Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 12.03.35 PM

The Healthiest Building On Campus

As every UCLA student, staff, or faculty member must know by now, there stands a newly finished classic red, brick building next to Pauley Pavilion. Many, however, still wonder what exactly this building is. Most are just thankful for the construction project being complete!

This new tall building is the newly finished Luskin Conference Center, arguably the healthiest building on UCLA’s campus. It’s quite a building, accompanied with 254 welcoming guest rooms, a full-service Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and lounge called Plateia, a fitness center, and valet parking. This building is open to host a variety of conferences, meetings, and events, bringing together “scholars, innovators, leaders and the diverse campus community setting the stage for building relationships, exchanging ideas and making breakthroughs possible” (Luskin Conference Center Information).

What’s equally as amazing is that the Luskin Conference Center is Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified. The building features a number of green building elements: 30% of the building materials are comprised of recycled materials and 10% were procured from within 500 miles, 50% of the wood used is FSC certified from sustainably managed forests, all materials used in the interior of the building are low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), and the construction team diverted 96.5% of construction water from landfill through the use of advanced recycling techniques (Luskin Conference Center Sustainability).

Specifically, the Food-Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative had great influence in the development of Plateia, the in-house restaurant at the conference center. Plateia is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant serving seasonally fresh vegetables and fruit with a minimum of 20% coming from sustainable, socially responsible, and humane sources. Dr. Wendy Slusser, the head of HCI, and EatWell pod members, specifically, Al Ferrone, Senior Director of Dining Services, ensured their healthy principles were heard by restaurant designers and executive chef Todd Sicolo to ensure the restaurant was serving a healthy and balanced meal that not only students could go to, but visitors to our campus. With food grown within 500 miles of the campus, environmentally friendly USDA Certified Organic ingredients, fair trade certified, and cage free or free-range food, Plateia is healthy, fresh, and sustainable. It even gives the resident B-Plate a run for the healthiest food option on campus! As Plateia is part of a public university, its waiters cannot accept gratuity for service. However, some diners still leave tips after dinings, so the Eat Well pod is in the process of discussing how these tips can be put towards other healthy initiative’s on UCLA’s campus, such as the food closet in the Student Activities Center.

During the Luskin Conference Center’s grand opening on October 7, 2016, the Healthy Campus Initiative was given the prestigious opportunity to host an exhibit in one of the smaller conference rooms. With the Tobacco Free Campus initiative fully established for a few years now, Breath Well Pod members were discussing working on improving enforcement practices with active volunteers on the look-out for those breaking the rules. With dance music coming on every 15 minutes, Move-Well pod demonstrators got us shaking our arms and legs for 5 minutes. They even encouraged us to give their hand-pedal machine a try. With EEG headpieces lined up like a sci-fi movie, the Mind Well table drew me in and helped me discover what it’s like to have your brain signals monitored. Get excited Bruins because according to the Be Well Pod, Bruin Bikes for quarterly rent will be available throughout campus starting next spring; so, say goodbye to those long treks we all know about! Making my final stop at the Eat Well Pod table, I popped a miracle berry in my mouth and what it appeared to be magic made a lime taste as sweet as an orange. It’s not actually magic, check out the science behind it here. The Healthy Campus Initiative established a great presence at the event and spread awareness of their principles and initiatives revolving around healthy living to many people who had not yet discovered our great organization.

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the EatWell Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.

Food Day Thumbnail

Battle of the Burritos: Understanding the Footprint of What We Eat

By Hannah Malan, Graduate Student Researcher, UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative EatWell PodFood Day Infographic Digital_1000w.jpg

As part of our Food Day celebration this year, the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative EatWell pod collaborated with Jennifer Jay, Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering, to create an infographic that compares the nutrient data and environmental impact of two different recipes for one much beloved food item: the burrito.

We created two burritos – one bean and veggie, one beef and cheese – and compared their overall nutrition profile as well as the carbon footprint of the ingredients inside. The results were impressive. While similar in calories and protein, the beef burrito had 10x the footprint of the veggie burrito.

We asked UCLA Health System Senior Dietitian, and Fielding School of Public Health Adjunct Assistant Professor Dana Hunnes to comment on our results.

From a dietitian’s perspective, can you help us better understand the difference between eating a veggie versus meat burrito?

Swapping out plant-proteins and vegetables in general is always great for your health and the environment (as we can see from this infographic).

From the perspective of our health, there are so many vitamins and minerals that are present in plant-based foods, along with antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and just a whole host of nutrients that can only be found in plant foods.

We do not need nearly as much protein as “we’ve been ‘taught’ to believe” that we do. In fact, according to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), we really only need roughly 0.8g/kg of protein per day, even for active adults!

What does this mean?

It means that a 135-pound female (~61kg) only needs about 49 grams of protein each day. A 180-pound male (~81kg) only needs about 65 grams of protein each day.

These are really quite easy to obtain! After all, almost everything has protein in it! Not only that…but, this study shows that body builders, really only need around 1.3-1.5grams/kg of protein…so, even if you’re a body building athlete, you still only need ~105grams of protein per day, not the stereotypical 3x as much protein.

The bean burrito has 23 grams of protein! That’s nearly 2/3 of what a healthy female needs over the course of the day, and roughly ½ what a healthy male needs. The beef burrito has slightly more protein (28 grams), but a much larger (10x) carbon footprint. It’s also important to note that we can only absorb up to 30 grams of protein at any one time, so both burritos are approaching that limit.

You also wrote your PhD dissertation about climate change and sustainable dietary patterns. Can you comment on the environmental impacts of the two burritos?

Aside from all the healthy nutrients that are more likely to prevent and/or mitigate chronic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney disease), plant-based proteins (think: beans, legumes, quinoa) and a plant-based diet is extremely good for the environment.

As you can see from the side-by-side comparison of carbon equivalents from the two diets, the plant-based burrito is much better. Roughly 10% the amount of CO2 equivalents as the beef burrito.

In addition to driving less and using less electricity, the FASTEST, EASIEST, AND BEST way to reduce our carbon footprint is to eat a plant-based diet. We do NOT need meat in our diet, and in fact, there is evidence to suggest that meat-heavy diets increase the risk of and exacerbate already-present chronic diseases, and are pro-inflammatory.

So, from a personal-health perspective, and an Earthly-health perspective, the best thing we can do is eat a plant-based diet.

What are Americans actually eating?

According to the FAO’s 2012: World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050 report, average per capita intake of meat for the United States is roughly 200 pounds per person per year, and will increase to 212 pounds per person per year in the next decade.

In developing countries, current intake is roughly 62 pounds per person per year, and is expected to increase to roughly 93 pounds per person per year over the same time frame. This represents a huge problem since the developing world’s population is going to increase far faster than the developed world’s.

We in the United States and other developed countries need to demonstrate our commitment to reducing our meat consumption if we expect the rest of the world to follow suit.

But aren’t high protein diets good for weight management and keeping us full?

Consuming a whole-foods plant-based diet – meaning non-packaged, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocados, healthy vegetable fats (olive oil) – increases satiety because it has such high volume and water content.

Of course, consuming packaged plant-based foods (i.e. Doritos) will lead to weight gain and low satiety because there is minimal volume, for a lot of calories. But, consuming multiple foods from those listed above will increase satiety, and can certainly help with weight management and weight loss.

It’s about diet quality! Protein does enhance satiety, but overdoing protein can just lead to more fat-storage. Any time you omit a food-group you are likely to lose weight, which is what Atkins/high-protein diets essentially do. I am advocating that we omit the animal-proteins group…similar concept; but switches the ‘food pyramid.’

Learn more about our Food Day campaign, check out our favorite food films, and see what UCLA Dining is doing to reduce our campus ‘foodprint.’

Read more from Dana on her Huffington Post blog.

Join the conversation #FoodDay2016 #UCFoodForAll #UCLALiveWell



Snap, Post…and then Dig In

Have you been to a trendy restaurant recently? Standing on chairs, rearranging table settings, or rolling up the blinds to get natural light just to get the perfect picture of your food has become commonplace. Food bloggers, instagrammers, and tweeters of food are rampant, which raises the question: are people going to restaurants to eat and just happen to take pictures or are people going to restaurants to just to get these beautiful pictures? Is instagramming changing the face of how we dine?

I can personally speak for my sister when I say that instagramming has changed the way she dines. Snapping a picture of her food prior to eating her first bite has become a ritual. Just look at these snaps below. The decadence!

Thai tea ice cream sandwich via @kelll_e

Instagram has become a way of life for millennials; we instagram while we groggily wake up, in between classes, and as we fall asleep. As a result, we are incessantly shown pictures of beautiful food, colorful plates, and locally cold brewed coffee. We are constantly reminded of the endless dining options out there, and thus often may feel a sense of “FOMO” or fear of missing out. And if not FOMO, at least a minor nudge that these are places that provide beautiful food. Subsequently, once you do make it to these hot spots, you want to be part of the trend, and you also stand by the window for natural light, in order to capture the undeniable beauty of the food you’re indulging in.

This cycle indeed changes the way we eat and appreciate food, and from the opposite end, changes the way eateries present and cook their food. Take a look at Trisha Toh, food blogger extraordinaire @TRISHATES and just look at her photo on the left below. Plain and simple, her instagram is art. Or look at @HUNGRYNYC, photo on the right below. You will undeniably salivate looking at these pictures of food. Social media has unintentionally changed the way we appreciate, taste, and indulge in food. NY Mag even notes the show on FYI called Food Porn, in which the most famous instagrammed dishes are shared!

Homemade Curry via @trishates

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict via @hungrynyc

The Journal of Consumer Marketing proves with their research that taking pictures before one eats can actually make food taste better. The Journal specifically notes that when consumers take pictures before eating their food, “it increases attitudes and taste evaluations of the experience when consumption actually takes place.”

Even more interesting, the journal notes that taking pictures as well as seeing others eat healthy foods through their pictures will actually make healthy foods more enjoyable. The world of food is no longer just about being in the moment and enjoying it, it’s about savoring it through social media. Timeout Magazine notes that Instagram has caused consumers to not be able to enjoy their food without a few likes. Countless studies have shown that consumers who take those pre-food snaps perceive the food to be tastier and more pleasurable, explaining why many people have developed this ritual to get the full experience out of their meal.

NYMag studies show that the reason behind the increase in satisfaction after photographing food, is “delayed gratification.” Essentially, by delaying the intake of food in order to take a photograph, we increase awareness thus allowing more savoring of foods. In other words, stop and snap the roses!

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.

7 Reasons Why I Love BPlate

Today, October 7th, is Bruin Plate’s 3rd anniversary since its grand opening in Fall 2013. The health-themed dining hall, lovingly dubbed BPlate by UCLA students, opened my freshman year and has since played an important role in my UCLA experience; it’s where I bonded with classmates over the fear of looming midterms and gossiped with floormates over the latest dorm drama. Beyond its delicious food and the many fond memories I have of it, here are seven reasons why BPlate deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary today (and every other day too):

  1. Before I ate at BPlate, I had no idea that chickpeas and garbanzo beans were the same thing nor had I heard of farro or wheatberry. BPlate introduced me to so many new, nutritious foods and gave me the perfect environment to sample them without fear. I likely wouldn’t have ordered seitan or rainbow chard on a menu or bought it at the supermarket, because I wouldn’t have wanted to “waste” money on a food I might not like. At BPlate, however, I could be adventurous without fear — if I didn’t like something, I could just venture back into the dining hall for something new. BPlate also helped me re-discover foods I’d previously thought I disliked. I used to hate Brussels sprouts and kale, but after trying the delicious BPlate versions I love them both and even cook them in my apartment now!
  2. BPlate has done wonders in reducing the stigma surrounding health food on UCLA’s campus. Many mistakenly believe that eating healthfully means cutting out all carbs or eating only salads, but BPlate proves that eating healthfully can be both delicious and exciting. Personally, I used to think that any amount of dessert was unhealthy. However, BPlate’s inclusion of desserts like frozen yogurt, mini tarts, and fresh fruit showed me that dessert can be part of a healthy diet when enjoyed in moderation.
  3. BPlate’s architecture is one of my favorite parts about the dining hall. It’s almost always a beautiful, sunny day on UCLA’s campus and when the sun is shining I prefer to spend my time outdoors rather than inside buildings with artificial light. However, BPlate’s floor-to-ceiling windows allow me to enjoy sunlight and delicious food at the same time. The great views of campus are an added bonus.
  4. BPlate is incredibly environmentally conscious. Over 30 percent of the food served in the dining hall is sustainable and locally sourced; it serves vegetables from local farms, free-range chickens, cage-free eggs, and fair-trade teas and coffees while composting 100% of pre- and post-consumer waste. Even the floors are made of recycled material. Eating at BPlate makes me feel like I’m doing something good for both myself and the environment.
  5. As an incredibly indecisive person, I find eating in dining halls very stressful. There are so many dishes to choose from, which often leaves me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Before BPlate opened, finding healthy options added to my dining hall stress. BPlate, however, makes finding healthy options infinitely less difficult and stressful. Every dish is created with nutrition and health in mind; all dishes are less than 400 calories and less than 30% of all calories come from fats. When eating at BPlate, I know that any dish I choose will be a healthy, nutritious option, which relieves much of my dining hall stress — the only problem is that all the healthy options a BPlate are so good that I have trouble deciding between them!
  6. While at your average dining hall servers might hurriedly toss a scoop of mashed potatoes or piece of chicken on a plate so they can serve students more quickly, at BPlate servers pay meticulous attention to the presentation of the food they serve. Every dish at BPlate has its own unique design and each plate is a work of art in and of itself. I love the presentation of the food at BPlate, because it makes me feel like I’m eating in a restaurant, not a college dining hall. I also found myself being more appreciative of the food in front of me when someone had taken the time to present it so beautifully. My experiences fall in line with one study, which found that presenting food in an aesthetically pleasing way enhanced consumers’ experience of their food.
  7. I grew up in a very meat-oriented household, so before eating at BPlate I thought all vegetarians and vegans ate was salad and pasta. However, BPlate has since showed me that vegetarian and vegan diets are not at all limiting. Many of my vegetarian and vegan friends love BPlate too, because it offers them such a wide variety of plant-based options compared to typical dining halls. BPlate’s vegetarian options are so good that I often choose them over the meat dishes!

What do you love about BPlate and/or what has eating at BPlate taught you? Share your experiences with me at or on social media!

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.



Delicious and Nutritious — Seasonal Fall Foods and Recipes

Fall is here…and so are many delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables! From pumpkin to pears to beets, fall is full of delicious flavors. While our global food system allows us to find most types of produce in supermarkets year-round, eating seasonal foods is better for the health of our bodies and our environment. Produce can only develop its full flavor and nutritional content when it’s grown in season, making seasonal foods tastier and more nutritious. Seasonal foods are also better for our planet, because they can be grown locally. This means that the foods do not have to travel as far to reach your local supermarket, reducing pollution and the carbon footprint of your meal. Keep reading to learn what fruits and vegetables are in season this fall and delicious recipes you can use them in!

When it comes to seasonal fall foods, pumpkin is probably the first thing that comes to most people’s minds. However, pumpkin isn’t limited to pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice lattes; it can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and a 1 cup serving packs 245% of the daily need for vitamin A! Use the squash to make Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Pancakes, or a Caramelized Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Salad.


Photo via Google Images

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap in mainstream media, but the vegetable is incredibly nutritious and can be cooked in many delicious ways. They are high in vitamins C and K and low in calories. Try them in one of the following recipes: Warm Quinoa Brussels Sprouts Salad, Honey Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, or Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Kale Salad with Apple.


Photo via Google Images

Cauliflower is also super high in vitamin C and is incredibly versatile. There are hundreds of recipes on Pinterest and other websites that can teach you how to turn cauliflower into pizza crust, rice, or tortilla alternatives for an added dose of veggies. You can also keep the cauliflower intact with one of these recipes: Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry, Roasted Garlic Cauliflower, or Roasted Cauliflower Tacos.


Photo via Google Images

Pears make an easy sweet Fall treat, plus they’re packed with fiber too! You can eat them as a snack, as part of your meal or as dessert! Try one of these tasty recipes: Baked Pears with Walnuts and Honey, Sweet and Spicy Pear Salsa,or Pear Balsamic Salad with Dried Cherries and Candied Walnuts.


Photo via Google Images

While the sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows that your aunt makes for Thanksgiving might not be your healthiest option, there are tons of healthy ways to eat nutritious sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are densely packed with many important nutrients; they are great sources of fiber, vitamins A and C, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. Cook one of these delicious recipes next time you buy sweet potatoes at the Farmer’s market: Vegan Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry, Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata, or Sweet Potato Black Bean Hash.


Photo via Google Images

Butternut squash is another one of fall’s delicious squashes. Like sweet potatoes, the squash is a great source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese, but it has its own unique flavor. Try using it to make Butternut Squash Burrito Bowls, Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna, or Roasted Butternut Squash with Spiced Lentils.


Photo via Google Images

Finally, add some color to your plate with some beets! Beets are a good source of folate and can easily be incorporated into simple dishes. Beet Hash with Eggs, Smoky Black Bean Beet Burgers, and Balsamic Beet Salad are all great options.

Danielle de Bruin is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also published in the journal PLOS Medicine and the Huffington Post.


Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 6.39.14 PM

Six Quick, Healthy Meals to Make in Your New Apartment

While moving into the apartments comes with many new freedoms (no more room inspections!), the transition is also accompanied by many new responsibilities, including cooking. For many students, this will be the first time they will be responsible for planning their own meals, which can be a daunting task. If you’re new to the apartments and need some inspiration on where to get started, check out one or more of these easy, nutritious recipes!


Greek Yogurt Breakfast Bark


This recipe is easy, versatile, and perfect for when you’re running late to class! Use your favorite berries and favorite granola to customize the bark to your liking. Not sure which berries to use? Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all high in fiber, vitamin C, and manganese and blackberries and blueberries are additionally great sources of vitamin K. Paired with granola and greek yogurt, this bark is also a great source of whole grains and protein. Try making the bark on a Sunday night and placing it in plastic bags so all you have to do is grab a bag on the way to class throughout the week.


Photo via


Egg and Vegetable Breakfast Sandwich

With egg whites, avocado, and veggies, this breakfast sandwich is packed with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Avocados also pack more potassium than bananas and spinach is high in iron, which helps red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body. Use your favorite bagel flavor and favorite type of cheese to customize it to your liking. However, the best past of this recipe is that you can make the eggs in the microwave if you’re in a rush!


Photo via

Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

This dish is so easy and filled with important nutrients. The black beans and quinoa in this dish are great sources of plant-based protein and fiber; the black beans also provide potassium and the quinoa contains iron and all nine essential amino acids. The zucchini is also high in vitamin C, which helps to lower blood pressure and protect against clogged arteries. Make extra and reheat it in the oven for lunch or dinner the next day.


Photo via

Chicken Stir-Fry

This stir-fry recipe is super versatile because you get to pick the veggies! Try stopping by the UCLA Farmer’s Market once a month on Wednesday’s or the Westwood Farmer’s Market between noon and 6PM on Thursdays for whatever vegetables happen to be in season. The ginger in this recipe adds a ton of flavor and has anti-inflammatory compounds. Serve with brown rice for an added dose of fiber, manganese, and selenium.


Photo via

Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie

This frittata recipe is a delicious meal you can eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! The eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin B12 while the corn adds magnesium and vitamin B6. To make the dish even easier to prepare, use canned corn instead of cutting it off the cob. Serve with whole grain bread for a complete meal.


Photo via gimme

Roasted Chicken and Veggies

This recipe is packed with nourishing vegetables — including vitamin C-rich bell peppers and broccoli packed with vitamins C and K — and it can be made in just one pan! If you’re new to cooking, the website even has a video instructing viewers on how to assemble the dish. Serve with quinoa, farro, whole wheat cous cous, or your favorite grain.

If you make any of these recipes in your new apartment or if you have another favorite easy, nourishing recipe, please share your experience with us at or on social media!

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


Feed Your Busy Brain: 3 Foods that Will Boost Cognitive Function

Whether you have been enjoying a relaxing vacation, taking classes, or doing an internship, the summer break is now quickly coming to an end. Once the school year begins, we will be once again faced with the fast-paced life at UCLA, consisting of classes, assignments, extracurricular commitments, and packed social calendars. While we’re so busy at UCLA, it is easy to overlook our diet. However, planning our meals and including certain foods in our diets can actually help us to manage our busy lives at UCLA!. Three foods in particular — eggs, tomatoes, and spinach — can boost the health of our brains. These three foods are easy to access, whether you live on the Hill or off-campus, and easy to incorporate into various recipes according to your taste.


Eggs are not only versatile — they can be cooked in countless ways, from scrambled to fried to boiled, just to name a few — but also rich in choline, a nutrient that is similar to Vitamin B. A study from Boston University suggests that there is a positive association between choline consumption and cognitive performance. Subjects who had higher intake of choline in their diet performed better on verbal memory and visual memory tasks. In addition, authors of the study indicate that choline plays an important role in producing acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is essential for normal cognition and brain function.


Photo via Google Images


From sandwiches to soup to pasta sauce, the tomato can be a part of the daily diet in numerous ways. Tomatoes are packed with beneficial nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and a wide array of antioxidants. Among them, the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene stand out as brain-boosting nutrients. As this Psychology Today article suggests, these antioxidants are helpful in eliminating free radicals, which are highly reactive chemical compounds that can damage important cellular components. Additionally, lycopene regulates genes that influence inflammation and brain growth.


Photo via Google Images


Another common, versatile, brain-boosting food is spinach. Spinach can easily be added into a wide variety of dishes such as salads, omelets, curries, smoothies, and quesadillas. Spinach is a rich source of lutein, an antioxidant that protects the brain against cognitive decline. This study showed that over a period of 20-25 years, the frequency of spinach consumption and other leafy vegetables was inversely correlated with cognitive decline. Plus, spinach offers many other health-promoting qualities. It’s high potassium content aids in lowering blood pressure and it’s high fiber content promotes good digestive health.


Photo via Google Images

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 8.06.43 PM

Paging All Chocoholics: Chocolate Is Good For You (In Moderation, That Is)

By Susan Salter Reynolds and Wendelin Slusser

Every month new test results pour in to confirm what all chocoholics know: Chocolate is good for you. Decreased blood pressure, improved blood vessel health, and improved cholesterol levels are just a few of the benefits.

Flavinoids, Our New Best Friends

Chocolate contains flavonoids–antioxidants also commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine. According to Eric L. Ding, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, the polyphenolic flavonoids in cocoa have the potential to prevent heart disease. Flavonoids help decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol among people under age 50, and increase good HDL cholesterol. In addition, chocolate has been found to improve elevated blood pressure.

A Little Bad News

You cannot simply eat as much chocolate as you want without increasing your level of physical activity, or you will gain weight. Raw chocolate contains high levels of cocoa butter, rich in saturated fat, some of which is removed and added back in varying amounts by chocolate makers, as well as other fats, sugars, and milk. Cocoa butter is made up of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids (saturated fats). While saturated fats have the reputation for increasing the risk of heart disease, stearic acid has been shown neither to increase nor decrease cholesterol. Therefore 2/3 of the cocoa butter fat is either healthful or not harmful. In addition, try to avoid chocolate close to bed time as it (and other caffeine-filled food and drinks) can keep you awake.

Buy the Best

The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidant properties it contains. Darker and finer chocolates also contain higher percent of cocoa butter as the fat (of which the majority of the fat is not harmful, as described above). The specific flavanol thought responsible for these positive antioxidant health effects is called epicatechin and is found in dark chocolate but only found in minimal amounts in white or milk chocolate.

In addition, consuming no more than one ounce every other day of chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa is considered to be the “sweet spot” for not consuming too many additional calories (170 calories) and receiving the benefits from its positive impact on blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.

Of course don’t forget to eat other flavonoid rich foods such as apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries.

And the Plant is Beautiful

The scientific name of cocoa is Theobroma Cocoa. The tree thrives in a tropical environment and is always full of flowers–yellow-white to shades of pink. The fruits are 15 to 20 cm long, grey or dark red when unripe, bright red or golden when ripe, and contain up to 40 seeds, otherwise known as beans. Like wine, the soil in which cocoa trees grow gives them a specific terroir, a scent and taste that is unique to their ecosystem.

The cacao tree was discovered over 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. The first people known to have consumed cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 A.D.). They mixed ground cacao (cocoa) seeds with seasonings to make a bitter, spicy drink that was believed to be a health elixir. To the Mayans, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. The Aztecs also believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree.

This should be all you need to justify your habit! Few pleasures come so well recommended.

Follow UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative on Twitter:

When it Comes to Bacteria, Trust Your Gut

By: Monica Morucci

If asked, you would likely define yourself as human. Technically, however, you are only 10% human; our human cells are outnumbered by bacterial cells 10 to one.

The trillions of bacteria that live on and inside us, called the human microbiota, are often associated with illness, but are important for many processes that maintain our health.

The gut microbiota — the community of bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract— is the densest community, numbering 1012 bacteria per gram.

Some of the plant foods we eat contain starches and sugars that our body is unable to break down; our gut bacteria do this for us so that we can harvest energy. Additionally, bacteria produce precursors to vitamins B1 and B6, which help the body process nutrients. Perhaps surprisingly, our main sources of vitamin K are bacterial synthesis and leafy green vegetables.

Gut bacteria can also contribute to unhealthy forms of metabolism. A 2009 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that obese and normal-weight individuals have distinctly different intestinal communities. They hypothesize that these distinct bacteria promote an increase in energy uptake from the intestine, resulting in obesity.

The phenomenon of “gut feelings” may have support in new research between the gut and the brain. Increasing evidence suggests that gut bacteria influence gut-brain communication through the gut-brain axis—the bi-directional communication route between the GI system and the brain. Additional human studies are needed, but current science suggests that the gut microbiota may affect anxiety, mood, cognition and pain.

So, how can we support “good” gut bacteria? Probiotics, or preparations of living bacteria that improve’s the host’s intestinal bacterial balance, can be consumed as dietary supplements or as components of fermented foods like yogurt, kim chi, and kombucha. The beneficial effects of probiotics may be temporary, however, as they often last only a short time after ingestion. Another approach is to consume prebiotics, or fibers that can enhance the growth or activity of good bacteria. These are found in onions, bananas, wheat, artichokes, and garlic.

Understanding of the human-bacteria connection is still in it’s infancy, but it is apparent that our actions, like what we choose to eat, can affect our bacterial residents, which in turn have profound influence on our health. Stay tuned as more breakthroughs change our concept of what it means to consider ourselves “human.”

Read more about the human microbiota in my article “Say Hello to Your Little Friends” in Volume 15, Issue 2 of Total Wellness Magazine. Visit to find out about the microbiome research occurring right here at UCLA.

Meet Our Speakers!

This month we would like to highlight three speakers who will be presenting at the Healthy Campus Initiative Symposium on behalf of the Eat Well Pod on April 30th from 4pm-8pm in Covel Commons! We asked our speakers to provide their name and job title, the title of their presentation (as a teaser – you’ll have to come to the symposium to get all the juicy details!) and the answers to a few fun questions.

We hope to see you at the HCI Symposium on April 30th from 4pm-8pm for activities, interactive presentations, and a delightful meal! All of these things are FREE for students. Email to register!

Ashleigh Parsons – Creative Director and Founding Owner of Alma Restaurant

Presentation title: A Case for Imperfection

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

Kale because it’s healthy and delicious

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Learn fluent French because I love the way it sounds

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

I like to cook for myself with friends & the people I love — those are the meals I crave more.

Alexa Delwiche – Managing Director of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council

Presentation title: The Good Food Purchasing Program: Building a Local & Sustainable Food Economy for Los Angeles

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

I eat an organic apple from my local farmers’ market every day, unless it’s seasonally unavailable. BUT if we are talking fantasy world, I would eat a breakfast burrito from the Cantina in Isla Vista, CA every day (note that I did try that in college with disastrous consequences for my wallet and waistline).

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Speak another language – I’ve tried unsuccessfully many times

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

I’m a working mom of a six-month old baby – any meal that someone else cooks for me is amazing. My husband has become my favorite chef.

Alice Bamford – Owner of One Gun Ranch

Presentation title: A Biodynamic Perspective

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

One Gun veggies and salad

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Grow wings and fly! Freedom and Perspective.

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

Grilled Langoustine sprinkled with oil and lemon, Salt baked whole Seabass with homegrown olive oil and a simple salad of tomatoes and arugula finished with freshly picked figs and homemade lemon, mint and Leoube rose sorbet. [It was] south of France at my family’s organic Vineyard Leoube.

It was a happy celebration for my Mum and my birthday surrounded by close friends and loved ones at the end of Spring last year.