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NUTRITION: Broccoli coffee? Yes, you read that correctly

Powdered vegetables are said to have various benefits, but there is a lot of scientific evidence that shows whole vegetables are essential to a healthful diet.

I'm typically not a fan of hiding fruits or vegetables in foods to make foods seem healthier. Yes, zucchini chocolate cake can be delicious, and slightly more healthful than plain chocolate cake, but it is still chocolate cake.

I especially do not like hiding foods in children's food. You are not teaching your child to like their vegetables if you have to hide them. You are not learning to like zucchini; you are learning to like a different kind of chocolate cake.

To be clear, I'm not against the technique of adding fruits and vegetables to recipes to make them healthier; I am against lying about it. I often teach about revamping a recipe to make it healthier.

When baking, you can substitute some of the fat (butter, lard) with fruit puree such as applesauce or prune puree. You can even substitute pureed beans. I love baking with vegetables such as zucchini and avocado because they lend a moist, creamy texture. But, eat the foods that you enjoy! Sometimes changing a recipe to a low-sugar and low-fat version is not as satisfying. Not feeling satisfied can lead to overeating. Eat what you like, just eat less of it.

I came across a new bizarre coffee trend in Australia: broccoli coffee. There is a cafe in Melbourne serving coffee drinks with powdered broccoli. This trend is not limited to Australia; you can even buy K-Cups with glucoraphanin, an antioxidant from broccoli. This food trend also extends beyond broccoli. A simple internet search shows many different types of powdered vegetables; greens, beets, carrots and, of course, chili pepper powder.

I always try to stick to strictly nutritional topics, but sometimes it is hard to ignore environmental and political topics associated with our food. What I find the best benefit of these vegetable powders is that they are helping to reduce food waste. One such company FoPo, wants to save the 40 percent of food that is wasted by turning this food into powder and increasing the shelf life of produce from around two week to two years.

What are the nutritional benefits of powdered vegetables, if any? The most touted advantage is being able to "hide" a serving of vegetables in food you are already consuming, such as your morning coffee. Keep in mind these powders are considered to be supplements, meaning they supplement a diet; they do not completely replace the need for whole vegetables.

I understand that it may sound easy to add a scoop of powder to your meals, but I would advocate for planning ahead by having cut-up broccoli or carrots in a grab-and-go container instead. Another touted benefit is that powdered vegetables are easier to digest, meaning you may be able to absorb more of the vitamins and minerals from a powdered vegetable than a whole vegetable. However, the key word there is may; there is not a lot of scientific evidence about how processing may affect the vitamin and mineral content of vegetables.

Remember, supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so make sure you are buying these products from reputable producers. Overall, we cannot deny the plethora of scientific evidence that shows whole vegetables are essential to a healthful diet.

Brenda Schwerdt, RDN, LD, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s hospital. Contact her at dietitian@slhduluth.com.