Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take
Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take

It’s hard to leave work at the office when your job involves food. Practically every meal becomes an opportunity for column fodder.

At a recent cookout with friends, our side dishes were all fresh fruits and vegetables. One guy, who had wrapped his hamburger in romaine leaves instead of a bun, scrutinized the yellow bell pepper strips he was eating, then said “I wish I was a vegan.”

We all did double takes, since he obviously had meat on his plate, so he explained.

“This just tastes so good right now,” he said, waving the pepper strip. And then he waxed eloquent about the pepper’s sweetness.

I don’t know if he’ll go full-bore vegan anytime soon, but a recent study does suggest that a vegetarian diet could contribute to a longer life.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, tracked more than 70,000 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church over a six-year period. The church promotes, but does not require, following a vegetarian diet.

About 12% fewer vegetarians died during the study, compared to meat eaters, according to The Wall Street Journal, and vegetarians were 19% less likely to die from heart disease.

There seemed also to be fewer deaths among vegetarians from diabetes and kidney failure, according to the Journal, but there was no apparent advantage where cancer was concerned.

NPR’s food blog The Salt points out that vegetarians in the study were also more likely to be more highly educated, to drink and smoke less and exercise more than those who ate meat, making the report’s findings tenuous where the superiority of a meatless diet is concerned.

That’s a valid criticism — and I’m not necessarily advocating a vegetarian diet here — but it’s good to see multiple studies and stories in the mainstream news that reinforce the value of eating plenty of fresh produce.

Speaking of which, Google plans to add at-a-glance nutritional information to many food search results, including fruits and vegetables.

On May 30, Ilya Mezheritsky, product manager, announced the feature on the official Google Search blog.

“Figuring out how to make smart choices about some of our favorite foods can often be a cumbersome and daunting process. So we’re hoping we can make those choices a little bit easier: starting today you will be able to quickly and easily find extensive nutrition information for over 1,000 fruits, vegetables, meats and meals in search,” she wrote.

“From the basics of potatoes and carrots to more complex dishes like burritos and chow mein, you can simply ask, ‘How much protein is in a banana?’ or ‘How many calories are in an avocado?’ and get your answer right away.”

The feature (which I have yet to see show up on nutritional search queries) reminds me of the menu calorie count requirement many restaurants have implemented in recent years — only, unlike the jaw-droppingly high numbers on milkshakes and french fries, hopefully this is more positive incentive to swap that cookie for a tasty carrot.

I’ll be interested to see what results the nutrition feature gives when Google finishes rolling it out. It would have come in handy later during our dinner when we tried to calculate the nutrient content of the watermelon we had with dessert.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.