October 22, 2010

Doctor Kracker to the Rescue


Any fiber fanatic can tell you that a whole grain cracker that doesn't taste like cardboard is a rare find. On a recent Virgin America flight, I came into first contact with Doctor Kracker's Organic Seeded Spelt Snack Flat - an impressive commercial application of some lesser-used whole grain ingredients.

The seeded spelt snack flat is an outstanding, crisp and delicious USDA organic product made from spelt flour, sunflower seeds, whole grain spelt flour, sesame seeds and flaxseeds. Each 55 calorie cracker has 2 grams of fiber and only 85 mg sodium. 

You can order their product on Amazon and the products come in eight different flavors, including pumpkin cheddar and cherry semolina. If you're looking for more ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet - consider Doctor Kracker as a healthy alternative to your high fat, high salt, low fiber refined wheat cracker.

October 14, 2010

Whole Grain Intake: Good and Bad News


A study published in the October 2010 Journal of the American Dietetic Association has both good and bad news when it comes to whole grain consumption. The study: "Whole-Grain Consumption is Associated with Diet Quality and Nutrient Intake in Adults: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1994-2004" finds that:
  • Americans eat less whole grains than the 3 servings per day the 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend: 
    • 0.63 servings per day for adults aged 19-50 and 
    • 0.77 servings per day for adults aged 51+
  • ...But, for those who ate the most servings of whole grains, the quality of their diet was: 
    • Better when it came to overall calories, fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids and t
    • They ate less of the bad stuff (added sugars, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol and most vitamins and minerals)
The study is based on a "new definition" of whole grain that calculates whole grain intake without added bran and pearled barley. 

One problem in assessing whole grain intake is the problem that scientists can't even agree on what a whole grain is. Some groups say a whole grain is a food that contains 51% or more whole-grain ingredient(s) by weight per reference amount customarily consumed; whereas other groups propose that whole grains should be those with 25% or more whole grain or bran content by weight. 

The USDA's (new) Pyramid Servings Database measures whole grain foods - but provides information with and without added bran and pearled barley, which alter measurements depending upon your definition of a whole grain. To complicate matters, assessment instruments used to determine whole grain measurements also differ from study group to study group.

Regardless - the study points out what all nutrition professionals would recommend: a diet rich in whole grains is inherently more healthy than one in refined grains; and, most Americans could stand to eat more whole grains.

September 29, 2010

More Matters Month


September is "Fruits & Vegetables - More Matters Month." Too bad Americans' fruit and vegetable intake doesn't seem to care.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control says that not one US state met the Healthy People 2010 Objectives for fruit and vegetable consumption in 2000-2009. The 2010 Objectives aim for increasing to: 
  • 75% the proportion of Americans aged 2+ who eat two or more servings of fruit and increasing to
  • 50% the proportion of Americans aged 2+ who eat three or more servings of vegetables a day
You can check out what percentage of your state ate 2+ servings of fruit or 3+ servings of vegetables per day by looking at the CDC report tables listed here.

September 28, 2010

Pom(pous) Wonderful Takes a Hit


The Federal Trade Commission filed a formal complaint this week charging the makers of PomWonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and a related line of supplements with grossly exaggerating the health benefits of their products. 

While it is no secret that PomWonderful has been self-funding the "$34 million in medical research" supporting pomegranate health benefits - apparently they crossed the line with a number of unsubstantiated health claims in publications like Parade, Fitness, Prevention and the New York Times, - namely that PomWonderful:
  • Causes a 30% decrease in arterial plaque formation
  • Slowed PSA doubling time by 350% in subjects with advanced prostate cancer
  • ...and most shockingly - is 40% as effective as Viagra!
PomWonderful claims have traditionally circled around the fruit's "antioxidant" properties. But not surprisingly, all fruits and many vegetables contain antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize reactive oxygen molecules and prevent cell damage - so they're good for you; but not so good you need to spend $4 on a bulbous bottle of unnecessarily refrigerated pomegranate juice. 

Beta carotene (a vitamin A precursor), vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium are antioxidants that are widespread in fruits and vegetables - although the extend to which antioxidants play a role in human disease prevention is not entirely understood. If you're fortunate to find pomegranate in its original form - the seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber. One half cup has 3.5 grams of fiber in only 75 calories. 

But really - there's nothing magical about the pomegranate - except that the founder, Lynda Resnick, inherited a piece of property that had pomegranates growing on it and she wisely parlayed it into a multi-million dollar empire. She also acquired Fiji Water in 2004 - so, overly-priced commodity items packaged in fancy bottles is kind of her forte!

Kudos to the FTC for jumping in where the FDA falls flat. The PomWonderful complaint comes on the heels of an earlier FTC investigation on Kellogg's "Immunity" claims plastered across their kids' cereals like Rice Krispies and Frosted Mini Wheats. 

To read the FTC's PomWonderful complaint - click here. PomWonderful's response ("Stop Persecuting Pomegranates") is here.

September 11, 2010

Novel Fiber Growth Set to Grow by 750% in Coming Years


Interest in fiber is on the rise...as evidenced by more than the fact that you are reading a fiber blog!

In their new report Fiber Food Ingredients in the US: Soluble-, Insoluble- and Digestive-Resistant Types market research firm Packaged Fact predicts that novel fibers - which maintained a 5% market share in 2004 - will make up 39% by 2014.

In the US, the soluble fiber market is expected to experience the most growth. According to Nutra ingredients-usa.com's review of the same report:
  • The fiber market in the US was worth $193 million in 2004
  • $176 million (91%) of that was from insoluble fiber and $16.6 million (9%) was from soluble
  • The report authors predict growth in the US to surpass $470 million by 2011 (a 240% increase in just 7 years)
  • The soluble fiber portion of the market is expected to increase significantly compared to insoluble fiber
Other industry watch-dogs predict continued growth and interest in fiber, with an increase in novel fibers expected to lead the way. Novel fibers include soluble fibers like inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), soluble corn fiber and other resistant fibers like resistant maltodextrin - all of which are increasingly being added to processed foods, and some of which lead to unpleasant GI side effects, as covered in a previous post

While the rise in interest in dietary fiber is promising, the focus on added fibers in processed and packaged foods at the expense of ignoring naturally-occurring sources leaves room for concern.

September 9, 2010

How do Prunes Alleviate Constipation?


What food comes to mind when you think of alleviating constipation? 

Prunes. 

Is it the fiber? 

Surprisingly, no. 

Prunes - which are now euphemistically called "dried plums" - have some fiber, about 8 grams per 1 cup of pitted plums; but their famous "laxation effect" comes from sorbitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol which you find also added to sugar-free candy, sugar-free chocolate and other sugar-free foods that can yield some nasty GI side effects.

Sorbitol absorbs water and makes foods heavier as they transit through your gut fighting and reversing constipation; the fiber in prunes helps - but it's the sorbitol doing most of the work. 

If you're interested in prunes and sorbitol, nationally syndicated nutrition columnist Ed Blonz just did a great article on the topic - you can check it out here. If you're not familiar with Blonz, don't be put off by his website - he is no graphic designer - but he is most certainly a very well-respected authority in nutrition science with a great knack for answering complicated nutrition questions in a straightforward and evidence-based manner!

The California Dried Plum Board has more information about the relationship between prunes and digestive health on their website www.tummywise.com.

Branding Baby Carrots


The Baby Carrot industry is launching an all out campaign to promote their product as an alternative to junk food. The "Eat 'em Like Junk Food" effort will be out soon and includes TV spots, an interactive website, "Bunch of Carrot Farmer's" YouTube channel and junk food-like packaging. 

Baby carrot manufacturers are responding to a dip in sales and hope to re-brand their product as an "extreme" snacking alternative. Two seconds on their site - www.babycarrots.com - and you'll be extremely annoyed with the theme "song"...but, the idea is to re-program the way you think about baby carrots.

Sure, it's hard to make carrots cool, but the baby carrot folks have a lot going for them. The fact that their industry even exists is based on a stroke of pure genius by California farmer Mike Yurosek: take unusable and unsellable nubs of bigger carrots and grind them down to finger-size "baby" carrots. You eliminate the most annoying part of eating carrots - the peeling - and you get to mark the price up because of the convenience you're affording your customers!

According to the USDA Nutrient Database, each medium-sized baby carrot has 0.3 grams of fiber - so every three baby carrots is about 1 gram of fiber and you would need 15 baby carrots to get a 5 gram serving - or roughly, 1/6 of your daily fiber needs.

Two-thirds of the baby carrots sold in the US are grown in Bakersfield, CA. And, The World Carrot Museum (that's right) has some more history on the baby carrot, available here


September 2, 2010

The Truth About Fiber from Eat This Not That!


Men's Health Magazine's "Eat This Not That!" has became a wildly successful weight loss entity. It's a widely circulated email newsletter, magazine feature and now features a string of best selling books with titles like "Cook This Not That" and "Eat This, Not That! for Kids!"

Today's email newsletter topic is "The Truth About Fiber" where the authors pose nine "True or False" statements about fiber. The nine mini-articles give answers that are based on information and data largely supported by the general nutrition community. 

There is however, one rather controversial topic where the Eat This Not That! authors take a unique approach to answering a much asked question - and one covered in a previous blog post: "How much fiber do you need per day?"

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) Committee of the Institute of Medicine says males aged 50 and younger need 38 grams of dietary fiber per day (that's the highest of any age/gender group). But the Men's Health authors say that the 38 gram recommendation is bunk because it's based on three studies where the participants didn't even average as much as 38 grams per day. "In fact, people saw maximum benefits with a daily gram intake averaging from the high 20s to the low 30s."

It's important to point out that the DRI recommendation for fiber is what's called an "Adequate Intake" level, or AI recommendation. An AI is used when there's not enough data to set a "Recommended Dietary Allowance" level. RDAs are pretty solid and they are set when scientists are pretty certain that the amount of a nutrient they are recommending meets the needs of 98% of  people in that particular age and gender group. So, when there's not enough data for an RDA, they settle on AI, which is indicative of a lack of consensus, or really, a scientific shot in the dark.

Confusing? Yes. Bottom line: the average American eats only 14 grams of dietary fiber per day (Anderson et al., 2005). Regardless of whether you need fiber in the 20s, 30s or 38 grams per day - as a population, we're not eating enough. And despite the ubiquity of dietary fiber in our highly processed and packaged food environment, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes remain the most simple sources of dietary fiber for all populations - no matter how much you need per day.

August 29, 2010

Burger King's Whole Grain Ciabatta Bun: Where's the Fiber?


By way of a press release, Burger King recently announced that its Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich will now be served on a ciabatta bun made with whole grains. While the new bun makes for a sandwich lower in calories, fat and sodium than the original - there's not really any significant fiber boost. 

Burger King's press release touts the revised bun has "eight grams of whole grains", but no info on how many grams of fiber this equates to or how it compares to the original. The bun no doubt remains your typical highly-refined white bread product with some whole grains thrown in for good measure.

Their online nutrition information tracker (pictured above) does not include dietary fiber and as of this posting, the  company's web-based nutrition information does not reflect the new changes. 

While Burger King can be commended for focusing on increasing the number of choices under 650 calories available in their BK Positives Steps program, they're not breaking any ground with fast food fiber content.

August 20, 2010

McDonald's "Real Fruit" Smoothies



Things in smoothie-world have been on fire with the recent introduction of Real Fruit Smoothies from McDonald's. But how much "real fruit" is actually in a McDonald's smoothie? 

Both flavors - Strawberry Banana and Wild Berry - have fruit puree as their first ingredient, followed up by sugar in 2nd place, low fat yogurt (which also has added sugar) and ice.

A large (22 oz) Wild Berry Smoothie has 320 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 69 grams of added sugar. If you're not sure what 69 grams of added sugar looks like, it's slightly more than a 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Compare that to a McDonald's small Chocolate Triple Thick Shake which only has 63 grams of added sugar!

McDonald's Real Fruit Smoothies are basically fat free milkshakes. They're lower in calories than the shakes, but they are by no means a health food! There are 2-4 grams of fiber in a smoothie - but for 210-330 calories, it's hardly worth sucking that down just for the fiber. Your average piece of fresh fruit has 4 grams of fiber for less than 100 calories. 

McDonald's does sell Apple Dippers - which even after the smoothie introduction - remains their only "Real Fruit" offering.

August 19, 2010

Celebrating National Potato Day


Today is National Potato Day. Potatoes are a high-carbohydrate starchy food providing about 130 calories and 3 grams of fiber in a small potato (1 3/4" - 2 1/2" in diameter). All potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. People often wonder how much "better" sweet potatoes are for them than white potatoes: from a calorie and fiber standpoint white and sweet potatoes are about the same, with sweet potatoes being a significantly better source of vitamin A and beta carotene.

According to the United States Potato Board the average American consumes 125 pounds of potatoes per year. Potatoes often get a bad nutritional rap: in their original form they're fine - but most Americans like their potatoes fried in oil and salted to the max. The majority of US potatoes are turned into frozen french fries:
  • 34% of American potatoes are consumed as frozen french fries
  • 27% as Fresh potatoes
  • 13% as potato chips

Not surprisingly Idaho is the top potato producing state, followed by Washington, Wisconsin, Colorado and North Dakota.

If you like potatoes, keep them baked or boiled and away from the salt and fat. Potatoes are a rather nutrient rich carbohydrate choice, but the calories can creep up if portion sizes do. 

On this National Potato Day, expand your potato horizons by trying this easy, nutritious and delicious Roasted Sweet Potato recipe from Cooking Light Magazine.

August 18, 2010

Kellogg's Bumps up Fiber in Some Special K Cereals


 With its "Special K Challenge", Special K has gone to great lengths to advertise the link between its cereal and weight loss. The "Challenge" is to make 3 of your 4 small daily meals either Special K cereal or one of their bar or shake products. The problem is, that while its low in calories (110 cals per cup), regular Special K has almost no fiber - it leaves you feeling hungry shortly after eating.

This week though, Kellogg's has announced that it is reformulating some of its cereals with added fiber. The FDA says that in order to call your product a "good source of dietary fiber", it has to have 2.5 - 4.9 grams per serving. (A "high fiber" food has 5 or more.) The newly revised Special K cereals have 3 grams of fiber.

There will be no changes to the original Special K product, so that product will go on letting you down shortly after breakfast! For some better breakfast ideas, check out these previous posts on oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches and high fiber muffins.

August 6, 2010

What's Up With Sun Chips?


People trying to lose weight know that chips probably shouldn't be a big component of their diet. But what's the deal with Sun Chips? If you have to have a chip, aren't Sun Chips the best bet?

I - along with most registered dietitians - am confused as to how Sun Chips obtained their "health halo". Sure, they have 30% less fat than regular potato chips, but that alone does not a health food make! 

Sun Chips have the same basic recipe as all chips: starch fried in fat. Granted, Sun Chips went to the effort to include whole wheat and whole oat flour as the starch they're frying (along with corn).

When it comes to fiber, Sun Chips traditionally had 2 grams of fiber for the 18 grams of whole grain they advertise (per 1 oz serving - you try stopping at 1 oz, about 16 chips). You can see the 2 grams of fiber reviewed in a 2009 blog review by another dietitian

Now, in 2010, I noticed that Sun Chips are mysteriously touting 3 grams of fiber, for that same 18 grams of whole grain and 1 oz serving. Understanding how this happened probably requires an advanced degree in Food Manufacturer Sorcery - but more likely, it has to do with decreasing white flour and increasing whole grain flours (but still frying it all up in sunflower oil).

While Sun Chips aren't the worst of the worst when it comes to nutritional profile for chips (Frito Lay's Fritos are) - keep in mind that Sun Chips are a SOMETIMES food. An occasional one-ounce serving of Sun Chips with 140 calories, 6 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber isn't going to kill you. But don't think they're going to be the basis of a healthy whole-grain based diet. 

You should be looking for minimally processed, naturally occurring whole grains to fill the base of your diet. For a list of whole grain ideas, check out this previous post with its list of whole grains and not whole grains.

August 5, 2010

Small Victory: Whole Wheat Bread Sales Outpace White Bread in the Past Year


Finally: wheat bread sales outpace white bread!

An August 1, 2010 Chicago Tribune article covered bread sales in the past year, citing a Nielsen Co. report that for the 52 weeks ending July 10, wheat bread sales increased 0.6% to $2.6 billion as white bread sales declined 7% to $2.5 billion. White bread still leads in volume of loaves sold - but because whole grain and whole wheat breads cost more per loaf, their total sales came out on top.

The primary impetus for the boost in sales appears to be increasing consumer knowledge about the benefits and sources of whole grains. But there is obviously a lot more educating to be done...

This story's victim is Kendra Frost, a first-time single mom with her own small business who says, "I like the whole grain, but I usually try and go with the least expensive whole grain...I look for the thick pieces that you can see the grains on the top of the bread." 

Kendra - darling, you have fallen for the oldest trick in the book! Manufacturers LOVE to take (cheap) white bread, dye it brown & sprinkle it with grainy-looking stuff to make you THINK it's whole grain. It might have a speck of whole grain in the recipe, but the likelihood of that bread being 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat is nil! 

The proof is in the Nutrition Facts panel and the Ingredients List. If your bread doesn't say at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per slice and if the first ingredient isn't Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Flour - put it back on the shelf! 

But congratulations to all of you out there who HAVE your learned your lesson and who are making highly refined grain processors think twice about littering our aisles with  worthless white bread! 

July 21, 2010

What's with the Omega-3s in Subway's New 9-Grain Bread?


Subway counters have recently begun displaying a laminated card with nutrition information for their "NEW 9-Grain With Omega 3 (ALA)" bread. With all the added omega-3 ALA, is this bread any healthier than their traditional wheat bread? 

First of all - don't be fooled by any omega-3 product that touts the benefits of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Food manufacturers want you to confuse ALA with the two healthier types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA & DHA. EPA & DHA are found in fatty fish like salmon and trout and fish oil capsules and have demonstrated positive effects on brain and neurological development. 

The American Heart Association recommends an average of 400-500 mg EPA + DHA per day for people without heart disease and 1,000 mg for people with heart disease. Eating 2-3 servings of fish per week averages out to somewhere between 500-1,000 mg EPA + DHA per day; people who don't eat fish should consider getting their EPA + DHA from fish oil capsules.

ALA is the type of omega-3 found in flax, soy, and canola; it's a shorter-chain fatty acid that no doubt has health benefits, but not nearly the beneficial effects of EPA & DHA. Our bodies convert very little ALA to EPA and no ALA to DHA. So the bottom line is, most people stand to benefit from increasing the amount of EPA + DHA in their diets but don't have to worry about increasing ALA which is found in adequate amounts in most people's diets.

There's no nutritional information on this new bread on Subway's website, but the posters at Subway say a 230 calorie 6" serving has 4 grams of fiber and 500 mg of ALA, with no mention of EPA + DHA (the only type of omega-3 fatty acids you probably should be consuming more of). The highest fiber traditional sandwich bread at Subway is a 6" Honey-Oat bread has 280 calories and 5 grams of fiber. There are no 100% whole wheat options in 6" size; but, for a lot less calories, the Subway breakfast sandwiches on English Muffins have 5 grams of fiber.

And, despite some of Subway's nutritional shortcomings, they do have a sweet custom gift card you can design on their website with your own photo. To check it out: click here.

July 16, 2010

Cherries: What a Drupe


What's a drupe? It's a fruit that has a fibrous outer cover, fleshy middle and one pit or stone - also called stone fruit. Drupes include peaches, plums, and at this time of year - the ubiquitous cherry. 

Cherry season peaks in the summer, and according to the "Fruits and Veggies Matter" page on cherries, if you're buying cherries past August, they probably aren't fresh, but brought out of cold storage.

Bing cherries are the most prominent and popular sweet cherry variety. They're deep red and turn almost black when they're the most ripe. Ranier cherries are also sweet - and expensive, because fewer are grown - they are lighter in color, almost yellowish.

From a nutritional standpoint, cherries are a nutritional powerhouse. One cup of cherries has 90 calories and 4 grams of fiber. Watch out for dried cherries, they often have added sugar and less fiber per serving than the whole fruit varieties.

To learn more about cherries, visit the Cherry Marketing Institute's website www.choosecherries.com and their nutrition page. If you're not sure what to do with cherries beyond making cherry pie, the ChooseCherries site also has recipes, along with a number of recipes from Registered Dietitian Ellie Krieger of the Food Network.

July 8, 2010

Gut Check: Do Chicory Inulin Products Cause GI Distress?


The June 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association features an article entitled "Gastrointestinal Tolerance of Chicory Inulin Products." In it, researchers from the University of  Minnesota (and Cargill, Inc.) set out to determine at what dose does added inulin fibers in food cause unwanted gastrointestinal disturbances.

Inulin is a soluble dietary fiber found naturally in plant foods like onions, leeks, garlic, asparagus, bananas, artichokes and chicory root. It is increasingly being added to what are normally low-fiber foods in order to boost their fiber content; in these cases, chicory root extract is becoming the inulin additive of choice. 

In the study, twenty-six healthy men and women aged 18-60 who usually age less than 15 g fiber per day were given a combination of either placebo, 5 g oligofructose (short chain fiber), 10 g oligofructose, 5 g inulin (longer-chain fiber) or 10 g inulin in a meal. They each took "fiber challenges" over a 10 week period with a 1-week washout period. Tolerance was reported by frequency of one of seven GI domains: gas/bloating, nausea, flatulence, GI cramping, diarrhea, constipation and GI rumbling. 

The study found that oligofructose and inulin in "practical doses" were generally well-tolerated. Ten-gram oligofructose caused the most symptoms, but the study pointed out that if spread out over the day, even high doses of fiber can be well-tolerated.

The bottom line application was: "Excellent sources of fiber" (5 g/serving) was well-tolerated for both short and long chain inulin. Furthermore, the chain length of inulin product affects tolerance. Inulin is fermented slowly and steadily so it is likely more well-tolerated than shorter chain oligofructose which is fermented rapidly. 

It is important to note that one of the authors on the paper is a senior manager of regulatory and scientific affairs at Cargill, Inc. Cargill's extensive product list does include inulin additives like Oliggo-Fiber Inulin, the health benefits of which are most likely overstated on the Oliggo-Fiber product page.

July 2, 2010

Kellogg's FiberPlus Antioxidants Bar


With the introduction of their FiberPlus Antioxidants bars, Kellogg's is going head to head with General Mills' popular FiberOne bars. Previous Kellogg's bar offerings didn't have much in the way of nutrition: the Special K Cereal Bars had less than 1 gram of fiber and just 1 gram of protein for 9 grams of sugar - basically a breakfast cookie, that with only 90 calories and no fiber or protein, left you feeling pretty hungry, pretty quickly.

The new FiberPlus bars are very similar to the original FiberOne bars when it comes to the Nutrition Facts panel: FiberPlus has 120-130 calories per bar compared to FiberOne's 140 (although FiberOne bars recently came out with a 90 calorie option...more of a bite than a bar really.) 

Both FiberPlus and FiberOne bars have 9 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. The fiber in both comes from an isolated fiber: chicory root fiber or chicory root extract (an inulin derivative). Remember that isolated fibers are the ones manufacturers are increasingly using to bump up fiber in otherwise low-fiber foods. The extent of the health benefits of isolated vs. intact (naturally-occuring) fiber in foods is not entirely known; and, if you're not used to eating them regularly, in some people they can cause bloating, gas and other unfavorable GI side effects.

FiberPlus bars come in 3 flavors: Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Almond and Chocolate Peanut Butter. I've tasted all 3 - thanks to samples provided by Kellogg's - and I have to say they are quite good, if not rather sweet. These are by no means ideal for meal replacement, - they're more of a high-fiber dessert, but they do also make a good between-meal snack if you're on the go. You can follow Kellog's Fiber team LadyFibarista on Twitter to get product updates and coupons.

Last word of advice: don't get romanced by the front-of-packaging claims on foods like FiberPlus and FiberOne bars that shout, "35% Daily Value of Fiber." While these are "excellent sources of fiber" (meaning more than 20% of the daily value per serving), we should all be striving to get the majority of our fiber from foods that are naturally high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and things like dried peas and beans. A bar here and there can help you fill gaps and a high-fiber bar is a better choice than a high-fat, high-sugar granola bar or candy bar - but keep in mind, "If it looks like a cookie and it tastes like a cookie...it probably is a cookie."

June 30, 2010

Breakfast Sandwiches: Coming Up!


Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day - but until recently, it had been pretty hard to get a good-tasting, moderate-calorie, high-fiber option on the go. Two ubiquitous outlets - Subway and Starbucks - now have high-fiber breakfast offerings that nutritionally outperform almost everything else in their market. 

When choosing a breakfast item, the two key nutrients are fiber and protein. These are the "satiety-inducing" nutrients - those that will help keep you fuller for longer than say, eating a high-carbohydrate, low-protein, low-fiber breakfast.

Subway

Subway, "What were you waiting for?!" Your breakfast sandwiches are genius (at least the Egg White Muffin Melts are). For somewhere around 200 calories you get 12-16 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. And at $2.50 for a sandwich and coffee combo, you're spending less than you would for a sandwich alone at Starbucks. You can read more about the nutrition information for the breakfast sandwiches here

A word to the weight-watchers: stay away from the flatbread versions. Even though Subway doesn't post nutrition info for those breakfast sandwiches, judging by their size and weight and other info on Subway's website, they likely have about 100 calories more than the ones on English muffins.

Starbucks

These sandwiches are a bit pricier, from both a monetary and caloric standpoint - but they do keep you fuller for longer than do Subway's. The two best breakfast sandwich options at Starbucks:
  • Reduced fat turkey bacon sandwich: 340 calories, 10 g fat, 22 g protein and 3 g fiber
  • Spinach, roasted tomato, feta & egg white wrap: 280 calories, 10 g fat, 18 g protein and 6 g fiber
Depending upon your location, a Starbucks breakfast sandwich sets you back about $3.50. And Starbucks also has instant oatmeal (avoid the oatmeal condiments) - featured in a previous post.

June 29, 2010

Newman's Own: Pretzel Conspiracy?


Pretzels often get a bad rap from the food police: they're full of white flour, salt and not much else. But the Newman's Own Organics The Second Generation line of pretzels appear to be an entirely different bag: they have 110 calories for 22 pretzels, 3 grams of protein, only 180 mg sodium and 4g dietary fiber. 

Or that's what the Nutrition Facts panel says...

The ingredient list looks like this:
  • Organic Unbleached Wheat Flour
  • Organic Brown Rice Syrup
  • Organic Sunflower Oil
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Soda
What's weird about this? The only fiber-containing ingredient is the first one, and if you'll note, it doesn't say "whole wheat flour". It's unusual (and unlikely?) that "unbleached wheat flour" in a starchy snack will yield 4 grams of dietary fiber, particularly because the older (first generation?) line of pretzels had almost the same ingredient list, but showed less than 1 gram of dietary fiber per serving. 

You can do your own comparison using Newman's Own-provided ingredient and nutrition information via the link at the bottom of this page: Newman's Own Pretzel Ingredient and Nutrition Information.

Where is all of this additional fiber coming from in the new pretzels? I await an answer from the Newman's Own folks, but in the meantime, I'm hopeful that the Nutrition Facts panel is correct, because if so, these are a tasty and much-needed addition to the world of pretzels!

June 19, 2010

Oatmeal Sticks Around for a Comeback


Have you ever heard people (maybe you?) complain that eating breakfast actually leaves you feeling more hungry later in the morning? This happens when the foods you choose for breakfast are too low in fiber. Eating a cereal like Special K or Rice Krispies - which are high in carbohydrate but have very little or no fiber - fills you up quickly but empties your stomach quickly, resulting in "rebound hunger".

How can you fix this? Add some protein or some fiber - or even better: both - to your morning meal. Oatmeal is an ideal breakfast. It is said that oatmeal "sticks to your ribs" - and you can credit the fiber for that.

One-half cup of dry instant quick-cooking oats has 150 calories, 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. If you cook that up with 1 cup of skim milk, you total out at 230 calories, 13 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Ask any dietitian - that's about as close as you can come to a perfect nutritional profile for breakfast!

If you're looking to add more fiber and get one of your fruit servings for the day out of the way, consider adding to your oatmeal:
  • 1/2 or 1 ripe, mashed banana (a great way to get rid of bananas that are going rotten, provides 1-3 grams extra fiber)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh fruit such as nectarines, apricots or even apples (2-3 grams extra fiber)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (2 grams extra fiber)
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (2 grams extra fiber)
Making oatmeal at home with nonfat milk is one of the cheapest ways to obtain a satisfying, fulfilling breakfast; but, many retailers are now selling oatmeal for breakfast although it's usually at a pretty heavy cost to you, as pointed out in a recent Washington Post article.

June 16, 2010

Gigantes - The Giant Greek Lima Bean Dish


Most Americans know lima beans as the green - usually Fordhook - frozen variety found in our grocery stores. But the Greeks...they know lima beans! 

"Gigandes plaki" or "Gigantes" is a Greek dish meaning "giant lima beans" baked in a savory tomato sauce. 

Here's a great recipe made from dried giant lima beans with over 13 grams of fiber per one cup serving:

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb dried lima beans (butter beans work well too - soak either overnight)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes with juice (Rotelle works as well)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3-5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs tomato juice (V-8 is fine)
  • 2 Tbs fresh dill, chopped
  • Extra hot water to cover the beans by about 1 inch
Instructions:
  1. Soak the beans overnight
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F
  3. Mix beans with all ingredients except additional water
  4. Place mixture in large, flat baking or casserole dish
  5. Cover with enough hot water to rise 1 inch above bean
  6. Cook for 2-2 1/2 hours or until beans are done


June 15, 2010

Brown Rice Helps Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk


A study published in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that substituting brown rice for white rice can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from Harvard and Brigham & Women's Hospital found that nurses enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses Health Study I and II who had high brown rice intake (2 or more servings per week) as opposed to low brown rice intake (less than 1 per month) had lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers recommend that replacing 50 grams per day (about 1/3 serving or 1/8 cup) uncooked white rice with the same amount of brown rice can help lower type 2 diabetes risk by 16%. They concluded that, "Substitutions of whole grains, including brown rice, for white rice may lower the risk of diabetes. These data support the recommendation that most carbohydrate should come from whole grains rather than refined grains to help prevent type 2 diabetes."

June 14, 2010

Stacy's Pita Chips: Whole Grain Hoax?

If you're like me, you like a high-carb, nutritionally void snack every once in awhile. Enter Stacy's Pita Chips. Somehow, pita chips have gotten a not-altogether-deserved "health halo" in the consumer's eye. They're usually only slightly healthier than regular chips, due mostly to the fact that they're baked (with some fat added) instead of fried. They are generally low in fiber and high in salt - your standard carb-y snack food. Not bad, but not great.

Stacy's (which isn't the cute, independent brand you think it is - but rather just another Frito-Lay brand), now comes in "Multigrain". Great - so at least they took care of the low fiber problem of the original "Simply Naked" version, right? Not exactly. Stacy's is just one in a long line of products pushing a Multi-Grain faux food: brown packaging, a few flecks of seeds in the product, and an almost identical white flour ingredient list as the original flavors.

Here's how it breaks down with Stacy's: 10 "Simply Naked" (original) chips have 130 calories, 1 gram of fiber. The "Multigrain" flavor has 140 calories in 9 chips and 2 grams of fiber. Double the fiber, isn't that good? 

Not if you look at the ingredient list: both flavors start out with "enriched wheat flour" - a.k.a. white flour - not a good sign for a first ingredient if you're looking for a whole grain food. Further down the "Multigrain" ingredient list you do find some whole wheat flour and stone ground whole wheat flour - but don't fool yourself into thinking you're eating a "100% whole grain" food. There might be some whole grain in there, but it's relatively unchanged from the original version. 

Just another example of how you can't rely on a food's packaging or the manufacturer's claims on the front of the package - the devil is in the details - and in this case, the details are in the Ingredients List.

May 27, 2010

High Fiber Blueberry Breakfast Muffins


Muffins can be a health-conscious person's downfall. Portion sizes have ballooned over the years, and it's not unusual to see a commercial muffin contain over 400 calories. And because you should include some fiber at each meal, a good breakfast means you need a good dose of fiber. 

If you're interested in making your own high-fiber breakfast muffins, try these "Reduced-Fat Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins" from Jeanne Jones of the Cook it Light newspaper column. They're simple, quick and bring you back to the basics about what a muffin should be:

Reduced-Fat Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins
Makes 18 muffins
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking poweder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not thaw)
TOPPING
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin tins (18 muffins) with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Combine the flour, oats, baking powder, bakins soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, bea tthe egg whites, sugar, water, vanilla, oil and aplesauce. Add the blueberries to the flour mixture and cover the blueberries with flour, which prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the batter. Ad the flour mixture, along with the blueberries, to the egg mixture, and combine with a few strokes, just until moistened.

Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full. For topping, combine the 2 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle the top of each muffin.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Each muffin has 10 calories, 2 g fat, 99 mg sodium, 20 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein and 2 g fiber.

May 26, 2010

Diabetics Cheat Death with Bran


A study published in the May 25, 2010 issue of Circulation finds that people with diabetes who eat more whole grains are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than are people with diabetes who have low whole grain intakes. 

The researchers from Harvard and other Boston-area research institutes studied almost 8,000 diabetic women already enrolled in the Nurses Health Study. They studied the women for 26 years and found that death from cardiovascular disease was significantly higher among the bottom 20% of whole grain food consumers than the top 20%. Specifically, bran consumption was associated with lower mortality; nurses with the highest bran intake and lowest CVD risk ate 9g of bran per day on average, and the lowest bran consumers with higher mortality risk ate less than 1g of bran per day.

This study was unique in that it looked not only at whole grain intake, but also the  individual components of whole grains:
  • Fiber
  • Bran 
  • Germ
The researchers' findings indicate that, "Whole-grain and bran intakes are associated with reduced all-cause and cardiovascular disease-specific mortality in women with diabetes." The results evince a potential benefit of whole-grain intake's ability to reduce mortality and cardiovascular disease risk in people with diabetes.

How can you get more bran in your diet?
  • Eat 100% whole grains that naturally contain bran
  • Avoid refined, processed and "enriched" flours that remove bran during processing
  • Choose whole grain cereals, bran flakes, oat bran, All-bran

May 7, 2010

Numero UNO! - Pizzeria Uno's Five Grain Flatbreads


Pizzeria Uno Chicago Grill is bringing a commendable high fiber option to the table. Uno's Five Grain Flatbread Crust has 4 grams of fiber per approximate 300 calorie serving.

 The fiber in the Five Grain Flatbread comes from, well.....Five Grains:
  • Stone ground whole wheat flour
  • Hulled sesame seed
  • Toasted wheat germ
  • Oat bran, and
  • Flaxseed
Now, keep in mind you have to share that flatbread with two other friends to keep to the serving size, which is 1/3 of a whole flatbread; but, considering the dearth of high fiber options at most chain restaurants, the Uno Five Grain Flatbread makes for a high fiber - and pretty delicious decision. The flatbread crust is thin, tasty, and it maintains a good crunch under all the toppings.

Five Grain Flatbreads are available as BBQ Chicken, Roasted Eggplant Spinach & Feta, Spicy Chicken, Mediterranean, Four Cheese, Harvest Vegetable. Wild Mushroom & White Cheddar, Cheese & Tomato, Lobster BLT, Pepperoni, and Sausage varieties.

May 5, 2010

Herr's Whole Grain Pretzel Sticks


If you live on the East Coast or the Southeast of the US, there's a good chance you have access to Herr's Snack Foods. If you do, you'll want to check out Herr's Whole Grain Pretzel Sticks. These are far and away the best tasting whole grain pretzels out there - they're crunchy and salty with a hint of rye and sesame. And the best part is: they're made from actual whole grains, not the fake, added isolated fibers you see in so many other, new "high-fiber" foods.

A one ounce serving (about 7 healthy sticks) of the original Whole Grain pretzel sticks has 110 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. The fiber in these pretzels comes from (in this order in the ingredient list):
  • Whole grain wheat flour (the first ingredient)
  • Flax seed
  • Rye flour
  • Barley flour
  • Oat flour
  • Poppy seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Caraway seeds
  • Buckwheat flour, and
  • Flax flour
To see if Herr's Whole Grain Pretzels are available in your area, check out this map: Herr's Distribution Area. If you can't get Herr's locally, you can order all of the Whole Grain Pretzel flavors (whole grain, honey wheat and/or pumpernickel rye) online at Herr's Store.

April 20, 2010

A High Fiber Cracker - FINALLY!


 It's pretty hard to find a good tasting high-fiber cracker. You would think "wheat" or "stone-ground wheat" crackers would naturally be good sources of fiber - but, like most packaged and processed foods, they're made from enriched and refined white flour, and often have at most 1 gram of fiber per serving. Here's what's traditionally been wrong with some of the cracker offerings out there:
  • Nabisco's Wheatsworth crackers (of "stone ground wheat" fame) have 1 gram of fiber and lots of white flour
  • Kashi TLC Crackers have less than 1 gram of fiber and low-fiber unbleached wheat flour as their first ingredient - disappointing from a brand that usually puts out some impressive high-fiber foods
  • Kellogg's All Bran crackers have five grams of fiber - but they also all have a weird cinnamon taste to all of the flavors, probably needed to mask the taste of added isolated fiber ingredients needed to get to 5 grams of fiber per serving
  • Wasa's Whole Grain crackers are pretty good, light in calories for 2 grams of naturally-occurring fiber; but your friends make fun of you when you serve kind-of-cardboard crackers at cocktail parties
So up until now, you really didn't much in the way of good whole-grain cracker choices. Enter Nabisco's Wheat Thins Fiber Selects 5-Grain crackers. Wheat Thins - the ubiquitous high salt, high fat refined grain snack cracker, has actually made what seems to be a turn for the better. In 13 crackers (30 g), the Fiber Selects give you 5 grams of fiber, 120 calories - which isn't bad, considering the alternatives. The fat is a little high at 4.5 grams per serving, but only 0.5 grams of that are of the unhealthy saturated fat type and there is no trans fat.


They actually taste good too. Naturally, they're salty (260 mg per day which puts you over 10% of your daily value for sodium) - but they're nutty and crunchy and a lot more tasty than your standard Wheat Thin. The fiber in Wheat Thins Fiber Selects comes from:
  • Whole grain wheat flour (the first ingredient - a good sign)
  • Oat fiber
  • Golden flax seed
  • Whole grain barley flakes
  • Cracked whole wheat, and 
  • Whole grain rolled oats
There is some high fructose corn syrup in there contributing to the 4 grams of added sugars - but all in all - considering the competition, Wheat Thins Fiber Selects are a welcome addition to the cracker aisle.

April 6, 2010

Wheaties Fuel: Is More Fiber in Your Cereal Worth that Much More Sugar?


Wheaties Fuel is a newly formulated breakfast cereal recipe from Wheaties, "co-created with a team of today's elite champions including Peyton Manning, Albert Pujols, Kevin Garnett...designed for the active individual." While the attempt at reformulating an old classic is noble - it's probably unnecessary.

From a nutritional standpoint, there are more than two times as many calories in the new version and double the carbohydrate in an identical 3/4 cup serving size. The fiber has been bumped up from 3 grams in the original to 5 grams per serving in the Fuel version - but while the original Wheaties recipe has "Whole Grain Wheat" as its primary - and only - source of fiber, Wheaties Fuel's extra fiber comes from whole grain wheat and oats but with a good deal of added (fake?), isolated fiber, including:
  • Corn bran
  • Maltodextrin
  • Wheat bran
In addition to the inclusion of isolated fiber - whose health benefits are relatively unknown - another downside to this reformulated recipe is the need to increase sugars from 4 grams per serving in the original recipe to 14 grams of sugar in the Fuel in order to make all of that fiber palatable. This makes a formerly simple, whole grain, low sugar cereal that any dietitian would recommend into a high calorie, high sugar option that isn't as nutritionally attractive. 

The increase in sugar in the new recipe translates to approximately 45 extra calories from sugar alone in the Fuel version...meaning HALF of the "added carbohydrate" (intended to benefit athletes) in the new recipe is just from refined sugars. 

While it is true that athletes should have a greater percentage of their calories derived from carbohydrate when compared to the non-athletic population, nutrition professionals recommend that those calories come from complex carbohydrates - foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dried peas and beans. Unfortunately, half of the the Wheaties Fuel's extra carbohydrates come from simple sugars like table sugar, brown sugar syrup and corn syrup solids. 

An athlete looking to incorporate a healthful breakfast cereal into his or her meal plan would be better served to have a bowl of the Original Wheaties with skim or 1% milk and a medium-sized banana. The banana added with the Original Wheaties gives you the equivalent amount of calories and carbohydrate as the Fuel brand - but without the added refined sugar and even more fiber.

If you want to learn more about Wheaties Fuel - the manufacturers have posted a number of entertaining webisodes on YouTube featuring some of the athletes "involved" in the creation of Wheaties Fuel.

March 30, 2010

Is Celery Really a Nutritionally-Void Food?

Celery gets a bad rap - for a lot of bad reasons. Maybe you've read that celery is a "negative calorie" food - as in you burn more calories chewing a stalk of celery than you actually get from the celery itself. Another constant comment, "oh celery...that's a waste: just water and nothing else good for you." So what's the deal - and how does celery really stack up from a nutrition standpoint?

First of all - celery is a very low calorie food. One medium eight-inch stalk has only 6 calories. Put another way, if you were to cut up and eat one cup of chopped celery, you'd get about 16 calories. That 16 calories might not sound like much - and it's not - but for almost no caloric intake, you get 1.6 grams of dietary fiber. Not bad considering you'd have to eat 1.5 cups of romaine lettuce, 2 cups of raw spinach or 2 cups of chopped iceberg to get the same amount of fiber.

Some other benefits of celery:
  • High water content helps with hydration
  • Naturally low in salt
  • Good source of vitamins A & C
  • Cholesterol and fat free
  • Low calorie means you can munch freely
The Fruits & Veggies More Matters campaign offers ten ways to enjoy celery, including:
  • Stir-fry celery
  • Top salads with celery
  • Add to salsa, soups or coleslaw
Celery is available year-round. Try using celery as a base for low-fat chicken salad or tuna salad instead of bread. If you're looking to lose weight, celery is a great, low-calorie snack (provided you don't load it up with peanut butter!) Eating two cups of chopped celery gives you more than 10% of your daily recommended intake for fiber - not bad considering you get that for less than 2% of your daily caloric budget (based on an 1,800 calorie per day meal plan for weight loss).

March 22, 2010

Chia Seeds


Chia seeds have been in the news lately as a nutritious additive to foods. Although they've been part of indigenous Central American diets for millennia, popularity in the US skyrocketed with the 2009 publication of the book Born to Run. Author Christopher McDougall writes about the Tarahumara people of Mexico who are known for their extreme running talents and a diet heavy on the chia seed. From there to shout outs on the Huffington Post and Livestrong.com - and even the American Dietetic Association getting on board - 2009-2010 has been good business for chia seed people.

Chia seeds are small seeds used originally in the diets of Mayan and Aztec populations. They're touted as a great source of alpha linolenic acid, a healthy omega-3 fatty acid. Chia seeds are also hailed for their high fiber content: the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter (March 2010) says that 1 ounce (3 tablespoons) of chia seeds has 11 grams of fiber. The fiber in chia seeds is almost entirely soluble, meaning that it forms a thick viscous gel when mixed with water. Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that has been shown to have cholesterol lowering properties.

The health claims of chia seeds range from the outlandish to the very plausible. The American Dietetic Association says that chia seeds can help:
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
We know that a diet high in fiber can help with weight control by promoting satiety - or the feeling of fullness. However, in a 2009 study of 76 people published in Nutrition Research, scientists determined that chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. So while they might be an interesting addition to traditional foods, there's no guarantee that chia seeds are a miracle additive.

You can use chia seeds by sprinkling on cereal or in yogurt, adding to breads and muffins or with water for high fiber drinks. You've probably even heard of chia seeds indirectly, as the sprouts of chia seed are the same ones used in Chia Pets.

March 19, 2010

Edamame: High Fiber & Perfect Protein


Edamame are out-of-the-shell edible soybeans that are most frequently found in Japanese cuisine. The literal translation of the Japanese name 枝豆 means "beans on branches". Edamame are a dietitian's dream: they are a high-fiber, complete protein food with a moderate amount of calories that make for a satiating snack or appetizer. One cup of edamame in the shell has 190 calories, 8 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein. 

Soy foods and soybeans (including edamame) are unique in that they are a very rare non-animal source of complete protein. To be a complete protein, a food has to have all nine essential amino acids in its protein profile. This makes edamame and other soy foods an excellent source of protein for those adhering to a vegetarian diet.

To prepare edamame, boil the pods until they are only slightly firm, drain, rinse to cool and eat right out of the pod. Try sprinkling edamame on salads, or dry-roasted and salted as a snack (available at Trader Joe's.) You can also blend boiled edamame beans into dips and casseroles. Here's a great Edamame Dip recipe from Alton Brown of the Food Network: Edamame Dip Recipe.

March 17, 2010

Brown Soda Bread on St. Patrick's Day


Irish Soda Bread is one of the most simple, quick bread recipes you can make.  It requires no yeast, takes less than five minutes to prepare and can be easily adapted as a high-fiber recipe. The story goes that St. Patrick was  holding a piece of soda bread in his hand as he drove the snakes out of Ireland...whether or not this is true, traditional Irish Soda Bread has only four ingredients:
  • Flour
  • Baking soda
  • Buttermilk
  • Salt
Here's a recipe that is a little doctored, with added oatmeal and whole wheat flour to increase overall fiber content:

Brown Soda Bread

Recipe by Margaret M. Johnson from The Irish Spirit: Recipes Inspired by the Legendary Drinks of Ireland (Chronicle Books, 2007).
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon McCann's quick-cooking (not instant) Irish oatmeal
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of the oats. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and egg. With a wooden spoon stir until the mixture forms a soft dough. With floured hands, form the dough into two rounds. Transfer the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining one tablespoon oatmeal. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops are browned. Remove from the oven and let the loaves cool on a wire rack.

Nutrition Analysis
Makes 2 loaves (12 servings), per serving:
  • 185 calories
  • 1.5 grams fat
  • 36 grams carbohydrate
  • 3.3 grams fiber
  • 8 grams protein

March 15, 2010

Fresh, Frozen, Canned & Dried Fruit: How Does Fiber Content Stack Up?


Trying to increase dietary fiber intake usually means adding more fruit to your diet. As a rule, fruit has more fiber per serving (3-5 grams/serving) than do vegetables (1-3 grams/serving). But what kind of fruit is best if you're concerned about fiber? When we're talking about fruit, there are generally four categories the fruit can fall under:
  1. Fresh fruit
  2. Canned fruit
  3. Frozen fruit
  4. Dried fruit
Fresh and frozen fruit are usually identical when it comes to fiber content. Canned fruits tend to have the same amount of fiber as their fresh/frozen counterparts, however, there is often added sugar (from syrup or juice) that increases calorie content of canned fruits.

Dried fruit is a little trickier - the dehydration process removes the water-holding capabilities of fiber. Dried fruit tends to be lower in fiber per serving than the fresh fruit it came from. Certain types of dried fruit are often sweetened with extra sugar (think dried pineapple and cranberries), which increases calorie counts and decreases overall nutritive value. 

Additionally,  because of the compact nature of dried fruit, it's easy to eat a LOT of calories worth of dried fruit in a short period of time. You can pop 130 calories of raisins (1/4 cup's worth) in a few bites; whereas, eating 130 calories of grapes (about 1 cup's worth) takes a longer amount of time, meaning you're likely to consume less calories overall with fresh vs. dried fruit.

So when weighing your fruit and fiber options - fresh is usually best (with frozen options high up on the list too). Compared to dried fruits, fresh fruit:
  • Has no added sugar
  • Contains more water
  • Often contains less calories per serving
  • Is higher in fiber

March 8, 2010

Multigrain Pringles - Wolves in Sheeps' Clothing

 
Pringles potato chips has a new line of Multigrain Pringles that claims to "succeed where many others fail, giving you a multigrain snack that tastes great". They might taste great - if you like salt and fat - but a good source of whole grains they are not!

All three flavors (Truly Original, Creamy Ranch and Cheesy Cheddar) have only 1 gram of fiber per serving. They all list rice flour, vegetable oil and dried potatoes as their first three ingredients - a good indicator that this is not anywhere close to a whole grain or good source of dietary fiber food.


So how can a manufacturer get away with misleading consumers about a "multigrain" product that is really no different from its refined grain counterparts? Technically, Pringles isn't lying. There are "multiple" types of grain in the product - rice, corn, etc....what they're doing however, is banking on your lack of knowledge that there is a significant difference between "multigrain" (which can basically mean anything) and "100% whole grain" (which means good source of dietary fiber). You'd be hard pressed to find a 100% whole grain potato chip - especially given that potatoes are vegetables, not grains.

So if you like potato chips - go for the real thing, just keep it in moderation...and don't get fooled by the multigrain "super stack"!

March 5, 2010

Red Quinoa Salad: Texas de Brazil Style

 

Quinoa is a pseudocereal - not exactly a whole grain or  even a grass - that originates from the Andean area of South America. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has a unique combination of amino acids that makes it one of the very few non-animal based sources of complete protein. It's also a great source of dietary fiber - one cup of cooked quinoa has five grams of fiber, 220 calories and eight grams of protein.

Quinoa by itself doesn't have a lot of taste, and it can be rather bland if not prepared corretcly. I recently had one of the best quinoa dishes I've ever tasted: the "Peruvian Salad" from the Brazilian Steakhouse Texas de Brazil. This version uses red quinoa, difficult to find in traditional grocery stores, but available in the bulk foods section at Whole Foods Market. This recipe comes compliments of Evandro Caregnato, Culinary Director at Texas de Brazil.

Texas de Brazil Quinoa Salad
  • 1/2 lb red quinoa
  • 1/2 gallon boiling water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened raspberry puree
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup chopped scallion
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Salt & fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  1. Cook the quinoa in boiling water for about 15 minutes until tender but not mush.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the vinegar, raspberry puree and sugar. Set aside.
  3. Using a fine mesh colander, drain the water and let the quinoa cool.
  4. Once quinoa is cool, add the vinegar mix, scallion and cranberries. Combine all ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 6 servings. Nutrition Information: 222 calories, 3 grams fat, 7 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams protein, 205 mg sodium per serving.

If you're interested in learning more about quinoa, check out this great cookbook, The Art of Cooking with Quinoa from Bob's Red Mill.