Hello Confusing Bran-Muffin. You look so charming with your ”high-fiber sounding” Stamp of Approval…
Back in my college days, when my focus on weight loss was at an all time high, I can remember obsessing over fiber consumption. In fact, I treated high fiber cereals like little miniature weight loss supplements– the key to what I deemed healthy.
There is no doubt that an increase in fiber is linked to a decrease in disease– Fiber is what essentially keeps things moving along, and helps the body to get rid of toxic waste. Surely, it is not too complicated to understand: less toxic waste = less disease.
Fiber is the indigestible component of a plant that cannot be broken down– and remains virtually unchanged during the process of digestion– hence indigestible.
Fiber is actually what provides structure and support to the plant, and also protects it from stressors which would otherwise damage, oxidize, or steal nutrients. It is mainly found in the outer layers of a plant, and contains no useable nutrients. Although it is not a source of nutrients for the body, fiber helps to build bulk in the stool, and literally helps to sweep out old waste. “Lady like”, I know… but hey– this is life.
All wholesome plants (in their original form- prior to refining, processing, etc.) contain fiber. They also contain a chockfull of vitamins, minerals, water, etc. When we eat steamed vegetables for instance, we are consuming the Ultimate Package Deal.
The UPD, or the Ultimate Package Deal is the brilliant way Mother Nature intended for us to nourish the body. Plant foods (like vegetables, greens, and fruits), all contain an assortment of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, food enzymes, amino acids (a.k.a. proteins), H2O, energy from the sun, etc. They also contain fiber– A natural, whole fiber.
When we eat these delicious foods, we not only get the more readily digestible nutrients, but also the fiber that has the ability to pull out trapped wastes from within. Plants thus give us the UPD– they nourish and they help to remove wastes.
All fiber is NOT created equally. As stated above, an organic piece of fruit (veggies, etc.), ripe and ready to be consumed, is the perfect source of nutrients and fiber, yet we get so consumed in the high fiber content of foods, we often forget to see what it is we are eating with the all of the fiber. (Read more about fruit here– Nature’s Perfect Offering).
The point of eating fiber is to keep things moving, but what good is a high fiber food if it does not provide us with legitimate (living and fresh) nutrients in the process, that can be readily and easily digested and broken down.
For instance: Check the back of that Nutrition Label on your whole grain pasta, flour, muffin, or cereal. How much fiber? 4 g? 6g? 8g? Wow. Sounds impressive. Now ask yourself how easily digested is that going to be? What nutrients will you be receiving? How was it made? How will it affect the whole body. On top of that…. Aside from being more beneficial than your typical zero fiber donut (and other refined flours), the fiber in many of these products is the scrappy part of the whole grain.
The scrappy part of the Whole Grain I am referring to is the bran. Often touted as friendly folk, bran is the outer layer of a grain. All of the layers are in place to protect the most important part of the grain– the germ. The germ is the future of the plant. It contains the nutrients. When we refine, process, or break open the grain (which is what we do), we expose this little guy (the germ). Because the bran is high in fiber, and more stable (does not become easily rancid like the beneficial parts), it is what is most commonly used to add fiber to foods! But that does not make it good!!
Touting all fiber as a super hero is the result of a lot of
good awesome marketing, and miscommunicated studies. Fiber is most certainly beneficial, but it would be like popping a pill for high cholesterol when the sides effects are increased risk of heart attack… oh wait! We do this. whoops. I digress. The bran, high in phytic acid, actually grabs onto minerals like: magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron, in the gut, and steals them away in a bowel movement. Ironically, although the average person consumes a high fiber food to stay regular, full, and “healthy”, without these essential minerals, we become constipated. On top of that, most of these foods are very difficult to digest. Grains are notorious for being sprayed with all sorts of toxic chemicals, and Whole Grain is hardly the nutrient dense grain of our ancestors.
How does that help with regularity? How does that improve health?
Let’s keep it simple.
We want Mother Nature’s UPD. We want the nourishment– a.k.a. the nutrients, that, because they are more quickly digested, have the potential to be more readily absorbed in a healthy body. We also want the fiber, water, etc. that keeps things a’ moving, and helps us to naturally get rid of the toxic waste that slows down our productivity. (Fiber is useful for other important functions also).
Is Whole Grain going to be better than the refined stuff? Yes. But, refined flour should be removed from everyone’s diet, and the easy answer to “not enough” fiber, in everyone’s diet, is to concentrate on the foods that have the UPD– the Ultimate Package Deal (plants!). So, before you get excited about that high fiber bran muffin, or the “high fiber Stamp of Approval” on your pasta, flour, or (fill in the blank), ask yourself what that food item is going to do inside the body? Even if it is not bran that is adding in the fiber– Whole Grains are sprayed with a slew of pesticides, fungicides, and toxic chemicals, and harvested in nutrient depleted soil. Bleh.
If it not a source of useful vitamins and minerals (or they were added back in in the factory), it is not going to be easy for the body to break down, and utilize. If it is high in bran, it might steal the nutrients you need for health, and regularity.
Avoid the Marketing hoopla, and go for the gold– the foods that are naturally the Ultimate Package Deal of nutrients and fiber. Try a sweet potato with coconut butter, or butter and a side of steamed veggies. You’ll pack on the fiber without blinking, and digestion– a no brainer for more.
Want to eat pasta with a lot of fiber? Don’t look at the box. Look at the ingredients! Go for something like a quinoa pasta (something that is more readily digestible by the body than whole grain, spelt, or rice, gluten-free, and less acid forming) and then add in steamed broccoli, or other veggies– which are natural sources of fiber, and high in food digesting enzymes.
Wahla! Fiber! Cover with your favorite marinara– all parties are happy.
Do you think about your fiber consumption? Were you/are you ever like me, judging the health of something based on it’s fiber content and packaged nutrients? What are your favorite high-fiber foods– how do you add fiber to foods? What do you have to say about this topic?
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