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    Archive for the ‘soluble fiber’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Shirataki Noodles

    noodlesSomeone in my class was talking about this “Hungry Girl diet” and mentioned shirataki noodles.

    Have you heard of them? What do you think?

    — Danielle Ippolito
    (Location Unknown)

    I have indeed heard of them.  FYI: for my thoughts on Hungry Girl and her “diet” (it’s not a diet as much as it is a way of eating), please read this post.

    Onto your question:

    Shirataki noodles are made solely from an Asian root vegetable.  Since they are mainly composed of soluble fiber, they are very low in calories.  Some manufacturers of these noodles claim they are “calorie-free”, which makes no sense to me.  Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber is not calorie-free.

    While a local Asian market may sell shirataki noodles made exclusively from that fiber, the more popular brands sold here in the United States are made from a combination of said root vegetable and tofu (mainly for texture purposes).  In fact, the ingredient list places ‘tofu’ before ‘yam flour’.

    I often see them as touted as “weight-loss food”, which is silly because there is nothing about them that inherently causes weight loss.  They are certainly low in calories, but “weight-loss food” implies that a food has some sort of magic property that results in weight loss.

    A dinner of shirataki noodles may be low-calorie, but if your lunch was a Chili’s quesadilla, don’t expect any weight-loss miracles.

    Here is why I’m not quite as enthusiastic about the “new pasta”:

    • Shirataki noodles are flavorless, and reinforce the stereotype that healthy food must be void of taste and solely consumed “because it’s good for you”
    • While low in calories, they are also low in every nutrient.  I wouldn’t refer to them as “nutritious”
    • Since they have very little flavor, many people consume them in ways that are highly caloric anyway (i.e: rich sauces, stir-frying them in oil, etc.)

    If someone enjoys these noodles, more power to them.  I would never steer someone away from eating them.  They are certainly an excellent source of soluble fiber, and offer some health benefits.

    However, it’s worth remembering that there is nothing inherently unhealthy about pasta, especially whole-grain varieties.  The main problem in the United States is that pasta is eaten in huge amounts and drenched in highly-caloric sauces.

    If you are looking for wheat-free pastas, I recommend soba noodles (look for ones made solely from buckwheat flour, such as the Eden Organics brand), brown rice pastas, or quinoa pastas.

    If calories are a concern, give spiralized zucchini “noodles” a try.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Mesquite Powder

    mesquite-powderMy local health food store now carries mesquite powder.

    Is that the same as mesquite barbeque stuff, like the flavoring in potato chips?

    What about it makes it healthy enough to be at a health food store?

    — John Amers
    New York, NY

    Many people are unaware that mesquite trees contain an array of edible components.

    The mesquite you refer to (the one used for barbecuing as well as for barbeque-flavored snacks) comes from mesquite tree wood that is processed into chips and then smoked.

    The mesquite powder sold in health food stores, however, is the end result of grinding up mesquite tree pods and seeds.

    I find that mesquite powder has a delicious caramel-like flavor.  As with maca, I love to add a heaping tablespoon (or two!) to any shake I make with cacao (the flavors complement each other wonderfully).

    I know some people also like to add it to pancake batter (it has some thickening properties and can replace a small quantity of flour) and yogurt.

    Mesquite powder is a very good source of soluble fiber, manganese, potassium, and zinc.

    While it is certainly not inexpensive, a small bag lasts me two to three months.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Barley

    whole_barleyCan you tell me about the health benefits of barley?

    I just added some to my kale stew and really liked it, but I don’t know anything about it.

    — Susy (last name unknown)
    (Location unknown)

    Barley is a wonderful grain!

    You should know that there are two different varieties — hulled barley and pearled barley.

    Pearled barley is the most commonly consumed type.  While it is still nutritious, it is slightly more processed than hulled barley in that it loses its bran layer.

    Consequently, pearled barley cooks faster.

    If you can find hulled barley, I recommend you purchase that.

    However, even pearled barley is far superior to refined grains like white rice, couscous, or pastas made from white flours.

    After all, one cup of it (cooked) provides:

    • 6 grams of fiber
    • 6 grams of protein
    • 10% of a day’s worth of niacin, vitamin B6, and zinc
    • 20% of a day’s worth of manganese and selenium

    Meanwhile, one cup of cooked hulled barley adds up to:

    • 8 grams of fiber
    • 6 grams of protein
    • Higher amounts of niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and selenium

    One of the advantages of barley is that a significant percentage of its fibers are beta-glucans.

    Beta-glucans are a specific type of soluble fiber — also found in oatmeal, seaweed, and mushrooms — responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol (the higher your LDL cholesterol, the higher your risk for heart disease).

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    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.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nuts & Cholesterol

    nuts1240705690Are there any nuts that help lower cholesterol, or are they all bad?

    They are high in fat, right?

    — Greg (Last name withheld)
    Los Angeles, CA

    When it comes to lowering cholesterol with food, there are three particular nutrients to keep in mind:

    • Soluble fiber
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Monounsaturated fats

    The above nutrients are ones you want to consume more of.  Ideally, you don’t want to simply add them to what you are already eating, but rather eat them in place of less-healthy foods (i.e.: refined carbohydrates, foods made with corn and cottonseed oil, etc.).

    In regards to your question: nuts are an absolutely wonderful food that I encourage everyone to have a serving of every single day.

    Almonds and Brazil nuts are the nuts with highest amounts of soluble fiber per ounce.  Walnuts, meanwhile, have more omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of Alpha-Linolenic Acid) than any other nut.  The monounsaturated fat category is dominated by peanuts.

    This is not to say other nuts are inferior; others have certain phytonutrients and compounds that have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.

    While we’re discussing these three nutrients, check out this list of best sources (which includes some foods not mentioned above):

    • Soluble fiber: barley, figs, kidney beans, oat bran, oatmeal, pears, psyllium husk
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, halibut, sea vegetables, scallops, walnuts, wild-caught salmon
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids: almonds, avocado, macadamia nuts, peanuts olive oil

    Great news about soluble fiber — every gram of soluble fiber (when consumed in a consistent, daily basis) is linked to a 1 or 2 point reduction in total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

    Above all, please undo the “fat is bad” mantra that has pervaded the American dietary landscape for the past two decades.  Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats not only lower total and LDL cholesterol, they also increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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.

     

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    You Ask, I Answer: Isolated Fibers

    I ran across a juice from Bolthouse Farms and was shocked when I saw that it packs in EIGHT grams of soluble fiber in one 8 fl oz serving!

    My eyes went to the ingredient list right away to see just what, if anything, was added to get that impressive number.

    What I found was dextrin, inulin, and xanthan gum all added and listed as “dietary fiber”.

    Are these treated by the body in the same manner as more “raw” food would be when it comes to the benefits the soluble fiber can provide?

    Are they mainly tossed in to get that impressive number and in reality not as effective for the body as soluble fiber from fruits or some other “raw” source?

    Other than that, what are you general thoughts on some Bolthouse Farms drinks?

    I still try to grab something that doesn’t have a bunch of sugar in it when I just feel like something refreshing to drink while watching a movie or something but as juice goes, does Bolthouse seem slightly above the others?

    — Andrew Carney
    Richland, WA

    You have to love those isolated fibers — food manufacturers certainly do!

    After all, how else would you manage to get eight grams of soluble fiber in 8 ounces of a drink that is nothing more than a medley of fiber-free, sugar-loaded juice concentrates?

    Although dextrin, inulin, and xanthan gum are real fibers that exist in nature, I am not a fan of consuming nutrients in isolated form.

    Food science research has demonstrated on several occassions that, for optimal performance, nutrients need to play off each other (and other phytochemicals in food.)

    This is precisely one reason why clinical trials involving vitamin E supplementation show different results than those in which vitamin E is consumed in the diet from food sources.

    Similarly, while oatmeal offers LDL-cholesterol lowering properties thanks to soluble fiber (in particular beta-glucan, which is not in this Bolthouse drink), it also offers manganese, selenium, and magnesium at the tune of 145 calories per cup.

    The drink you are asking about, meanwhile, packs in 350 calories’ worth of concentrated juices and then throws in fiber, vitamins, and minerals to provide a healthier image.

    The fact that one bottle contains 15 grams of soluble fiber is also worrying, as this can result in some very painful bloating for those unaccustomed to taking in such large amounts in one sitting.

    My verdict? You might as well be drinking Kool Aid, stirring in some Metamucil, and popping a Centrum.

    That being said, if you enjoy the drink and can afford the calories, enjoy it… as a sweet treat.

    On that note, one word of caution. When it comes to juice drinks, don’t hunt around for fiber, Omega-3’s, or added buzz-worthy nutrients.

    How come? I find that it is usually the drinks highest in calories and sugars that tack on these nutrients in order to trick consumers into thinking they are doing their health a favor.

    The best thing to look for when it comes to these beverages is a small bottle.

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    Crunch Away!

    A few days ago, a friend was picking my brain for portable, nutritious, and tasty snack ideas.

    He specifically mentioned that while he enjoys the taste of my standby bar recommendations (Lara, Clif Nectar, Gnu Flavor & Fiber, Pure), they are all missing “crunch” — his favorite texture.

    Crackers don’t really do it, he explained, because he likes a tinge of sweetness to his snacks.

    I suggested Kashi TLC (Tasty Little Crunchies) granola bars — and was just told it’s exactly the type of snack my friend was looking for!

    One individually wrapped container offers two bars and provides:

    180 calories
    4 grams of fiber (3 of which are soluble)

    8 grams (2 teaspoons) of added sugar
    6 grams of protein

    100% whole grains

    I specifically point out the presence of soluble fiber as that is the type of fiber that has been linked with reductions in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Salba

    Do you know anything about Salba?

    It seems to be getting quite popular (I accidentally ordered a raspberry salba square at my local coffee shop the other day), and I’m not sure whether it’s a fad or not.

    Is it actually a whole food or is it processed?

    Where does it come from?

    Is it as good as the makers of it claim?

    — Meredith (Last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    The folks at Core Naturals sure are working hard to hype up Salba.

    No clue what I’m talking about? Let me break it down.

    According to manufacturer Core Naturals, the salba seed is pretty much the greatest food ever created.

    Dubbed by the company as “nature’s perfect whole food,” the press release pushes it as a one-stop shop for some of the highest quantities of fiber, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Then there are statements such as this:

    “Because of Salba’s ability to absorb several times its weight in water, it may also help to curb hunger.”

    That’s wonderful, but that’s simply what all soluble fibers do – the same ones found in oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

    Core Naturals even make reference to one nutrition PhD at a Toronto-based university who, after conducting research, confirmed that Salba’s advertised properties truly exist.

    You know something is slightly off, though, when the bragging rights about the doctor go something like this: “[He works at] the same university where in 1921, Dr. Frederic Banting discovered insulin and won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.”

    Errrr…. okay?

    Besides, there is something very suspect about having only one professional analyze your food. If Core Naturals is so sure that what they have is — for all intents and purposes — manna, why not send it out to a variety of independent food laboratories to have their goldmine validated?

    Anyhow, Salba is just a white chia seed – with the exact same nutritional profile of all other chia seeds (which are usually black).

    So, yes, it is an unprocessed whole food, in the same way that fruits, vegetables, nuts, and a plethora of other seeds are.

    Don’t get me wrong. Chia seeds have a neat nutritional profile – they are a good source of fiber, phosphorus, manganese and Alpha Linolenic Acid – but by no means is Salba a powerfood, nor does it offer the same Omega-3 profile as 28 ounces of salmon (as Core Naturals advertises.)

    That is a very easy statement to debunk, by the way. Remember, salmon offers EPA and DHA, two Omega-3 fatty acids not present in seeds.

    This situation with Salba and Core Naturals would be paramount to a company patenting Granny Smith Apples, calling them something different and claiming they were nutritionally superior any other apples.

    Considering that Salba retails for anywhere from two to three times as much as standard chia seeds, I don’t really see a reason for purchasing it.

    File it under “F” for fad. No, make that “FF” for… flimsy fad.

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    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.

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    You Oat To Know

    One of my co-workers recently asked me what the difference was — from a nutritional standpoint — between steel-cut oats, quick-cooking oats, and instant oatmeal.

    Answer: there really isn’t any!

    They are all a nutritious whole grain that offers soluble fiber (the kind that has been linked to a reduction in total and LDL cholesterol levels).

    (Quick review: insoluble fiber — found entirely in whole wheat products and partially in fruits, vegetables, and legumes — speeds up the transit of foods in the digestive system.)

    The difference between these varieties of oats and instant oatmeal ultimately comes down to processing techniques.

    Whereas steel-cut oats are — ready for a shocker? — cut by rotating steel blades into tiny groats, quick-cooking oats and instant oatmeal go some extra processing that produces a flat flake.

    If you look at their respective nutrition labels,  steel-cut oats appear to contain more fiber than their quick cooking counterparts. However, this is simply due to different serving sizes. It’s akin to a one-ounce slice of whole wheat bread containing 3 grams of fiber and a 1.5 ounce slice providing 4.5 grams. The larger slice may appear to be a “better source” of fiber, but ounce by ounce the two are equal.

    While steel cut oats have a lower glycemic index than flattened oat flakes, I don’t consider the difference significant.  Additionally, it is more important to consider glycemic loads (how what you add to your oatmeal affects its glycemic index).

    You can’t go wrong by buying plain (unsweetened, no salt added) oatmeal and jazzing it up with nuts, seeds, spices, and some fruit.  Additionally, cooking it in milk (dairy or otherwise) adds protein and additional nutrients.

    The problems begin when you buy flavored varieties than add sodium and up to 4 or 5 teaspoons of sugar.  So, keep it simple, real, and whole!

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