Forget the milk: Got fiber? | Precision Nutrition

Forget the milk: Got fiber?

By John Berardi, Ph.D.

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With the “Got Milk” campaign bombarding people with milk messages I kinda wish I had access to that milk money to promote some other stuff, stuff that actually helps folks get leaner and healthier.

For example, fiber. If more people focused on fiber (instead of milk), overall health in North America would improve dramatically.

Forget the milk: Got fiber?

So, why am I so high on fiber? Well, first of all, let me tell you what fiber is all about. Fiber is basically an indigestible nutrient – the two main types being soluble and insoluble.  Since soluble fiber is the kind most beneficial, I’ll focus on that type here.

Soluble fiber is the kind of fiber that dissolves in water and absorbs water.  Once you eat it, the body turns it into a kind of thick, viscous gel, which moves very slowly through your body.  This is a good thing as soluble fiber fills you up and keeps you fuller longer, providing that sensation of fullness we call satiety.

In addition to these benefits, soluble fiber also slows the absorption of glucose (sugar) into the body.  This means you’re going to avoid those nasty sugar highs and lows.

Last but not least, fiber inhibits the re-absorption of bile into the system.  Bile is a fat emulsifier and therefore if you inhibit bile re-absorption, your liver needs to get its cholesterol fix from your blood.  This means lower blood-serum cholesterol levels.

With its ability to lower blood sugar, decrease blood cholesterol, increase satiety, and improve colon health, the important question isn’t “Got Milk?”  The important question is “Got Fiber?”

Getting more fiber in the diet

How can you get more fiber in your diet?  Well, rather than using fiber supplements, which simply aren’t necessary, the easiest way is to eat fiber-rich foods such as oats, fruits, veggies, and, perhaps most importantly, legumes.  And I say legumes are the most important because they offer the most fiber per calorie when compared to other foods.

For example, lentils offer about 30g of fiber for every 60g of carbs.  That’s a 1g of fiber for every 2g of carbohydrate.

Oats, on the other hand, offer only about 10g of fiber for every 60g of carbohydrate.  That’s 1g of fiber for every 6g of carbohydrate.  From this it should be clear that if you want to eat a high fiber diet without overloading on carbs, legumes are the way to go.

No longer the magical fruit

Of course, legumes have a bad reputation for producing both auditory and olfactory offense.

Guilty as charged, the seemingly innocuous legume has been the source of many bouts of embarrassment, anguish, and undoubtedly the source material for some of the best movie quotes of all time. “I fart in your general direction” will immediately ring a bell for Monty Python fans.

What is the source for such noxious miasma? Beans pass very slowly through our digestive tracts while we try to break down the complex carbohydrates contained in beans – known as oligosaccharides.

The problem is that we do not have the particular enzymes in our digestive tracts needed to break down these sugars, so they just sit there fermenting in our gut, thus producing the unwanted side effects.

Fortunately, as discussed on page 73 of Gourmet Nutrition V1, proper soaking significantly reduces oligosaccharide content, as well as total sugars and starch.

In particular, soaking with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) causes remarkable reduction in these sugars and starches.

Although some people claim that soaking beans in a baking soda solution damages their nutritive properties, a study found that a  sodium bicarbonate solution reduced only antinutritional factors, while protein digestibility was actually increased. (It should be noted that lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked.)

Also, most people experience much less flatulence with lentils and split peas than other varieties of legumes, which is a huge bonus since they lead the pack in the carb:fiber ratio.

To soak beans, first rinse them, then place them in a large pot and add water at a 4 to 1 ratio (water to beans). Allow the beans to soak anywhere between 12 to 24 hours at room temperature for the best results.

After soaking, drain and rinse the beans, pouring all of those nasty anti-nutrients down the drain.  Then you’re ready to cook them up.

For more info about legumes, fiber, and a host of other health promoting foods, pick up a copy of Precision Nutrition V3.  It’s packed with useful tips and strategies, like these.  Strategies that will assuredly improve your health, physique, and performance.

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