Did you know that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of hamburger? Are you aware that thousands of acres of rain forest are cleared every year to create grazing land for beef cattle? Are you someone who cooks bacon and eggs for breakfast, grabs a hamburger for lunch, and devours a steak at dinner? In other words, do you eat the standard American diet?
The standard American diet is high in protein; high in unhealthy fats - the saturated, hydrogenated kind; high in processed foods; while low in fiber; low is complex carbohydrates; and low in plant based foods. Americans consume 1 ½ servings of vegetables and less than one serving of fruit daily. We eat over 300 percent below the need for whole grains and fiber and over 200 percent below for green foods, orange foods and legumes. If we keep eating the typical American diet, we will gradually give up our oxygen and water for food such as beef; and with this calorie excessive processed and refined food, loaded with chemicals, unnatural fats and poor protein cause ourselves countless health problems.
Cultures that eat the reverse of our standard diet, that is, one that is plant-based, low in saturated fat, high in complex carbohydrates, and fiber, have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease, cancer, dietary imbalances and nutritional deficiencies.
A very important part of what is missing is the standard American diet is fiber. Records from 1909 through to 1979, show a 28 percent decrease in consumption of fiber. This decrease in crude fiber consumption supports the hypothesis that fiber intake decrease is linked to increases in colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, colitis, and chronic constipation. By avoiding fiber we are giving our bodies permission to develop serious problems.
The reality is we need fiber and we can get into our diets easily. There are several basic classifications of fiber and most of these are found in food. Everyone has heard of bran, oat bran and rice bran being the most popular, the broken coat of the seed of cereal grain. It is often sifted out but by adding bran to cereals or baked foods such as breads and muffins, we can add fiber and lower cholesterol. Pectin, another common form of fiber is found in apples, bananas, beets, cabbage, carrots, citrus fruits and some dried legumes. Pectin slows the absorption of food after meals. For that reason alone, pectin is good for people with diabetes. For the rest of us, it helps lower cholesterol, reduces the risk of gallstones, and it removes unwanted metals and toxins.
Cellulose is a fiber found in the outer layer of vegetables and fruits. It helps with prolapsed veins as in hemorrhoids and varicose veins; but is also removes cancer-causing substances from the colon wall. Having an apple or a pear a day, broccoli and green beans for dinner, carrots for snacks, we provide ourselves with daily cellulose. A relative, hemicellulose fiber, is another complex carbohydrate that absorbs water, which can promote weight loss, relieve constipation, prevent colon cancer, and control carcinogens in the intestinal tract. Leafy green vegetables, beans, cabbage, and peppers are the chief vegetable providers of this fiber; apples and bananas are the main fruit sources.
Lignins, another form of fiber, are good for lowering cholesterol levels and help to prevent the formation of gall stones by binding with the bile acids and removing cholesterol before stones can form. Good vegetables sources include green beans, carrots, peas, tomatoes; good fruit sources are peaches and strawberries.
Fiber has little of no food value; we do not digest it nor absorb it. But as it passes through the digestive tract, it accumulates liquid and swells up, providing a good amount of soft bulk to stools which in turn helps to stimulate bowel contractions. Regular bowel movements are an important mechanisms for removing toxins from the body. Fiber also acts to dilute levels of fat metabolites associated with carcinogen formation.
The apparent protective effect of dietary fiber against colon cancer comes partly from the action of intestinal bacteria on the fiber producing butyric acid. Butyric acid induces cell differentiation, the cells’ ability to acquire the functions of normal maturity. When abnormal cells are exposed to differentiating agents such as butyric acid, they can develop into normal cells and lose their ability to proliferate. Butyric acid is also known to induce cancer cell death called apoptosis. All cells are programmed at birth to die at old age or under circumstances where cell death benefits the host. Apoptosis represents an orderly method of removing old, damaged or otherwise unwanted cells and can play a role in limiting tumor growth. Fiber can further affect the risk of colorectal cancer by decreasing the length of time the stool remains in the bowels. It also decreases the concentration of carcinogens in the stool through increasing intestinal bacterial populations. These populations destroy carcinogenic metabolites. Some chemicals are categorized as carcinogens but are not actually carcinogenc themselves; their metabolites are. For example, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons do not act directly to induce cancer cells; however their metabolites of phenols, quinones and other compounds produced through their breakdown and excretion do.
Fiber-rich diets may reduce the incidence of breast cancer by reducing estrogen levels. Estrogen is made in the liver and empties into the intestines through the bile. Fiber suppresses the ability of fecal bacteria to recycle estrogen and keeps levels from climbing too high. In one large Canadian study of 56,837 women, those who consumed high amounts of fiber had a 30 percent reduction in risk of breast cancer compared to those who consumed low amounts of fiber.
The fiber from complex carbohydrate sources play a big role in anti-cancer nutrition. Their fiber dilutes, binds, inactivates, and removes carcinogens, cholesterol, bile acids, and other toxic substances. Fiber further keeps glucose and insulin at normal levels. In order words, fiber keeps tumor feeders in check.
Among the seven basic classifications of fiber - bran, cellulose, gum, hemicellulose, lignin, mucilages, and pectin - each has its own function. Therefore, it is best to rotate among several different supplemental fiber sources. Start with small amounts and gradually increase your intake . Consuming excessive amounts may decrease the absorption of zinc, iron, and calcium. Using food as a source of fiber allows you to minimize the amount of a fiber supplement. Substitute whole grain cereals for highly processed ones; eat more fresh fruit and fresh raw vegetables in place of cooked versions. When eating organic produce, you can leave the skin on for its fiber source. Even when eating snack foods, you can choose ones excellent in added fiber. Popcorn (unbuttered) is a great choice as are nuts and seeds.
Fiber’s effect on the colon is many fold: when fiber is high, it takes less time for food residues and other by-products of digestion to move out of the body. Fiber prevents the bowel from becoming alkaline, condition that may open the way to some forms of bowel cancer. Fiber helps prevent those painful pouches in the colon called diverticula, commonly found during autopsies of people eating low-fiber, refined-food Western diets. What’s even more exciting is that along with fiber comes many of the precious phytochemicals (nutrients from plants). These include vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants and amino acids we need.
When I was a child, my mother filled my pockets with nuts and dried fruits to snack on. Unfortunately, mothers now fill their children’s pockets with money which is used to buy sweets, and snacks. Dr. Wenche Frelich, a well-known Norwegian nutritionist and writer, tells a story of a child, who when asked to draw a picture of a fish, drew a square. The only fish the child had even seen was a packaged frozen square fish steak.
For supplies and further information consult Marie Cargill.