April 17, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

The release of a Small Bites issue is often followed by reader questions sent in via e-mail.

Since I decided to keep each edition solely focused on the article at hand, I now have several never-before-published (tantalizing!) reader questions.

The following (along with my answers, of course) are all in reference to the premiere issue on fiber.

You mention whole grain breads being good sources of fiber. What about multi-grain breads?

Multi-grain breads sure have good PR! Their healthy-sounding name makes them seem like nutrition superstars, but in reality, they leave a lot to be desired. All multi-grain really means is that a bread is made up of several different grains (i.e.: wheat, barley and oats).

Unfortunately, the vast majority are but a mere combination of heavily refined (and therefore, fiber-free) grains. Just because a loaf of bread is sprinkled with sunflower seeds and soy dust does not make it a healthy choice.

If you are looking to get fiber from commercial breads, go for ones whose first ingredient is "100% whole (insert grain here) flour".

Finding whole grain breads at restaurants is difficult, unless you are going to establishments that are centered around healthy eating. Otherwise, prepare for waiters who think that "wheat" and "whole wheat" bread are the same thing (they aren't; wheat bread is white bread with food coloring, whereas whole wheat bread is the fiber all-star).

I didn't know fruits contained a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber. Do some fruits have more of one type than another?

Not really. Most fruits' fiber breakdown ends up as half insoluble and half soluble. However, most insoluble fiber is found on skins, whereas soluble fiber is in the actual fruit.

This is why I highly recommend thoroughly washing fruits with edible skins and taking a bite. Don't commit a nutrition crime; put the knife down and let the apple keep its skin!

If the goal is to get more fiber, why not just take a few Metamucil pills each day?

Do you also ask your dentist, "if the goal is to have a brighter smile, why not just whiten my teeth once a month instead of brushing them every day?"

Not only do Metamucil pills turn fiber into a "foreign thing I force down with water", they also lack the benefits of fiber-rich foods -- nutrients! Foods high in fiber offer plenty of vitamins and minerals, which you absolutely can not get from a fiber supplement.

Besides, why gobble down a capsule when you can get your fiber in the taste of chickpeas, raspberries, or oatmeal?

The other day at the supermarket I saw Teddy Grahams made with whole grains. The box even mentioned "5 grams of fiber per serving". Does that mean Teddy Grahams have more fiber than an apple?

Those food companies sure are smart. The more they confuse you, the better off they are.

What you saw was indeed Teddy Grahams made with whole grains. Can you catch the misleading statement?

Some people may read that and think, "a healthy cookie," when it could simply mean that whole grain flour makes up one percent of each cookie (literally making the product one "made WITH whole grains" as opposed to "a whole-grain product").

As for the "5 grams of fiber per serving", what you actually read was "5 grams of whole grains per serving".

One gram of whole grains is NOT equal to one gram of fiber. We should ideally be getting at least 48 grams of whole grains a day, but nobody thinks on these terms because food labels don't provide this information.

This is just Nabisco attemping to confuse consumers while making a nutritionally empty product seem like a healthy choice.

The only factor you need to be thinking about is grams of fiber (you ideally want anywhere between 35 and 50 grams a day).

And, trust me, if you're looking to get your fiber fix from a box of Teddy Grahams, you're in deeper trouble than you think.

1 comment:

antoinette said...

Fiber rocks my world!!! So does Small Bites. Thanks Andy for giving us the facts in an easy to digest fashion... tee hee...