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10 healthy snacks with a UC connection

Tackling your afternoon hunger with healthy snacks will help get you through the day and prevent overeating at meals — and many good snack options have a UC connection.

For more than a century, UC researchers and educators have worked to provide science-based techniques that enhance the state’s agricultural markets, improve farm production, increase food safety and protect plant health. And UC research has shown that diets rich in nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy food options may prevent and lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, strokes and other health problems.

Here are 10 healthy snacks, in which UC research has played a critical role.

1. Almonds

Almonds are chockful of healthy fats, fiber and protein. In fact, a recent UC Merced study found that snacking on almonds helps breakfast-skipping college students better manage their cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

In California, UC research has helped the state’s almond growers cut water use while nearly doubling yields and contributing to the success of the California almond. In the last two decades, UC research has helped almond growers reduce water use by 33 percent.

2. Pistachios

Did you know that 99 percent of the country’s crop of pistachios comes from California? Half of all pistachios in California are grown on rootstock taken from the mother pistachio tree at UC’s Kearney Agricultural and Research Extension Center.

3. Strawberries

About 60 percent of the strawberries grown in California and about 40 percent of the world’s strawberries are from UC developed varieties. UC has released more than 50 strawberry varieties since the 1930s.

4. Blueberries

The antioxidant-rich blueberry may reduce the build-up of bad cholesterol that contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke, UC Davis scientists have found.

Blueberries were once considered a cold-weather crop. UC researchers found the berries could thrive in warmer weather by acidifying the soils and maintaining acidic conditions in the irrigation water.

5. Carrots

UC has been involved in carrot breeding for more than 50 years, including studies that crossbreed carrots from around the world — yellow, purple and red varieties. The unusually pigmented carrots have varying flavors and nutrition benefits.

6. Dates

UC researchers helped find a more effective alternative to controlling date mites that significantly cut chemical use. Farmers went from applying 500 pounds of sulfur dust per acre to 3 ounces of the alternative.

7. Citrus

UC researchers have bred more than 40 citrus varieties, including the tangy-sweet Tango mandarin orange. UC also is working with the citrus industry and the state to combat the huanglongbing disease — which is threatening California’s citrus — and the insect that spreads it.

8. Peaches

UC researchers discovered that quickly chilling peaches after they are harvested, a common practice in modern agriculture, was killing the flavor and texture of the fruit. Instead, carefully managing the environment in the packing house, truck and grocery store led to great-tasting fruit and better eating experience.

9. Avocados

UC Riverside has developed several avocado varieties and its 70-year-old breeding program is working to breed the next generation of the fruit.

UC’s research has been critical to keeping California’s avocado industry competitive. UC researchers helped form strategies for controlling avocado root rot and develop alternative varieties that allow for harvesting later in the season.

10. Whole grain snacks

Many studies have linked higher intakes of whole grains, including whole wheat, to a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as improved blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar control, according to Berkeley Wellness. Look for whole or sprouted grain flour as the first ingredient on the label.

UC has played a key role in the field testing of wheat breeding lines, enabling wheat and small grain growers to select varieties with high yield, drought tolerance, disease resistance and high protein — all of which improve pasta and breadmaking qualities.

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