Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nutritious Bread, Fiber & Protein

"Middle age is when you chose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy" ~ Unknown

Every time I go shopping I scour the nutritional information to make sure I'm picking the best option when it comes to my health. Based on my knowledge I try to pick breads with a high fiber content, that are made with whole grains, which also pack a decent amount of protein.

So what kind of bread is the most nutritious? Here's what Men's Health Magazine had to say:
First off, ignore the advertising copy on the front. Flip around to the ingredient list. Is the first ingredient a whole grain? Does each slice have 2 or more grams of fiber? Do "inulin" or "polydextrose" show up? The correct answers are yes, yes, and no. "With whole grain, nothing is stripped away," says Jim White, R.D., of the American Dietetic Association. That means you're noshing on natural fiber, not inulin or polydextrose, two additives used to artificially boost fiber. The breads below meet the criteria, and could also help you build muscle, lose weight, and beat heart disease. ~ Men'sHealth (Nov.2009)
If you're like me, you're probably asking "WTF is polydextrose?" After starting this post I happened to come across a second helpful article that helps answer this question:
In 2007, the FDA declared that polydextrose can be called fiber. Polywhat? Polydextrose is made from glucose, sorbitol (a sugar alcohol), and citric acid. It's what puts the fiber in Fruity Pebbles (not actual pebbles). Polydextrose received FDA approval because it mimics some attributes of dietary fiber: It isn't absorbed in the small intestine, and it increases stool weight. Polydextrose mainly bulks up foods so they're not as high in calories. However, there's no research to prove that polydextrose is as beneficial as the fiber found in whole foods. ~ Men'sHealth Magazine
The amount of fiber needed in your diet is a hotly debated subject, and while some studies recommend a daily intake as high as 38 grams, the Men's Health article states:
It's fine to shoot for that amount, but you're certainly not failing if you don't meet it.
Another important tidbit that read particularly applied to me:
"The more carbohydrates you eat, the more fiber becomes important to help minimize the wide fluctuations in blood-sugar levels," says Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of Connecticut.
So what bread do I eat... my personal fav is Dempster's Heathy Way:

Nutritional Facts: Calories 110, Fat 2g (.4 saturated, 0 trans), Cholesterol 0, Sodium 115 mg, Potassium 120 mg, Carbs 18g, Fiber 5g (2 soluble & 3 insoluble), Sugar 2g, Protein 6g.

Ingredients:
Water, whole grain whole wheat flour including the germ, oat bran, whole grain blend [whole grain flax seeds, whole grain sunflower seeds, whole grain oats, whole grain sesame seeds, whole grain millet, whole grain triticale, whole grain barley], wheat gluten, sugar/glucose-fructose, malted wheat, inulin (chicory root), yeast, oat fibre, sugar beet fibre, plums, fancy molasses, oats, soy nuts, oatmeal, vegetable oil (canola or soybean), salt, vinegar, calcium propionate, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, sorbic acid, trisodium citrate 2-hydrate, potassium chloride, magnesium carbonate.

Although inulin wasn't recommended because it's usually used as an additive to "artificially boost fiber" it does have it's use:
Inulin is known as a prebiotic, which means it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. That's good, of course. "But," says Slavin, "inulin doesn't have the same cholesterol-lowering effect as the fiber found in oat bran." ~ Men'sHealth Magazine
So... although the Dempster's bread has inulin in it, it's being used for the benefits as a prebiotic, since the bread has plenty of other whole grain, fiber rich ingredients & oat bran. I have to admit that the last 8 ingredients scare the crap out of me... but compared to other breads this one still tops my list as the healthiest. Sooner or later I'll figure out what those ingredients are... but for now ignorance is bliss.

When it comes to fiber I think the best advice I've read is this:
A simple strategy: Eat sensibly. Favor whole, unprocessed foods. Make sure the carbs you eat are fiber-rich—this means produce, legumes, and whole grains—to help slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.
~ Men'sHealth Magazine
Here's the link to one of the full articles: "The Truth About Fiber".

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