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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!)

 

Frankenfiber: Coming Your Way

15 Apr

Frankenfiber: Coming Your Way

The hot topic is getting hotter. Genetically engineered foods have been in the US food supply since 1996, but public interest seems to finally be reaching fever pitch.

Although some surveys suggest that more than 90 percent of American support labeling of GE ingredients, public interest still belies what is already happening – or has happened – in our food supply.

Despite 70 bills introduced in more than 30 states to require GE labeling or prohibiting genetically engineered foods, only 3 states have enacted legislation to do so (Maine, Connecticut, and Vermont).

While a vocal core of activists remain skeptical about the safety of GE foods for both our bodies and the environment, many run-of-the-mill Americans may be surprised to learn just how prolific these foods already are. According to the USDA, today, in the US:

  • 89% of corn is genetically engineered
  • 94% of soybean is genetically engineered
  • 91% of cotton is genetically engineered

If you don’t eat corn, soybean, or cotton, does it matter? It does matter, because you are most certainly eating those foods!

The pro-GE labeling group Just Label It maintains that 9 GE crops can be found in more than 80% of processed food in the US: corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, yellow squash, zucchini, Hawaiian papaya, and cotton.

GMO

I’m still not sold on how much GE zucchini, yellow squash or papaya is really showing up in processed food – but I was surprised to hear the FDA give the GE green light to 2 pretty popular foods last month: Arctic Apples and Innate Potatoes.

Arctic Apples” are the trade name given to the company Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties of apples. These arctic apples are genetically engineered to resist browning that occurs when the flesh is exposed to oxygen (also called oxidation).

Innate Potatoes” are the trade name given to the company Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank, and Atlantic potatoes that are genetically engineered to lessen black spot bruising by lowering levels of those enzymes in the potatoes.

The Innate Potatoes also produce less acrylamide, a cancer-causing agent that forms when foods are cooked at very high temperatures, as in frying (which is the primary way that Americans eat potatoes: as French fries and potato chips!)

While advances in biotechnology can certainly be exciting, in the case of brown and bruised-looking apples and potatoes, I’m doing perfectly fine with the old-fashioned home remedy: vitamin C or water.

Rubbing a little citrus juice on your cut apples (and pears) prevents browning, and with a lot less fanfare than genetically engineering the fruit. The vitamin C in citrus exhibits its antioxidant properties and stops oxidation, or browning.

For potatoes, covering cut potatoes in water does the trick by blocking exposure to oxygen and preventing oxidation.

If you are unswayed by the safety claims about GE foods, the only way to ensure you are eating completely GE-free is to go organic. 100% organic – all the time.

Or you could move to Europe – where if a food contains a GE ingredient, it must be labeled as such.

 

Restaurant Calorie Counts: Right to Know?

10 Dec

Restaurant Calorie Counts: Right to Know?

The FDA recently finalized their rule stating that calories will have to be posted “clearly and conspicuously” at:

  • Restaurants with 20 or more outlets
  • Vending machines with 20 or more machines
  • Retail outlets such as movie theaters with 20 or more theaters

While calories need to be posted up front on menu boards at fast food establishments and in menus at casual fast and sit down restaurants, additional information such as total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars and proteins have to be available (provided upon consumer request, usually done online or pamphlet).

Why Disclose Calories at Restaurants?

  • Studies show eating out more frequently is associated with obesity, higher body fatness, or higher BMI. (Example: women who eat out more often (5+ times/week) eat 290 more calories on average each day than those who eat out less often.
  • Americans eat and drink 1/3 of their calories away from home
  • More than 2/3 of Americans favor posting calories throughout ready prepared food outlets including movie theaters, vending machines, supermarkets

Does Calorie Shaming Work?

  • NYC study: 1 in 6 customers used the calorie information and purchased 106 fewer calories than customers who did not see or use the calorie information at chain restaurants
  • Subway chains in NYC: 1 out of 3 customers (37%) reported that nutrition information affected their purchases; they purchased 100 fewer calories per meal than those who saw the information and reported it had not effect
  • Parents of kids age 3-6 who were presented a McDonald’s menu with calorie labeling ordered an average of 100 fewer calories for their children than those who did not receive calorie info

What Will Be the Impact?

  • CSPI estimates that similar changes at chain restaurants could result in 30 calorie per person per day decrease in intake
  • Product reformulation resulting from calorie posting rules has already and will continue to result in further reduction in calories (Example: California Pizza Kitchen’s “Small Cravings” menu, Cheesecake Factory’s “SkinnyLicious” line, Denny’s “Fit Fare”)
  • Obesity epidemic can be explained by 100 calorie per day imbalance – so baby steps are important!

By the Numbers: Why Does This Matter?

  • Medium movie theater popcorn without butter topping: 1,200 calories (same as 4 McDonald’s Cheeseburgers or 5 slices Papa John’s pepperoni pizza)
  • Cheesecake Factory: Bruleed French Toast 2,780 calories (would have to swim laps for 7 hours to burn off) – meal also has 5 days saturated fat and 24 teaspoons sugar; Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic: 2,410 calories (five hour job to burn off)
  • Outback Steakhouse: Bloomin’ Onion 1,959 (in total onion, 6 servings)
  • Claim Jumper Chicken Pot Pie: 2,078 calories and Chocolate Motherlode Cake: 2,768 calories per slice

For more information on the new FDA rule, check out my segment on KPBS San Diego on the topic here.

News Flash: Natural Means Nothing

27 Jun

News Flash: Natural Means Nothing

An interesting survey from Consumer Reports recently caught my eye. It focused on a topic that Americans know little about – the fact that the word “natural” on our food labels means absolutely nothing.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed 1,000 Americans, finding that over 60% of them look for the term “natural” on foods because they think this means a food is better or healthier if it is plastered with a natural label.

Additionally:

  • 2/3 of those questioned thought natural would mean a processed food would have no artificial ingredients, pesticides, or genetically modified (GM) ingredients (it doesn’t)
  • 80% of respondents thought that natural should mean those things (but they don’t)

Despite widespread consumer interest in and skyrocketing expenditures devoted towards healthy eating, the FDA has not established a legally definable term for the word “natural”.

As a result, manufacturers use “natural” labels liberally on packaged and processed foods, which, if you think about it, are the very foods that are probably the least likely to emulate anything actually natural.

Consumer Reports is teaming up with TakePart and launching a campaign to ban the word “natural”. If you believe food manufacturers should not be allowed to mislead consumers with this blanket term, click here to sign their petition, which is part of the “Know Your Labels, Know Your Food” campaign.

 

Pelletized Fiber: Coming to Your Cereal Soon

26 Sep

Pelletized Fiber: Coming to Your Cereal Soon

General Mills announced recently that it has filed a patent on a technique to pelletize fiber and calcium for use in ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals.

The process will use a gelatinized starch to coalesce calcium and fiber for the purpose of supplementing processed cereals. Mmmm…

Is this a big deal? Well…General Mills thinks so. The company is notorious for boasting “with whole grain first ingredient” on its high sugar cereals.

One of the best examples is Cinnamon Toast Crunch – a clearly less-than healthy breakfast option with whole grain monikers splattered across its front-of-packaging propaganda:

 

 

The problem is, with so much sugar (…CTC’s more bashful 2nd ingredient…) you end up with a super small serving size and less dietary fiber per serving than you’d get with other truly whole grain cereal options.

What’s more, the “value added” benefit of a souped-up fiber and calcium supplement means that GM can sell their processed and packaged concoctions to you at more of a markup. After all, you’re getting more fiber and calcium along with your sugar and salt – but you bet you’re also going to pay more for it!

If you’re looking for a better breakfast cereal bet – it’s always best to make your own:

  • Start with 1/2 cup dry oats (quick-cooking, old-fashioned, or steel-cut will do)
  • Cook oats with 1 cup of milk (or calcium-fortified milk alternative if you don’t do dairy)
  • Now add 1 cup of berries (fresh or frozen, with no added sugar)

Voilà!

You just got 8 grams of fiber plus 33% of your day’s calcium. And all without having to eat any pellets.