Sweet Fiber for a Healthy Gut
A lot of companies are trying to find ways to lower the sugar content of their foods while still giving consumers that sweet taste they want. Some, of course, are using chemical sugar substitutes, such as Aspartame. But health-conscious Americans don’t want chemical substitutes. Many would rather stick with natural sugar, in spite of its health consequences. Some consider honey a good alternative, but while honey has many good properties, it is not something diabetics can turn to as a sugar alternative. A tablespoon of honey actually has more carbs and calories than table sugar. Dietician Toby Smithson, a spokesperson for the American Diabetic Association, says, “One of my favorite quotes is ‘a sugar is a sugar’ when it comes to diabetes.”1
Some companies are starting to turn to other natural sweeteners that don’t have the side effects of sugar, but still offer the sweetness consumers like. Even Coca-Cola has a new product out called Coca-Cola Life, a reduced calorie soft drink sweetened with a blend of sugar and stevia leaf extract.
The FDA has recently released new mandatory nutrition labeling regulations which will require companies to include a line for “added sugars” on products, in addition to the current “total sugars” line. “Total sugars” will include sugars naturally occurring in a product, such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruit. “Added sugars” would include any caloric-carbohydrate sweeteners. The new requirement is intended to help Americans make healthier dietary choices.
“Intense focus on added sugar consumption and links to obesity, diabetes and heart disease is motivating consumers to not only reduce total sweetener consumption, but to also switch to sweeteners perceived as more healthful,” said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.2
Stevia is becoming a commonly used natural sugar substitute. But while stevia may be somewhat healthier, its bitter aftertaste has to be masked by mixing it with something else—something like sugar, which we want to eliminate as much as possible. Other products mix stevia with erythritol, another zero-calorie plant-based sweetener. Erythritol lacks the bitter aftertaste of stevia, which makes one wonder why these companies don’t just use erythritol. Why bother with the stevia?
The answer is probably a cost one. Being 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, less stevia needs to be used for the required sweetness. On the other hand, erythritol is only about 60-80% as sweet as sugar, so more of it is needed.
But although stevia may be healthier than regular table sugar, it has its disadvantages. Dental caries is one of the major complaints against sugar. Stevia also can cause dental caries. But erythritol does not. In fact, a study published in the May 2014 issue of “Caries Research” found that erythritol may even help prevent cavities. 3
There are other problems with stevia. The FDA established an acceptable daily intake of stevia at 4 milligrams per kilogram (about 2 pounds) of body weight. So for a person weighing 150 pounds, that would be 300 milligrams. However, most stevia sweetening packets contain 1 gram (or 1,000 mg.), which far exceeds the FDA allowance. The NYU Langone Medical Center advises that anyone with liver, kidney, or cardiovascular disease, or women who are pregnant or nursing, consult a physician before using stevia.4 Stevia can also cause adverse reactions with some medications. The use of stevia by people taking diabetic medications can cause hypoglycemia, with blood sugar levels falling abnormally low. Those on blood pressure medications should also avoid stevia as it can cause significantly lower blood pressure. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center also warns that high doses of stevia may be mutagenic. And a warning to women who want to get pregnant—whole stevia leaves were traditionally used by natives in Paraguay as a contraceptive. There are no such warnings concerning erythritol.
Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation, Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands, says, “The quest to combine taste and health is driving new product development, as the industry faces the challenge of balancing public demand to reduce added sugars and create indulgent experiences, while at the same time presenting clean label products.”5
Sweet-tasting fiber may also help reduce added sugars in some food products. One of the most common fiber food ingredients is chicory root fiber, also known as fructan.
Life Energy Food’s Frē ® is a prebiotic fructan fiber product sweetened with erythritol. It has no calories, does not cause cavities (and may even prevent them), is non-carcinogenic, and won’t cause your blood pressure or blood sugar to drop. And it has no bitter aftertaste.
One of the most important benefits of Frē ® is that it will not only sweeten your foods naturally and healthily with erythritol, but the prebiotic fructan fibers will add additional sweetness and feed the probiotics (good bacteria) in your gut to give you better intestinal health.
Fiber is not only an important part of our diet, it is essential to optimum health. A recent study from the University of Illinois shows that dietary fiber promotes a shift in the gut toward different types of beneficial bacteria. Fiber promotes good intestinal health and helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. A high-fiber diet also lowers the risk of developing some cancers, especially colon and breast cancer. And it can help lower cholesterol, especially the LDL cholesterol. High-fiber foods are also lower on the glycemic index, a great help to those with Type 2 Diabetes.
Eating a lot of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes has linked to an increase in short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are associated with many health-promoting effects, including a reduced risk of inflammatory diseases, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. They also aid in lowering the concentration of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, stabilize blood glucose levels, and protect the colon lining from bacterial infections.
Another really important role of fiber is that some fibers are prebiotics—meaning they are fermented in the colon by the healthful beneficial bacteria that feed on them.
Both soluble and insoluble fibers are undigested. They are therefore not absorbed into the bloodstream. Fiber content is often listed under "Total Carbohydrates" on a Nutrition Facts label. Because it is undigested, it provides 0 calories. Instead of being used for energy, fiber is excreted from our bodies. Soluble fibers dissolve and break down in water, forming a thick gel. Insoluble fibers, also known as roughage, do not dissolve in water or break down in your digestive system. Insoluble fibers, such as the tough skins on foods and brans and seeds, pass through thee gastro-intestinal tract almost intact. We need both types of fiber, and most high fiber foods have combinations of these. Take an apple, for example--the skin contains insoluble fiber and the juicy flesh contains soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to reduce constipation and keep the overall digestive process moving along.
Soluble fibers prolong the stomach emptying time so that sugar is released and absorbed more slowly, providing a longer period of energy. They also help to control diarrhea and lower “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL).
Together both types of fiber help to regulate bowels, control cholesterol and blood sugar, protect against colon cancer, and help prevent diverticulitis.
If you’ve looked at labels lately, you’ll notice that foods give you the total amount of fiber, but don’t break it down into soluble or insoluble. So how do you know what kind you’re getting? The best strategy for getting more fiber is to try to eat whole foods—that is, whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans rather than processed foods (like crackers and chips). Like the apple, most of these have both types of fiber.
Good sources of soluble fiber are: barley, beans, blueberries, oatmeal, pears and psyllium—as well as Life Energy Food’s products, Frē® and Vim®.
For insoluble fiber, eat plenty of carrots, celery, seeds, whole grains, whole wheat products, and zucchini (which your neighbors with gardens will be happy to give you free).
One thing you must remember, though, when you increase your fiber, you need to make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids (especially water). This is especially true of soluble fiber. If you increase your fiber intake, but don’t drink enough, you may get constipated, which kind of defeats the purpose of eating more fiber in the first place.
1.http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/medicinal-uses-of-honey 2.http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Supplier-Innovations/2017/01/Sweetening_dairy_products_natu.aspx?ID=%7B05A570C4-A266-4704-B260-66DC8CDE4D4B%7D 3.http://www.livestrong.com/article/497773-erythritol-vs-stevia-vs-xylitol/ 4.http://www.livestrong.com/article/497773-erythritol-vs-stevia-vs-xylitol/ 5.http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Supplier-Innovations/2017/01/Sweetening_dairy_products_natu.aspx?ID=%7B05A570C4-A266-4704-B260-66DC8CDE4D4B%7D
A Healthy Gut Can Lead to a Healthy Brain
We’ve talked a lot about the need for a healthy microbiome (gut) and how the prebiotic fructan fibers in our Frē® and Vim® products feed the probiotics (healthy bacteria) in your gut. It’s important to have a healthy digestive system to keep us feeling well and fit.
But recent studies have suggested that a healthy microbiome may lead to a healthy brain as well. Those probiotics not only control our physical well-being, but also regulate how we think and feel.
Dr. Emerson Mayer, a gastroenterologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been studying this topic for years. "I'm always by profession a skeptic," he says. "But I do believe that our gut microbes affect what goes on in our brains."
Although most of the tests so far have been on mice, Mayer did conduct a study at UCLA using female subjects. The women were divided into groups, one group eating yogurt containing the probiotics thought to have a positive effect on the gut--bifidobacterium, streptococcus, lactococcus, and lactobacillus— twice a day for four weeks, while others did not. Even Mayer himself was surprised at the significant differences between the groups.
Before and after the study, MRI scans looked at the subjects’ brains in a state of rest and in response to a series of images reflecting happiness, sadness, anger, etc. The yogurt eaters reacted more calmly to the images than the control group. “The contrast was clear,” Mayer said. “This was not what we expected, that eating a yogurt twice a day for a few weeks would do something to your brain.” He thinks the bacteria in the yogurt changed the makeup of the subjects’ gut microbes, and that this led to the production of compounds that modified brain chemistry.
“Many of us have a container of yogurt in our refrigerator that we may eat for enjoyment, for calcium or because we think it might help our health in other ways,” said Dr. Kirsten Tillisch of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment.”
It is well-known that the brain sends signals to the gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms. This study shows that signals travel the opposite way as well.“Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” Tillisch said. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”
Although a lot more research needs to be done, UCLA’s study should give us enough incentive to improve our microbiomes. Eating a cup of yogurt twice a day certainly can’t hurt us, and if it can help to give us mental as well as physical well-being, it’s certainly worth a try.
But don’t buy the sweetened yogurts. Instead, save on that sugar by using regular yogurt and add your own sweetness with fresh berries or fruits and adding Vim® or Frē®. Remember that Vim® and Frē® not only add sweetness, but also the prebiotic fructan fibers that will feed the probiotics in the yogurt, making that tasty snack even more nutritious. Watch the recipe section of our website and our Facebook page for some fun flavor combinations you can use to make your daily yogurt intake fun, delicious, and exciting.