Blog Directory - Blogged foodliterate: September 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Awww Nuts

My how times change. Once upon a time, we used to greedily eat handfuls of nuts without so much as a thought. Then it happened - someone in the media decided that fat was bad and went on and on about how much fat our yummy nuts contained. So we stopped eating them. Thank goodness that we are headed for a turn-around, or at least I hope we are. Nuts, and their fats, are full of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, the benefits of which I've discussed in earlier posts. In addition, different nuts contain wonderful compounds like omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, proanthocyanins (antioxidants), fiber and protein. Nuts offer a great, high-nutrient dense snack! Since nuts come in a varietyof forms: whole, sliced, chopped, candied, flour and butters, they can be used in a wide variety of applications both industrially and at home.

Nut oils are also gaining some popularity, although outside of peanut (which is a legume not a nut), most are used as flavoring in dressings and sauces rather than as cooking oils. The smoke points of many of the nut oils does allow for sauteing and use in baked goods as well. Here are some of the more common nut oil smoke points:

  • Walnut Oil = 400*F
  • Almond Oil = 420*F
  • Hazelnut Oil = 430*F
  • Peanut Oil (refined) = 450*F
  • Pecan Oil = 470*F

Nuts are also being studied in regards to their ability to regulate weight and manage insulin responses (a study can be found here) Research has shown that consumption of 48g (2 oz) of walnuts added to a diet for 6 weeks did not increase body weight, even though the caloric intake increased. Nuts are also being labeled as heart healthy due to their "good" fatty acid profile and their ties to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

So if you are looking for a great tasting, highly nutritious, perfectly portable and very handy addition to your daily food intake, look no further than the wonderful world of nuts.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fiber Full

You probably know that the consumption of carbohydrates, especially fiber, helps protect against obesity (well maybe everyone but the Atkins followers), but do you know what fiber does for you?

Fiber can be a tricky word; there is a lot of marketing built around it and a few terms that can be confusing. When you see "dietary fiber" they are usually referring to non-digestible carbohydrates and lignin (found in plants). "Functional fiber" usually refers to isolated, non-digestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects (like pre-biotics). And "total fiber" is most often referring to the combination of dietary and functional fibers.

The research has shown that you don't need a lot of fiber to have a really big impact, but the American diet is woefully poor in fiber. Most of the country falls well short of the daily recommended intake of 14 grams per 1000 calories consumed (28g for a 2000 calorie diet, 30g for a 2500 calorie diet). That is about one ounce of fiber per day and we as a nation aren't even close to consuming that amount!

So, what is the big deal about one ounce of fiber a day? Epidemiologic studies show that an increased intake of carbohydrates is linked to lower body weight (the abstract can be found here). But that doesn't mean just any ol' carbs, these effects are seen with fruits and vegetables and whole grains - the high fiber carbs. This study showed that normal weight adults consumed more fiber than their age/height matched obese counterparts, showing that there is a definite relationship between fiber consumption and body weight.

So what mechanism is at work? Well, a few different things are occurring. Fiber is often, but not always chewy, and this promotes secretion of saliva and gastric juices which expand the stomach and make you feel fuller. Fiber also slows down how fast your stomach empties and the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. And lastly, fiber takes the place of other calories in the diet. These all add up to this: if you are full longer, you'll eat less and less often. In fact a study was conducted that showed eating just 14 grams of fiber per day resulted in a 10% decrease in caloric intake for a loss of 4 pounds in just under 4 months (that is without any other changes in diet).

Obviously fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the best options to increase your fiber intake, but you may see newly available soluble fibers like resistant starches, oligofructose and polydextrose. While these are all really good fiber sources, and perform many of the pre-biotic and heart disease prevention functions as the non-soluble fibers, they are not as good as providing satiety as the non-soluble fibers.

So I hope you are now convinced to increase your daily fiber intake. It is healthier, you'll feel fuller, and you will have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight.