Fresh vs. Frozen (vs. Canned) Produce, Who Wins? Part 3: Canned

WE ARE BACK 

To finish up this monster of a blog post all about The Produce Wars. Which is better, and which is worse?? (SPOILER ALERT) Well, hopefully, by now you’ve seen that each type has its pros and cons, and that not one is better than the other, because each has its own way of processing, storage, cooking method, etc. that will help it retain nutrients or lose some in these processes. With that being said, let’s finish up by discussing canned produce and its trade-offs. We’ll wrap up with some application of where and how you can use this information.

Let’s go

Canned Produce

Processing

Here’s where canned produce can fall short pretty dramatically in terms of nutrient availability. For many canned products, they undergo “Thermal Processing” which simply means heating something to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. As we learned earlier, water-soluble vitamins such as C & B are very sensitive to heat, and are lost in this process.

For example, carrots and broccoli saw losses greater than 80% just from the canning process alone1. Interestingly, however, corn and beets saw very small changes when canned1, perhaps because they’re tougher on the exterior?

The B-vitamins appear to be all over the board in terms of how much of the nutrients are lost. Thiamin (B1) saw 25%-66% losses in spinach, while the same study saw no changes in the Thiamin content of tomatoes2. Honestly, the story seems pretty similar across the other B-vitamins. There was so much variability, that I’m not going to waste your time going into the details behind it all. You can read the review itself if you’re curious1. My takeaway for the B-vitmins since they’re so variable is to try to derive them from non-canned sources if you can since the losses appeared to be higher than the retention for most of the studies1. There’s a helpful chart that you can refer to that pretty much spells it out for you!

When turning to the fat-soluble vitamins, there is a different story. Vitamin A actually saw some increases in its concentration after the canning process! One study found increases ranging from 7%-50% in green beans, sweet potatoes, spinach, and collard greens3. But the picture isn’t perfect. In that same study, peaches showed a 50% drop along with a 13% decrease for vitamin A in tomatoes. Upon further reading of this review, one can see that the research about canning and vitamin A content is actually pretty fuzzy, consisting of studies on both sides4. My opinion on this would be to acquire your vitamin A from a variety of canned products if they’re your only option.

Not much research has been conducted on vitamin E and canned foods because the foods with the highest concentration of the vitamin are not typically canned or fruits/veggies; however, some studies have shown large increases after processing in tomatoes5. It appears as though heat, similar with vitamin A, activates the vitamin within the food and allows it to be extracted/consumed in a greater amount than in the raw form. This only occurs up to a certain extent. After being converted to tomato paste, some losses of vitamin E occurred5. Interestingly, the USDA reports that canned products, when compared with their fresh or frozen alternative, have higher amounts of vitamin E4.

Here is where things get kinda interesting.  The amount of minerals in canned products can actually get increased during the canning process5. When canning, water is often added to preserve the food longer or create a syrup base to the food. Depending on the geographical processing location, the water may actually add minerals such as potassium and calcium5. With this, however, comes the enormous increase in sodium. That is my one caveat if you’re going to get canned, search for low sodium or salt-free options when available and financially feasible.

For fiber, the rule stays the same: physical preparation/removal is going to lower the fiber content. In foods such as tomatoes and asparagus, the researchers saw a 27% drop in fiber content; however, other foods, even after physical prep, did not see changes, largely due to the outer or thicker layers remaining intact2.

Storage

Moving on to storage of canned products, we start again with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Pretty simple here, and, as you can imagine, not much losses are incurred after storing canned foods for a long time (18 months in these studies). Losses for vitamin C were no more than 15% for a variety of veggies1.

For the B-vitamins, there actually appears to be variety in losses depending on the food. Thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, which are all B-vitamins, saw significant losses after 8 months in canned tomatoes6, but saw no changes in fiddlehead greens7. I had to google what fiddlehead greens are. I’m not sure we have those in the US or Arizona at least lol.

There were not a whole lot of studies that observed the effect of canned storage on vitamin A, but the few that did showed little to no change in the amount of the vitamin over time when in storage4.

One funny thing that happens with canned foods is that, depending on the material of the can, the food will experience increases or decreases in the amount of iron or copper. Steel-plated tin cans have been shown to increase the amount of iron in a food8. Other than that, other minerals are not really affected during storage8.

There wasn’t much to be said about fiber in canned foods, but the summary is that some foods like fiddlehead greens may experience a decrease as much as 25% if canned and stored for 10 months4.

Cooking

Since canned products are often already cooked, there are few additional losses from cooking for vitamin C, assuming that little if any water is added and the food is cooked only to get heated1.

Many of the studies that considered B-vitamin retention consistently showed that, while frozen and canned products may contain the same amounts of B-vitamins (even though they were low), both forms still have lower amounts than fresh counterparts1.

Vitamin A studies showed that cooked fresh carrots and other veggies had higher amounts than frozen and canned options, but all forms were still good sources of vitamin A1.

Unfortunately, there was not much to report about vitamin E except data from the USDA which showed that canned products compared to fresh and frozen had significantly lower amounts of the vitamin1.

The effects on mineral losses in canned goods was focused primarily on sodium losses. A 1975 study showed that if you rinse the canned food in water before cooking, you can reduce a significant amount of the sodium content by 23-45%9.

There were no mentions of fiber losses from canned products, but I imagine that it would be similar to cooking fresh or frozen foods since the main thing that affects fiber content is physical processing.

Takeaways

This is going to be a bit longer than my normal takeaway, as I’m going to wrap up this entire series, but I hope you have learned something from this small series of posts. The primary idea I wanted to communicate to you was that fruits, veggies, and other produce goods come in different shapes, sizes, and forms. Each form has its own pros and cons, and each contains more or less of certain nutrients than the other. Mainly, this set of posts was to relieve stress that some people feel when getting hung up about buying the fresh or frozen option. Either one is fine. The fact that you’re eating veggies is great, and be happy about that. With that, a quick summary of each option’s yays and nays:

Fresh produce often showed higher amounts of the nutrients, but would degrade significantly faster. Unless you’re going through your produce drawer every three days, I’d advise mixing it up a bit. Fresh produce can also cost more than the frozen or canned, which can be a barrier for many people. No one shouldn’t feel bad about buying cost-appropriate options, as they can contain similar or even more of certain nutrients.

Frozen and canned goods possess a lot of benefits just like fresh foods do. Obviously, they last longer and retain their nutrients for a longer period of time. Also, many food companies are now making strides in nutrient-dense frozen meals that taste freaking awesome! If you’re busy and on-the-go, frozen meals can be an awesome option for you.

Canned goods are great in that they are often enhanced with delicious flavors that would be a pain in the ass to make your own. Or, they are already cooked, and all you have to do is heat them up and you have food! My advice with canned foods is drain the sodium before cooking by rinsing it for a few seconds.

I also think it’s important to note that there were some limitations in the review and research I used, so these data are not going to 100% accurate and correct all the time 24/7. The studies varied greatly on how they measured losses and retention-mostly on a dry weight vs. wet weight basis-and the years that they were published. As time goes on, research methods improve and may even invalidate some older studies, so these papers are not without their faults, but they still provide some valuable information about how you can make smarter decisions about what you eat!

In conclusion, fresh, frozen, and canned foods are all great and can be part of a healthy diet. Learn to experiment with all the options an variety you’re given, and you’ll come across some pretty cool stuff! Let me know some canned or frozen recipes or foods you found that changed your life! Thanks for reading!

References

1Rickman, J., Barrett, D., & Bruhn, C. (2007). Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 87(6), 930-944.

22Martin-Belloso O and Llanos-Barriobero EProximate composition, minerals and vitamins in selected canned vegetablesEur Food Res Technol 212182187(2001).

33Lessin WJCatigani GL and Schwartz SJQuantification of cistrans isomers of provitamin A carotenoids in fresh and processed fruits and vegetablesJ Agric Food Chem 4537283732 (1997).

4Rickman, J., Bruhn, C., & Barrett, D. (2007). Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables II. Vitamin A and carotenoids, vitamin E, minerals and fiber. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 87(7), 1185-1196.

5Abushita AADaood HGand Biacs PAChange in carotenoids and antioxidant vitamins in tomato as a function of varietal and technological factorsJ Agric Food Chem4820752081 (2000).

6Saccani GTrifiró ACortesi AGherardi SZanotti Aand Montanari AEffects of production technology and storage conditions on the content of water-soluble vitamins in tomato pureesInd Conserve 76107118 (2001).

7Bushway AASerreze DVMcGann DFTrue RHWork TM and Bushway RJEffect of processing method and storage time on the nutrient composition of fiddlehead greensJ Food Sci 5014911492, 1516 (1985).

8Elkins ERNutrient content of raw and canned green beans, peaches, and sweet potatoesFood Technol 336670 (1979).

9Sinar LJ and Mason MSodium in four canned vegetablesJ Am Diet Assoc66155157 (1975).

Advertisements

Fresh vs. Frozen (vs. Canned) Produce, Who Wins? Part 2: Frozen

Welcome back! We’re continuing our discussion on whether you should eat fresh, frozen, or canned fruits/veggies. So far, we’ve seen the pros and cons of fresh produce: High in nutrient density, but loses its nutrients quickly if stored for a few days! How can we combat that?? Hmmm…..??? Got it! Freeze the colorful bastards! Yes! I’m saying freeze your produce or buy frozen if you know you store food for a while. Also, you may get more nutrients from doing this. Let’s look at what the data says about frozen produce in comparison to other methods!

Frozen Produce

Processing:

Last post, I did not include processing as a means of loss because fresh fruits/veggies don’t really experience much processing that could affect nutrient availability. Time was a primary factor in losses from fresh produce. I include it here because the freezing process can have an effect on the nutrients in food.

Processing for produce involves cooking the food then quickly freezing it. This is typically accomplished through blanching. This process involves boiling the food for a very short period of time, enough to cook it. Then, the food is thrown in cold water or an ice bath to freeze! This process can yield some losses in nutrients.

For example, one study found a 63% loss of Vitamin C in green peas just from freezing the food1. Numerous studies were compared to examine the loss of Vitamin C during the blanching and freezing process. Across the board, there was a lot of variance (From 17%-63% losses). Alternatively, while broccoli and spinach showed the greatest losses, asparagus appeared to be the hardiest vegetable, as Vitamin C was shown to retain 90% of its concentration after freezing2. Most of the vegetables reviewed saw fewer losses of ascorbic acid to freezing than canning, with some veggies losing as much as 90% of their Vitamin C just from the canning process2.

Losses of B-vitamins are similar to Vitamin C in that they vary greatly between studies, but the percentages were, on average, lower in terms of percent lost to freezing. Freezing was similarly a more efficient process than canning to preserve B-vitamins2.

For the fat-soluble Vitamin A (specifically beta-carotene), their does not appear to be a major change in loss between canning and freezing; they both appear to lose about the same amount2. Vitamin A was shown, as seen through multiple studies, to have losses ranging from 5%-48%2. The authors of the review made an interesting point that the typical American’s main source of Vitamin A is through lycopene in tomatoes, and these are not normally frozen2, so this may not be a super important point if most of our intake is from tomatoes anyway!

Not much is mentioned of Vitamin E, but it appears that canning may produce a slightly greater amount of the vitamin than fresh and frozen counterparts2.

In terms of minerals, fresh, frozen, and canned veggies all were neck-and-neck. One food would have more calcium when canned, then the next would have more calcium when fresh, and so on and so on. Just from my judgement, with the exception of sodium, it seemed as though fresh and frozen produce showed, on average, higher amounts of the minerals when compared to canned counterparts3.

For fiber and processing, the only time fiber was lost was when some of the fibrous portions of the food were physically removed. There appears to be nothing about canning or freezing the affects fiber if the food is left intact2.

Storage:

As one can imagine, frozen produce does much better than fresh in terms of nutrient retention during storage. Regarding Vitamin C, after one year of storage, one study saw an average decrease of 20%-50% for food such as broccoli and spinach4 whereas fresh foods can see those losses or greater in as little as 24 hours5!

Unfortunately, the data is pretty inconclusive about B-vitamin losses, so I’m not going to include it here.

In regards to Vitamin A, some studies say a small increase in Vitamin A concentration after storage6 while others saw no change or decreases after storage for a period of time7.

Data from the USDA suggest that some foods like tomatoes and sweet potatoes contain higher levels of Vitamin E when canned compared to their fresh and frozen equivalents; however, spinach and asparagus showed higher levels when fresh or frozen8. Basically, the results are inconclusive, there is no clear winner for this category.

As mentioned in the last post, fiber and minerals are much hardier components of food than the other vitamins, so losses from them are very minimal, including when they are frozen for months on end8.

Cooking:

Home-cooking foods can have a significant effect on nutrient losses. Generally, when heat is applied, some losses will occur, especially in the water-soluble vitamins.

When compared with canned and fresh produce, frozen held its own with fresh foods for Vitamin C retention-throughout processing, storage, and canning-being very similar in nutrient quality compared across a range of foods. Canned produce fell short, withstanding significant losses throughout the processing, storage and cooking steps2.

For the B-vitamins, it has been seen that Thiamin, a vitamin important for cell metabolism and growth9, can witness small or significant losses during the cooking process (11%-66% loss of nutrient)10. From other studies, they showed that canned and frozen produce fell equally short to fresh foods after cooking for the B-vitamins11,12.

Vitamin A one again saw increases in availability after cooking. Some of the foods saw even greater percent changes when frozen than when cooked. For example, one study saw only a 5% increase in Vitamin A for carrots when fresh compared to a 21% increase when frozen13

Vitamin E in frozen foods was not really mentioned, so I will skip this portion.

When looking at the minerals sodium, calcium, and potassium, some interesting results were noticed. Across the board, concentrations of potassium and calcium were similar after cooking for fresh, frozen, and canned foods when testing green beans and peas12. One can assume that canned foods will have a higher amount of sodium due to processing12. What this tells us is that generally, produce will have similar amounts of the beneficial minerals. If you’re watching sodium, opt for either non-canned options or those that are sodium-free/no salt added. One caveat, this study only looked at those two vegetables. The results may be different when looking at fruits and vegetables. My personal opinion is that it may not be too different simply because minerals are more resistant to heat and cooking than the vitamins.

In reference to the last post, fiber isn’t really lost from the cooking process unless you physically remove the tough, fibrous, parts of food. Researchers went to the grocery store and purchased some food off the shelf to observe its fiber content and compare fresh, frozen, and canned foods. What they found was that cooked frozen and cooked canned green beans and peas had 25%-35% greater amounts of fiber than the cooked fresh counterpart12.

Keep in mind, this is one grocery trip they took. Fiber content may vary between batches, but it is an interesting point because I think that most people would think that the fresh food will always have more nutrients, which, as we just saw, is not always the case.

Phew, this was a longer post than most of the others. My b. But there was a lot to cover! I will be going over specifically canned produce next week, so look forward to that! Here are my takeaways!

Takeaways

  • Frozen foods last significantly longer than fresh foods. If you plan on having food for a long time or like to stockpile for nuclear war for some weird reason, go frozen.
    • In many cases, frozen foods have similar nutrient amounts to fresh.
  • In addition, frozen foods take a long time on average to lose a lot of their nutrients, so store those babies for a while, you’ll be good!
  • Frozen foods (including meals) are a quick and easy way to make a meal, since the prep work is usually done.
  • Try limiting the time you heat/cook any kind of produce. The longer it stays in hear or water, the greater chance you will lose nutrients
    • On the other hand, don’t drive yourself nuts and only eat raw foods, that’s not the way either. If you can limit water and heat use and still get the same product, great. If not, no biggie, enjoy your damn food.

 

I hope you found this article useful. Let me know how use frozen foods in your meals/meal planning, I’m always looking for ideas!

References

1Fellers CR and Stepat WEffect of shipping, freezing and canning on the ascorbic acid (vitamin C) content of peasProc Am Soc Hort Sci 32627633(1935).

2Rickman, J., Barrett, D., & Bruhn, C. (2007). Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 87(6), 930-944.

3Makhlouf JZee JTremblay NBelanger AMichaud MH and Gosselin ASome nutritional characteristics of beans, sweet corn and peas (raw, canned and frozen) produced in the province of QuebecFood Res Int 28253259 (1995)

4Hunter KJ and Fletcher JMThe antioxidant activity and composition of fresh, frozen, jarred and canned vegetablesInnov Food Sci Emerg Technol 3399406(2002).

5Favell DJA comparison of the vitamin C content of fresh and frozen vegetablesFood Chem 625964 (1998).

6Salunkhe DKBolin HR and Reddy NRChemical composition and nutritional quality, in Storage, Processing, and Nutritional Quality of Fruits and Vegetables. Vol. 2: Processed Fruits and Vegetables. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 115145 (1991).

7Elkins ERNutrient content of raw and canned green beans, peaches, and sweet potatoesFood Technol 336670 (1979).

8Rickman, J., Bruhn, C., & Barrett, D. (2007). Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables II. Vitamin A and carotenoids, vitamin E, minerals and fiber. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 87(7), 1185-1196.

9Thiamin Fact Sheet From NIH

10Rumm-Kreuter D and Demmel IComparison of vitamin losses in vegetables due to various cooking methodsJ Nutr Sci Vitaminol 36S7S15(1990).

11Lisiewska ZKorus A and Kmiecik WChanges in the level of vitamin C, beta-carotene, thiamine, and riboflavin during preservation of immature grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.) seedsEur Food Res Technol 215216220(2002).

12Wills RBEvans TJLim JSScriven FM and Greenfield HComposition of Australian foods. 25. Peas and beansFood Technol Aust 36512514 (1984).

13Howard LAWong ADPerry AK and Klein BPβ-Carotene and ascorbic acid retention in fresh and processed vegetablesJ Food Sci 64929936(1999).

Exercise Program Design for the New Year

Welcome back for another great episode of the Agora Bodkast! If you’re not already subscribed to us, go to itunes here and give us a rating, review, and subscribe! We actually recorded this one over the summer but we kept having on awesome guests, and so we wanted to push their episodes ahead of this one. Here, we talk about how to design your own exercise program specific to your goals. We do have a bit of a powerlifting/bodybuilding focus, but take what we talk about here, and you can apply it to your own style of training. That I can assure you! Show notes below, enjoy!

0:00 Introduction
2:11 Different types of programming
3:38 Distinction between strength and power
4:40 Progressing with linear periodization
6:30 Defining undulating periodization
12:00 Structuring an undulating program
13:15 Estimating your one rep max if unable to test official 1RM
14:50 Why you don’t lose training adaptations with undulating periodization
16:30 Designing programs to avoid over-training/injuries
18:30 Setting proper goals to design an effective program
22:40 Deciding on type of program and exercise selection
25:50 Applying progressive overload to your program
31:05 The “optimal” rep ranges for strength & hypertrophy
35:45 J’s 5 ways to gains!
37:40 Tips for beginners in the gym
43:55 Instas and thanks for watching!

Fresh vs. Frozen (vs. Canned) Produce, Who Wins? Part 1: Fresh

People are always going to argue over the stuff that is 5% of the equation while ignoring the actually important 95%. This debate between fresh, frozen, and canned produce is part of that 5%. Why? Because for the most part, a vegetable is a vegetable is a vegetable. While we may want to get all of our nutrition from fresh foods and be #healthy, that’s not always financially, practically, or geographically possible. Luckily, with the technological advancements in food processing (yes, I think processing can be a good thing), we are able to preserve foods and acquire foods we would never have gotten a chance to eat given our location. These developments have not come without criticism, however.

Many will claim that canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are not “as healthy” as their fresh counterpart. First off, please define healthy. You can’t measure something with healthy. “Oh, this food has 5 health”, this isn’t a freaking video game. Talk about nutrient density; that’s a good way to measure the healthfulness of a food. Nutrient density refers to the quantity and variety of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber content, etc.) that are in a food. Obviously, fruits and veggies are extremely nutrient dense; but do they contain the same amount and types of nutrients across the board from fresh to frozen to canned? That’s the topic of discussion for today.

The Research

In 2007, there was a great literature review published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture that compiled a lot of the research conducted in this area over the last several decades from UC Davis1. This review was broken up into 2 main sections: Water-soluble & lipid-soluble. The difference here is that some nutrients dissolve in water while others dissolve in lipids (or fats). The properties of these nutrients change depending on their solubility. For example, water-soluble vitamins (C & B) are very susceptible to destruction from high temperatures while lipid-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) can tolerant high temperatures and still remain in food.

Fresh Produce

Storage:

While it may come as no surprise that fresh produce was shown to have greater amounts of nutrients than frozen or canned, it may be interesting to know that fresh vegetables also degrade the quickest in terms of nutrient availability2. In one study, researchers found 56-100% decreases in Vitamin C content depending on the food item being tested. This was after storing the food at room temperature for 7 days3. Keep in mind, Vitamin C is a very unstable nutrient, so it’s sensitive and will be degraded the quickest of any nutrient, but for water-soluble vitamins, it’s a good estimation. Vitamin B losses were also found during storage, but not as dramatic as Vitamin C1.

Lipid-soluble vitamins had a different story. Vitamin A, in some cases, actually saw an increase in availability after a few days. This was seen in carrots refrigerated after 14 days4. Simultaneously, green beans experienced a small 10% decrease during refrigeration from 16 days4.

In part 2 of the review, minerals and fiber were tested in addition to lipid-soluble vitamins. What was seen there was that neither minerals or fiber saw significant losses during storage over many months1, although I wouldn’t eat anything considered fresh produce after a couple months…yikes.

Cooking:

As mentioned previously, water-soluble vitamins can be quickly destroyed if exposed to heat such as from cooking while lipid-soluble vitamins are more tolerant of supa hot fiya. One study tested the Vitamin C content of produce straight from the supermarket after cooking and found that some foods had higher Vit. C levels when fresh and cooked while others had more of the vitamin when coming from a can and then cooked3! In addition, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) has been shown to see decreases after cooking as high as 55%5.

Thiamin, a B-Vitamin, has seen even greater losses from cooking at 66%6. The cooking method will also be significant factor for how much of the nutrient is lost to cooking; unfortunately, the authors did not specify which methods are better than others for nutrient retention, but my guess would have to be whichever method utilizes heat for the least amount of time would be best.

Lipid soluble Vitamin A had an interesting outcome when exposed to heat; it increased! One study found a 26% increase in the amount of Vitamin A available after cooking fresh broccoli7. Other studies did not find any increase but rather, a decrease1.

Minerals and their quantity in foods are able to be reduced from cooking by leaching into the water or cooking liquid out of the food1. If possible, use that cooking liquid again to get some of that nutrient back into a meal.

Fiber did not see any significant changes when exposed to heat1. The primary way that you’re going to lose fiber from cooking is through processes like peeling, juicing, and removing parts of fruits and vegetables1. For example, asparagus spears have the signature flower part to them and the annoying tough end to them. The reason why that end is tough is because it is loaded with cellulose/fiber. I’m not saying you need to eat all the hard parts of fruits and veggies, but save a little bit of it next time to get a little extra bit of fiber from your meal.

Takeaways

So far, we have only covered what the research has said about fresh fruits and vegetables, and haven’t really made a comparison with frozen and canned veggies. That will come next week when we talk about frozen produce and then the following week with canned products. For now, my takeaways are this:

  • Fresh is not always the best option especially if the produce is going to sit for a couple of days.
  • If possible, place fresh items in the fridge to slow the process of nutrient degradation
  • Cooking can contribute to the greatest loss of nutrients, but don’t eat everything raw either. My point is focus more so on getting fruits and vegetables in the first place. Then, worry about cooking methods and other things.

I hope you found this information useful to you. As I said above, We’ll start actually comparing the three forms next week, then you may be able to make better decisions about what you select at the grocery store! Leave me your comments with your thoughts!

References

1Rickman, J., Barrett, D., & Bruhn, C. (2007). Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 87(6), 930-944.

2Favell DJ, A comparison of the vitamin C content of fresh and frozen vegetables. Food Chem 62:59–64 (1998).

3Hunter KJ and Fletcher JMThe antioxidant activity and composition of fresh, frozen, jarred and canned vegetablesInnov Food Sci Emerg Technol 3399406(2002).

4Howard LAWong ADPerry AK and Klein BPβ-Carotene and ascorbic acid retention in fresh and processed vegetablesJ Food Sci 64929936(1999).

5Goyal RKNutritive value of fruits, vegetables, and their products, in Postharvest Technology of Fruits and Vegetables, ed. by VermaLR and JoshiVK. Indus Publishing, New Delhi, pp. 337389 (2000).

6Rumm-Kreuter D and Demmel IComparison of vitamin losses in vegetables due to various cooking methodsJ Nutr Sci Vitaminol 36S7S15(1990).

7Lessin WJCatigani GL and Schwartz SJQuantification of cistrans isomers of provitamin A carotenoids in fresh and processed fruits and vegetablesJ Agric Food Chem 4537283732 (1997).

Basic Nutrition To Fuel Your Not-So-Basic Life Part 4: Fiber

Let me tell you something about fiber. When I first began my study of nutrition about 2 1/2 years ago, my very first nutrition professor was a fiber nerd! She loved fiber and talked to us about it like it was the best thing since sliced (whole grain) bread. Over time, I’ve realized why she was so passionate about this special type of carbohydrate.

It truly is awesome because it plays host to many benefits for our health; they’re vast and highly effective for our body’s proper functioning, so I wanted to take this time to define fiber, talk about why it’s so awesome, and provide some recommendations on how much should be consumed daily.

wtF is Fiber?

Hah. Get it?

Anyway, fiber, as mentioned above and in one of my original posts on my website about carbs, fiber is a type of carbohydrate. But, it’s very special. One reason is because fiber cannot be fully digested. Our bodies do not possess the proper enzymes and digestion systems to fully break it down. Why is it so hard for the body to break down? There’s a few reasons for that.

Fiber, on a very small-scale level is made up of A LOT of sugar molecules. Collectively, these bundles of sugar molecules bonded together are known as polysaccharides. Specifically, fiber is derived from cellulose¹. You may have heard of cellulose as being the cell walls of plant cells. FUN FACT.

Think of a long chain of beads like the picture below.pexels-photo-221550.jpegImagine that each bead represents one molecule of sugar. Now, imagine that this necklace is a chain of at least 1000 beads. That is fiber. Crazy, right? Our body will get fiber from food and there are a few interesting things that happen when we consume fibrous foods.

Function of Fiber

Primarily, our blood sugar begins to level off. When looking at graphs depicting levels of glucose in the blood, we’ll often see a huge spike in blood sugar levels when we eat sugary foods and things containing simple carbohydrates. Keep in mind simple carbs refer to small chains or single units of sugar that the body can quickly break apart and utilize for energy.

With fiber, we don’t see that spike. What we see is a gradual increase in blood sugar and a peak that doesn’t typically get as high as the peak would be from simple carbs. Additionally, blood sugar levels taper down at a slower rate than simple carb spikes. This has a lot of interesting health implications and is the fundamental idea behind diabetes and insulin resistance. I won’t go into how we develop Type 2 Diabetes in this post. I’ll probably talk about Diabeetus another time.

The slow and steady increase and decrease results from the body’s inability to digest fiber. Since we can’t break down fiber completely, it will sit in the gut and become “food” for our gut’s microbiome, a “community” of microorganisms that live inside us. While we don’t have the digestive system to break down fiber, the organisms living in our gut do to some extent. So they will partially break down fibers and convert them into fatty acids that we can break down and use for energy in a process called fermentation. This process takes some time, and we get fatty acids out of it, which take a while to break down in their selves, so this is what leads to that progressive increase and decrease in blood sugar. Pretty cool, right??

This is important for our health because small and slow increases in blood sugar are easier on our pancreas. Our pancreas secretes the hormone insulin that allows sugars to be shuttled into cells for energy. Slower and steadier increases mean less insulin has to be produced and secreted at any given time. Long-term production of insulin for large spikes is a risk factor for diabetes. For this reason, fiber has been noted as a component of the diet that can reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes².

Additionally, fiber can help lower your cholesterol and and risk for heart disease². The way this works is that as fiber travels through your digestive system, it will bind to cholesterols that are floating around in the blood, and, since fiber can’t be digested, it will be excreted with some cholesterol still bound to it. The cholesterol that is removed is the LDL or “bad” cholesterol. In effect, this excretion of LDL lowers our blood pressure and risk of heart-related diseases²! I think that’s cool. Maybe just me.

On a side note, fiber also keeps you fuller for a longer period of time than other carbohydrates. When consumed, fiber will slow the rate of digestion for the entire meal, keeping food in your stomach and fighting hunger for a longer period of time. So, if you know that you’re going to be out for a awhile, having a meal high in fiber can ensure that you will be full and energized throughout the day!

Sources of Fiber

But where do we get foods high in fiber? Glad you asked. It’s the typical “healthy” foods. I know, booooo; but, fruits, vegetables, legumes (think beans and peas), and whole grains are the most common sources. Ever have some fruit, then get a sense of fullness afterwards? Happens to me with bananas. That’s the fiber bruh!

Fruits/vegetables are the hallmark of any healthy balanced diet, and fiber is one reason why. Most fruits/veggies will have a fair amount of fiber per serving. Simply check the nutrition facts panel to see how much!

Legumes are things like beans, peas, lentils, etc. They’re often packed with fiber AND protein.  Double whammy!

When I mention “whole grains”, I’m talking about oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and whole grain products (bread, pastas, tortillas, etc.). For the last set of products, make sure the package says “whole grain” or “whole wheat” somewhere or on the ingredients label to ensure you’re getting the most fiber possible.

Recommendations

The American Dietetic Association is very credible source (obviously), and they recommend the following for individuals². You can find the source of this chart on the 2nd reference I have listed:

Capture

Of course, you’re not going to die if you don’t hit that fiber number, but it is a good idea to actively aim for around that number listed for your age group. Having a fruit/vegetable at every meal is an easy way to start that. Or just include one more veggie than you’re already having. Small steps is the way to big successes!

Last thing, MORE IS NOT BETTER. Jumping your fiber intake rapidly or getting too much fiber may make you constipated and/or cause a lot of wind-breaking (toots, farting, passing gas, pick your favorite). As you increase your intake, make sure you’re drinking more water too in order for the digestive system to continue moving. Too much fiber can back you up if water isn’t in check. Happy eating!

Takeways

  • Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be broken down in the body completely
  • Fiber has a lot of health benefits including lowering blood pressure and blood sugar²
  • Sources of fiber are the typical healthy foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes
  • An adequate intake of fiber varies with age and sex, refer to the chart to see where you stack up!

Have questions?? Comment below about them or tell me your favorite ways to get fiber in your diet! Thanks of reading!

References

¹Dietary Polysaccharides (Article from Colorado State University)

²Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber

 

Chris Perry, MS | Setting the Record Straight About Sleep (Hint: GET MORE OF IT)

Welcome back to the Agora Bodkast! I’m very excited to share this episode with you! I really think it has a lot of valuable information. Chris really knows his stuff, and we dive into all aspects of sleep including naps, supplements, insomnia, whether fitbits and sleep trackers work, and ways to improve your sleep quality. There’s so much packed into this episode, I know you’ll get something out of it!

Don’t forget to head over to Itunes and leave a rate, review, and subscribe if you haven’t already! Thanks for watching/listening!

Show Notes coming soon!

I Made Some Mistakes On My Last Post, So I Fixed Them Here.

Hey y’all. Finals are done. Classes are out for a little while. I feel good. So good that I’ll be able to get back to writing every week!

Upon reading my last post about aerobic glycolysis, I noticed some issues with the article. There were some things that I either glossed over or need to revise, so this post serves as clarification on some of the hiccups in my last post. Nobody is perfect! Let’s wrap this ish’ up.

First off, I’d like to make the point clear that when you are training, energy systems don’t work like an on/off switch. For example, when you begin high intensity exercise, aerobic glycolysis is working along with the creatine phosphate and lactic acid systems. The difference is that most of your energy is obtained from the latter systems over the former at the beginning of your exercise/work that you’re doing; so energy acquired from aerobic systems will come into play later on as the length of exercise progresses, but the process has begun once you start training.

Next, I made a mistake regarding my explanation of aerobic glycolysis. Glycolysis is only part of the pie known as “Oxidative phosphorylation“. Specifically glycolysis refers to the breakdown of glucose for energy. As a reminder, we can get glucose from carbs or gluconeogenesis such as from lactate and glycerol from fats. This system (oxidative phosphorylation) is the sum of all aerobic reactions and pathways that create ATP; part of which being aerobic glycolysis. Proteins can also be used to produce small bits of ATP.

So during OP, energy may be derived from carbs, protein, and fats! Depending on the availability of nutrients will determine what your body goes for primarily. If you’re full of glucose or glycogen, then your body is going to use that because it’s the quickest and “costs” the least amount of energy to get energy. Your metabolism wants to save all the energy that it can for when it really matters.  Once glycogen stores are depleted, then fats and even proteins will take up a larger role.

Keep in mind that this system takes awhile to produce any energy, so it is not as though you can expect to lose weight just from depleting glycogen stores and relying on fat. You’ll eventually crash because the energy demand just for breathing and moving around could be greater than what can be produced. Simply, get off yo’ butt and move!

So it is a bit more complicated than just carbs and other things being converted into glucose then some magic happens and you have energy. But, that’s the exciting thing about learning! You can learn something new every day!

I hope this clarification of things helped the incomplete picture I painted previously. Maybe I just made it even more complicated. Either way, thanks for reading! Share this article and others to educate someone you know!