Forging Ahead on the Problem with Probiotics

18 Jul

If you have a gut problem, then you’ve probably heard these 2 pieces of dietary advice: eat more fiber and try probiotics.

But GI disorders are highly personalized and vary from person-to-person, so what works for one doesn’t always work for another.

This is certainly the case with probiotics – where ingesting probiotics can lead to no relief in GI symptoms for some, and claims of a miracle cure for others.

Probiotics are microbial species that convey health benefits – most notably with regards to digestion.

You can find probiotics in supplement form, in foods with bacteria such as yogurt, and in fermented foods.

The problem with probiotics is that so far, nobody can really agree upon what is a recommended dose, what are the best sources, or what they’re really effective at treating.

One group is trying to change that though: the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. ISAPP is an international non-profit collaboration of scientists who are dedicated to advancing the science of probiotics and prebiotics.

The group recently met to help clarify information for consumers about possible side effects, effectiveness, dosing, and validity of products. The full published consensus statement from the meeting can be accessed here.

A summary of their work was declared in the following conclusion statement about probiotics:

  • Include in the framework for definition of probiotics microbial species that have been shown in properly controlled studies to confer benefits to health
  • Any specific claim beyond “contains probiotics” must be further substantiated
  • Keep live cultures, traditionally associated with fermented foods and for which there is no evidence of a health benefit, outside the probiotic framework
  • Keep undefined, fecal microbiota transplants outside the probiotic framework

To read more about the report calling for a stricter definition of probiotics, including my comments on probiotic confusion, click here.

Sharpen Your Nutrition Skills: With a MOOC

10 Jul

Sharpen Your Nutrition Skills: With a MOOC

Is it time for you to brush up on your nutrition knowledge? If so, consider a MOOC.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have taken center-stage in the debate about the values of distance learning. Since breaking onto the scene about 5 years ago, MOOCs have revolutionized information sharing at the higher education level.

For the most part, MOOCs tend to be free, online courses offered to large numbers of students over a short period of time. They’re generally taught by instructors from well-known institutions…meaning that essentially, you get big league knowledge on the fast and cheap.

Three of the biggest players in the MOOC arena are Coursera, Udacity, and edX – and they offer a wide range of courses, including some food and nutrition ones.

Through my position as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco’s graduate School of Nursing, I helped to develop and teach the first human nutrition course offering from Coursera. My class, entitled Nutrition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, has enrolled over 100,000 students from 100+ countries. There are continuing education credits available for Medical Doctors, Registered Nurses, Pharmacists, and Registered Dietitians.

Some of the other MOOCs I have loved and highly recommend are:

To learn more about other class options, click here for a full list of Coursera’s Food & Nutrition courses and here for Udacity’s Nutrition offerings.

To read more about my MOOC, check out this month’s feature in Food & Nutrition magazine.

Bolder Flavor from Boulder Canyon

7 Jul

Bolder Flavor from Boulder Canyon

A pleasant surprise greeted me from an otherwise dismal vending machine display the other day: Boulder Canyon’s Chipotle Cheese flavor Rice & Bean Snack Chips with Adzuki Beans.

Sure, these rice and bean chips were still chips – but they were pleasantly light and crispy with a subtle flavor and impressive nutrition profile.

You don’t see a lot of adzuki beans in snack foods – but these were great, with adzuki beans beinng the 3rd ingredient on the ingredient list (after rice flour and corn starch).

Adzuki beans are popular in Japanese cooking, and they’re small and light red-brown in color. A 1/2 cup of cooked beans nets you 8.5 grams of fiber with 9 grams protein for just 110 calories…so they’re certainly a great fiber find…if you can find them.

If you can’t get the real beans, the chips are an ok runner up. A 1.5 oz serving bag (about 30 chips) of Boulder Canyon’s Chipotle Cheese chips provides:

  • 215 calories
  • 11 g fat
  • 2 g saturated fat
  • 280 mg sodium
  • 26 g carbohydrate
  • 5 g dietary fiber
  • 3 g protein

And when you’re in a pinch, I’d say they’re a satiating snack food (albeit a bit high in sodium).

Sizzling Summer California Avocados Recipe Contest & Giveaway

2 Jul

Sizzling Summer California Avocados Recipe Contest & Giveaway

Summer is upon us, which means outdoor grilling and fresh-picked produce now take center stage.

This month I am excited to partner with the California Avocado Commission for an awesome avocado-themed summer recipe contest and giveaway prize package.

Do you have an innovative and fresh idea for incorporating California Avocados into your summer meals? If so, enter my recipe contest!

Entering is easy:

  • Create a recipe that features California Avocados as part of your favorite summer meal
  • Email your recipe with a picture of your final creation to by 5:00 pm PT on Monday July 14, 2014
  • The most creative – and delicious – recipe will be chosen on Friday July 18, 2014 and the winner will be notified by email
  • The winning recipe will be featured on Fiber is the Future on Monday July 28, 2014 and the winner will receive a one-of-a-kind California Avocados giveaway prize package
  • Contest is limited to US residents only

About the California Avocado Prize Pack

No avocado-loving cook’s kitchen would be complete without this California Avocado Commission Prize Pack!

The recipe contest winner receives this California Avocado Commission reusable tote, California Avocado masher, California Avocado tea towel, California Avocado snack box, California Avocado steel blue t-shirt, California Avocado magnet and green CAC pen, as well as recipes, and of course, a batch of fresh-picked California Avocados.

Need Some Inspiration?

If you want to get your creative – and competitive – recipe juices flowing, check out this new mouth-watering grilled tilapia with avocado fries recipe I recently developed for the California Avocado Commission:

Citrus Tilapia with Crunchy California Avocado Fries & Tangy Dipping Sauce

Author: Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE

Recipe developed by Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE for the California Avocado Commission

Serves:    4

Prep time:   10 minutes

Cook time:   35 minutes

Total time:   45 minutes


Description: Break out of your family’s weeknight dinner rut with this quick-and-easy, kid-approved and flavorful recipe! Citrus marinated grilled tilapia and crunchy California Avocado fries share the stage with a tangy dipping sauce that provides an excellent source of protein, folate, potassium and vitamin C, and good source of dietary fiber and vitamin A per serving. The avocado fries provide a fun and delicious finger food for kids which can be enjoyed as a snack as well.



Crunchy California Avocado Fries Ingredients

  • ½ cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ripe, Fresh California Avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into 16 thin wedges

Crunchy California Avocado Fries Instructions

  • Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees F. Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In small mixing bowl, combine panko crumbs, black pepper, salt and smoked paprika. In a separate small mixing bowl, add egg and whisk lightly.
  • Dip avocado slices in egg and then in panko mixture. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Citrus Grilled Tilapia Ingredients

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. chili powder or ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4, (4-oz.) tilapia fillets
  • Lemon wedge, for garnish

Citrus Tilapia Instructions

  • In a zip top bag, combine extra virgin olive oil, orange juice, white vinegar, minced garlic, honey, salt, black pepper, cumin and chili powder. Shake to mix. Add tilapia fillets to bag and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  • Spray skillet with nonstick spray and heat on stovetop over medium-high heat. Remove tilapia from marinade and add to skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned. Discard marinade. The tilapia can also be prepared on a hot grill or grill pan for 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned.
  • Serve with a fresh lemon wedge, Crunchy California Avocado Fries and Tangy Dipping Sauce.

*For a time saving tip, marinate fish up to eight hours in advance.

Tangy Dipping Sauce Ingredients

  • ¼ cup low-fat sour cream or plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. chili garlic hot sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Tangy Dipping Sauce Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Serving Suggestion: The citrus grilled tilapia is a versatile recipe.Use your favorite fish or try other flaky, mild white fish varieties such as sole or haddock.

Beverage Pairing:

Try a zesty and refreshing white wine such as Pinot Grigio.

For a non-alcoholic choice, try spritzer with fresh lime juice, mint and sparkling water.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:

(1 serving includes 4 oz. fish, 4 slices of Crunchy California Avocado Fries, 2 Tbsp. of Tangy Dipping Sauce)

Calories 370 ; Total Fat 23g  (Sat 4 g , Trans 0 g , Poly 3 g , Mono 15 g ); Cholesterol 110  mg ; Sodium 560 mg ; Potassium 630 mg ; Total Carbohydrate 16 g ; Dietary Fiber 3 g ; Total Sugars 5 g ; Protein 27 g ; Vitamin A 562 IU ; Vitamin C 13 mg ; Calcium 62 mg ; Iron 1 g ; Vitamin D 4 mcg  ; Folate 70 mcg ; Omega 3 Fatty Acid 0.2 g

% Daily Value**: Vitamin A 10% ; Vitamin C 20%  ; Calcium 6%  ; Iron 6%

* Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.

**Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 Calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

As with all fruits and vegetables, wash avocados before cutting. Check out our tips for how to choose and use California Avocados.

© 2014 California Avocado Commission

For more great recipe ideas, check out the California Avocado Commission’s extensive recipe library available here.

Gluten Free Grains, Guilt Free

1 Jul

Gluten Free Grains, Guilt Free

I’ve only been gluten free for a week, but I’m already really annoying,” declares the cartoon caption from a recent New Yorker magazine.

Almost as trendy as eating gluten free is the trend of writing about how gluten free diets aren’t healthy. And the gluten free bandwagon certainly has been taking a beating lately in the mainstream media.

Just last week as part of its How We Eat series, even the Wall Street Journal featured an article on the gluten free craze, questioning whether it is healthy.

Well, for the 3 million Americans with celiac disease (about 1 in 100 citizens), a gluten free lifestyle is the only therapeutic option out there for beating this autoimmune disease.

But going gluten free doesn’t mean you have to ditch all of the great grains that make up a nutritious diet.

Here are 5 great grains that you might not have known are gluten free:

1.) Corn

Whole, dried corn is a whole grain and the most widely grown crop in the Americas. Research from Cornell shows that corn has the highest amount of antioxidants of any fruits or vegetable.

2.) Brown Rice

When it comes to rice, brown is better. One study from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that people who ate white rice had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than people who ate brown rice.

3.) Oats

Oats are gluten free, but they are often contaminated with wheat during growing or processing. Look for oat products that contain pure, uncontaminated oats and that are in foods certified as gluten free.

4.) Quinoa

Technically a seed, this superfood is high in protein and fiber, and its flour makes a great base for gluten free pizzas, breads, and rolls.

5.) Buckwheat

This high fiber rain can be made into pancakes, waffles, and crepes. It has been shown to act as a prebiotic, meaning that it also has the potential to aid in digestion for certain people.

For more information on gluten free grains, check out my segment on Channel 7 NBC San Diego.