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How Fiber Fared in the New Food Label

24 May

After 9 arduous years of deliberations, the FDA finally rolled out the final rule on the new food label last week.

In a nutshell, the biggest changes you will notice by 2018 are outlined in the FDA’s infographic:

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Much of the food label media attention has centered on 3 of the most obvious changes:

  1. More realistic serving sizes (so long 1/2 cup of ice cream serving…)
  2. Addition of the added sugars line (bad news for the entire “fruited yogurt” industry…), and
  3. Changes in nutrients required (adding vitamin D and potassium and deleting vitamins A and C).

Most nutrition advocates are generally pleased with the direction of the food label change. First Lady Michelle Obama summarized the changes by saying, “Very soon you will no longer need a microscope, a calculator or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food that you’re buying is actually good for your kids, so that’s a phenomenal achievement.”

But how did fiber fare with this food label overhaul?

There are 2 changes with regards to fiber on the new food label:

  1. The FDA defined dietary fiber for the first time saying fiber, “includes naturally occurring fibers and only fibers added to foods that show a physiological health benefit”
  2. The Daily Value (DV) for fiber will be changing from 25 grams to 28 grams per day

With regards to the definition of fiber, the FDA determined that there is adequate scientific evidence to support the notion that the following added fibers may have beneficial health effects for humans:

  • Cellulose (improves bowel function)
  • Guar gum, pectin, locust bean gum and hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (lower blood total and/or LDL cholesterol values)
  • Psyllium husk (aka inulin and was added to the definition of fiber because of its role in bowel health)

This refined definition also means that all of the other functional (added or “fake”) fibers you find added to processed foods will not be able to count as dietary fiber since there is no evidence supporting their beneficial effect on health.

And what about the change in daily value from 25 to 28 grams? Well, let’s keep this in perspective: most Americans eat only 12-15 grams per day, so most of us would still benefit from eating more fiber. Whether that’s 25 or 28 grams probably doesn’t matter: we need to eat more plants and less processed foods with food labels on them.

Manufacturers will have to roll out the new food label by July 26, 2018. For companies with less than $10 million in annual food sales will be given an additional year to comply.

As renowned nutrition expert Marion Nestle so eloquently put it in her Scientific American blog post today, “But let’s keep this in perspective. Healthful diets are based on foods, not food products. We would all be healthier eating foods that do not come with Nutrition Facts panels, and saving most of those that do for once-in-a-while occasions.”

 

 

Falling Back in Love with Fiber

27 Jan

Falling Back in Love with Fiber

In a New Year filled with weight-related resolutions, fiber is finally gaining some fans.

A story published this week in the Washington Post touted “Fiber: The least sexy weight-loss tool“.

Fiber might not be sexy – and even “gross and gassy” as the article’s authors proclaim -  but it’s a key component of a well-balanced diet.

Why All the Fuss About Fiber?

As a Registered Dietitian, I often hear clients complain about all of the foods they “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat. When asked why I focus on fiber, I always respond that in a world of “eat less” messages, fiber is the rare positive part of our diet since it’s the one thing we can all stand to eat MORE of.

In case you need a reminder to fall back in love with fiber, here’s a quick list of the benefits of maintaining a high fiber diet:

  • Fiber helps promote satiety – the feeling of fullness – and feeling full more frequently means less over-eating and better chances at reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Fiber helps lower heart disease risk – fiber works full time to clear bad cholesterol from your bloodstream and even tells your liver to make less internal cholesterol
  • Fiber helps regulate blood sugar – high fiber foods take longer to digest than their refined counterparts, working to stabilize blood sugar levels – an important consideration for people with diabetes
  • Fiber is linked to better bowel health – a high fiber diet is tied to lower rates of certain types of cancer, including colon cancer, not to mention less digestive disorders such as constipation and hemorrhoids.

Finding Your Fiber Sweet Spot

If you are looking for a legitimate way to improve your diet, aim to get 30 grams of fiber per day. Keeping in mind that the average American eats only 12-15 grams per day, as a nation we have some serious fiber homework to do.

The best way to get your 30 grams per day? Aim for 5-6 grams of fiber each time you eat. If you can put down 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day, 5-6 grams per eating incident will get you to 30 in no time.

And which types of foods are the most fiber friendly? Well, considering that the only foods that naturally contain fiber are plant foods, try to eat more plant and less animal foods, focusing on:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Putting more plants and 30 grams of fiber per day in your system is a great way to get your health up to speed here in 2016.

 

Greger’s 5:1 Fiber Ratio Rule

18 Dec

Greger’s 5:1 Fiber Ratio Rule

A colleague recently turned me on to the daily videos published by Michael Greger, MD of nutritionfacts.org.

Dr. Greger’s entertaining video snippets do an outstanding job of summarizing the vast amount of published nutrition research, delving into what the studies really say (and don’t say) – and saving you a boatload of time by not having to navigate the peer-reviewed published articles in journals yourself.

I was intrigued by a video this week called “The Five to One Fiber Rule” – which basically advocates for every 5 grams of carbohydrate aim to get at least 1 gram of dietary fiber.

 

 

Example of a food that meets the 5:1 fiber rule – Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Bread - it has 15g carbohydrate and 3g dietary fiber for a perfect 5:1 ratio:

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Now, to be fair, Greger certainly isn’t the first one to advocate a carb:fiber ratio (see previous post on Harvard’s 10:1 ratio); but as a hard-line plant-based diet guru, he gets strict on the quality of your carbs.

This 5:1 ratio rule helps eliminate junky carb foods that start with the first ingredient including the word “whole” and then contain, as Dr. Greger puts it, “corn syrup and a chemistry set”.

Greger is one of those rare doctors who definitely gets it when it comes to fiber, highlighting a number of research studies extolling the benefits of more dietary fiber. These benefits include:

And just how can the medical community help lower chronic disease risk with diet? Another study highlighted in Gerger’s video implores clinicians to, “Enthusiastically and skillfully recommend that patients consume more dietary fibre.”

You do that by eating more whole plant foods:

  • Getting soluble fiber from oats, nuts, seeds, legumes and most fruits
  • Getting insoluble fiber from whole wheat, wheat bran, brown rice, other whole grains and most vegetables

If you’re interested in more of Dr. Gerger’s refreshing takes on whole foods and nutrition research, check out his information-rich site at nutritionfacts.org or his new book “How Not to Die” (…review coming to the fiber blog soon!)

 

Beans & Beef Tie in Satiety Showdown

21 Sep

Beans & Beef Tie in Satiety Showdown

Satiety is a big buzzword when it comes to selling foods these days.

Satiety – which refers to the feeling of fullness – is the opposite of hunger; and don’t we all want to feel un-hungry?

In nutrition science, it is generally well established that protein, fat and fiber all contribute to satiety. Although proving as much has been difficult.

A recent study just published in the Journal of Food Science found that beans may be as satiating as beef – but consumers don’t expect it to be.

In this study, researchers from the University of Minnesota served subjects 1 of 2 different types of loafs:

  • A meatloaf containing 26 g protein and 3 g fiber
  • A bean loaf containing 7 g protein and 12 g fiber

Turns out, whether subjects were served the bean or the meatloaf had no impact on the amount of food and snacks ate later in the day – indicating similar satiety levels.

Now, when researchers ASKED the subjects about feeling full, when they knew they were getting the bean loaf, they reported feeling less full vs. the meatloaf. This indicated that the subjects were not expecting to feel as full from eating beans vs. fiber.

The authors suggest that this discrepancy in actual vs. perceived satiety can be described as “food neophobia” – and like most things in the satiety stratosphere, probably needs to be studied more.

Although this particular study is small, it contributes to a growing pool of evidence supporting the move towards a more plant-based diet and away from animals. Plant-based protein appears good for the planet, and perhaps for your appetite as well.

Cereal Fiber Beats Back Diabetes Risk

2 Jun

Cereal Fiber Beats Back Diabetes Risk

If you need yet another reason to get your fiber on – a new study shows cereal fiber can help keep diabetes at bay.

A study published last week in the journal Diabetologia showed that not only does dietary fiber help fight type 2 diabetes risk, but it also helps lower Body  Mass Index (BMI) and keeps weight down.

The study was a meta-analysis which looked at data from over 350,000 subjects from 18 countries followed for over 10 years. Results showed that participants who ate 26 grams of fiber per day were 18 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who ate 19 or less grams of fiber per day.

To put that in perspective, the typical American only eats 16 grams of fiber per day, so 26 grams is a pretty fierce fiber bump.

In this particular study, cereal fiber was shown to be particularly effective, more so than fruit or vegetable fiber.

One of the best ways to get cereal fiber is to consume whole grains.

And while you’re at it, focus on your ABC’s: amaranth, buckwheat or barley, and corn – some great whole grain options that can easily work their way into your morning meal.

For more tips on getting your whole grains, check out these recipes from the Whole Grain Council.