Back in the 1940s, Dr. Denis Burkitt began to notice the correlation of diet and good health. Working as a surgeon in East Africa, he rarely saw conditions like constipation, hemorrhoids and appendicitis that were widespread in the Western world. He came to believe the amount of fiber or roughage in a diet could explain why.
Fiber is the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains that your body cannot digest. There are two kinds of fiber, both important in keeping healthy. Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and becomes a soft gel in the intestines. Insoluble fiber remains unchanged as it speeds up the food’s passage through the digestive system.
Bumping up the fiber in your diet can help you avoid these conditions or deal with them in a healthier way:
Diabetes. Fiber helps improve the way your body handles insulin and glucose. That means you can lower your risk of diabetes by eating whole grains rather than refined carbohydrates. Whole grain bread and crackers, bran muffins, navy beans, Brussels sprouts and zucchini are good choices.
Heart attack and stroke. The soluble fiber in foods like oatmeal, okra, and oranges helps eliminate much of the cholesterol that can clog your arteries and cause a stroke or heart attack.
Constipation and hemorrhoids. “If fiber intake were adequate, laxatives would seldom be required,” said Burkitt. Apples, sweet potatoes, barley, and pinto beans provide this roughage.
Appendicitis. “Keeping bowel content soft,” said Burkitt, “seems to provide the best safeguard against the development of appendicitis.” Treats like apricots, peaches, pears and figs are a tasty way to do this.
Diverticulitis. As the body processes fibrous foods like peas, spinach, corn, and artichoke it tones up the intestinal muscles. This helps prevent pouches, called diverticula, which can cause abdominal pain if they become inflamed.
Weight gain. The best way to lose weight is to eat low-fat, low-calorie vegetables and grains. “The more bulky fiber-rich foods you eat,” said Burkitt, “the less unhealthy fat you will be consuming.” And since fiber swells, you’ll feel satisfied faster. If feeling the need of dessert, choose fruits like plums or strawberries.
Cancer. Burkitt believed a high-fiber diet defends against colon and rectal cancers in two ways. His cultural studies showed the more animal fat in a diet, the higher incidence of bowel cancer.
A healthy portion of fiber speeds cancer-causing compounds out of the digestive system more quickly, before they have a chance to make trouble. Burkitt also considered fiber a protector against other conditions such as gallbladder disease, varicose veins, and hiatal hernia.
Start the day with a whole-grain cereal. Top it off with raisins, dates, sliced banana or chopped apple. Eat raw vegetable salads, munch on carrot and celery sticks. If cooking, steam only until crisp tender. Enjoy fruit salads and fruits. Eat the skins. Substituting brown rice for white will triple the fiber. Add legumes to soups and stews, use in whole grain burritos or with rice. Consume at least 20 to 35 grams a day.
Excerpts from Eat and Heal, Frank W. Cawood and Associates, Inc., Copyright 2001, 10–13.
Cran-Date Oat Muffins
|1 ½ cups canned crushed pineapple, drained, or fresh, diced||2 cups quick oats|
|1 banana, mashed||¼ cup walnuts, chopped|
|¼ cup almond butter||½ cup coconut, shredded|
|¼ cup coconut nectar or raw agave nectar||1 cup dates, chopped|
|½ tsp. salt||1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, halved|
|1 tsp. coriander|
|Mix ingredients. Spray muffin tin or use cupcake liners. Lightly fill with mixture and bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Makes 12 muffins. Delish!|