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    Archive for the ‘fiber’ Category

    Q &A Roundup #2

    Another compilation of thoughtful questions courtesy of Small Bites readers. Enjoy!

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    New Products, Same Old Deception

    I enjoy keeping up with Big Food’s product releases. Not only is it mind-blowing to see how many different ways you can rearrange crop subsidies, unhealthful oils, and added sugars to come up with “new” items; it’s also fun to see what front-of-package health claims and call-outs are trotted out.

    The three products below may be new on the shelf, but the “wholesome and healthy” deception is the same old dog and pony show.

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    A ‘Healthy’, School-Approved Snickers Bar!

    As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I am currently in San Diego for the American Dietetic Association’s annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE). Over the past two days, I took you on mini virtual tours of the vendor expo, where we visited the Sugar Association, the High Fructose Corn Syrup folks, Subway, Coca-Cola, and other “what are you doing at a nutrition conference?” booths.

    While plenty is ‘blog-worthy’, one particular Mars, Inc. product caught my eye: Marathon Smart Stuff Powered By Snickers bars.

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    For the Most Part, One Size Does Fit All

    Often times, the pail of cold water that gets dumped on a fiery nutrition debate is the “one size does not fit all!” mantra. That is to say, one particular manner of eating can make person A feel great but person B feel sluggish and tired, and both experiences are legitimate. To a certain degree, I co-sign on this. Some individuals are grazers, others are “three square meals” types; some people like to eat breakfast right upon waking, some don’t really feel hungry until an hour after. Fine with me.

    Approaching nutrition from a completely individualist lens, however, takes away from the fact that there are certain truths that apply to everyone, and should be strongly recommended across the board:

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    Fiber One’s Fiber Fallacies

    In General Mills’ extensive product catalog, Fiber One is the health and wellness darling.  What started out as a standalone cereal in 1985 is now an expanded line that includes bars, breads, brownies, cottage cheese, muffin and pancake mixes, ready-to-eat muffins, and even yogurt.  According to Susan Crocket, General Mills’ senior technology officer for health and nutrition, high-fiber offerings in the General Mills lineup (including Fiber One), are successful because they “actually taste good so people will actually eat [them]”.

    Fiber One products are essentially marketed as a “one-stop shop” for fiber needs.  One of the company’s main selling points is that a mere half-cup of their original cereal offers 14 grams of dietary fiber (56% of the low-end of the daily recommended 25 – 35 gram range).

    Consider me not enthused, for two reasons.  First, the Fiber One website resorts to misleading tactics and inaccurate figures to showcase their products.  Second, some of their products contain questionable ingredients and less-than-desireable nutrition values.

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    Burger King’s New Breakfast…. Is More Of The Same

    bk-new-breakfast-menu-items-590Hyperbolic press releases, pricey media campaigns, and plenty of advertising fanfare accompanied the recent unveiling of Burger King’s new breakfast menu.  Higher-ups were quick to point out that the addition of these items to the Burger King breakfast lineup  were the company’s “largest menu expansion ever”.  Like, OMG!

    According to Mike Kapitt, the chain’s chief marketing officer for North America, this menu was designed to “compete to be America’s wake-up call”, and he had no doubt the “quality, variety, and value” on the menu would make Burger King the “breakfast destination”.

    If these new items are America’s wake-up call, then the U.S. of A should smash its alarm clock against the wall and keep snoozing.  Let’s dissect the nutritional bombs unveiled by Burger King, from least to most explosive:

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    You Ask, I Answer: Protein Bar Guidelines

    zero impact barWhat things should I look for in a protein bar?  I use them when I’m on the go at times when I know I will need something, but don’t want to do fast food.

    — Tammy Edwards
    (Via Facebook)

    Wonderful questions.  When it comes to protein bars, I am “on the fence”.  Allow me to explain.

    On the one hand, I don’t think they are terrible and should be shunned.  Sure, there are some horrific protein bars out there (and, in a little bit, I will give you specific parameters to help you choose the better ones), but a smart choice can make for a great snack or meal replacement in a pinch.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Why Isn’t All Fiber Equal?

    048121276201You recently tweeted that fiber should come from foods “that inherently contain it”, rather than foods that have it added on.

    Why is that?  For example, today at the store I saw some Thomas’ 100% whole wheat English muffins that had 3 grams of fiber a piece.  But, the multigrain ones (also made by Thomas) that had white flour as the first ingredient had 8 grams of fiber each!  Aren’t the multigrain ones the better choice?

    — Tiffany Setcher
    Hoboken, NJ


    When you eat a food that intrinsically offers fiber (i.e: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, etc.), you also get a variety of other healthful compounds — phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    champion_nutsThe vast majority of large-scale, long-term studies on nut consumption conclude that an individual who consumes one ounce of nuts five times a week has, on average, a 35 percent lower rate of developing coronary heart disease than someone who consumes less than an ounce per week.

    This can be attributed to a few factors:

    • All nuts contain a few grams of fiber
    • Some nuts (i.e.: walnuts) are high in omega-3 fatty acids, while others are good sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (i.e: hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds)
    • Nuts are a good source of vitamin E
    • Nuts are commonly consumed as a snack, often in place of nutritionally empty foods (i.e.: pretzels, rice crackers, cookies, etc.)

    There is absolutely no reason to avoid nuts (or nut butters) or consider them “occasional treats”.

    Plus, keep in mind that a serving of nuts is larger than you may think.  Consider these examples:

    • 23 almonds
    • 33 peanuts
    • 49 pistachios
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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Quinoa Vegetable Ginger-Curry Burgers

    quinoa11And so we come to the last vegan burger recipe.

    This is by far the most time-intensive, as it requires you to use cooked quinoa, and then refrigerate the burgers for a few hours before cooking them. Actual prep time, though, is not long at all.

    Of course, you could very well plan ahead slightly and, next time you cook quinoa at home, make an extra batch to have handy for this recipe.

    YIELDS: 4 patties

    1 cup quinoa, cooked (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
    1/2 cup shredded carrots
    1/2 cup red peppers, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 cup baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Pepper, to taste
    1/2 tsp curry powder
    1/8 tsp ground ginger
    3 Tablespoons scallions, chopped
    1 teaspoon tamari
    3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Once hot, add the baby portabella mushrooms and shredded carrots. Cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the red peppers and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the spinach leaves and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Allow vegetables to cool for five minutes.

    In a food processor, process the cooked vegetables and spices for 20 to 30 seconds.

    Empty the contents of the food processor into a large bowl. Add the quinoa, tamari, scallions and breadcrumbs; mix together with your hands until you achieve a dough-like solid mass.

    Refrigerate the “burger dough” for two hours.

    After the two hours have passed, take out burger dough from refrigerator.  Form “burger dough” into four individual patties and cook to your liking (either pan-fry for a few minutes on each side or bake on a lighty oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 7  minutes on each side).

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per patty):

    248 calories
    1 gram saturated fat
    250 milligrams sodium
    3.5 grams fiber
    5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Folate, niacin, thiamin, monounsaturated fatty acids

    Good source of: Magnesium, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrients in Seitan

    51rh64MddTL._SS280_I have a question about wheat gluten- (also known as”wheat meat” or seitan).

    I haven’t been able to find any nutritional content information regarding this type of meatless product. What are the calorie and protein content?  What about B vitamin information?

    Also, I found a blog which stated seitan contains fiber?  Where would the fiber come from?

    — Chelsea Wynn
    (Location Unknown)

    A three-ounce serving (visual reference: a deck of cards) of seitan provides:

    • 90 calories
    • 1 gram of fat
    • 3 grams of carbohydrates
    • 18 grams of protein

    It also contains a small amount of iron and phosphorus, and a fair share of selenium.

    Since seitan is pure gluten, it does not contain any fiber or B vitamins.  The only exception to this rule would be if someone’s home recipe for it also includes whole wheat flour.  Even then, though, the amount would be minimal and would not make that particular batch of seitan high in fiber or B vitamins.

    I have seen much confusion over seitan all over the Internet.  I have seen it referred to as a soy product (it is not), high in fiber (absolutely not), and even an excellent source of vitamin E (in no way, shape, or form).

    PS: When buying commercial varieties of seitan (which are commonly marinated in soy sauce), I recommend a 30-second rinse under cold, running water to lower sodium levels.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nut Butters, Nut Milks, Protein, and Satiety

    04314l1395I understand that nuts are filling because, in part, of their protein. Do nut milks (e.g., almond milk) possess similar properties? Are they as “filling” or have as much protein?

    Also, what is a good protein replacement for nut butters? I like nut butters and love the idea of “bulking up” a piece of bread to make it more satisfying, but sometimes find it hard to digest nuts in large quantities. Is there something else I can put on my breads, muffins, etc. that will make me feel as full for as long as nut butters do?

    — Lizzie (Last Name Withheld)
    (Location Withheld)

    Nut milks offer different nutrient values than nut butters because they have have a much higher water content.

    If you make nut milk the traditional way (straining the liquid through a chinois and/or a nutmilk bag before consuming it), most of the “nut mush” (along with its fiber and protein) is caught and does not make it to your beverage.

    This helps explain why the average cup (1 serving) of commercial almond milk has 1 gram of protein, while 1 serving (2 tablespoons) of almond butter has 7 grams of protein.

    In terms of a good replacement for nut butters, you could always do a combination of nut butters with fruit.

    For example, if you normally put 2 tablespoons of nut butter on bread, try 1 tablespoon (or even 2 teaspoons) and then add some sliced bananas or mashed berries.  The fiber in the fruit will help you feel full, while the decrease in fat will make the total snack easier to digest.

    You could also put a small amount of nut butter on bread and add a sprinkling of hemp, chia, or flax seeds for easier digestion.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “No Flour? No Problem!” Pancakes

    oats-280wThis recipe was created out of true laziness one morning when I craved pancakes and quickly realized I had no flour of any kind in my kitchen.

    Oh, yes, I could have walked all of three minutes to the store around the block to buy some, but… then you wouldn’t be reading this.  It was all part of the plan!

    Some quick FYIs before we get to the deets:

    1. While sturdy, these pancakes have a more delicate texture than conventional ones.

    2. Some of the ingredients (i.e.: xanthan gum, unsweetened shredded coconut) are only available at health food stores (or Whole Foods).  They are not expensive, though, and all you need is one short trip to buy them all.

    3. The inclusion of whey or hemp protein (as optional ingredients) is for individuals looking for a more substantial meal, as is the inclusion of extra nuts and seeds.  I like to have these pancakes for brunch, so I like making them in a way that keeps me satisfied for several hours.

    4. A large majority of the saturated fats in this recipe come from coconut products, which are significantly less damaging than other saturated fats.  You are welcome to use other plant oils if you would like, though coconut oil is my favorite for this recipe.

    5. For optimal flavors, these pancakes should be generously topped with blueberries, strawberries, and banana slices.

    Yields: 2 large pancakes

    INGREDIENTS:

    2 Tablespoons ground flax
    5 Tablespoons water OR milk of choice (ie: dairy, almond, soy, etc.)
    1 cup quick-cooking oats
    1.5 teaspoons double-acting baking powder (if aluminum-free, even better)
    1 teaspoon xanthan gum (can buy this at any health food store)
    1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 scoops protein powder of choice (optional; if including, I highly recommend unsweetened, but flavored, whey or hemp)
    1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice OR 1/4 cup seeds (i.e.: chia, hemp) (optional)
    2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    2 teaspoons coconut oil

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a small bowl combine the ground flax and liquid.  Allow to rest for five minutes.

    In large bowl, combine oats, baking powder, xanthan gum, vanilla, cinnamon, protein powder, nuts/seeds, and shredded coconut.

    Add applesauce and coconut oil to ground flax mixture.  Stir briefly.

    Add contents of small bowl to large bowl.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ones.

    On stovetop, heat griddle at medium heat until surface is hot.

    Add 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil or vegan butter or conventional butter.  Use paper towel or spatula to spread evenly on surface.

    Pour batter onto griddle and form two pancakes.

    Cook pancakes until top surface begins to bubble.  Flip, cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

    Serve.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per pancake, made with whey protein, chopped pecans, and using water for flax mixture):

    512 calories
    7.5 grams saturated fat
    360 milligrams sodium
    8 grams fiber
    24 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Alpha-Linolenic omega-3 fatty acids, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, thiamin

    Good Source of: Folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, zinc

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber Bars

    ServeImage.aspx_I’m trying to incorporate more fiber into my diet.

    I’ve recently discovered the new Fiber One bars, and the Kellogg’s Fiber Plus bars. They have good stats as far as calories, fiber, low sugars and a pinch of protein.

    My only issue is the ingredients list. I’m a very ‘clean’ and ‘natural things only’ kind of person, and the ingredients list on the bars are a bit sketchy.

    Can you take a look and see if their alright, or if I’m basically eating a candy bar?

    — Sarah (Last name unknown)
    (Location Unknown)

    If you are a “clean” and “natural things only” gal, these bars are not for you.

    Here is the ingredient list for Fiber One bars:

    Chicory Root Extract, Chocolate Chips With Confectioners Shellac (Chocolate Chips [Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Milk Fat, Soy Lecithin], Ethanol, Shellac, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil), Rolled Oats, Crisp Rice (Rice Flour, Sugar, Malt, Salt), Barley Flakes, High Maltose Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Canola Oil, Honey, Glycerin, Maltodextrin, Palm Kernel Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Nonfat Milk, Peanut Oil, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Natural Flavor, Baking Soda, Color Added, Almond Flour, Peanut Flour, Sunflower Meal, Wheat Flour. Mixed Tocopherols Added to Retain Freshness.

    Practically all the fiber in these bars comes courtesy of chicory root extract, also known as inulin.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with (or unhealthy about) inulin, it appears here as an isolated fiber.

    Remember: isolated fibers aren’t as health-promoting as fiber from whole foods since whole foods provide fiber along with other nutrients and phytochemicals.

    What you are basically looking at is simple product fortification.  Lucky Charms cereal may be fortified with 21 vitamins and minerals, but is that the criteria we should use to determine whether a product is “healthy”?  I don’t believe so.

    As you may imagine, I am not a fan of all the added sugar in these bars, either.  In fact, I am willing to bet that if all those sugars were bunched together as one ingredient (‘added sugar’), they would be listed before rolled oats!

    Here is the ingredient list for Kellogg’s Fiber Plus bars:

    Chicory root fiber, rolled oats, crisp rice (rice flour, sugar, malt extract, salt, mixed tocopherols for freshness), sugar, roasted almonds, inulin from chicory root, semisweet chocolate drops (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, dextrose, milk fat, soy lecithin, confectioner’s glaze [shellac, hydrogenated coconut oil]), vegetable oil (hydrogenated palm kernel, coconut and palm oil), fructose, canola oil, contains two percent or less of honey, chocolate, cocoa (processed with alkali), glycerin, tricalcium phosphate, whey, salt, baking soda, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor, sorbitan monostearate, polysorbate 60, vitamin e acetate, gum arabic, zinc oxide, nonfat dry milk, whole wheat flour, partially defatted peanut flour, soy protein isolate, bht (for freshness), xanthan gum.

    Again, highly-processed, added-sugar central.

    Sure, there are worse snacks out there.  And, yes, these bars could potentially serve as a launching pad for people with very low fiber intakes.  However, there are also plenty of better bars out there.  These are certainly nowhere near “cream of the crop” status in my book.

    When it comes to bars that offer decent amounts of fiber — and are significantly less processed — I recommend Gnu Fiber & Flavor bars, Lara bars, Kashi TLC crunchy granola bars, or Clif Nectar bars (which, despite no longer being manufactured, I see to this day all over New York City).

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    Intern On A Mission!

    190154-1Over the past few months, University of Nebraska Lincoln freshman Laura Smith has been of tremendous help to me as the first-ever Small Bites intern.

    A few weeks ago, I asked her to visit one or two vitamin stores in her city, assume the role of a regular customer, and ask sales representatives at these stores what they would recommend for her now that “she is under doctor’s orders” to eat more fiber and improve her cholesterol levels (FYI: she isn’t really, I just concocted that).

    Here is what Laura was told at a store called Complete Nutrition (in her words):

    I was told to take a multivitamin, as this will help improve nutrients and my cholesterol level.  I was also told to take Tone, a product that “attacks stubborn fat by shrinking fat cells while maintaining existing lean muscle”.  According to the salesperson, Tone has been clinically tested to support fat loss while maintaining normal cholesterol levels and promoting healthy heart functions. The key ingredients are CLA, Omega 3 fatty acids, and GLA.  I was also told to make sure to take protein.

    Sigh.  Wow.  Deep sigh.  Okay.

    If someone were to ask my recommendations to follow these “doctor’s orders”, I would say:

    • Increase soluble fiber intake by consuming oatmeal/oat-based cereals/oat bran, beans (especially kidney beans), nuts, psyllium husks (adding one tablespoon to a smoothie), fruits, and vegetables.
    • Lower intake of full-fat dairy and red meat
    • Prioritize foods with healthier fats (ie: add 1 Tablespoon ground flax to cereal, soup, or smoothie; replace cheese in sandwich with avocado, etc.)

    Let’s analyze Complete Nutrition’s advice:

    1. “Take a multivitamin”: Completely irrelevant within the scope of cholesterol management.
    2. “Take Tone”: I love the notion of products attacking “stubborn fat”, as if there were some type of special fat that simply did not respond to food.  While the presence of omega-3s in this product is helpful, this customer would be better off eating food that offers omega-3 fatty acids and fiber simultaneously (i.e.: walnuts, ground flax).  They would save money, too!
    3. “Make sure you get protein”.  Also irrelevant from a cholesterol management standpoint.  As I have said many times on Small Bites, no one in the United States needs to worry about not consuming enough protein.  The average adult — without even trying — consumes approximately two and a half times their daily requirement.

    Here is what Laura was told at GNC:

    They told me to take fish oil, either a triple strength variety once a day, or a normal strength three times a day. They also told me to take a fiber supplement, either in a chewable or pill form.

    While not ideal (my rule is “food first, then supplements”) this at least focuses on the right nutrients — healthier fats and fiber.  I understand, though, that GNC has products to sell and can’t be expected to suggest skipping their products and heading to the grocery store instead.

    And, truth be told, I often recommend omega-3 supplementation to people who do not consume sufficient amounts of fish or sea vegetables each week to cover their needs.  In my book, omega-3 and vitamin D supplementation are two things almost everyone should be doing.

    It’s more the fiber supplement advice that I find comical.  Most fiber supplements add 4 to 6 grams of fiber to your day, the same amount you can get from an apple or a medium banana or a half cup of lentils.

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