What will happen when fiber is no longer fiber

 I understand that the recommendation for fiber intake is going up. When will we see that reflected on Nutrition Facts labels?

The new labels should be on foods by July 2018. And you’re right, the Daily Value — the number on Nutrition Facts labels that indicates the recommended intake for nutrients — is increasing from 25 grams of fiber a day to 28. As with any Daily Value number, this is the recommended level for someone eating a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. The higher number is based on findings of the Institute of Medicine, which recommends that people consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. Unfortunately, most people don’t get nearly that amount.

Along with Daily Value update, the Food and Drug Administration also actually provided a definition of what counts as fiber for Nutrition Facts labels. And unless the rules are updated before taking effect, some fiber that’s included in many processed foods today won’t meet the new standard.

There are many different types of fiber, and they don’t all act in the body the same way. So, in the new definition, the FDA requires that any fiber included on the Nutrition Facts listing have an established “beneficial physiological effect” — that is, it has to be considered beneficial to human health. Such benefits include reduced blood glucose, cholesterol or blood pressure; increased satiety, which would help people reduce calorie intake; improved laxation or bowel function; and increased absorption of minerals, such as calcium.

The FDA will allow any fiber that’s intrinsic and intact in the food itself — the fiber naturally found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, for example — to be included in the grams listed under “fiber” on the new labels. But it won’t include everything.

Today, food manufacturers often extract and isolate fiber from foods to add to high-fiber breakfast bars, protein shakes, cereals, breads, yogurts, granolas and even calorie-free sweeteners. They can also chemically synthesize some types of fiber.

These “isolated or synthetic” types of fiber not only provide additional fiber to the processed food, but also often help provide the flavor and texture that the food manufacturer is looking for in the finished product. However, not all types of this kind of fiber have been shown to have the human health benefits the FDA is looking for.

So far, the FDA lists 25 fibers in this category as making the grade, allowing them to be counted as fiber. They include psyllium husk, guar gum, pectin and cellulose. But in its review of the scientific literature, the FDA could not find health benefits of other types of fiber often used in processed foods, including inulin, bamboo fiber, soy fiber, pea fiber and wheat fiber. As it stands now, those ingredients, like all fiber, would have to be included in the amount of carbohydrate in the food but would not be counted in the amount of fiber.

The agency could update the list of what’s allowed to be included in the fiber listing as scientific evidence develops. But as it stands today, many of the “high-fiber” foods you see on grocery store shelves may no longer meet that criteria under the new rules.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, field specialist for Ohio State University Extension in Food, Nutrition and Wellness.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.


Delving deep into homemade nut butter

I occasionally like to make my own nut butter by grinding nuts in a food processor and adding some coconut oil until it becomes creamy. But I’m worried that I’m losing some of the fiber in the nuts when I grind them. Also, does eating nuts burn more calories than eating nut butter?

As far as the fiber content goes, don’t worry, unless you blanch or otherwise remove the outer layer of the nuts before you process them. Some of the fiber in nuts comes from the skin, so be sure to include the outer layer (not the shell, of course, but the skin around the nut) when processing. It’s true that eating nut butter is a totally different, less crunchy experience than eating nuts, but you won’t lose any of the nut’s fiber by grinding it into a powder, paste or butter.

It’s good that you’re thinking about fiber. Most Americans don’t eat nearly enough: Women should get 21 to 25 grams a day, while men should get 30 to 38. While nuts and seeds can be a good source, keep in mind that fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are often even better sources.

However, a word to the wise about the coconut oil you’re using to make the nut butter smoother and more spreadable: You could be paying a high price for that convenience.

Even though the internet is plastered with pages touting the health benefits of coconut oil, actual researchers of fatty acids and body energy metabolism are far from convinced. Although the saturated fat in coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides that are thought to provide some health benefits, the detrimental palmitic acid in coconut oil far outweighs any potential dietary benefit in humans. Palmitic acid promotes the formation of belly fat and fat in the liver.

If you feel the need to add some type of oil to your nut butter, you’d be better off using another type of light-tasting or flavor-complementing oil with a higher level of healthier polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat, such as peanut, walnut, grapeseed, sesame, sunflower or safflower oil.

Finally, don’t be too concerned about the difference in calories that your body burns between eating whole nuts and eating nut butter. The difference would be minuscule. On average, only about 10 percent of the calories your body burns is due to digestion (including chewing) and absorption of nutrients, compared with 30 percent from physical activity (including any type of movement) and 60 percent from basal metabolism.

Interestingly, a small study in the New England Journal of Medicine — notably, in a letter to the editor, not a peer-reviewed journal article — back in 1999 calculated that the energy burned in an hour of chewing gum averaged 11 calories.

The researcher suggested that chewing calorie-free gum during waking hours all day every day could result in the loss of several pounds over a year, and its effects shouldn’t be discounted. But you wouldn’t be chewing nuts for that long. The difference in calories required for digesting nuts as opposed to nut butter is likely indistinguishable.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness with Ohio State University Extension, and Martha Belury, a scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and the Carol S. Kennedy Endowed Professor of Human Nutrition in The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Boost health with more fiber

148769364I’m trying to add more fiber in my diet, but I’m not sure how much I need or if it matters what type of fiber it is. Can you fill me in?

The amount of fiber you need varies a bit, depending on your age and gender.

The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists these goals for adults:

  • Ages 19 to 30: 28 grams per day for women; 34 grams for men.
  • Ages 31 to 50: 25 grams for women; 31 grams for men.
  • Ages 51 and older: 22 grams for women, 28 grams for men.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber. And that’s too bad, because research continues to show fiber’s benefits.

For example, a study published online in advance of the May 2013 issue of the journal Stroke indicates that for every 7-gram increase in daily fiber consumption, the risk of stroke decreases by 7 percent.

There are plenty of other health benefits of a high-fiber diet, too. Fiber can both prevent constipation and reduce the risk of loose, watery stools, normalizing bowel movements. Eating fiber, particularly soluble fiber, decreases low-density lipoprotein (the “bad”) cholesterol, and it also might help reduce blood pressure and inflammation. A high-fiber diet can help prevent diabetes, and, in people who already have diabetes, it can slow down the absorption of sugar, thus improving blood sugar levels. High-fiber diets are also linked to maintaining a healthy weight, likely because they tend to add volume but no calories to foods and help you feel full longer.

Experts recommend getting a good mix of soluble and insoluble fiber — both provide health benefits. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance, helping lower blood sugar and cholesterol, while insoluble fiber helps move food through your digestive system and bulks up and softens stools.

To increase the fiber in your diet, try eating more of both kinds of fiber:

  • Sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery and carrots.
  • Sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit and skins of root vegetables.

Boost nutrients, cut fat in recipes

159298758I’m looking for easy ways to make some of my recipes and meals healthier. Any ideas?

This is a great way to start the new year, and yes, there are plenty of ideas to increase nutrients and reduce fat and calories in the foods you prepare at home. Below are some favorites, primarily from Ohio State University Extension (see “Modifying a Recipe to be Healthier” at http://ohioline.osu.edu) and eXtension (see “Recipe Substitutions” at http://www.extension.org).

To reduce fat:

  • Use evaporated skim milk instead of cream.
  • Use 1/4 cup egg substitute or two egg whites in place of a whole egg.
  • In quick breads, muffins, brownies or cakes, substitute half or all of the oil, butter or other shortening with unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas or fruit puree. Note: Making this substitution will increase carbohydrates in the end product — something to be aware of if you have diabetes.
  • Use low-fat or nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream.
  • Use low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth or low-fat cream cheese in place of full-fat cream cheese.
  • Try lower-fat or nonfat versions of a variety of foods, especially milk, cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, salad dressing and margarine.
  • Use an air popper for popcorn.

To increase fiber:

  • Replace half the all-purpose flour in baked goods with whole-wheat flour.
  • Add oats or finely ground fiber-rich non-sweetened cereal to replace some or all of the bread crumbs in a recipe, or to the crust or batter when making desserts.
  • Add beans or barley to soups, stews and casseroles.
  • Add sauteed vegetables — cherry tomatoes, onions, spinach or zucchini, for example — to scrambled eggs.
  • Don’t peel apples, cucumbers, zucchini or potatoes before eating them or using them in recipes.
  • Choose high-fiber alternatives for cereal, bread and pasta — look at the Nutrition Facts labels.

To increase other nutrients:

  • Add cooked and mashed cauliflower to mashed potatoes, or add cooked chopped cauliflower to macaroni and cheese.
  • Add chopped spinach or zucchini to pasta sauce, soups and casseroles.
  • For salads, choose romaine, endive or other dark-green leafy lettuce instead of iceberg lettuce, and include baby spinach leaves.
  • Increase calcium by adding nonfat milk or dry milk to a casserole’s cream sauce or to cream soups.
  • Increase antioxidants by sprinkling hot sauce on foods. The capsaicin in it shows promise in anti-cancer studies, though it may take quite a bit to have a discernible effect.