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    Archive for the ‘insoluble fiber’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Oat Flour

    5106PF2KV9L._SL500_AA280_PIbundle-5,TopRight,0,0_AA280_SH20_I have a question [in regards to your recent post] about oat flour.

    I can tolerate wheat just fine, but if I were to replace whole wheat flour with oat flour in my baking, would I end up with a more nutritious product?

    — Nicole Clanham
    (City withheld), CO

    Let’s first do a simple comparison.

    One cup of whole wheat flour contains:

    • 407 calories
    • 15 grams fiber
    • 16 grams protein
    • 121% Daily Value of selenium
    • 228% Daily Value of manganese
    • 14% Daily Value of potassium
    • 41% of manganese

    A cup of oat flour, meanwhile, provides:

    • 444 calories
    • 12 grams fiber
    • 15 grams protein
    • 57% Daily Value of selenium
    • 258% Daily Value of manganese
    • 12% Daily Value of potassium
    • 81% Daily Value of manganese

    Alas, no mind-blowing differences.

    There are, however, some added bonuses to oat flour (especially if you make your own by grinding rolled oats in a food processor).

    1. More soluble fiber than any other grain.  Remember, soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol levels and triggers fullness more quickly.  Insoluble fiber — which whole wheat flour contains lots of — helps keep things moving through our digestive system.
    2. Exclusive antioxidants and polyphenols believed to promote heart health and lower diabetes risk.

    As great as that is, you can not fully replace the whole wheat flour in a recipe with oat flour.

    Since oat flour does not contain gluten, a baked good made entirely with it will not rise.

    “Wait a minute,” you may be saying.  “I thought you said oats were not safe for people on gluten-free diets!  What do you mean it doesn’t have gluten?”

    Allow me to explain.  Oats are intrinsically gluten-free.  However, many are cross-contamined in factories that also process wheat.  While the minimal contamination is significant enough to cause problems for an individual with celiac, it is not enough to have an effect on the baking process.

    Feel free to substitute half the wheat flour in a recipe with oat flour, though.

    As I always like to say, keep nutritional context in mind.  Oat flour in an otherwise unhealthy recipe (loads of sugar and calories) is a moot point.

    The best way to get oat’s health benefits is by preparing unsweetened oatmeal (and adding your own fruit and nut toppings) or adding quick-cooking oats to yogurt or a smoothie.


    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber Supplements

    citrucel_capletsWhat is, in your opinion, the healthiest fiber supplement?

    I have used psyllium husks for a long time in smoothies but have recently switched to Citrucel because of the delightful taste (it’s just like tang) and convenience.

    This is somewhat of a contridiction for me because I have made it a habit to avoid beverages high in sugar like soda and ice tea, and I’m concerned about the sugar content in Citrucel.

    Is it relatively high for a fiber supplement? Is it the equivalent of drinking a unhealthy ice tea mix or soda?

    Also, what are your thoughts on those Viactiv chocolate calcium chews?

    Jessica (last name withheld)
    San Antonio, TX

    Citrucel — “the fiber with no excess gas” — contains 100% soluble fiber.

    Remember, that is the type of fiber helpful for lowering cholesterol and achieving a feeling of fullness more quickly; insoluble fiber helps speed things up through the digestive system.  We need both types.

    Whole wheat breads are 100% insoluble fiber; oatmeal is 100% soluble fiber, and all other foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, etc.) are a combination of the two.

    Citrucel contains two grams of soluble fiber per scoop — roughly the same amount offered by one apple.

    Citrucel also tacks on roughly 4 and a half teaspoons of sugar per scoop.  So, two scoops equal the amount of sugar in one 12-ounce soda can.

    My main “issue” with fiber supplements is that while they provide actual fiber, their health benefits are much lower in comparison to fiber-rich foods.

    With something like Citrucel, you are getting fiber and nothing else.  With an apple, or oatmeal, or almonds, or a baked potato, you are getting fiber along with hundreds of health-promoting phytonutrients.

    So, in terms of which is the healthiest fiber supplement, my answer is: “food”.

    A half cup of raspberries, for example, packs in 4 grams of fiber and just 32 calories.  That’s twice the amount of one Citrucel scoop and HALF the calories.  As a sweet bonus, you get vitamins and loads of phytonutrients and antioxidants.

    A medium-sized banana contains, on average, 3 grams.  And, by simply making a sandwich with 100% whole grain bread, you add six grams to your day.

    There is a notion that fiber is hard to get in one’s diet, but it is widely available — in lots of different foods.  Here’s another example:  a cup of black beans adds 15 grams to  whatever recipe you are making (stew, chili, salad, etc.)

    If you like to make your own shakes/smoothies at home, one way to quickly and conveniently add fiber is to add a tablespoon of flaxseed and a tablespoon of wheat germ.  You won’t notice any difference in taste and those two tablespoons add 4 grams of fiber.

    By the way — this notion that Citrucel is superior because it provides fiber without gas is slightly misleading.

    Gastrointestinal operations vary from person to person; in that way, they are very much like snowflakes.  No two are alike.  However, there are two main factors that cause gassiness with increased fiber intake:

    1. Increasing fiber too soon (i.e.: someone who normally consumes 12 grams of fiber a day waking up one morning and starting off their day with 14 grams of fiber via a high-fiber cereal).
    2. Increasing fiber without increasing fluid intake

    As long as you increase fiber intake slowly (think tacking on two grams a day until you reach your desired goal) and accompany it with increased fluid intake, you should be able to minimize bloating and gassiness.

    As for the Viactiv tablets — the ingredient list is semi-sketchy (high fructose corn syrup AND partially hydrogenated oils!), but it is a low-calorie, low-sugar product.

    Is it the ideal way to get calcium?  Absolutely not.  I mean, really, if supplementing is the ultimate goal, is a regular calcium tablet that horrible to swallow?

    However, when push comes to shove, Viactiv is at least a way to get significant amounts of calcium.

    The problem is that so many people tend to focus on ONE nutrient and forget that by eating whole foods high in one nutrient, they would get more “bang for their buck.”

    Case in point — a calcium pill is just calcium.  Kale (a leafy green vegetable high in calcium) is also a source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.  Similarly, a cup of yogurt provides calcium along with protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, and potassium.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A half cup of kidney beans contains 5 times more soluble fiber than a half cup of lentils.

    (REMEMBER: Soluble fiber is helpful for achieving a feeling of fullness more quickly, while insoluble fiber helps speed up the transit of food in the digestive system).

    A half cup of kidney beans provides 5.7 grams of fiber, of which 2.9 grams are soluble.

    That same amount of lentils, meanwhile, offers a total of 7.8 grams of fiber, of which 0.6 grams are soluble.

    Don’t cast lentils aside, though. A mere half cup of them packs 7.2 grams of insoluble fiber — significantly higher than kidney beans’ 2.8 grams.

    Although both types of fiber are beneficial and part of a healthy diet, it’s wise to become familiar with foods that are good sources of each one.

    Therefore, if you’re looking to fill yourself up more quickly with fewer calories, add kidney beans — rather than lentils — to salads, wraps, and chili recipes.

    When you want to speed up movement in your digestive system, though, you are certainly better off with lentil-based dishes.


    Numbers Game: Legume Lowdown

    A half cup of kidney beans contains ____ times more soluble fiber than a half cup of lentils.

    (REMEMBER: Soluble fiber is helpful for achieving a feeling of fullness more quickly, while insoluble fiber helps speed up the transit of food in the digestive system)

    a) 2.5
    b) 3

    c) 4
    d) 5

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Sunday for the answer!


    You Ask, I Answer: Calorie Discrepancies on Food Labels

    Why does the nutritional information on labels of the (seemingly) same product, but from different companies, have different data?

    The one that I noticed today was when I bought Hodgson Mill’s oatbran. It says 40 grams has 120 calories, but Mother’s oat bran says 40g is 150 calories. Shouldn’t these be the same?

    They both state that the only ingredient in the box is oat bran.

    Another example (that got me started on this) was canned black beans.

    Again, the serving side listed on the can is always approximately the same (I’ve even checked the weight, not just the half cup measurement) and the calories listed can range from 90 to 130, depending on the brand.

    Do you know why this is?

    I understand that companies have some fudge-room for their nutritionals, but these examples seem like there shouldn’t be that much of a difference.

    — Michelle Pope
    (location withheld)

    Ah, welcome to the twisted maze that is calorie labeling!

    This is an excellent question, as it gives significant insight into labeling laws and regulations.

    Come on in and sit a spell, though, because this can be initially confusing to the untrained eye.

    First of all, remember that calorie figures higher than 50 can be rounded off to the nearest 10-calorie increment.

    In other words, if a serving of cereal adds up to 134 calories, it can legally be displayed on the label as 130.

    Similarly, a serving containing 156 calories is often shown as 160 calories for simplicity’s sake.

    Now we get to the more complicated issues.

    Although you often see references to carbohydrates containing 4 calories per gram, they technically contain 3.6 calories per gram.

    The “4 calories per gram” figure is commonly used — and referred to everywhere, including this blog — in order to facilitate in-your-head multiplication and estimation.

    Additionally, since protein technically provides 4.2 calories per gram, the logic is that by portraying both those nutrients as containing 4 calories per gram, final estimates are very close to actual totals.

    That said, some companies arrive at their calorie totals by allocating 4 calories to each gram of carbohydrate in their food, while others — and this is completely legal, by the way — allocate 3.6 calories per gram.

    On top of that, all macronutrient figures are rounded off. In other words, a serving of food containing 29.5 grams of carbohydrates shows up as containing 30.

    So, company #1 may choose to keep it simple and multiply that rounded figure (30 grams) by the rounded-up “calories per gram” figure (4 calories per gram) and come up with 120 calories.

    Meanwhile, company #2 can instead opt to multiply the technical figures (29.5 grams of carbohydrate x 3.6 calories per gram) for a grand total of 106 calories!

    Then we have the issue of fiber, which comes into play with both of your food examples.

    If food companies choose to, they may leave out grams of carbohydrates from insoluble fibers in their final calculations.

    Taking all that into consideration, you can see why the same amount of the same food does not always yield the same food label.


    You Ask, I Answer: BRAT Diet

    How legitimate is the BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, toast) diet for relieving diarrhea?

    — Celia (last name withheld)
    New York, NY

    The reasoning behind the BRAT “diet” is legitimate.

    The idea is that, when consumed for approximately four consecutive days, these foods help thicken stools, thereby assuring a speedy recovery.

    Apples, for example, are part of the diet because they are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps solidify the stool.

    That said, carrots, peas, and peaches contain higher levels of pectin.

    Although thousands of pediatricians still recommend it to parents whose children are going through gastrointestinal distress, I don’t find adherence to BRAT to be of such critical importance.

    When someone is sick, nutrition plays a very important role in terms of consuming all the nutrients we need.

    The BRAT diet, however, falls short for me because it is very low in protein, zinc, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals.

    Besides, other foods can be just as effective at treating diarrhea — particularly oat-based products.

    Remember, oat bran contains soluble fiber (the type that, apart from helping lower cholesterol levels, thickens stools).  Other great sources of soluble fiber include nuts, legumes, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

    Insoluble fiber — found in high amounts in whole wheat products — keeps things moving through our digestive system.  Definitely a plus, but not when you’re dealing with these symptoms.

    Plain yogurt — particularly if it contains live and active cultures — is another great food for battling these symptoms, since the live and active cultures help boost healthy bacteria in our gut.

    I don’t think anyone should be restricted to the four foods suggested by the BRAT diet when looking to get their digestive system back on track.


    You “Ask”, I Answer: Modified Corn Starch/Constipation

    My dietitian at the gym said that modified corn starch is not good because it is a strong “binding” agent and can cause constipation.

    Cheerios [have] modified corn starch as [the second] ingredient.

    [The dietitian said this] has an impact on toddlers- many of [whom] eat a lot of cheerios cereal.

    And, a lot have constipation problems.

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    Although there are several factors that can cause constipation, a significant one is a lack of insoluble fiber in the diet.

    Cheerios — and any oat-based product, for that matter — largely contain soluble fiber.

    Remember, soluble fiber is the one that helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol AND achieve a longer-lasting feeling of satiety. Insoluble fiber, meanwhile, helps keep things moving through the digestive tract.

    The lack of insoluble fiber (NOT the presence of modified corn starch) is why Cheerios can exacerbate (notice I am not using the word “cause”) constipation.

    I want to stress that foods do not cause constipation in and of themselves. Rather, it is a lack of insoluble fiber in the overall diet that does.

    That said, I prefer people get soluble fiber in their whole food form, as opposed to isolated starches (especially since the tacked-on modified corn starch is likely genetically modified). Plenty of foods offer generous amounts of soluble fiber: oats, barley, brussels sprouts, oranges, broccoli, and black beans come to mind.



    You Ask, I Answer: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

    I’ve become aware now (with your help) on how to find fiber and foods that are high in fiber but I’m wondering about the amount of soluble fiber and insoluble fiber in a lot of common “high fiber” foods.

    I would love for you to explain a little bit the different things each does and if you really need to try to balance between the two for the best health benefits or if, as long as you get enough fiber, you don’t really have to worry about the two different types.

    I ask this because I notice a lot of foods just state how much fiber they have but some bars (especially Gnu) go the extra mile to break down and show how much of each type they contain.

    — Andrew Carney
    Richmond, VA

    Great question.

    Remember that fiber is solely found in plant foods — meats and dairy do not provide it.

    With that in mind, let’s break it down.

    Soluble fiber is helpful with cholesterol reduction, providing a feeling of fullness for a significant amount of time, and stabilizing blood glucose levels.

    Insoluble fiber, meanwhile, keeps things moving through the digestive tract, making it an important factor in reducing the risk of colon cancer.

    Both are important and necessary.

    Oat bran is the best source of soluble fiber, while wheat bran is composed of solely insoluble fiber.

    Legumes, beans, and nuts are a mix of insoluble and soluble, as are fruits and vegetables (in the case of fruits, skins contain insoluble fiber and the actual fruit contains soluble).

    So, as long as you have a varied diet, you are getting sufficient amounts of both.

    The important goal to keep in mind is to have 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day from your diet.

    If you want to get a bit more technical, it is recommended you get at least 5 grams of soluble fiber a day for maximum cholesterol-lowering benefits.

    This isn’t all that much — a quarter cup of oat bran does the trick.

    Similarly, a medium pear provides 1.7 grams of soluble fiber, a peach 0.8, a mango 0.76, and a banana 0.6.

    Later today I will post a yogurt bowl recipe that meets the daily soluble fiber recommendation.


    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

    I just looked at the fiber I add to my meals and noticed it has calories. 2 tablespoons add up to 72 calories. Is that worth it?

    I take it because I was told that when you eat fat with fiber, you absorb less fat.

    In addition, I want additional fiber in my meals without additional calories or food. I need to reduce the size of my food intake.

    — Marta (last name withheld)
    Miami, FL

    It is indeed true that fiber can decrease the absorption of fat (to a certain degree) by forming viscous gels that trap fat particles in, preventing them from being stored in tissues.

    There are, however, other important reasons why fiber plays a huge role in weight management.

    Soluble fiber — the only component of oat bran, and partially found in fruits, vegetables, and some whole grains — helps slow down transit time of digested particles, thereby helping us feel satiated for long periods of time.

    This is why a cup of oatmeal in the morning sprinkled with a few fruits and nuts makes you feel hungry later in the day than if you were to eat two Pop-tarts (which, despite having more calories, are completely lacking fiber).

    Keep in mind that insoluble fiber — which wheat bran is entirely made of — has no calories.

    The fiber in whole wheat bread (and the skin of fruits and vegetables) does not add calories to your day.

    This is partially why I always recommend people get fiber from whole foods, as opposed to supplements (another reason being that when you eat a fruit or vegetable, you are also getting important vitamins and minerals not found in a fiber pill).

    Having fiber-rich meals will help you reduce your caloric intake. A 600 calorie meal providing 15 grams of fiber will keep you fuller longer than a 900 calorie one with 6 grams of fiber.

    A cup of lentil soup, for instance, provides 9 grams of fiber and 150 calories (along with 8 grams of protein, which also helps you feel full). This is a much better meal component than a 120 calorie cup of tomato bisque, which only provides 2 grams of fiber (and 2 grams of protein).

    The tomato soup will leave you feeling hungry a lot faster than the lentil soup, resulting in you taking in more calories soon after.


    You Ask, I Answer: Calories from Fiber

    Why [do] some food labels (Fiber One, gnu food bars, etc.) eliminate the calories that cannot be digested because they are from fiber in the overall calorie count, whereas other food labels may not?

    Isn’t there some FDA standard?

    — [Name Withheld]
    [Location Withheld]

    Actually, the Food & Drug Administration allows food manufacturers to not take grams of insoluble fiber into account when tallying up their caloric totals.

    Remember –- wheat bran is the only food that is 100% insoluble fiber.

    Thus, it is not surprising that cereals consisting solely of wheat bran — like Fiber One — do not count calories from this specific fiber.

    When it comes to foods containing a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibers – such as the lentils in a soup – fiber grams are not subtracted from total carbohydrates.

    Why doesn’t soluble fiber get the same free pass?

    Unlike its insoluble cousin which passes right on through our digestive system, soluble fiber is metabolized by bacteria in our colon.

    This results in the production of short-chain fatty acids, which are involved in many processes, including glycolysis (the breakdown of glucose).


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