The silver bullet

Posted by on Nov 16, 2015 | 0 comments

Fruits and veggies

Dietary fiber can be beautiful and delicious

We’ve known for a few decades now that fiber (particularly soluble fiber—the kind you get from fruits and veggies, not from Metamucil) is magic. It’s the easiest way to lower cholesterol without drugs, since it binds to cholesterol from bile acids on the way out of the digestive tract. Eating it makes us less likely to get colon cancer, diabetes, and heart disease (among other things). But every day we learn a little more about it.

This article is an interesting summary of one rich area of current study: how fiber affects our microbiome. You may already know that our gut holds 3 to 10 times more little bugs than the number of cells in our entire body, and the health of this microbiome is associated with everything from irritable bowel syndrome to asthma to mental disorders including anxiety and depression. How? Some of our little intestinal friends consume soluble fiber and turn it into short-chain fatty acids.

“We think of the Western diet—high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and proteins—as overly rich. But what’s missing from the diet may be just as, and perhaps more, important than what’s abundant.”

Some of these SCFAs are responsible for lowering inflammation in our bodies. And chronic inflammation appears to be responsible for heart disease, hardening of the arteries, some cancers, arthritis, and allergies. This article also mentions research suggesting that when we starve our microbiome of fiber, we may also be forcing it to consume the lining of our own intestines. Well, your mom did tell you to eat your carrots…

In the end, that’s the big take-away of this article and of much of the research into nutrition in the past few years: we should all eat more whole grains and fruits and vegetables. The highly processed, refined white-flour and white-rice diet we’ve been eating in the West for decades appears to be actively harming our guts and our health in numerous ways. Fortunately, new evidence described here is suggesting that it may not be too late for our microbiome—and the answer may be as simple as eating more fiber.

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