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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.”

 

 

If Diets Don’t Work…What Does?

10 May

If Diets Don’t Work…What Does?

This weekend the New York Times attacked the topic of “Why You Can’t Lose Weight on a Diet”. The article, written by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt led with, “The problem isn’t willpower. It’s neuroscience. You can’t – and shouldn’t – fight back.”

Dr. Aamodt is the author of the forthcoming book “Why Diets Make us Fat” and is herself a proponent of abandoning diets in favor of behaviors that will improve our health and extend our lives.

I had the good fortune to be featured along with with Sandra Aamodt on today’s KQED Forum radio program in San Francisco with host Michael Krasny. The purpose of the episode was to analyze research showing that diets do not result in long-term weight loss and how they might even lead to weight gain.

The precipitating publication that spawned interest in this topic was a recent article in the journal Obesity that followed “The Biggest Loser” competitors 6 years after their appearance on the show. As you can probably guess, 6 years out weight loss was not a foregone conclusion for the Biggest Losers.

Since the show’s finale, the 14 Biggest Loser participants analyzed in the study had regained 70 percent of the weight they initially lost. And perhaps even more interesting, these losers were burning approximately 500 less calories per day than other people their age and size.

The neuroscience tie-in that Sandra Aamodt is looking at questions what we know as the set point. The set point is that target weight your body is going to fight to keep you at, no matter how hard you try to get below it. And dieting that pushes your weight below your body’s set point results in you burning fewer calories and ultimately messing with your body’s metabolic rate.

One challenge lies in quantifying your “set point” or your body’s “metabolic rate”. These aren’t numbers on a scale or values in your blood that can be easily measured. Sandra and her team are instead analyzing the powerful interplay between cyclical feasting and fasting, one’s genetic makeup and ultimately their weight outcomes.

Her findings may surprise fad diet adherents: diets that require you to cut calories below your baseline needs have the opposite of their intended effect – they result in lower metabolic rates which ultimately impede weight loss and may even contribute to net weight gain.

So what’s a dieter to do? Here are a few takeaway messages from today’s show:

  • Embrace intuitive eating – learn to listen to your true hunger and satiety cues when making food choices
  • Don’t just blame your genes – genetics may play a role in obesity, but so does environment and lifestyle factors
  • Get moving – regular physical activity not only increases your energy output but it also can boost your resting metabolism, meaning you burn more calories at rest if you exercise than if you don’t
  • Learn from other losers – check out the National Weight Control Registry, a cohort of “Successful Losers” – those who have lost 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year. See what they have in common and learn from their experiences.
  • Ditch the diets – no published data has ever found a particular diet or eating pattern to be the one that promotes sustainable weight loss; the diet industry is a $20 billion+ megalith that will do everything to convince you of the opposite!

So time to throw out your diet books and get back in tune with your body. Cutting calories too low doesn’t lead to sustainable weight loss and actually lowers your metabolic rate.

For more info on the tie in between our brain and our bodies, check out Sandra’s TEDTalk on Why Diets Don’t Work and listen to today’s Forum program from KQED here.

Lean Green Food Finds

17 Mar

Lean Green Food Finds

Disclaimer: I have a financial relationship with and was paid to represent the products in this blog post and associated TV segment.

With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, you may have Irish-inspired menu ideas on the brain. But when it comes to green food fare, your food choices can also be good for the planet. Here are my top picks for some lean, green food finds:

KIND: Simplified, Sustainable Ingredients

KIND

  • Looking to simplify your life? Why not start with your ingredient list! The shorter an ingredient list is, generally the more clean and wholesome the food will be.
  • KIND bars are packed with simple wholesome ingredients you can see and pronounce – not to mention they do not contain genetically engineered ingredients.
  • KIND Nuts & Spices have 5 grams of sugar or less per bar with no artificial ingredients or sugar alcohols, so they’re a bar you can feel good about eating.
  • To learn more check out www.kindsnacks.com

Pistachios: Eating Local…and Loaded with Lutein!

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  • Pistachios are an excellent option when it comes to nutrition and health; pistachios are among the lowest fat and lowest calorie snack nut out there. They’re packed with protein and fiber which help you stay full for longer.
  • Did you know the hint of green in pistachios comes from antioxidants like lutein?
  • If you’re trying to make an environmental impact by eating locally, pistachios are a great option. Over 99% of all pistachios grown in the US are from California
  • Wonderful pistachios come in a variety of delicious flavors like salt and pepper and sweet chili and a serving size of 49 pistachios has just 160 calories (1/2 cup in shell or ¼ cup out of shell)
  • For more information check out www.getcrackin.com

good2grow: BPA-Free for Me!

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  • Good2Grow Fruit & Veggie Blends & Juicy Waters are a great way to quench your kids’ thirst without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
  • All of the good2grow products are non-GMO, the bottles are recyclable and the tops are BPA-free.
  • The good2grow character sippa-top containers are reusable, which cuts down on waste seen with other disposable water and juice bottles.
  • For more information check out www.good2grow.com

Lowering Your Food-Based Carbon Footprint

  • Climate friendly foods favor plants over animals; if all Americans eliminated just ¼ pound serving of beef per week, reduction in global warming gas emissions would be equivalent to taking 4-6 million cars off the road
  • When selecting seafood, choose locally caught, sustainably managed fish or herbivorous farmed stocks like tilapia, catfish and carp. Check out www.seafoodwatch.org for sustainable seafood selections
  • Buying organic is another great way to positively impact your environment; organic production means the food is free from pesticides, herbicides, drugs, fertilizers and genetic modification

For these and other lean, green food finds, check out my segment on San Diego Living at: http://www.cw6sandiego.com/lean-green-and-eco-eats/

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!)

 

Juiceology: Not Doing Much for the Fiber Gap

1 Dec

Juiceology: Not Doing Much for the Fiber Gap

As any fiber fan knows, eating your fruit is far superior to drinking it.

The problem with juices are that they extract and discard the most important parts of the fruit: the pulp and peel – which is exactly where the fiber is found.

In an article posted today at Food Navigator, the CEO and founder of Juiceology Gelipe d’Avila explains his angle in trying to fill the “white space” in the juice category…fiber:

“The challenge is that many consumers know they should get more [fiber], but they see fiber as a boring thing, so we have to market the benefits without lecturing people about it. We have to make it fun.”

Fiber…boring?! I beg to differ!

If you want fun and fiber together, why don’t you just eat fruit?

A 15.2 oz bottle of Juiceology has 200 calories and provides 32% daily value for fiber (8g). The only problem is, that’s not naturally occurring fiber. According to d’Avila, the fiber comes from oats and barley and chicory root.

But guess what, oats and barley and chicory root are not naturally found in fruit. And there is no evidence to suggest that these fake functional fibers – when added to low-fiber foods like juice – convey the same health benefits as foods that naturally have fiber in them.

According to Food Navigator, you have to shell out between $2.99-$3.49 for a 200 calorie bottle of juice. Why not just eat 2 pieces of real fruit for a fraction of the cost? You would save about 100 calories and get those 8 grams of fiber from a naturally occurring source.

And don’t look to the Juiceology website for any real nutrition nuts either. It’s packed with broken links, misleading copy and typos, like “The Original Fiber Boost” and “Non GMO daily Welness”

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Bottom line: if you want the benefits of fruit, save yourself some cash and eat real fruit!