blog, July 2013

Beneficial Bacteria, Critical Balance, Digestion, Fungi, Genetic Inheritance, Germs, Guts, Health Challenges, Healthy Immunity, immunity, Inundation, Microb, Microbe, microbes, Microbial Cells, Mucus, Noses, Npr, Organ System, Scientific Inquiry, Trillions Hide

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