Addressing the Fiber Gap

This post originally appeared in fiberfacts.org and can be read here.

Choose higher fiber versions of the foods you now eat to help close the fiber gap

More fiber rich foods can be added to your meals and snacks to help close the fiber gap.

WHY IS SO MUCH FIBER MISSING FROM U.S. DIETS?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), first published in 1980 and revised every five years since, have each contained recommendations that provide ample sources of dietary fiber to meet every American’s needs.   If all Americans ate the recommended daily servings of whole grains; beans, peas and lentils; nuts and seeds; vegetables; and fruits there would be no “fiber gap,” or shortfall between our consumption of fiber and our requirements.  But Americans are not eating the recommended servings each day, or most days, of the foods rich in this indigestible carbohydrate that provides numerous health benefits (1).

The reasons Americans don’t consume enough dietary fiber are as diverse as the population itself. For some, it is simply a matter of taste preferences. Many who are “finicky eaters” in childhood grow up to be adults who still won’t eat broccoli.  For others, the reason is time constraints. Their schedules are so full they don’t believe they have the extra 20 minutes it takes to cook brown rice instead of white or slice a tomato for their sandwich.  Other reasons include perceived higher cost of high fiber foods, limited cooking skills to prepare them, lack of awareness about their options, and concern over digestive issues to name a few.

Whatever the reason for not eating enough fiber, the first step to closing the gap requires a change in one’s dietary pattern.

THE CHALLENGE OF DIETARY PATTERNS
The 2015-2020 DGA acknowledge that no individual food or nutrient is more important to our health than our overall dietary pattern (2). That is because dietary patterns reflect the amounts, variety and combinations of the different foods and drinks we regularly consume. Dietary patterns can also provide insight into where and when we eat, with whom, and how our food was prepared. (3). They are the key to knowing what our usual caloric and nutrient intake is over time.

If adequate amounts of fiber-rich foods are not part of someone’s dietary pattern, their habitual way of eating will have to be modified to incorporate them. This requires changes in long-established eating behaviors.

USING NUDGES FOR BEHAVIOR CHANGE
There is no one best way to help individuals, let alone entire populations, change their dietary patterns, but one method that has broad appeal is the use of “nudging” (4).  Nudge theory was popularized in the 2008 book, Nudge, co-authored by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, and helped Richard Thaler win a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2017 (5).Simply stated, nudge theory encourages people to make decisions that are in their own best self-interest by making it easier for them to do so.

The current recommendations for fiber intake are 14 grams for every 1000 calories or a total of 25 – 38 grams a day for adults. These are difficult goals for most people to comprehend, let alone calculate. But if we nudge someone to eat just one more serving a day of a good source of fiber from choices that are already part of their dietary pattern, they have a goal that is both doable and sustainable.

ADDING ONE MORE SERVING                                                                                                                                For example, if someone eats lunch in their school or workplace cafeteria every Monday through Friday and makes a salad from the salad bar, we can encourage them to add one more serving of a fiber-rich food to their bowl. This could be 6 cherry tomatoes, ½ cup chickpeas or barley salad, or 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds or dried cranberries. They don’t have to know how many grams of fiber they added or go out of their way to find these options. They just have to add one more serving of a vegetable, bean, grain, seed or fruit that they like and is right in front of them.

The next nudge to add one more serving could be to put an extra can of kidney beans in their homemade chili or mix a cup of frozen lima beans into a can of minestrone soup or blend some chopped walnuts with the bread crumbs they’re using to coat chicken cutlets. Little by little these nudges can help people increase their fiber intake by using foods that fit within the framework of their existing dietary pattern.

There are endless ways to “nudge” more sources of fiber into a dietary pattern by using higher fiber options in place of, or in addition to, the foods already being eaten, including the use of foods containing added fiber. The chart below provides examples of some ways to get started.

WAYS TO INCREASE FIBER IN THE DIET*
By replacing a Current Choice with the New Choice illustrated below, fiber intake can be nudged higher with each selection.

GRAINS

Current Choice Portion Size Fiber (gm) New Choice Portion size Fiber     (gm)
Bagel, pumpernickel 3.5” diameter 3 Bagel, whole wheat 3.5” diameter 8
Bread, whole wheat 1 ounce slice 3 Bread, whole wheat with added fiber 1 ounce slice 7
Pasta, white 2 ounces dry 1 Pasta,  with added fiber 2 ounces dry 6
Corn Flakes 1 ounce 1 Bran Flakes 1 ounce 5
Tortilla, flour 1 ounce 0 Tortilla, whole wheat 1 ounce 2

VEGETABLES

Yam, cubed without skin ½ cup 2 Yam, cubed with skin ½ cup 4
Spinach ½ cup 2 Collard Greens ½ cup 4
Hearts of Palm, canned 3 pieces 2 Artichoke Hearts, canned 3 pieces 3
Tomato Juice 1 cup 1 Vegetable Juice 1 cup 2
Zucchini Squash 1 cup 2 Acorn Squash 1 cup 6
Lima Beans ½ cup 4 Edamame, shelled ½ cup 9

FRUITS

Strawberry Milkshake 8 ounces < 1 Strawberry Smoothie 8 ounces 3
Peach medium 2 Pear medium 5
Pineapple 1 cup 2 Kiwi 1 cup 5
Fruit Leather 1 ounce 0 Apricots, dried 1 ounce 2
Grapes 1 cup 1 Raspberries 1 cup 8
Jam, concord grape 1 tablespoon 0 Jam, concord grape with added fiber 1 tablespoon 3

BEANS, NUTS & SEEDS

Tofu, firm ½ cup 3 Split peas, cooked ½ cup 8
Peanuts 1 ounce 2 Almonds 1 ounce 4
Black-eyed peas ½  cup 5 Navy beans ½ cup 9
Sesame seeds 1 tablespoon 1 Chia Seeds, dried 1 tablespoon 4
Sunflower Seeds 1 ounce 3 Pumpkin Seeds 1 ounce 5
Butter, salted 2 tablespoons 0 Peanut Butter, creamy 2 tablespoons 2

* Values are averages for similar items and rounded to nearest whole number


TIPS FOR DIETITIANS AND OTHER HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS 

  • Discuss the changes in bowel frequency and possible flatulence up front to avoid unexpected problems that could derail someone’s commitment.
  • Show respect for individual food preferences by basing recommendations on what clients like rather than the foods highest in fiber, many of which they may not like.
  • Avoid leading with the message that it is “easy” or “simple” to change one’s dietary pattern when it isn’t, but it can be done when the change is not too disruptive to one’s established routines.
  • Always include lower cost options in messaging, such as using canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables, to reinforce the fact all forms contribute needed fiber and other nutrients.
  • Make it clear the fiber in foods is not destroyed by preparation methods, such as chopping and pureeing or by temperature changes, such as boiling and freezing.
  • Suggest foods containing added fiber(s), such as granola bars, yogurts, and pasta, to replace lower fiber choices they may now be consuming.
  • Remind them that the claim “Made with Whole Grains” does not mean the food is a significant source of fiber so they must use the fiber information on the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare these foods to other products.
  • Look for the claims “High in Fiber” or “Good Source of Fiber” on product labels to easily find higher fiber foods.
  • Recommend fiber from a variety of food sources that contain different types of fiber since they have different benefits.
  • Encourage the use of QR scans and websites to find fiber information for foods that don’t have labels, like fresh fruits and vegetables and bulk grains and seeds.

REFERENCES:

  1. Hoy MK, Goldman JD. Fiber intake of the U.S. population What We Eat in America, NHANES 2009-2010. Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 12. September 2014.
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015 https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
  3. Tucker KL. Dietary patterns, approaches, and multicultural perspective. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2010;35(2):211-218 doi: 10.1139/H10-010.
  4. Arno A, Thomas S. The efficacy of nudge theory strategies in influencing adult dietary behaviour: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2016;16:676. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3272-x.
  5. Thaler RH, Sunstein CS. Nudge. Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. 2009, Penguin Books, London.

 

Items of Interest

Blending More Fiber into Meals

This post originally appeared in fiberfacts.org and can be read here.

It's easy to blend more fiber into meals with these helpful tips

Blending more fiber into meals is easier than you think

We’ve all seen the child who refuses to take even one bite of the steamed carrots on his or her plate, yet gobbles up the macaroni and cheese right next to it made with mashed carrots in the sauce. For many parents, this may feel like a nutrition success story, but is it really?  When children will only eat vegetables if they are hidden in something they like, they are missing an important lesson about the foods that make up a balanced diet. That is why I’ve always recommended “blending” instead of hiding foods to help children recognize and appreciate the contributions made by every food group to their health.  This lesson applies to teens and adults, as well.

Blending more vegetables (or other nutrient-dense food) into a recipe isn’t just a good way to enhance the nutritional value of a meal, it’s also a great way to extend the yield or lower the cost without significantly changing the look, texture or taste of the dish. It is also a valuable way to reduce food waste, like blending the heels of white and whole wheat bread to make bread crumbs for a meatloaf.

Another big benefit of blending is the way it can help close the gap in our intake of dietary fiber since many higher fiber foods blend well with the foods people regularly eat, such as smoothies, hamburgers and brownies. And since eating habits are so hard to change, blending a new food into an existing dietary pattern is a practical way to get more fiber into meals and snacks without having to give up the foods you already enjoy.

REVISE THE RATIO
A simple way to use blending to add more fiber to your diet is to increase the amount of one or more of the high fiber ingredients called for in a recipe while using a little less of something else that is lower in fiber. For example, you can “revise the ratio” by adding:

  • 1 ½ cups of raspberries to a smoothie and just ½ cup of melon cubes instead of one cup of each,
  • Swap another cup of beans in the chili to replace a cup of ground meat
  • Extra chia seeds on your yogurt and less granola
  • Add more cucumber and tomato slices into your salad and less lettuce

BLEND TO EXTEND
Blending is a great way to stretch or extend a recipe so you get a few more servings while increasing the fiber content. One way is to add a 15 ounce can of rinsed navy beans to a 28 ounce can of baked beans. There’s enough sauce in the baked beans to flavor the additional beans, but you’ll end up with ten half-cup servings instead of six, and each will all have more fiber and less sodium and added sugars than the original can of baked beans. Similarly, a cup of canned mixed vegetables can be blended into a can of vegetable soup to extend the servings from two to four while increasing the fiber content in them all.  And any recipe that starts with simmering diced vegetables, such as onions, carrots, and celery will taste even better and be higher in fiber if you extend the amounts of the vegetables called for. You can even add a cup or two of complementary frozen vegetables to a stew or soup simmering in a slow cooker during the last hour to extend the fresh ones added in the beginning.

BLEND TO ENHANCE
Ground meat, poultry or fish mixtures used to make things like meatballs, croquettes and fish cakes are an ideal place to blend in high fiber whole grain crumbs to “enhance” the fiber content. Crushed whole grain cereal or cracker crumbs can also be used or oatmeal. Stuffing mixtures made with white rice to fill peppers, acorn squash, and other hollowed vegetables can be blended with whole grains, such as brown rice, bulgur or barley to easily enhance the fiber content. And when making quick breads and muffins, part or all of the all-purpose flour called for can be blended with whole wheat or white whole wheat flour to boost the fiber content.

BLEND TO SWEETEN
Sweet potatoes are true to their name and the purple ones are even sweeter than the orange. When peeled, cooked and mashed they can be used to make much more than pie. Look for recipes that blend sweet potatoes into the batter for brownies, donuts, cookies and other sweet treats to replace some or all of the sugar and flour while increasing the fiber.  Sweetness and fiber are also available by blending pureed dates into recipes for granola bars, pudding, fudge and more. Don’t overlook the many ways to sweeten a smoothie without sugar and increase the fiber by using naturally sweet and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like carrots, apples and mangoes.

BLEND TO BULK UP
Beans, peas and lentils are true superfoods due to the many vitamins and minerals they contain, the plant-based protein they provide and the great source of fiber they add to any diet. Even more important to their superfood status, they are inexpensive and available everywhere all year long. To bulk up the nutrition and fiber profile of any meal, all you have to do is blend in some beans. Try using pureed beans or lentils to thicken a soup or make a sauce. You can bulk up your Bolognese with kidney beans or your guacamole with green peas. Pureed beans can also be added to cake batter for a more moist and dense dessert. Popular recipes include black beans in brownies, cannellini beans in coconut cake and baked beans in spice cake. The options are endless!

In every example I’ve provided, and those you come up with on your ownit is important to remember that the goal is to celebrate the benefits of blending more high fiber foods into your meals, not to hide or disguise them.

RESOURCES

Get More Fiber in Your Diet

High Fiber Chef: Cooking Tips to Prepare High Fiber Foods Like a Pro

Finding Fiber in the Grocery Store

 

Finding Fiber in the Grocery Store

This post originally appeared on fiberfacts.org and can be read here.

Food shopping today is very different from just 50 years ago when shoppers pushed a cart up and down the six to eight parallel aisles of a grocery store that only sold food.  Supermarkets now cover over 45,000 square feet and offer everything from the food we eat to the fuel we put in our cars to get it home. And if that’s too much trouble, consumers can simply place an order online and have their groceries delivered to their front door.

The food choices available today have changed, too. Shoppers can now buy every ingredient they need to prepare exciting new recipes or purchase meals kits that contain all of the pre-cut ingredients they need to make dinner for two in 20 minutes, or select a different complete meal for every member of the family from the prepared food department.

All of these changes in the food shopping experience mean the messages wellness professionals share with consumers about how to make the best food choices when shopping must change, too. This is especially true when guiding the public to all of the fiber-rich foods in the grocery store since so many Americans do not meet the recommended daily intake for dietary fiber.

One of the best ways to help consumers find fiber rich foods is to remind them they can be found throughout the store, not just in the fresh produce section or the cereal aisle. Encourage them to seek higher fiber options for the foods they already buy by comparing the fiber content on the Nutrition Facts labels and to take advantage of the many products that are a good, or better, source of fiber because they contain added fibers. Filling their carts (or online orders) with more fiber is easier when consumers realize the entire store offers them choices that they may not have taken advantage of before.

Suggestions for Finding Fiber in the Grocery Store

Serve Yourself Food Bars

  • Salad Bars with assorted leafy greens and pre-cut vegetables and fruits can be used to make customized salads or get the vegetables needed for a recipe
  • In-store buffets offer ready-to-eat vegetable, grain, and bean side dishes, and many high fiber plant-based ethnic entrees
  • ‘Mediterranean’ bars feature different types of hummus, roasted vegetables, tabbouleh, and stuffed grape leaves
  • Soup bars contain assorted varieties with vegetables, beans, peas, lentils and grains and chili with beans

Prepared Foods Department

  • Family-sized heat-and-serve side dishes with different types of prepared vegetables, potatoes, and grain mixtures can complement any entrée

Produce Department

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole and sectioned, including international varieties and seasonal selections
  • Peeled, diced, sliced, shredded, riced and spiralized fruits and vegetables that are recipe-ready
  • Bulk and bagged onions, potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes available all year round
  • Ready-to-serve Vegetable platters and fruit trays for entertaining

International Food Section

  • Greater assortment of bagged and canned beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds
  • Baby corn, assorted salsas, falafel mix, and other specialty vegetables and grain mixtures
  • Soba, ramen, udon and other whole grain Japanese noodles

Freezer Cases

  • Vegetables in single varieties or medleys, including edamame and other beans and peas, and vegetable mixtures combined with whole grains
  • Fruits and berries in single varieties or medleys and mixtures pre-cut for smoothies
  • Whole wheat and multigrain waffles, pancakes, French toast, pizza dough, and bake-and-serve dinner rolls
  • Vegan and vegetarian frozen meals, including meals-in-a-bowl, featuring beans, peas, and lentils and whole grains
  • Veggie burgers, veggie crumbles and other meat substitutes
  • High fiber ice creams containing added fibers

‘Center Store’ Packaged Food Aisles

  • Canned and jarred vegetables, including diced and stewed tomatoes and pureed pumpkin
  • Canned and jarred fruits in household and single serving sizes
  • Soups in cans, pouches and heat-and-eat single servings featuring vegetables, beans, lentils, peas and grains
  • Canned beans, peas and lentils and baked beans
  • Bagged dried beans, peas, lentils
  • Barley, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, sorghum, wild rice, brown rice and other whole grains
  • Assorted whole grain and high fiber breakfast cereals, including whole bran and cereals some with added fibers
  • Breakfast bars, cereal bars, and snack bars including some with added fiber
  • Whole wheat panko and bread crumbs, croutons and stuffing mixes
  • High fiber pasta and whole wheat couscous
  • Whole wheat and buckwheat pancake mix
  • Assorted whole grain flours and corn meal for cooking and baking
  • Whole grain quick bread and muffin mixes
  • Prune juice and some vegetable juices with added fiber

Condiments Section

  • Jars of roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, caponata and other marinated and pickled vegetables
  • Dry pack and oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

‘Natural Foods’ Department

  • Bulk bin dried fruits, nuts, and seeds
  • Assorted nut butters in jars or freshly ground
  • Meal replacement bars, high protein bars, granola bars, and high fiber bars, some made with added fibers

Fresh Bakery Department

  • Artisanal multi-grain breads and rolls, many with seeds on top
  • Bran muffins, whole wheat croissants, multigrain crostini and seeded bread sticks

Deli and Packaged Bread Departments

  • Coleslaw, broccoli slaw, carrot salad, pickled beets, 3-bean salad, salads, vegetable fritters and other prepared vegetable grains and beans salads
  • Assorted whole grain and high fiber breads, rolls, English muffins, wraps, tortillas, flatbreads, pita, naan and other specialty breads
  • Ready-to-assemble whole wheat pizza crusts

Dairy Department

  • High fiber yogurts containing added fibers
  • High fiber cottage cheese containing added fiber

Refrigerated

  • Sauerkraut in bags and pouches
  • Guacamole and hummus in a variety of flavors and container sizes
  • Sectioned citrus and other fruits in jars, fresh salsa, and fresh bruschetta

Snack Food Aisles

  • Whole grain crackers, chips, pretzels, and popcorn
  • Single-pack nuts, seeds, and trail mix
  • High fiber brownies, cookies and cakes made with added fiber
  • Dry roasted peas, garbanzo beans and soybeans

Health and Beauty Department

  • Fiber supplements in capsules, tablets, gummies, and powdered mixes

REFERENCES

Dietary Fiber on the Food Label

Closing the Fiber Gap

Finding More Fiber-Rich Foods When Eating Out

This post was originally published on fiberfacts.org and can be read here.  

 

Research on the eating habits of Americans shows that our consumption of “foods away from home”* has been steadily rising since 1987. The amount of household food budgets spent on foods away from home surpassed the amount spent for “food at home” in 2010 when it reached 50.2 percent. (1) It has held that lead ever since.

Sources for the meals, snacks and beverages Americans eat away from home include quick-service, fast-casual and full-service restaurants; cafeterias, canteens and concessions; convenience stores, mobile food vendors and vending machines; and delis, bakeries, and drinking places. While a wide range of menu options are available in these outlets, the nutrient quality of the foods selected when eating in them traditionally has been higher in calories, fat, sodium and sugar than food from home. (1)

More recently, the quality of foods eaten away from home has become more similar to that of foods eaten at home due, in part, to the greater availability of healthy options on menus and the declining quality of the choices being served at home. (1)  Unfortunately, our intake of dietary fiber, an “underconsumed” nutrient according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, is still not at recommended levels in either setting. (2)

Wellness professionals can help their clients close this gap by guiding them to fiber rich options when eating away from home in addition to those they can readily find in the grocery store for meals prepared at home.

One way to add more fiber-rich foods away from home is by making Smart Swaps and Substitutions. For example, rather than ordering the most popular “combos” on the menu, consumers can swap out something in those combos for one more serving of  fruit, vegetable, whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds as illustrated in the chart. If they don’t see the swap they want on the menu, they should be encouraged to ask for it since the more requests a restaurant receives for an item the more likely it will be to provide it in the future. The establishment may also suggest an alternative. Additionally, consumers may find higher fiber options by looking for the “healthier choice” icon featured on many menus today.

SMART SWAPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS TO INCREASE FIBER WHEN EATING AWAY FROM HOME

SUBSTITUTE THIS FOR THIS
For Breakfast  
Fruit cup or sliced tomato Home fried potatoes or hash browns
Half grapefruit or citrus sections Orange juice or grapefruit juice
Whole wheat toast or seeded rye toast White bread toast, English muffin or biscuit
Oatmeal with fruit or quinoa porridge Cream of wheat or grits
Pancakes or waffles with berries or bananas Pancakes or waffles with syrup or whipped cream
Bran muffin or corn muffin Donut or pastry
Vegetable omelet or burrito Ham or sausage omelet or burrito
Fruit and yogurt parfait with granola Fruit smoothie
Avocado on toast or bagel Cream cheese on toast or bagel
Huevos Rancheros (eggs, beans, salsa, tortilla) Eggs Benedict
For Lunch or Dinner: 
Cole slaw or apple slices French fries or potato chips
Whole wheat bread, roll or wrap White bread, roll or wrap
Black bean, lentil, or split pea soup Chicken noodle, chicken rice or matzo ball soup
Minestrone or mushroom barley soup Cream of potato, broccoli or mushroom soup
Salad topped with nuts, beans or seeds Salad topped with croutons, bacon bits or cheese
Extra lettuce, tomato, onions or peppers on a burger or sandwich Extra cheese or meat on a burger or sandwich
Brown rice with Chinese food or in sushi White rice with Chinese food or in sushi
Salsa or guacamole with corn chips Queso dip or nacho cheese with corn chips
Double vegetables with entree White rice or mashed potato with entree
Baked potato topped with salsa or chili Mashed potatoes with gravy
Peppers, onions or broccoli on pizza Sausage, pepperoni or meatballs on pizza
Roasted asparagus or Brussel sprouts appetizer Fried zucchini or onion blossom appetizer
Corn on the cob or baked beans side order Fried onion rings or macaroni and cheese
Meatless bean or veggie burger Beef or turkey burger
Beans and rice side dish Biscuits and gravy side dish
Snacks:
Popcorn, trail mix, or nut and seed packs Potato chips, cheese crackers, or pretzels
Granola bar or fig-filled cookies Candy bar or sandwich cookies
Freeze-dried fruits or dried fruit Fruit roll-up or gummy fruit
Hummus or guacamole with vegetables Cheese dip or spread with crackers
Fiber One® bars, brownies, or snack cakes Regular cookies, brownies, or snack cakes
Whole fruit  or non-browning apple slices Fruit cups or applesauce

Another way people can find more fiber when eating away from home is by patronizing ethnic restaurants featuring more plant-based cuisines.  This is also a good way to sample different fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds when they are properly prepared and seasoned. Once new dishes are tried away from home and enjoyed, it may increase the likelihood of their being purchased for home consumption when seen in the grocery store.

While everything on the menus in these restaurants is not high in fiber, there are many more plant-based choices than found on standard American menus and the chefs are often more willing to accommodate special requests. The key is to ask!

ETHNIC CUISINES WITH MORE PLANT-BASED CHOICES ON THE MENU

  • Chinese
  • Ethiopian
  • Indian
  • Indonesian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Middle Eastern (Lebanese, Israeli Syrian)
  • Thai
  • Vegetarian or Vegan
  • Vietnamese

*“Foods away from home” can include foods prepared and purchased away from home but eaten at home and “foods at home” can include foods prepared at home but eaten elsewhere.

 REFERENCES

1.Saksena MJ, Okrent AM, Anekwe TD, et al (17). America’s Eating Habits: Food Away From Home, EIB-196, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2018.

https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/90228/eib-196.pdf?v=1045.6

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015

https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

artificial sweeteners and cancer

Nonnutritive Sweeteners and Cancer: Evaluating the Evidence

This article was written for the dietetic practice group of Nutrition Education for the Public and published in the 2017 summer issue of their newsletter, Networking News. You can read the original post here.

Research to find a cure for cancer is matched only by the efforts to find the cause. Studies have shown that the types and amounts of food eaten over time, or our dietary pattern, can both increase the risk of certain types of cancer and decrease the risk for others. If individual foods or additives are suspected of causing cancer, they are removed from the food supply when evidence confirms their carcinogenicity. And other factors, such as genetic predisposition and environmental exposures, can influence whether someone will develop cancer regardless of diet.

Establishing the safety of any food, additive,or even drinking water must consider exposure and risk. Dietary Reference Intakes(DRI) and Acceptable Daily Intakes(ADI) . provide safety thresholds for nutrients and food additives, respectively,by determining the risk associated with their consumption over a lifetime. These are valuable references for registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) who want to provide evidence-based answers to questions,such as how much Vitamin A or aspartame can be safely consumed.

Where does the public get answers to their questions about artificial sweeteners? If someone asks, “Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer?”, they will get over three million search engine results. The first one in my Google search was from the National Cancer Institute, the federal government’s principle agency for cancer research. The second was from the site of Dr. Mercola, whose mission statement says, in part, to expose government hype that diverts you away from what is truly best for your health. The answers offered by these two sources could not be more opposed. Other articles in my search included one with quotes from“actress and health expert” Suzanne Somers to those embedded among the recipes on Delish.com.

Is it any wonder the public is confused about the safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners (LNCS)? Even people who never search for nutrition information online are being influenced by the extreme results found there, and this is a challenge for RDNs and health professionals. According to the International Food Information Council’s 2017 Food & Health Survey, consumers feel personal healthcare professionals are more trustworthy than looking online about what to eat or not eat, but they turn to family and friends more often to guide their food choices.

What does the science say about low- and no-calorie sweeteners?

Consumers may be confused about the safety of LNCS, but there is no reason for RDNs to be. Our education in a science-based curriculum prepares us to understand the merits of different types of study design and the interpretation and application of their results. We know we can rely on the findings reported in systematic reviews and meta-analyses to assess whether the amount and quality of evidence on a subject is sufficient to guide client decisions. And as members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), we can also access the Evidence Analysis Library to find practice guidelines drawn from completed systematic reviews that answer specific questions based on the quality and extent of the evidence. Our training and these resources allow us to provide the public with consistent, accurate and ethical information within our scope of practice.

So when asked if LNCS cause cancer, one of the first sources we can check is the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) of the NCI. It collects, analyzes, interprets and disseminates data on cancer prevalence. Here we can see if the incidence of any type of cancer can be attributed to the worldwide increase in the use of LNCS over the past several decades or to any one of them as an individual sweetener. To date, there is no data to support either query.

The next source is, “Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention” from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and published in CA: A Journal for Clinicians. It states:

Current evidence does not show a link between these compounds [nonnutritive sweeteners and sugar substitutes] and increased cancer risk. Aspartame,saccharin and sucralose are a few of the nonnutritive, synthetic sweeteners approved for use by the FDA. Current evidence does not demonstrate a link between ingestion of these compounds and increased cancer risk.”

These Guidelines reflect the scientific consensus on cancer prevention from the ACS and are comparable to the Position Paper: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. They are also supported by the National Cancer Institute, Food and Drug Administration, European Food  Food Safety Authority, and many other food safety authorities around the world.

Why all the controversy over low-and no-calorie sweeteners and cancer risk?

Despite the approval of LNCS for use by populations in more than 100 countries, questions about possible cancer risks are still raised. I have two explanations to help you address this with your clients and consumers.

The early history of saccharin and cyclamate, the first two artificial sweeteners widely used in the U.S., is riddled with cancer claims, warning labels, bans, moratoriums and research reversals. When new research proved they posed no cancer threat for humans, only saccharin was reapproved in the U.S. by the FDA, while cyclamate remained banned. It is, however, approved in 130 other countries. Ever since, suspicions have remained that use of any LNCS might increase cancer risk. This is the result of what I call the“Satan Effect.”

Like the “Health Halo” that imbues foods of questionable nutritional value with a more righteous reputation because of the company they keep, the “Satan Effect” does the opposite. It disparages an otherwise safe food because it is associated with a negative trait and cannot shake the bad reputation, even if undeserved. In the case of LNCS, the effect is reinforced by news outlets that continually exploit any study that finds tumors in lab animals exposed to huge quantities of LNCS, even when the findings cannot be extrapolated to humans, or studies that report associations based on methodology that cannot demonstrate causality. This leads to the second explanation for all the controversy.

All low- and no-calorie sweeteners are not the same

One thing all LNCS sweeteners have in common is their intense sweetening power compared to sugar, but that is where their similarities end. Nine LNCS have been approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA or meet the standards for Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) exemptions. They are acesulfame potassium, advantame, allulose*, aspartame, monk fruit extract (GRAS), neotame, saccharin, stevia (GRAS), and sucralose.

As reported in the Special Article, “Biological fate of low-calorie sweeteners” published in Nutrition Reviews in 2016, LNCS do not have the same structures and chemical compositions, are not derived from the same sources, and do not have the same metabolic outcomes or excretion pathways once ingested. Some are digested and indistinguishable from amino acids consumed in any other protein source. Some are not metabolized by humans and excreted unchanged in feces. Others are partially absorbed into the systemic circulation before being excreted in the urine.

These unique features of LNCS are critical, yet are often overlooked in the headlines and tweets that proclaim “artificial sweeteners cause cancer” (or any other disease). As translators of science for the public, our job is to read the studies, or consult with colleagues who have,to get the story right.We need to confirm which LNCS were used, or the product containing them, and not rely on headlines regarding the findings. We must also compare the study design and results to the existing body of research in order to evaluate the impact of new evidence.

A final point worth noting is level of exposure, as discussed earlier in this article. The available LNCS are 200 to 20,000 times sweeter than sugar,which greatly limits the amount found in any product. They are also regularly used in combination with one another, further minimizing the amount of any one likely to be consumed over a lifetime. At present,the Estimated Daily Intakes for LNCS fall below 10 percent of the Acceptable Daily Intakes, as explained in my article, “It’s the Dose that Matters.”With market reports showing a steady increase in the number of new LNCS expected to become available over the next 20 years, there is little reason for anyone to be concerned about over exposure to LNCS in the food supply.

Doing what we do best

Knowing that RDNs are one of the most trusted sources of nutrition information in the eyes of the public gives us a valuable opportunity to redirect the conversations surrounding LNCS from those steeped in opinions and inaccuracies to ones based in facts and truth. This effort is greatly enhanced when we are all sharing the same evidence-based information. I hope this article will strengthen your resolve to do just that.

*A low calorie sugar

References

World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Accessed June 20, 2017. https://www.iarc.fr/en/about/index.php

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). Accessed June 26, 2017. https://ods.od.nih.gov/Health_Information/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.aspx

European Union Food Information Council. Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADIs) Q&A. Posted December 1, 2013. Accessed June 20, 2017. http://www.eufic.org/en/understanding-science/article/qas-on-acceptable-daily-in takes-adis

National Cancer Institute. Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer. Reviewed August 5, 2009. Accessed June 22, 2017. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/artificial-sweeteners-fact-sheet

Mercola.com. Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/03/30/artificial-sweetenerscause-cancer.aspx

Newsmax.com/health.Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer? Ask Suzanne Somers http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Headline/Somers-artificial-sweeteners-cancer/2 011/12/22/id/477953/

Delish.com. The Truth About Splenda Causing Cancer http://www.delish.com/food-news/a46349/is-splenda-really-linked-to-leukemia/

International Food Information Council. 2017 Food & Health Survey Executive Summary on Food Confusion. Accessed June 21, 2017. http://www.foodinsight.org/sites/default/files/2017-ExSum-FoodConfusion.pdf

Tappenden KA. A Unifying Vision for Scientific Decision Making: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Scientific Integrity Principles, JAcadNutriDiet. 2015;115(9):1486-1490. https://www.andeal.org/vault/2440/web/files/EAL/Tappenden_et_%20al_%20201 6_SIP.pdf

Handu D, Moloney L., et.al (4). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Methodology for Conducting Systematic Reviews for the Evidence Analysis Library JAcad Nutri Diet. 2016;116(2):311-318 http://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(15)01705-0/pdf

Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2016. CA:Cancer J Clin. 2016;66(1):7-30 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/caac.21332/full

Kushi LH, Doyle C. et. al (8) Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. CA: Cancer J Clin. 2012;62:30-77. https://sinaitemple.org/pdf/STMC/ACSGuidelines.pdf

Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112(5):739-758 http://jandonline.org/article/0002-8223(93)91762-F/pdf

National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. Common Cancer Myths and Misconceptions. Posted February 3, 2014. Accessed June 26, 2017. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths

European Food Safety Authority. Sweeteners. Accessed June 20, 2017. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/sweeteners

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for use in Food in the United States. Last updated 05/26/15. Accessed June 23, 2017. https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients /ucm397725.htm

National Research Council (US) Committee on Comparative Toxicity of Naturally Occurring Carcinogens. Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet: A Comparison of Naturally Occurring and Synthetic Substances. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1996. 4, Methods for Evaluating Potential Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK232624/

Calorie Control Council. Worldwide Approval Status of Cyclamate. Posted September 29, 2009. Accessed June 23, 2017. http://www.cyclamate.org/pdf/Cyclamate_worldwidestatus.pdf

Magnuson BA, Carakostas MC, Moore NH, Poulos SP, Renwick AG. Biological fate of low-calorie sweeteners. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(11):670-689 Accessed June 22, 2017 http://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/nutritionreviews/74/11/670.full.pdf

Marinovitch M, Galli CL, et. al (3). Aspartame, low-calorie sweeteners and disease: regulatory safety and epidemiological issues. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013;60:109-115 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23891579

Flipse R. It’s the Dose that Matters. CalorieControl.org. Posted June 14, 2016. Accessed June 23, 2017. http://caloriecontrol.org/its-the-dose-that-matters/

Green M. Sweeteners Round-up. PreapredFoods.com. March 23, 2017. Accessed June 21, 2017 http://www.preparedfoods.com/articles/119583-sweeteners-round-up?

Satisfy your sweet tooth while reducing added sugars

No Need to Give Up Sweets, Just Get Them Naturally

Improve the quality of your diet and satisfy your sweet tooth by replacing foods high in added sugars with those that contain naturally occurring sugars

I admit it, I have a sweet tooth. I’ve had it all of my life.  I never thought much about it when I was a child because everyone I knew had one too. Or a full set! My crowd simply liked sweet tasting foods more than salty, savory, sour or bitter ones. It surprised us when someone said they didn’t like sweets. But that didn’t mean we ate cake, cookies and candy all day long. Far from it. It simply meant we enjoyed naturally sweet fruits and vegetables as part of every meal and snack. And I still do today.

Imagine if no one had ever told you that Tootsie Rolls were candy and dates were not. You could easily get them confused. Same for the choice between a Popsicle or some frozen seedless grapes as a treat. And if you’ve ever had sweet potatoes mashed with some orange zest and butter you know they taste like you’re having dessert for dinner.

The point is, our eyes know the difference between a piece of chocolate fudge and a ripe banana, but our bodies cannot tell the difference between the sugars they contain since they are virtually the same. That is where the similarities end. The sugar in the fudge is delivered with saturated fats that can lead to heart disease while the naturally occurring sugars in the banana come packaged with fiber, vitamins and minerals that help prevent heart disease. Eating a banana every day, or any other serving of fruit, in place of something sweet made with added sugars is how I’ve maintained a balanced diet all my life without giving up the sweet taste I love.

So if you’re worried that you or your children eat too many added sugars, consider changing the delivery system to get your sweet fix.  The major sources of added sugars in American diets today are grain-based desserts, dairy desserts and soft drinks. If you’re relying on them to satisfy your sweet tooth you’re being cheated out of the nutrients your body needs in two ways. First, because those sugary foods and drinks supply very few vitamins and minerals along with all the sugar they contain, and second, they displace the foods we could be eating that provide plenty of essential nutrients.

This is where fruits and vegetables come into the picture. Instead of going on some bizarre “sugar detox” diet where you eliminate everything that tastes sweet in an attempt to “control your craving” for sweets, you can just use naturally sweet foods in their place and avoid all the drama. This approach is easier than you think when you realize all forms of fruits and vegetables are an option – frozen, canned, dried and 100% juices – not just the fresh varieties that have reached their peak of sweetness. And no matter what the form, including conventionally grown or organic, they all deliver important nutrients and fiber along with their natural sweetness.

Try some of these ways to satisfy your sweet tooth using fruits and vegetables at your meals and snacks . You may be surprised at how sweet life can be without all the added sugars!

  • Freeze a can of pears in natural juices and then scoop contents into the food processor and whirl for sweet sorbet
  • Mix golden raisins into homemade trail mix instead of candies
  • Add crispy freeze-dried fruits to unsweetened breakfast cereals for their intensely sweet taste
  • Make a tropical pilaf by adding crushed pineapple and toasted coconut to your favorite cooked whole grain
  • Reduce full-strength juices, like grape and apple, to replace sugary meat glazes and sauces
  • Stir chopped apple, vanilla and some apple pie seasoning into hot oatmeal
  • Roast parsnips and carrot strips together until caramelized for some sweet vegetable fries
  • Warm applesauce in the microwave oven before eating to heighten the sweet taste
  • Make watermelon pops with the juice and diced pieces from a cut watermelon
  • Add sliced strawberries to a peanut butter sandwich in place of strawberry jam

BONUS TIP: Keep a container of dried fruit like apricots, figs and prunes in the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. They’re easy to eat, have no peels or pits to remove, they don’t bruise or spoil and are available all year round.

Related blogs:

10 Fun Ways to Eat Enough Fruit This Summer

Cutting Back on Too Much Added Sugar: Your Heart Will Say Thank You!

 

Reducing food waste starts at home

Reducing Food Waste with Common Kitchen Utensils

I grew up with parents and grandparents who lived through The Great Depression, so I learned some valuable lessons about frugality by the way they lived their lives. Lessons like saving for the things you want rather than buying on credit, following a household budget so you can pay your bills on time, and never wasting anything, including the electricity to power a light left on in a room after you’ve left, the cold air in the refrigerator that escapes when the door is left open too long, and the crumbs in the bottom of a box of corn flakes that can be used in the meatloaf. The lessons about not wasting edible, usable food have had the most lasting impression on me.

When I was a college student on a very limited budget, my frugal food skills helped fill many gaps in my diet, like freezing the milk in my fridge in ice cube trays before leaving for extended breaks so I could thaw it and use it in cooking when I returned. Then once I graduated, got a job and had a full pantry and bank account, I still couldn’t bear to toss out a mangled crust of bread. Instead, I’d freeze it with other random pieces to be turned into crumbs the next time I need some. And I can’t stop myself from checking the misshapen fruits and vegetables in the discounted bin at the grocery store. If more of us would buy them it would go a long way to reducing the 36 million tons of edible food that get tossed out every year in the United States.

If it shocks you as much as it does me that so much food in this country is wasted while so many people do not have enough to eat, you do not have to wait for new government regulations to make a difference. There is plenty each of us can do right in our own homes to make sure we always use what we have and only buy what we need to avoid wasting food.  This Infographic from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells the whole story and you can visit eatright.org for more information on healthful eating or to find a registered dietitian nutritionist.

To help get you started, here are my top tips for getting every last bit of goodness out of the food I buy using some common household utensils.

Rubber Spatulas – They come in assorted sizes, shapes and handle lengths to make it easy to scrape the insides of jars, cans, bottles and other food containers. Without one you could be throwing out 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise in every quart jar and a teaspoon of tomato paste in every 6 ounce can.

Ice Cube Trays – This is the perfect way to save and freeze any extra stock, sauce, or gravy you have, or the milk before going on vacation. Just pop the cubes out once frozen and store in a labeled zip-top bag. Trays with lids help prevent spills and the transfer of odors from other foods. Ice cube trays can also be used to freeze fresh herbs that have been cleaned, trimmed and chopped and fruit juices, pulp or puree that can be used in smoothies.

Salad Spinner – You may not have to toss that limp looking lettuce, just give it a rinse in cold water and a spin to bring it back to life.  If it doesn’t revive enough for salad, chop it and add to a soup or smoothie. Spinning washed salad greens, herbs, and berries before storing in the refrigerator also helps to keep them fresh longer by removing excess water.

Sharp Paring Knife – By cutting away the blemished part of many types of produce (potato, bell pepper, carrot, apple, pear, winter squash) you can eat or cook  the remaining portion without risk. Removing all around the moldy edge on a piece of hard cheese or hard salami is also a way to save the rest.

Citrus Zester or Microplane There’s plenty of flavor to be salvaged from those lemon, lime and orange rinds, so be sure to wash and rinse them and collect what you want before cutting the fruit for other uses.  You can put grated zest, strips or strings in a labeled jar or zip-top bag in the freezer to have on hand when a recipe calls for it.

BONUS TIPS:

Add water, vinegar or wine to near-empty mustard and catsup containers, close cap tightly, shake, and then add to soups, sauces, or dressings.

Add milk to near-empty containers of peanut butter, honey, molasses, jam, jelly, preserves, chocolate syrup, pancake syrup, or maple syrup,  close cap tightly, shake and drink or add to a smoothie.

Read more in Reducing Food Waste from Farm to Fork.

A balanced diet is just one part of a balanced lifestyleons

How Healthy Eating Habits, Exercise and Emotional Well-Being Are Connected

This blog was originally published on SplendaLiving.com.

As a registered dietitian I am always talking and writing about food and nutrition. I want to be sure everyone knows that a balanced diet is essential to good health. But your diet is not the only thing that must be balanced. Eating right is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and emotional well-being are equally important parts of a healthy lifestyle, and they must all be balanced for you to feel your very best.

What Does It Mean to Be Healthy?

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” I think most people would agree they don’t think they’re healthy just because they don’t have malaria or some other illness. We want to feel well physically, mentally and socially, and to achieve that state of health we must recognize the connections between eating, exercise and our emotions.

Healthy eating provides the nutrients we need for a strong immune system that can help to defend us against certain illnesses and lower our risk of developing other diseases. It also provides the fuel we need to be as active as we want to be and enhances our sense of well-being when we have enough to eat and can enjoy food with others. Regular physical activity helps to keep our muscles strong and increases our stamina so we can do the things we want to do. It also helps burn off the calories in the food we eat and it improves circulation so that oxygen and vital nutrients can be delivered to every cell of the body. Good emotional health comes from having supportive relationships with others, a positive outlook on life and a meaningful spiritual connection. If one arm of this triad is weakened, the others will bend, too.

Connecting the Parts of a Healthy Lifestyle

Consider this simple example of the way the parts of a healthy lifestyle are connected. You rush to the gym after work committed to getting 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and 15 minutes of strength conditioning. You feel sluggish after just 15 minutes on the treadmill because you didn’t eat or drink anything for several hours before exercising. You stop exercising and feel bad for not being able to complete your workout. By the time you get home you are so hungry and demotivated that you wolf down an entire bag of potato chips instead of making the dinner you had planned.

Sound familiar? Now consider what the chances are that you’ll get a good night’s sleep and wake up early to get to the gym after a light breakfast? As you can see, the links between eating, exercise and emotions are strong, and if one breaks down your healthy lifestyle can be thrown out of balance.

In that first example, not eating before exercising puts a negative chain reaction in motion. Another trigger might be when you feel very so anxious about something – maybe an incomplete project at work or larger than expected credit card bill – that you skip going to the gym just when you need the stress relief that exercise can provide the most. Research has shown that exercise can increase the chemicals in our brains that contribute to feelings of happiness and improve our focus and memory so we perform better at tasks. Without these benefits of exercise, we are more likely to continue feeling stressed, make poor food choices and have difficulty sleeping, which compound our problems.

Healthy Eating Habits for All the Right Reasons

One thing that does not contribute to a healthy lifestyle is the feeling you must do everything perfectly, especially when it comes to your diet. I can’t think of anything that could be more stressful! The balance we are seeking allows for some ups and downs, so strive to do your best and be forgiving if you can’t always live up to your own expectations for healthy eating habits.

Here are my top three healthy eating tips to add to your healthy lifestyle.

  1. Have a plan. Knowing where, when and what you intend to eat each day leaves less room for error. Be realistic when making your eating plan and be ready to adjust it whenever needed, keeping in mind that every choice you make does count.
  2. Avoid extremes. There’s no reason to eliminate any food from your diet (unless medically required), but it’s also not wise to over-consume any food, either. Moderation is the goal. For example, if you want to reduce the amount of added sugars you consume, consider replacing some of them with a low calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA®No Calorie Sweetener, so you can continue to enjoy sweet tasting foods and drinks, but with fewer calories.
  3. Take your time. You have to eat every day for the rest of your life, so don’t try to make too many changes too quickly. Ease into what fits your current means and routines while leaving the door open to explore other options when time allows. And to get the most of your meals, be mindful of each mouthful.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

For more information about adopting healthy eating habits, visit the Healthy Lifestyle section of this blog.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 
References:

 

apple bread pudding made with Splenda

Cutting Back on Too Much Added Sugar: Your Heart Will Say Thank You!

This blog was originally posted on SplendaLiving.com.

Most people have heard of the main foods groups that make up a healthy diet: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. They are represented on the five sections of the MyPlate icon to help us plan balanced meals, and they made up the levels of the Food Guide Pyramid that preceded it. There are also some food components we need to eat less of in order to have a healthy diet. These include added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, alcohol and caffeine.

Since February is American Heart Month, it’s the perfect time to talk about how we can make better choices when using our “discretionary calories” for improved heart healthy eating.

What Are Discretionary Calories?

If you’ve ever planned a budget you know some things on it are essential (buying food), while others are optional (eating out). The same is true for the calories we consume, or more specifically, where our calories come from. The calories found in foods that deliver essential nutrients are more important than the calories found in foods that provide few or no nutrients. Once we eat the foods (and calories) that deliver all of the nutrients we need each day, any calories left in our budget are considered “discretionary” calories. They can be used for a little more of the foods in the main food groups, a form of a food that is higher in fat or added sugars or the addition of some ingredients during preparation that are higher fat or sugar. They can even be used occasionally to eat or drink things like cake or regular soda that are mostly fat and sugar. (The American Heart Association provides more information about discretionary calories here.)

Managing the Solid Fats and Added Sugars in Your Heart Healthy Diet

Solid fats are found in foods such as well-marbled cuts of meat and higher fat ground meats, bacon and other processed meats, many cheeses, and baked goods made with butter, stick margarine, cream and/or shortening. We can reduce the amount of solid fat in our diets by not eating the foods containing them as often and taking a smaller serving when we do. We can also select leaner cuts of meat, reduced fat cheeses and lower fat snacks and desserts to avoid some solid fats and prepare our meals using less of them. You can find plenty of other tips and techniques on how to do that in Simple Cooking with Heart® from the American Heart Association.

Added sugars are found in most prepared foods and beverages that taste sweet, including the baked goods mentioned above that are also high in solid fats and in products like spaghetti sauce and salad dressing. They can also be an ingredient in foods that do not taste sweet, like spaghetti sauce and salad dressing. Taking inventory of how many sweetened foods and drinks you consume every day is a good way to see how common they are in your diet and decide which ones you can eliminate, reduce or replace with something else.

Recipes That Deliver on Sweet Taste

Recommendations from the American Heart Association for the amount of added sugar we should not exceed each day are 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women. Their helpful infographic, Life is Sweet, illustrates many ways you can reach those goals, such as by using a no-calorie sweetener like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener instead of sugar in your hot and cold drinks. And finding recipes that use less sugar is as easy as opening this link at Splenda.com. Here you will find SPLENDA® recipes categorized so you can quickly find something to prepare for any course on your menu and recipes for different health needs like Diabetes Friendly* and Heart Healthy**.

I’ve selected a few of my favorite recipes to help you get started. I’m sure some may be surprised to hear that each can be part of a heart healthy lifestyle when you serve them.

Lemon glazed jumbo shrimp salad

Lemon Glazed Jumbo Shrimp Salad 
Aromatic salad greens and succulent shrimp drizzled with a zesty-sweet dressing make a refreshing salad.

Servings Per Recipe: 4; Serving Size: 2 jumbo shrimp, ¾ cup salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup SPLENDA®No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper – trimmed, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced mango
  • 1 pinch black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet over high heat; add shrimp and cook for 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Using tongs, transfer shrimp to a plate. Add vinegar, SPLENDA®Sweetener, crushed red pepper, and jalapeno. Bring to a boil and cook for 4-5 minutes or until reduced by half, then remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Place arugula, red pepper, and mango in a large bowl. Toss gently with some of the dressing and season to taste.
  3. Divide arugula mixture among 4 serving plates; top each salad with two shrimp and drizzle evenly with the warm vinegar mixture. Season with black pepper to taste.                        Nutrition Info

 

Dessert can still be sweet with less added sugars

Make delicious desserts with less added sugars using Splenda

Apple Bread Pudding 
Whole grain bread, apples and cinnamon make a sweet dessert. This recipe was created with the American Heart Association as part of the Simple Cooking with Heart®Program to help families learn how to make great nutritious meals at home.

Servings Per Recipe: 6; Serving Size: 3”x4” piece

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg white
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons SPLENDA®Brown Sugar Blend
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves or allspice
  • 6 slices light style whole-grain or multi grain bread cut in to cubes
  • 3 medium apples, cored and cut in to 1/2 inch cubes

Optional: 1/4 cup of any one of the following: raisins, dried cranberries, fresh or dried blueberries, chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds.#

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Spray 9×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl, whisk together egg, egg white, milk, SPLENDA®Sweetener , vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves.
  4. Add bread and apple cubes. Add additional fruit or nuts if desired. Mix well.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes.
  6. Serve warm and enjoy with a glass of skim or low-fat milk!

# Note: Optional ingredients are not included in the nutrition analysis.                                         Nutrition Info
 

Citrus Mint Tea
A refreshing drink to keep on hand for the family and a favorite of thirsty guests.

Servings Per Recipe: 10; Serving Size:8-fl. oz.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 5 regular-size tea bags
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup SPLENDA®No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • Garnish: lemon slices, orange slices, fresh mint sprigs

Directions:

  1. Pour boiling water over tea bags and mint leaves; cover and steep 5 minutes.
  2. Remove tea bags and mint, squeezing gently.
  3. Stir in SPLENDA®Sweetener and remaining ingredients.
  4. Serve over ice. Garnish with lemon slices, orange slices and fresh mint sprigs.              Nutrition Info

* SPLENDA® ”diabetes friendly” recipes contain < 35% of total calories from fat, < 10% of total calories form saturated fat, and no more than 45 grams of carbohydrate per serving.

** SPLENDA® ”heart healthy” recipes contain < 6.5 grams of total fat, < 10% of total calories form saturated fat, <= 240 mg of sodium and at least 10% of the Daily Value of one of these nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber). While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat may reduce the risk of this disease.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

To learn more recipe tips for cooking and baking with SPLENDA® Sweeteners, visit the Cooking & Baking section of this blog.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 
 

Book review of GMO food

What’s So Controversial About Genetically Modified Foods?

First published on the “FoodAnthropology” blog of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two reviews of this book, with a rather different perspective. For the first review by Ellen Messer, link here

What’s So Controversial about Genetically-Modified Foods? John Lang. Reaktion Publishers. 2016

If you want to write a book about a controversy, putting the words “genetically modified food“ in the title should help sell it. Genetic modification of food involves altering the genes of a seed to improve the traits in the plant. It is a difficult technology for most people to understand, and even harder for them to accept when used on what they eat.  A recent Pew Research survey on the risks and benefits of organic and genetically modified (GM) foods found 75% of those who are deeply concerned about GM foods say they are worse for one’s health than other foods, and 79% do not trust information about GM foods from food industry leaders. Is reading What’s So Controversial About Genetically Modified Food? going to allay their fears? Maybe not, but the book does fill a gap in the literature by providing entry to a discussion of how GM foods are just one part of a complex and consolidated food system that has made the global food supply more nutritious, affordable and plentiful than at any other time in history.

Author John T. Lang states his goal in this work was to move towards a more productive model of agriculture based on better policy and investment choices. He effectively uses the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO) as a proxy for the failures of the current food system. The handful of companies that make GM seeds and agrochemicals serve as a more tangible target than the elusive international policies and trade agreements that have restricted land ownership and blocked investment in infrastructure, warehouses, distribution facilities, centralized markets, and other farm supports needed for local food production to succeed in many parts of the world.  Instead, readers are given an unfolding narrative of how the interconnectedness of the global food system created the need for the consolidation of agribusiness companies so they could operate more efficiently, standardize their products and meet the food safety requirements of their trade partners. These multinational companies were then able to use their vast resources to invest in the research to develop the GM crops that are now being blamed for a breakdown in the religious, social, cultural and ethical meanings of food.

Astute readers will find it difficult to accept this tradeoff. The more important message about this technology they will gain is that it is simply another tool for farmers, like the plough or tractor, both of which were controversial when first introduced.  Readers will come to appreciate that farming is a business, whether done by conventional or organic methods, and it faces the same problems of scale as any other business that tries to expand.  And like any other tool, GMOs can be replaced by ones that do a better job at solving a problem, so working with the companies that develop new technologies is the best way to have an impact on the design of the new tools. A poignant example of this is concept is found in this critique of sustainable agriculture by Tamar Haspel for The Washington Post.

Lang’s focus on GMOs as a surrogate for a broken food system also provides an expedient way to illustrate how central trust is to our relationship with food today. As Lang explains, fewer and fewer companies control every aspect of our food from “gene to supermarket shelf,” and the path our food travels is a “maddening, impenetrable maze.”  He says the food system has become so complex and entwined that it’s “almost impossible to ascertain the true origins of any given foodstuff.”  Is it any wonder the public finds it difficult to trust all of the players in the food chain, especially when they view companies, regulators, and policy makers as having their own vested interests?  This “trust factor” is further compounded by the indeterminate nature of scientific knowledge and the uncertainly and unintended consequences that go with it. Can we really say GM foods are safe? Can we say any food is safe? It has become easier for people to trust complete strangers to be their Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts than to trust government institutions and big corporations to protect the food supply.

The book provides a broad view of the issues that must be considered when discussing GM foods and the global food system and an opportunity to expand research into several key concepts introduced, such as risk-tolerance, the precautionary principle, and how the “technology treadmill” impacts industries trying to grow and compete. Intellectual property rights and patent laws are also briefly covered, but could be explored further as they apply equally to GM, non-GM and organic seeds and to all of the research conducted at public and private universities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and international agencies,  not just private industry.

The discussion on labeling of GM foods in Chapter 3 opens up multiple channels for continuing research and debate. Questions to consider in a classroom setting include, Is GMO labeling about inalienable rights of consumers or personal preferences? Are GM foods different in any measurable way? Can we verify the use of GM seeds in the foods we eat? At what thresholds can GMOs be detected? Who will monitor adherence to labeling requirements and at what cost? Should we have international standards for labeling? Do laws requiring the labeling of GM foods mean we agree we should sell GM food?

Chapter 4 moves beyond the symbolic battle over GM food to expose the complicated way people actually make decisions about what they eat. Compelling classroom discussions could be generated by asking students why people say they are concerned about putting GMOs into their bodies, yet there is a global epidemic of obesity and its co-morbidities due to the poor food choices people make every day. Why do people say they do not believe the scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of GM foods that has been reviewed by international food safety authorities, yet accept the conclusions of those same authorities about the nutrient content of foods, absence of bacterial contamination and truth in labeling of ingredients? Why don’t people want to change their own eating habits to reduce food waste, eat less animal protein and consume fewer processed foods, but want the way food is grown and marketed to change?

Lang says these contradictions will not be resolved by providing people with more information on how GM foods are made since they view GMOs as tampering with nature, but that misperception needs to be addressed.  A discussion of the 2015 PEW Institute study that exposed the problematic disconnects between the public and the scientific community regarding the safety of GM foods would have been instructive here. Resistance to new technology is a well-documented human response, as chronicled in Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies (Oxford University Press, 2016), so Lang’s suggestion of “stronger safeguards and regulations” is not necessarily the answer.

My interest in the book stems from my work as a registered dietitian nutritionist and consultant to Monsanto, as well as my work as a cultural anthropologist focused on hunger and food waste. Its classroom effectiveness depends on how it is introduced and what additional readings are assigned, but it should be an effective tool to prompt discussion in undergraduate courses in agribusiness, anthropology, biotechnology, dietetics, ecology, environmental science, food science, horticulture, investigative journalism, nutrition, public health, and sociology. This book is also recommended for any casual reader with questions about the role of science and technology in producing our food.

CITED REFERENCES

Funk, Cary, and Brian Kennedy. 2016. “The New Food Fights: U.S. Public Divides Over Food Science.” Pew Research Center website, December 1. Accessed January 3, 2017. http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/01/the-new-food-fights/

Haspel, Tamar. 2016. “We need to feed a growing planet. Vegetables aren’t the answer.” The Washington Post website, December 15. Accessed January 3, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/we-need-to-feed-a-growing-planet-vegetables-arent-the-answer/2016/12/15/f0ffeb3e-c177-11e6-8422-eac61c0ef74d_story.html?utm_term=.1a4263e3eb3f

Funk, Cary, and Lee Rainie. 2015. “Public and Scientists’ Views on Science and Society.” Pew Research Center website, January 29. Accessed January 3, 2017. http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/01/the-new-food-fights/

Juma, Calestous. 2016. Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.