Very, very edible.
The folks at Fiber Gourmet recently plied me with a selection of their one-of-a-kind “light” pastas. Hey, I’m not one to turn away free food, so I gave their spinach, tomato and standard pasta noodles a taste try.
The Fiber Gourmet folks say “since fiber has 0 calories, as the fiber goes up the calories go down” – hence the “light” labeling.
As you all know, I’m cautious about the types of carbohydrates I consume. I rely on vegetables for the majority of my carbohydrate intake. I do eat some starchy carbohydrates such as brown rice, legumes, yams, quinoa and sprouted grain bread. But typically I don’t eat more than one starchy serving per day. Pasta, in particular, is hardly one of my favorites because it is refined wheat, making it high in empty carbohydrates that have a rapid, deleterious impact upon blood sugar. This is stressful to the body for a number of reasons, and the scientific evidence is compelling: excessive intake of refined carbohydrates is linked to our skyrocketing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
And while I understand that “low-carb” pastas like Shirataki can be helpful for jump-starting weight loss, I don’t personally recommend carb substitutes. (Although I am all for the jump start – start somewhere!) My preference against substitutes is not only because I favor whole, unprocessed, fresh foods for both weight loss and health maintenance. I also refuse to eat anything that tastes like cardboard, which seems to be a prevailing problem with light, low-carb and other assorted diet food products. Food will always taste better than a food product. If you can sustain a food product weight loss plan for more than a few months, you’re made of some tough stuff! But seriously, in my opinion, substitutes don’t successfully address the underlying problem with eating unhealthy foods: rather than shifting your cravings to healthier foods, they merely serve as a temporary fix to sate existing unhealthy preferences.
All right, Mark, we get it. What about this pasta? Fiber Gourmet pasta is made just like regular pasta, but contains 40% fewer calories (roughly 130 per 2-ounce serving). Of course, I don’t know anyone who can stop after just 2 ounces of pasta – and that’s the problem with carbs. Refined carbohydrates – sugars – are incredibly addictive.
But I do have to give Fiber Gourmet major “props” for the ridiculously high fiber content they’ve managed to manufacture in each very nicely textured strip of fettucine. Just 2 ounces provide 18 grams of fiber. That’s about one-third of what I recommend in a day for the average, healthy adult (but about two-thirds of Uncle Sam’s dietary suggestion). Not too shabby for just over 100 calories.
The total carbohydrates of this product are not low by any stretch – about 43 grams (18 from fiber and 25 from starch). I recommend ruthlessly aiming for fewer than 20 grams of refined carbohydrates in a given day. In fact, I think we’d all be better off if we avoided refined carbohydrates entirely.
Now to the taste factor:
The Fiber Gourmet pastas tasted good – exactly like “real” pasta. Texture was not gritty, gummy or weak. The exception was the spinach pasta, which didn’t hold up well with the olive oil and sea salt I doused it with. The flavor was pleasant enough, but an actual spinach salad would have had better peppery bite and a much more satisfying, chewy texture. And, of course, fewer refined carbohydrates. The tomato and regular pastas were just as chewy and substantial as regular pasta.
Bottom line: I’m really not a pasta guy. I just don’t “do” refined carbohydrates. I genuinely prefer vegetables and more natural, flavorful sources of starchy calories such as yams and brown rice, both for taste preference and health reasons. If you are trying to lose weight and gotta have the pasta, you might want to give those slippery Shirataki noodles a try to get started (good luck!). If you are maintaining your weight successfully and really love pasta, then I think Fiber Gourmet is a smart replacement for standard pasta. In fact, I really wouldn’t consider it as a substitute food product, because it’s virtually identical in taste and texture to regular pasta. It’s really more like an improved food product. They’ve done a good job replacing much of the empty starch with fiber, and I’m certainly a fan of that.
Still, my health philosophy remains fundamentally the same: there’s food, and then there are food products. We can substitute and switch and modify to our hearts’ content, but ultimately, I believe that optimal health comes from fresh, whole, natural foods.
Now I’m off to enjoy my daily salad. What are your thoughts?
- Do you think that improving existing popular foods will be effective for addressing our country’s health and weight concerns, or do you think we need to take a more radical approach by shifting our food habits altogether?
- What are your views on carbohydrates?
I’d love to get your point of view and hear what works to keep you lean and healthy.
Have you noticed the flood of moisturizers for use in the shower? These lotions come in several formulas, from moisturizing washes to rinse-off lotions. The latter confuses me a bit: is it conditioner for skin, or is it creating a protective barrier that clings even when the goop is washed away? And do I want anything that durable anywhere near my living, breathing skin? And what is with the sparkles?
Lotion: the thing we use to replace the moisture we just removed with soap. Soap dries our skin out, and moisturizer – depending on the ingredients – can both replenish the moisture and form a protective barrier.
While I admire the brilliant marketing – even better than meeting a need is creating one – I’m not fooled by the in-showerness of this new product category. Most of these new products contain very cheap ingredients. Despite the pennies that go into production, once they hit the shelves, these products come with some serious sticker shock. They range between $5-9. (Caress is around $5, Dove around $7.) While five bucks may not seem like much, and my healthy alternative is in the same price range, a major difference is that these in-shower moisturizers only provide a handful of uses and mine will last you all month. That is, unless you’re a person who actually follows the “quarter-sized dollop” recommendation. (Does anyone really do this? It’s like the seven chip or two Oreo serving size. Right!)
And with Gatsby Ice Deodorant Shower Lotion, the guys aren’t in the clear, either. (I’m ignoring Nivea on principle.)
Moisturizing on either side of the shower curtain is a bright idea. The key is to moisturize healthily. Despite the “newness” of in-shower lotions, you’ll notice they contain the same ingredients found in most lotions, soaps, bath washes, conditioners and shampoos. These ingredients are typically derived from petroleum or rendered animal fat. Shower lotions are gunked up with mineral oil, a friendly-sounding euphemism for the same stuff that makes plastic and runs cars. Naturally, I’m just dying to get this all over my skin and into my pores. Yum! I bet you are, too! Other petroleum-based products include “baby oil” and “bath oil”.
There’s an alternative that is:
- healthy for you
- healthy for the planet
- rich in vitamins, antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids
- naturally cleansing and exfoliating
- completely customizable!
Apples, I present, for your savings, health and shower time enjoyment: almond oil.
Almond oil is excellent for your skin. Just a few tablespoons post-soapage will leave your skin glowing and soft all day long. You’ll smell wonderful, too – and naturally so, rather than adding to the office or store potpourri of artificial shampoo, conditioner, lotion, perfume, cologne, deodorant, detergent and aftershave fragrances.
On top of saving money, using something really healthy for you, and looking great, here’s the best part: the personalization factor.
Purchase a few different essential oils at any beauty supply or natural health store (they last forever). Lavender, peppermint, lemon, sandalwood, and cedar are some of the most therapeutic, and are completely sparkle-free. Add a few drops to your almond oil and enjoy!
Great for the girls: floral and food scents (especially citrus and vanilla)
Great for the boys: natural and herbacious scents (but no patchouli, pulllllease!)
And, for a natural, extra-rich skin scrub, try coarse sea salt. It might seem odd at first, but I think slathering the body with all kinds of surfactants and chemicals is really the odd thing. Salt draws out toxins and stress naturally. It can be a little drying, so if you have very dry skin, try fresh shredded coconut instead. I learned these natural tension-busting tips from a masseuse I used to go to after the fast-paced, intense production days on the set of Responsible Health. (Thanks, Brooke!) Whether you’re active all day on a whirling set, logging lots of focused computer-hunching time, or chasing after an energetic toddler, the satisfying rush of productivity becomes stressful to your body as the hours fly by. The salt really melts the stress away!
Note: Don’t bother with the pricey almond oils in beauty stores. Just pick up the one hanging out right next to the olive oil at your grocery store. I also suggest buying vegetable glycerin soaps so your skin doesn’t need so much moisturizer to begin with.
Let me know how you customize your moisturizer. Do you have any natural cosmetic health tips you’d like to share? Tell us!
This month’s Rotten Apple Award goes to The Apple Patch Diet, the next gimmicky weight-loss device in a long line of quack products.
All you have to do is slap a patch on your body to start this “diet” and watch the fat melt away. I’m not sure how a patch of any sort counts as a diet. Though I suppose if you subsisted on patches alone you would lose weight. Let us see what the users have to say.
The “Testimonials” are varied and claim a 10 pound weight loss in one month, an 80 pound weight loss since July 2006, and as “Baig” from Virginia states, “my sugar level (Diabetes) is under control and I am very happy.” Rapid weight loss with little to no effort! Quick and easy regulation of sugar levels! Unbelievable testimonials! Before and after pics! It sounds too good to be true! Hmmm… this sounds familiar.
Clearly a product that can do all this has some solid scientific research to back it. Well, yes and no. The ‘Why it works’ section is limited to these three fine answers: “we only use the finest natural ingredients,” we have “amazing weight loss testimonials,” and “we use a transdermal method of delivery.” With a word like transdermal this stuff must work. Right?
To be fair the “Ingredients” section does give more detailed information about the three ingredients used to solve your weight problems. Look closely and you will find that one of the three exotic sounding components, Guarana extract, is essentially plain old caffeine. Caffeine is not exactly a groundbreaking weight-loss supplement, nor is it something with which most people need to supplement their diets. I don’t know about you, but my daily green tea provides all the caffeine I need.
Quite possibly the worst thing about this product is that it gives apples a bad name – something in these parts we take very seriously.
Don’t buy into these gimmicky weight-loss devices Apples. This product is more about the supplement delivery system (transdermal) than it is the supplements themselves. And there is still no substitute for a balanced diet and regular exercise.
We’re watching you, Apple Patch Diet.
(This is the part where I lift up my shirt, ceremoniously denoting the end of this diatribe.)
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I will be retiring Aaron’s Additions until a new round of healthy tools and quality blogs pop up. (In the last year alone 28,000 health blogs were created, but only a very small percentage had any staying power!) Instead I will be focusing on bringing you Aaron’s Awards – congratulating the food industry for their latest obesity-inducing shenanigans.
Recently, the low-carb folks over at Go Lower asked Mark’s Daily Apple to review their low-carbohydrate snack bars. Though I’m not a proponent of processed foods, no matter how healthy – and I emphasize that – I do think there ought to be wiggle room in everyone’s diet. Personally, I enjoy a light beer now and then, and my wife knows it’s never a good idea to keep genuine black licorice in the house (the real stuff, not those pitiful strands that don’t actually contain licorice).
I also think that if you’re trying to lose weight, or simply get better at managing your weight, things like shakes, snack bars and treats that help you do it sensibly can be a real benefit.
The big problem with most low-carb snacks is the dreaded “mockalate” factor. Usually, low-sugar snacks are low on fiber, high on chemicals and artificially-manufactured ingredients, and contain enough alcohol sugars to swell you up like a blimp. If you have ever eaten one too many servings of faux chocolate, you know what I’m talking about, Apples.
I’ll say it again: I’m no big fan of processed foods, even ostensibly healthy ones. Usually, they aren’t healthy at all – low sugar is far from synonymous with health. But I was surprisingly impressed by the Go Lower line. All of the flavors – more on that in a minute – contain visible whole ingredients. There are no artificial flavors, chemicals, or fillers of any kind. Period. The chocolate raspberry bar contains real raspberries. The nut bars look like something any backyard bird would gladly fly into a window for.
You MDA frequent flyers know I’m a huge fan of fiber, and that’s why I can endorse the low-GI Go Lower line. They have, “bar” none, the highest amount of fiber I’ve seen in so-called low-carb snacks (between 7 and 10 grams a bar, easily triple that of most breakfast cereal servings). They aren’t made with faux ingredients or fake sugars. The secret: Go Lower’s makers rely on oligofructose, a fiber-rich, non-GI impact insoluble fructose that doesn’t get digested by your upper G.I. Heard of inulin? This is similar, safe, and natural.
Honestly, I don’t really dig the taste, but to be fair, I’m just not a snack bar kind of guy. They do taste better than most of the other bars I’ve had the displeasure of chomping into.
Here’s what the gang thought:
Chocolate Creme Bar (120 calories)
Elliott: pretty good, but still has that not-quite-real flavor. A lot better than Power Bars, though.
Sara: I’m a die-hard dark chocolate dork. But this is edible.
Aaron: I like it. It’s sweet, but not that sickening fake sweet. There’s no bad aftertaste like you get with aspartame.
Raspberry Creme (116 calories)
Jen: okay, this is amazing! Seriously, you will love these. Really fruity and not too sweet.
Aaron: I agree, amazing flavor. And only 5 grams of sugar.
Casey: It’s got my vote. I think this is the best of them. The fruit is real and the chocolate isn’t chemical-tasting. It’s real cocoa – 47%.
Coconut Nut Bar (143 calories)
Elliott: I don’t taste the coconut. But I like strong flavors and sharp spices. If you like subtle flavoring, it’s pretty good. The one thing I’m not crazy about is the soy in these – that’s a processed ingredient I don’t recommend. But, in general, the ingredients are excellent – good fat, nuts, real chocolate, no sugar.
Sara: sorry, but this tastes like what I imagine licking the forest floor would be like. I am all for nuts, but this is really bland. I am impressed that every single one of these bars lists fiber as the first ingredient, though! That’s a big improvement over corn syrup, corn oil, or refined flours.
Aaron: I think it’s great! Really dense and satisfying. For only 143 calories, this is a really filling snack – and the fiber is incredibly high – about 10 grams! This easily beats any other snack bar or candy. Lots of good fat, fiber, and protein.
Raspberry Nut Bar (141 calories)
Jen: this is a lot better than the coconut, in my opinion. I love the mix of naturally salty seeds with the tartness of the raspberry. I think the raspberry-nut combination they have really works.
Sara: this is excellent. The linseeds, nuts and raspberries are a really satisfying, fresh combination. Awesome!
Casey: I like this. I’d buy them. Tastes like real food – like trail mix without all the salt and sugar.
Aaron: All the raspberry bars are really incredible. This proves there’s no reason why healthy can’t be tasty.
To see the detailed nutritional information, check out Go Lower’s site. My homeboy Jimmy Moore also enthusiastically reviewed these smart snack bars a while back, and you can check out his review, too. Thanks to Kevin and Hannah for letting us try out the Go Lower line! If you like the occasional snack bar, and you don’t want artificial ingredients and sugar, give Go Lower bars a try!
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