"Booster broccoli" - the new-fangled version of the much-detested vegetable (taste, wise) packed with more vitamins and nutrients than other veggies - may soon harvested, scientists hope.
Bred from strains of the vegetable naturally high in antioxidants, it joins a growing crop of "super foods" that are believed to be good enough to prevent heart disease, cancers and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and help weight control.
AdvertisementVital Vegetables chairman John says that capsicums with extra vitamins A, C and E levels, and tomatoes that can reduce risks of prostate cancer will be released in the next 12 months.
According to him, supermarkets will soon stock foods "boasting higher levels of goodness" for the time poor.
"Our lifestyles seem to get faster all the time. If you can get the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables through eating less, isn't that kind of the way we are going in the world these days?" the Age quoted him as saying.
"I think consumers are looking at things that are better for them. And here you're going to get more bang for your bite," he added.
Two breakfast cereals with the potential to reduce the risk of colon and bowel cancers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and to help control weight were released by the CSIRO last month.
Dr Bruce Lee, director of the CSIRO's Food Futures National Research Flagship, says that other super grains to be used in breads, biscuits and pasta can be released by 2012.
"You can take supplements or you can get people to eat a healthy diet, but often it is hard to get people to change their dietary habits. 'The beauty of these types of foods is that you can add the wholegrain into the food - you are not forcing consumers to change their diet to something else," he says.
Expert food tasters are busy in the CSIRO labs in Sydney, helping to develop reduced-fat sausages, hamburger patties and cheeses that retain the foods' attractive taste.
"We all love the convenience of eating fast food, so if you can make fast food that's still convenient to eat but healthier for you, that would be a positive thing for health," Dr Lee says.
"But we're not talking about a pill that's going to change a person's health overnight. We're talking about providing people with diets that, over a long period of time, may have a positive impact on their health and well-being," he adds.
However, Mark Lawrence, associate professor of public health and nutrition at Deakin University, is of the opinion that such an approach will not address the underlying problem of poor eating habits.
"I have a real difficulty with the argument that you can have your cake and eat it too. What you are doing is rewarding poor dietary behaviour," he says.
But Dr. Rod Jones, team leader of plant physiology at Victoria's Department of Primary Industries and a member of the Vital Vegetables group, says that the focus for now is on bolstering foods naturally.
"We are trying to get away from the idea that you can get good health from a pill or highly processed product. It's all about enhancing the natural goodness within fruits and vegetables," he says.
He has revealed that the department is helping to develop lettuce mixes, with more carotene to strengthen eyesight, for commercial release next autumn.
According to him, other mixes could help ease ailments such as arthritis.
"We are going down the road where you might find one product with four or five different vegetables that have a different suite of antioxidants to target different health outcomes in a single bag, such as helping people who have arthritis," he says.
"More than 90 per cent of the Australian population don't eat the recommended serve of four to five vegetables and two fruits on a daily basis. So our angle is to make the vegetables people do eat as healthy as possible, so they are getting more from the little they are eating," he adds.