Nutrition gold: Scientists demystify the secret health benefits of fresh produce

Through a groundbreaking $4.3M collaboration with growers, scientists are spearheading a nutritional revolution, enticing Aussies to embrace the untapped health treasures available in fresh produce.

Delivered through Hort Innovation and led by a multidisciplinary team from Macquarie University’s Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Facilitated Advancement of Australia’s Bioactives (FAAB), this pioneering research into fresh produce aims to uncover the secrets of bioactives-chemical compounds produced by plants that offer health benefits such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Hort Innovation chief executive officer Brett Fifield said the research will deliver robust, scientific evidence, unveiling the untapped potential of fresh produce.

“This world-first program is a marriage of cutting-edge science and a commitment to improving public health,” Mr Fifield said.

“By shining a light on the nutritional powerhouses within horticultural products, the aim is to revolutionise the way Australians view and consume vegetables, fruits, nuts, and mushrooms.”

Mr Fifield said the insights delivered by this program will bolster industry-led activities that drive demand, including industry marketing campaigns and waste reduction programs.

Professor Anwar Sunna, FAAB partnerships director said the program will build the scientific evidence needed by the horticulture sector to promote the benefits of plant-food bioactives to consumers.

“The significant health benefits of plant-based foods lie in the abundance of bioactives. However, where the bioavailability and recommended intake of vitamins and minerals is defined, no recommended daily intake is available for bioactives,” Sunna said.

“Furthermore, the language around bioactives is complex making communication of these health benefits challenging. This research looks to address these issues and empower the horticulture sector to spruik the benefits of fresh produce through collating and translating the science of bioactives.”

Professor Alfonso Garcia-Bennett, FAAB research director said the research will go beyond existing works that have focused on a limited number of products, bioactives or artificially sourced bioactives.

“A good start is the Veggycation website which includes information on 85 phytonutrients (natural compounds produced by plants with nutritional value), and that is just the tip of the iceberg, there are thousands more in vegetables.”

AUSVEG chief executive officer Michael Coote said the program will provide industry with more evidence to support efforts to address critical challenges such as persistently low vegetable consumption rates.

“With less than seven per cent of Australian adults and less than five per cent of Australian children consuming the recommended daily serves of vegetables, initiatives that help identify, leverage and promote the many benefits of vegetable consumption are essential,” Mr Coote said.

“The scientific claims developed through this project will add further weight to the evidence base that is such a crucial component of efforts to boost vegetable consumption among Australians.”

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