December 14, 2009

High Fiber Beer?

With football season in high swing, you've no doubt seen the endless commercials for Bud Light Golden Wheat, "an unfiltered wheat brewed with citrus, a hint of coriander and [the ever ambiguous Bud Light claim of] superior drinkability". But does this focus on wheat mean it's actually any healthier or higher in fiber than a standard domestic beer? Not really.

A standard 12 oz Bud Light bottle has 110 calories and 0 grams dietary fiber. According to Anheuser-Busch, a 12 oz Bud Light Golden Wheat gets you 118 calories and 0 grams of dietary fiber. No one's saying that AB is pushing Bud Light Golden Wheat as a healthier or heartier beer (although there is that 8 calorie per serving difference...) - but since this is a blog about all things fiber, and sometimes wheat related, why not throw it out there?

With food manufacturers scrambling to add dietary fiber in the most inconceivable of products - it's only a matter of time before someone puts fiber and beer together. In fact, the Spanish brewer La Zaragozana already has...kind of. La Zaragozana brews the line of Cervezas Ambar, including their Ambar Cerveza con Fibra.

This nonalcoholic beer (manzana/apple pictured) is made from 40% fruit juice and contains 0% alcohol and 7.5 grams of dietary fiber. While most beer aficionados won't be flocking to a glorified fruit juice to get their fiber - especially one that doesn't contain alcohol - don't be surprised if we see more mainstream attempts to infuse fiber into the beer supply in the near future. 

December 11, 2009

Progresso High Fiber Soup

Progresso has launched a line of high fiber soup. Each one-cup serving has 7 grams of fiber, so a 16 oz can of soup has 14 grams of fiber, approximately half of your daily fiber needs. There are four high fiber soup flavors:
  • Creamy Tomato Basil
  • Hearty Vegetable & Noodle
  • Chicken Tuscany
  • Homestyle Minestrone
Three of the four flavors do have some fiber from beans (great northern, garbanzo & kidney beans), but the majority of fiber in these soups comes from corn fiber, an added isolated fiber, which has not been shown to be as effective at lowering cholesterol as intact fiber. And in order to get that 14 grams of fiber from a can of soup, you do have to suck down 1200-1400 mg of sodium per can (more than half the daily recommended salt intake).

While not as convenient, a healthier, lower-sodium (and cheaper) option is to make your own soup, using dried or canned peas or beans or lentils as the primary source of fiber. Try this lentil soup recipe from Cooking Light, which gets you 20 grams of fiber per serving with about half of the salt of the canned Progresso fiber soups.

December 4, 2009

How Wheat Works

A common criticism of the US food system is our utter detachment from the actual production of food ingredients eaten everyday in our diets. The Natural Resources Defense Council says that most produce grown in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets sold.  While consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with the health benefits of dietary fiber, far fewer know much about the nitty gritty of what types of wheat are grown in the US and how that grain product gets from the ground and into our guts.

To help increase knowledge about the production of wheat and wheat foods in the US, the Wheat Foods Council developed How Wheat Works, a rich interactive online overview of how wheat gets from the farm to our fork. The How Wheat Works project uses animated graphics, text and video to guide consumers through the "farm-to-fork experience". The free program is divided into four separate tutorials, looking at planting, harvesting and milling of wheat followed by its trip to our grocery store shelves.

The nutrition education component in How Wheat Works is valuable, reliable and covers the differentiation between whole grain and enriched grain products and the anatomy of a whole grain wheat kernel. There is information on the specific types of wheat grown in the US and participants in the online program can choose to follow production and planting of the type of wheat of their choice.

The four modules of How Wheat Works are packed with statistics and data promoting - as would be expected by the Wheat Foods Council - the role of wheat in the US diet. Some interesting facts about wheat from the website include:
  • The US is the fourth largest consumer of wheat
  • Americans consume more than 1 billion bushels of wheat per year
  • Approximately 3/4 of all US grain products are made from wheat flour
To learn more about How Wheat Works, visit the website to get started.

November 25, 2009

Great Marketing for Crappy Kids' Cereal Draws Fire

This week, Washington, DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report analyzing the nutritional quality of foods marketed to children on Nickelodeon. The report is a follow-up to CSPI's 2005 report and Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing to Children. The report found that 80% of Nickelodeon food commercials are for poor nutritional-quality foods, down from 90% of all food commercials included in the 2005 study.

One of the most troubling areas highlighted in the study was the dismal performance of children's cereals advertised on Nickelodeon.  Ten percent of all of the food advertisements on Nickelodeon during the CSPI study period were for cereal. Of these, almost 60% were cereals of poor nutritional quality:

CSPI recommends that to be of high-nutritional value, a cereal should have at least 2.5 g of fiber or 8 g whole grain and should contain 10% daily value for fiber as well as vitamins A, C, E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and protein. Ready to eat cereals can (and should!) be a great source of iron-fortified, whole-grain carbohydrate for kids. The reality is - the ones marketed directly to children rarely are.

The CSPI report comes on the heels of a recent backlash against high sugar cereals like Apple Jacks and Froot Loops masquerading as "good sources" of fiber. The FDA allows the claim "good source of fiber" for foods that have 2.5 to 4.9 grams of fiber per serving; the FDA does not allow the "good source" claim if that same food has one of the following per serving:
  • More than 13 grams of fat
  • More than 4 grams of saturated fat
  • More than 60 milligrams of cholesterol
  • More than 480 milligrams of sodium
What nutrient is conspicuously absent from this list? Sugar...the very ingredient that you get 12 grams of in every serving of Apple Jacks! So Kellogg's can market their product as being a "good source of fiber" even though sugar is the VERY FIRST INGREDIENT in the ingredient list!

Another recent report on the marketing and deleterioius effects of high-sugar cereals comes from Kelly Brownell, PhD of the Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. This October 2009 study reported that cereals marketed directly to kids have 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber and 60% more sodium than adult cereal. And not only do marketers target high-sugar cereals to kids, but they adorn those same cereal boxes with "better-for-you" industry-created, controversial front-of-package labeling.

In the United States there are no laws that prohibit direct marketing of unhealthy foods to children, despite the obviously negative effects that have been borne out in recent studies. Rather, any limitations are industry-opposed, and largely ignored. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies stated in 2006, "Industry should develop and strictly adhere to marketing and advertising guidelines that minimize the risk of obesity in children and youth". But since nobody is making industry do anything to limit marketing that makes kids fat, what can be done?

Health and nutrition think tanks and research institutions continue to rely on industry self-regulation and pressure tactics as their only tool in this uphill battle. CSPI's Key Recommendations from this week's report include:
  • Chuck E. Cheese’s, Perfetti van Melle (maker of Air Heads candy), IHOP restaurants, Topps Candy (maker of Baby Bottle Pop candy), YUM! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), and all other food and beverage companies that market to children – through television or any other media – should join the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI)
  • The Council of Better Business Bureaus should revise its CFBAI guidelines to include a set of nutrition standards, which all participating companies must comply with, such as those being
    developed by the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children 
  • Nickelodeon and other media companies should have comprehensive policies for marketing to
    children that cover all their media and should air only ads aimed at children for foods that meet
    strong nutrition standards
What if you or your kids - God forbid - still want to eat cereal?! The Brownell/Yale report created a Nutrition Profile Index (NPI) score ranking all child and family cereal brands stocked in more than 5% of supermarkets in May 2009. According to their report, the top 15 most nutritious cereals are (in decreasing order of nutritional quailty):
  1. Kellogg Mini-Wheats
  2. Barbara's Bakery Organic Wild Puffs
  3. Kashi Mighty Bites
  4. Kashi Honey Sunshine
  5. Cascadian Farm Clifford Crunch
  6. Kellogg Hannah Montana
  7. General Mills Kix
  8. Quaker Life
  9. General Mills Cheerios (excluding Honey Nut)
  10. Barbara's Bakery Puffins
  11. Annie's Bunnies
  12. Nature's Path EnviroKidz Organic
  13. General Mills Dora the Explorer
  14. Cascadian Farm Cinnamon Crunch
  15. Post Raisin Bran
A final set of recommendations for choosing a healthy cereal comes from sports dietitian Nancy Clark and her Sports Nutrition Guidebook (3rd ed.):

November 20, 2009

How Fake is Your Fiber?: Intact vs. Isolated Fibers

Food manufacturers are wising up to the public's interest in increasing dietary fiber. You can find fiber in foods where it never existed: Fiber One's High Fiber Yogurt, Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches and now even Splenda has fiber. But are all fibers created equal? Not if you look closely...

The Nutrition Facts Panel tells you the total grams of Dietary Fiber in a packaged food's serving. What it doesn't tell you is whether that fiber is from intact fiber (found in foods naturally high in fiber like whole grains, fruits and vegetables) or isolated fiber (fibers derived from other starchy foods and added to non-fiber containing foods to make them higher in fiber). To find out if your fiber is from intact or isolated sources (also called functional, nondigestible fibers), you have to look at the Ingredients List - located right below the Nutrition Facts Panel on food packaging.

The most common isolated fibers manufacturers use to bulk up not-so-fibrous foods include:
  • Maltodextrin
  • Inulin (chicory root)
  • Polydextrose
  • Oat fiber
  • Resistant starch
  • Pectin
  • Gum
Foods with functional fibers highlighted in this blog include Mission Carb Control Tortillas (modified food starch) and Oroweat Sandwich Thins (polydextrose).

Do the health benefits of dietary fiber include those of isolated fiber? Not exactly. The American Dietetic Association Position Paper on Dietary Fiber (J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1716-1731) says, "Whether isolated, functional fibers provide protection against cardiovascular disease remains controversial." The position paper goes on to say, "longer-term studies of fiber intake which examine the effects of both intrinsic [intact] and functional [isolated] fibers...are required."

While we don't know exactly whether the health benefits of dietary fiber are attributable to intact fiber, the additional nutrients in those high fiber foods or even the healthier habits of high-fiber-diet-eating people, most dietitians and nutrition professionals recommend sticking to foods that are naturally high in fiber: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes like lentils and dried peas and beans and taking it easy on the faker fiber foods.

You may be better served to go middle of the road on your fiber-containing foods:
  • Instead of a hot cereal with added isolated fiber such as Kashi GoLean (chicory root) fiber and 5 grams of fiber per serving, try Quaker Quick Oats with a naturally occurring 4 grams of fiber per serving - all from good old fashioned 100% rolled oats
  • Instead of Oroweat Double Fiber Bread (modified tapioca starch) and 6 grams of fiber per serving, try their regular 100% whole wheat bread with 3 grams of fiber from whole wheat flour
  • ...and if you're looking for a naturally occurring high fiber yogurt...well...some things just weren't meant to be!

November 16, 2009

Bulking up Thanksgiving Dinner

If Thanksgiving for you means birds stuffed with white bread...
this year try these high fiber tips instead:

  • Sub sweet potatoes: sweet potatoes with their skins have on average 1 gram of fiber more per serving than do white potatoes
  • Blanch veggie sides: avoid boiling your vegetables to death! A quick dip in boiling water minimizes the loss of vegetables' nutrient content. Overcooking also degrades the fibrous structure of vegetables, resulting in a mushy, less nutritious mess
  • Whole grain stuffing: use 100% whole wheat bread instead of white bread in stuffing recipes
  • Get cruciferous: try a high fiber vegetable side like 1 cup of cooked cauliflower for 3 grams of fiber or a cup of cooked broccoli for 5
  • Stick with pumpkin pie: if you're debating over a piece of pumpkin or pecan pie - go with the pumpkin. While one cup of canned pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber compared to 9 grams in a cup of pecans, the average piece of pecan pie has 200 calories more per slice - making pumpkin the overall healthier dessert
  • Sneak in whole wheat flour: play around with baked goods recipes by substituting up to half of the all-purpose white flour with whole wheat flour

November 9, 2009

Fiber Bomb! Mission 10" Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas

Mission's burrito-sized carb balance whole wheat tortillas pack an incredible fiber punch! Weighing in with 21 grams of dietary fiber (84% of your daily value), these monsters are unusual given their relatively normal 10-inch serving size with 200 calories. But, the high fiber content is not a function of any ingredient that ever appeared in a traditional Mexican flour tortilla recipe (flour, fat, salt, water); rather, wheat gluten, enriched bleached wheat flour and wheat protein isolate add bulk to the tortilla and round out the list of 25+ ingredients (which also includes  a small amount of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, i.e. trans fat that raises LDL cholesterol levels).

The "carb balance" moniker comes from the outdated and debunked low-carb diet craze of counting "net carbs". Essentially, net carbs are grams of carbohydrate in a food minus the grams of dietary fiber in that same food. For example, one of the aforementioned tortillas has 31 grams of carbohydrate per serving; you would subtract 21 grams of dietary fiber from carbohydrate content to arrive at 10 grams of net carb.

The notion behind net carbs is that the fiber content of a food slows the digestive process by essentially delaying the conversion of carbohydrate to glucose in your blood sugar. While this is true, the creation of a "net carb" equation was created primarily to sell low net carb food products  through outlets like Atkins Nutritionals.

Low carb diets may help with short term weight loss, but they are no more effective at long term weight loss than is any other calorie restrictive diet. Most nutrition professionals agree that if you're concerned about losing and maintaining weight loss long term, net carb counting is the equivalent of dietary hair-splitting. Instead of minimizing net carbs, Registered Dietitians, government health agencies and the medical literature all recommend increasing exercise, limiting calories and choosing a variety of foods that are natural sources of dietary fiber as the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off.

If you're not a regular consumer of high-fiber foods, be warned that eating a tortilla with over 20 grams of fiber may lead to unpleasant GI side effects, including gas and bloating. To minimize an upset gut, work on slowly increasing your fiber by a few grams each day. Increasing the amount of water you drink along with the high fiber foods can also help reduce any unfortunate - and embarrassing - GI incidents.

November 6, 2009

Fiber Fuels the Battle Against Belly Fat

The benefits of dietary fiber just keep on coming! An article published in the November 2009 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied the relationship between dietary fiber intake and visceral adiposity (belly fat). The researchers studied 85 overweigth Latino boys and girls for a period of two years and found that:
  • Participants who had decreased their fiber intake over the study period experienced a 21% increase in belly fat
  • Participants who had increased their fiber intake over the study period experienced a 4% decrease in belly fat
The lead investigator on the study was Dr. Jaimie N. Davis from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. In a Reuters news article on the published results, Dr. Davis confirmed what nutrition professionals are constantly reminding the public: not all fiber is created equal. "Just because it says 'whole wheat' or 'multigrain' doesn't mean it's a good source of fiber," Dr. Davis explained. "People think if it's brown, if it's wheat, it's good, but not necessarily."

The best advice remains: Deal your belly fat a blow by reading the Nutrition Facts panel and Ingredient Lists for the real dish on dietary fiber.

November 2, 2009

Benefit of Beans

Dietitians spend a lot of time convincing clients not to eat out of cans: canned vegetables have fewer nutrients than their fresh or frozen counterparts do and canned soups are high in sodium. But legumes - dried peas and beans - are great sources of fiber that are most convenient when canned.

On average, a one-half cup serving of dried or canned peas or beans has 5-6 grams of fiber and 5-6 grams of protein.  Canned beans can pack up to 500 mg of sodium per serving, but you can rinse them off under the sink to help reduce sodium or choose lower-salt canned varieties. Try interspersing beans throughout your diet:
  • Sprinkle garbanzo beans on your salad
  • Make chili with half the meat and other half kidney beans
  • Try lentil soup instead of cream-based soups
  • Order whole pinto or black beans with Mexican food instead of refried beans
Dried or canned peas and beans are not only high in fiber, but they are a good source of nearly-complete protein...and they're low in fat too. If you're trying to lose weight or are concerned about cardiovascular disease, try making one meatless meal per week. Canned beans - like pinto, kidney, garbanzo, black beans or lentils make great high-protein, high-fiber meat substitutes in many entrees.

Click here for a great crock-pot chili recipe from Registered Dietitian Wendy Jo Peterson and her Edible Nutrition blog.

October 31, 2009

IOM Report Recommends More Fiber in School Lunches

 The Institute of Medicine released their "School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children" report earlier this week. The report recommends "increasing the amount and variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains".

In order to qualify for reimbursement from the USDA's National School Lunch Program, school lunches must provide 1/3 of the Dietary Recommended Intake (DRI) for children for the following nutrients:

  • Calories
  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
There are no guidelines for dietary fiber in the current National School Lunch Program. While much has been said about the limitations and shortcomings of the National School Lunch Program - here's to hoping future guidelines will include less refined grains and an increased focus on dietary fiber.

October 30, 2009

Whole Grain Stamp of Confusion?

The Whole Grain Stamp is a product of the Whole Grains Council, which itself is a consortium of food industry, scientists and chefs founded by Oldways, the non-profit food-issues think tank based in Boston, MA. The Whole Grains Council's mission is to:
  • Help consumers find whole grain foods and understand their health benefits
  • Help manufacturers create delicious whole grain products
  • Help the media write accurate, compelling stories about whole grains
There are two whole grain stamps you sometimes see on food packaging:
  1. The 100% stamp: all ingredients are whole grain and the product contains 16 grams - one full serving - of whole grains per serving of that food
  2. The basic stamp: constitutes a half-serving of whole grains - 8 grams per serving; also used if the product has extras like bran, refined flour or germ.

While the Whole Grain Stamp program may be less misleading than other food company's front of labeling packaging programs addressed in a previous post, it still doesn't align with the government-mandated disclosures on the Nutrition Facts Panel. The Nutrition Facts Panel lists Dietary Fiber in grams of fiber, but the Whole Grain Stamp prefers to list grams of whole grain per serving. This leads to more confusion in the already confusing battle of "What is a Whole Grain?"

Keeping in mind that food manufacturers can choose their own serving sizes, it's easy to see how they can manipulate food product servings to meet trade association's labeling guidelines - including the Whole Grains Stamp. While there are no doubt many high-fiber whole grain products deserving of the Whole Grains Stamp, it seems there are just as many high sugar, high fat foods eligible for the same designation.

The Whole Grains Council even lists "Treats" that are Whole Grain Stamp Certified on its website. This Nutrition Facts Panel from Annie's Homegrown Chocolate Bunny Grahams shows the first ingredient to be organic wheat flour (not whole wheat flour). Twenty four bunny pieces have 7 grams of sugar and less than 1 gram of dietary fiber: not bad considering it's a cookie - but by no means a "high fiber" food deserving of an official-looking Whole Grain Stamp of Approval!

Keep in mind that no matter how impressive, persuasive or healthy a front of package label looks - a junk food is still a junk food - no matter how you package, process...or stamp it.

October 29, 2009

Front of Package Food Labeling Crackdown

The food industry has reacted quickly to the FDA's threatened crackdown on front of package labeling. On October 24, the New York Times reported PepsiCo is suspending its controversial SmartChoices™ food labeling program. Featured on foods as laughable as Froot Loops™ cereal boxes, logo programs like PepsiCo's SmartSpot and their General Mills' SmartChoices are industry-sponsored icons intended to override the nutritional deficits played out on the Nutrition Facts panel on the side of such packaging.

While mega-food companies suspend and scale back front of packaging (FOP) labeling, the best recommendations for choosing healthful foods will live on on the side of the food package. The government-mandated Nutrition Facts Panel and Ingredients List remain truthful, scientifically-derived roadmaps to what your food contains.

For those of you interested in your fiber intake - pay attention to the side packaging highlighted in a previous post:
  • Dietary Fiber: look for 3 grams or more of dietary fiber per serving of starchy bread foods
  • Ingredient List: look for "whole grain" or "whole wheat" as the first ingredient in starchy bread foods
Keep in mind: the front of the package is advertising and the side of the packaging is truth. While the cover of the book may be what sells, the Table of Contents always gives a better picture of what you're going to get inside!

September 28, 2009

Fiber Showdown: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

Dietary fiber is classified based on its solubility. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water whereas insoluble fiber can't.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber can dissolve in water, which slows down digestion. This is the type of fiber that is thought to lower blood cholesterol levels, which in turn reduces heart disease risk. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels.

In your diet, you get soluble fiber from:
  • Oat bran
  • Barley
  • Psyllium
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Lentils & peas
  • Some fruits & vegetables
Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber doesn't slow down digestion like soluble fiber does, rather it is linked to "laxation". Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stools and actually makes food pass through your digestive system more quickly than it would without the fiber. This is the type of fiber that helps promote good bowel regularity and reduces constipation.

Insoluble fiber in the diet comes from:
  • Wheat bran
  • Certain fruits & vegetables
  • Whole grains

Dietitians recommend that you don't fret about eating soluble vs. insoluble fibers. Instead, your focus should be on increasing and achieving recommended levels of total dietary fiber. Most high fiber foods will naturally have a combination of both soluble and insoluble fibers. For example, in fruit, the soluble fiber is found in the flesh and the insoluble comes from the peels. Eating the whole piece of fruit maximizes your fiber intake, and health benefits from fiber come from a combination of both types.

Here's an example of a high fiber food rocking equal amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber. This label is from Quaker Oats. You can see that per serving, you get 4 grams of fiber: 2 soluble and 2 insoluble.

September 27, 2009

List of Whole Grains and Not Whole Grains

Since whole grains are high in fiber, increasing fiber intake usually means you have to increase your intake of whole grains. But what exactly is a whole grain? As covered in an earlier post, a whole grain consists of three parts:
  1. Bran
  2. Endosperm
  3. Germ
Based on the FDA's Whole Grain Label Statements Draft Guidance, here is a list of whole grains and those not considered whole grains:

Whole Grains

Cereal Grains that can be Whole Grains:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Corn - includes popcorn
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Rye
  • Oats
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Triticale
  • Wheat
  • Wild Rice
Oats are Whole Grains
  • Oatmeal
  • Rolled Oats
  • Quick Oats
Not Whole Grains

Legumes are Not Whole Grains (...but they are still high in fiber)

  • Soybean
  • Chickpea
  • Oilseeds (i.e. sunflower seeds) and roots (i.e. arrowroot) derived from legumes

  • Pearled barley is not a whole grain since the processing involves removing some of the bran
  • Dehulled barley (not pearled) is a whole grain
Durum Wheat - High protein, yellow flour used in pasta

  • Durum wheat used in semolina and flour is not whole grain
  • 100% durum wheat or whole durum wheat is a whole grain

September 15, 2009

Fiber Recommendations for Kids

Adequate Intake level recommendations for fiber are gender and age specific. In this blog we've looked at fiber recommendations for adults - but what about kids? The DRI Committee - (Dietary Reference Intake Committee) has set forth loose recommendations for children and fiber - and they say:

Babies 0-6 months
There is no fiber level set for the first six months of life. At this stage, a baby's diet consists solely of breastmilk or formula, neither of which provide any fiber.

Babies 7-12 months
For the second half of the first year of life - although introduction of solid and fiber-containing foods does occur - there is not enough data to set a recommended level for fiber.

Kids 1-3 years
Most healthcare professionals recommend introducing a variety of fruits and vegetables and cereals at this age. Kids aged 1-3 should aim to have 19 grams of fiber per day.

Age 9-13 years
Starting in this age bracket, fiber recommendations differ by gender. Nine-13 year old girls need 26 grams of fiber per day and boys should be eating 31 grams per day.

Kids 4-8 years
For 4-8 year olds, the fiber recommendation is 25 grams per day.

Age 9-13 years
Starting in this age bracket, fiber recommendations differ by gender. Nine-13 year old girls need 26 grams of fiber per day and boys should be eating 31 grams per day.

Age 14-18 years
In adolescence, 14-18 year old girls' fiber needs are 26 grams per day and males increase to 38 grams per day.

Age + 5-10 grams
Researchers in New York determined that a safe range of dietary fiber intake for kids is equal to a child's age plus 5-10 grams of fiber per day*.

*Source: Williams CL, Bollella M, Wynder EL. A new recommendation for dietary fiber intake in childhood. Pediatrics. 1995;96(5 Pt 2):985-988.

September 11, 2009

Fiber, "What more do you want from me?"

Despite the well established litany of health benefits associated with high fiber intake, researchers just keep it coming! A study published in the July 2009 issue of the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Care journal showed that people with lower dietary fiber intake had increased risk of diabetes. Likewise, eating more fiber is associated with reduced diabetes risk and reduced inflammation. With 24 million Americans already suffering from diabetes - now seems like a pretty good time to start bumping up your fiber intake.

September 10, 2009

Stir Crazy: Pop to It

Air popped popcorn is an insane fiber find. Five cups of air-popped popcorn gets you 6 grams of fiber for only 150 calories - an excellent, unadulterated, high-fiber snacking option. But many air poppers just don't cut it. If your popcorn tastes stale, it's probably not the kernels - but rather your popper - that is to blame. Enter West Bend's Stir Crazy® Corn Popper. This magical appliance utilizes a rotating metal rod to keep kernels from attaching to its non-stick surface. The plastic cover can be conveniently inverted to serve as your bowl. Best of all, it churns out glorious, puffy kernels with no need for added oil, and no chewy, stale output either. It's a bit cumbersome when it comes to storage, but you'll get over it once you taste Stir Crazy's consistently good results. The Stir Crazy Corn Popper is available at Target for $25 or on Amazon for $34.

August 28, 2009

Fiber on the Nutrition Facts Panel

As a standard, the Nutrition Facts label you see on the side of food packaging uses:

• 25 grams of dietary fiber for 2,000 calories per day, or
• 30 grams of dietary fiber for 2,500 calories per day

If you look at a label from 100% whole wheat bread, usually one slice has 3 grams of dietary fiber. One slice also has 12% Daily Value (%DV) for fiber. The 12% DV is arrived at by dividing the amount of fiber in one slice (3g) by the amount needed per day (25g). 3/25 = 12%.

August 16, 2009

Get Your Pear On

Both fruits & vegetables are good sources of fiber - but on average, fruit tends to have more fiber per serving than do vegetables. So, what's the highest fiber fruit? Hard to say exactly - but pears KILL most competitors on the fiber count!

For 130 calories, a large-sized pear yields 7 grams of fiber, which is 25% of your daily needs. A medium-to-large sized Asian pear - like the one pictured here - go for 110 calories and an impressive 10 grams of fiber.

Pears make a great on the go snack...and they also work well in salads. To prevent browning, dip your pear slices in citrus juice before adding to salad. The ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in orange, lemon and lime juice acts as an antioxidant which prevents enzymatic browning that occurs when the fruit flesh is exposed to air/oxygen. This also works well for preserving sliced apples and bananas - plus it adds a nice, tart citrus flavor.

Oroweat Sandwich Thins

Looking for a high fiber enclosure for your favorite burger or sandwich? The new Sandwich Thins from Oroweat® are a great low-calorie, high-fiber alternative to bulky, bread-y hamburger buns. Each sandwich thin has 100 calories and 5 grams of fiber. Whole wheat flour is the first ingredient - but the additional fiber comes compliments of additional wheat bran and wheat gluten. They're soft , pretty delicious and contain about twice as much fiber and half the calories of a traditional hamburger bun. Put an extra-lean ground beef patty, veggie burger or portobello mushroom in there and you've got yourself a high fiber, low-fat burger meal.

July 28, 2009

How Much Fiber Do You Need per Day?

How much of a good thing is a good thing? For all of the talk about how great fiber appears to be, no one seems to be able to agree on how much we really need. You can’t measure the amount of fiber in your blood or colon because you don’t absorb fiber – so, determining adequacy levels gets a little tricky.

What We Need

US Dietary Guidelines

The 2005 US Dietary Guidelines for Carbohydrates recommend that adults eat 14 grams of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories. Since a good ballpark for most adults is 2,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight, this works out to no less than 28 grams of dietary fiber per day.

Institutes of Medicine

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) committee is a group of nutrition experts who set recommendation levels for healthy Americans and Canadians. The DRI committee does not have enough data to set an Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) level for dietary fiber, which means it can’t confidently develop a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) level either. As such, we have to settle for the less scientifically derived upon Adequate Intake (AI) level. The AI for fiber is based on median fiber intake levels that help achieve low risk for developing heart disease and the IOM recommendations are gender-specific:

Female Daily Fiber Recommendations:
  • Age 50 & younger: 25 grams per day
  • Age 51 & older: 21 grams per day

Male Daily Fiber Recommendations:
  • Age 50 & younger: 38 grams per day
  • Age 51 & older: 30 grams per day

What We Get

Regardless of whose recommendations you follow, one thing is certain: Americans are not getting enough fiber. Usual intakes in the US average about 15 grams per day1. Essentially, we are getting only half of the amount of dietary fiber that most scientific groups recommend!


1.) Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2002

Health Benefits of Fiber

Why is fiber the favored component of dietitian-recommended meal plans? Because increasing dietary fiber provides a number of healthful benefits for the body. The American Dietetic Association’s position on the Health Implications of Dietary Fiber outlines the benefits of fiber in four key areas:

• Cardiovascular disease prevention
• Gastrointestinal health
• Weight management
• Diabetes

Heart Health

Increasing dietary fiber helps lower total cholesterol levels and LDL (“bad cholesterol”). Blood cholesterol levels are reduced when bile acids are excreted from the body. Soluble fiber binds bile acids. This may help explain why increasing dietary fiber – particularly the soluble type - increases excretion of cholesterol, which in turn lowers levels of cholesterol circulating in the blood.

Gut Check

Insoluble fiber binds water, making your stools softer, bulkier and heavier. This helps move things along in the gut, reducing the likelihood of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.

Weight Loss

High fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes such as kidney beans and lentils increase satiety. Satiety is the feeling of fullness. High fiber fruits and vegetables tend to be low in calories, which help satisfy and counteract hunger with relatively few calories. Foods that are high in fiber make you feel fuller for longer and decrease consumption of excessive calories that lead to weight gain.

Blood Sugar Regulation

Fiber containing foods take longer to digest than their lower-fiber counterparts. Certain types of fiber slow gastric emptying and glucose absorption. For people with diabetes, including high fiber foods is beneficial for normalizing blood sugar levels1.

What About Cancer?

Contrary to popular belief, there is not a clearly established link between dietary fiber intake and the development of colon cancer. Increasing dietary fiber intake may be associated with lower rates of colon cancer, but the exact mechanism of the relationship is not entirely known. Diets high in animal fats and protein – which tend to be low in fiber – have been linked to higher rates of colon cancer2.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t increase your risk of any chronic disease by increasing dietary fiber. Even though we may not know exactly why fiber is beneficial in every disease state, it seems safe to say that increasing dietary fiber is almost always helpful and rarely harmful.

1. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Augustin LS,Vuksan V. High-complex carbohydrate or lente carbohydrate foods? Am J Med. 2002;113(suppl 9B):30S-37S
2. Lanza E, Yu B, Murphy G, Albert PS, Caan B, Marshall JR, Lance P, Paskett ED, Weissfeld J, Slattery M, Burt R, Iber F, Shike M, Kikendall JW, Brewer BK, Schatzkin A. Polyp Prevention Trial Study Group. The polyp prevention trial continued follow-up study: No effect of a low-fat, high-fiber, high-fruit, and vegetable diet on adenoma recurrence eight years after randomization. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007;16:1745-1752

July 14, 2009

What is a Whole Grain?

A whole grain food will generally contain more fiber per serving than a refined or processed grain. According to the Whole Grain Council, a whole grain product is a food that contains the essential parts and nutrients that occur naturally in grains (excluding the husk).

After the husk of a whole grain has been discarded, the three remaining parts of a whole grain are:

  1. The bran - outer layer that contains fiber, B vitamins, iron, zinc & other micronutrients
  2. The endosperm - middle layer and starchy carbohydrate component with a bit of other nutrients
  3. The germ - innermost compartment with unsaturated fat, B vitamins and other vitamins & minerals

If you keep all three parts together - the bran, endosperm and germ - the ensuing product is a whole grain ingredient. Refined grain processing - which results in lower fiber products - discards the bran and the germ, keeping only the endosperm, and leading to a lower-fiber grain product.

July 9, 2009

Welcome to the Future

Most nutrition professionals and Americans of average intelligence have no problem rattling off litanies of what you shouldn't eat; but is there anything out there that's good for you which you can actually eat more of?

Not withstanding people with unique GI disorders, almost everyone can benefit from more dietary fiber. This intent of this blog is to highlight the health benefits of fiber and track the food industry's attempts to capitalize on what science has been proving for years: fiber is good for you...and Fiber is the Future.