Dietary Fiber Prevents You from Cancer, Part II

More Whole Grain Ideas

(The previous story of fiber)

Of course, there are whole grain foods other than those that we think of as cereals.

Here are some ideas for whole grain foods that go well with lunch and dinner or make good snacks:

  1. for lunch : whole wheat or rye bread
  2. for dinner : brown rice, millet, bulghur wheat (as in tabouli)
  3. for snacks : graham crackers, rye wafers, or whole wheat crackers

All of these foods are moderate sources of insoluble fiber.

A Matter of Milling

You may be surprised to see brown rice and whole wheat bread described as only moderate sources of fiber. These foods contain less fiber than is commonly believed.

Brown rice, for example, has only a moderately higher fiber content than white rice. The difference amounts to about 1.5 grams per half cup of cooked rice.

Whole wheat bread has more fiber than brown rice, yet less than many people assume. It is a moderate source of fiber, but not one of the highest. In general, coarse wheat products have more fiber than breads.

There is another reason why coarse forms of wheat, such as bran and shredded wheat, are better source of fiber than foods such as whole wheat bread. The beneficial effects of these fiber-containing foods is partly due to the bulk they create in the digestive system.

Grinding wheat into flour reduces its ability to create bulk in the digestive tract. A finely ground source of fiber – such as whole wheat bread – does not give as much bulk as bran.

Because of this, foods made from whole grain flour do not have as much laxative power as bran and other coarse forms of wheat. It is possible that foods made from finely ground whole grains also have less value in preventing cancer.

Baking with Fiber

Baking with whole wheat flour instead of white is another way to boost your fiber intake. In yeast breads, making this substitution poses no problem.

But baking cakes and cookies with whole wheat flour increases the amount of fat needed for good texture. Cakes and cookies made with whole wheat flour require about one and one-half to twice as much fat as those made with white flour. And some people find their heavy texture unappealing.

One way to solve this problem id to use half white flour, and half whole wheat flour when baking. This should hold down the amount of fat needed.

If you are interested in the extra minerals in whole grain flour, rather than its small amount of fiber, there is another option. Use a quarter of a cup of wheat germ and three-quarters of a cup of white flour for each cup of flour in a recipe. You’ll get roughly the same nutrients as in whole wheat flour, with the exception of its fiber.

The Economical Guide to be Healthy

One thing is for sure: following the recommendation to eat whole grains is not going to break your budget. Many whole grain foods are reasonably priced.

I have computed the cost of getting a gram of fiber from an assortment of common foods. Here is what I learned:

  1. Unprocessed bran is the cheapest source of fiber. Each gram costs less than a penny.
  2. The bran-only cereals such as All-Bran and 100% Bran also provide a gram of fiber for only a penny.
  3. Store-brand whole wheat and rye bread give a gram of fiber for just over a penny.

If you like unprocessed bran, it may actually be a better buy at a health food store, where it is sometimes sold in bulk rather than in fancy packages. My own taste buds prefer bran muffins baked with the bran-only cereals. But I have included some recipes for my family using the unprocessed bran because it is a little less expensive.

Individually packed instant oats and a few cereals are expensive ways to get whole grain nutrition. But most of the cereals are reasonably priced, and boxed oats are a good value.

More Foods with Fiber

Fiber comes in other foods, too. As I said earlier, the Committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer made recommendations only for whole grains. But I would like to mention some other sources of fiber that have the bulk-producing ability of the whole grains.

Among beans, fruits, and vegetables, the best sources of insoluble fiber are:

  • Kidney beans and white beans
  • Peas
  • Blackberries
  • Parsnips

I have learned to use peas in both hot and cold recipes for my family; I add them to meat dishes and stews as well as to salads. I have also found that for a change of pace, beans make a nice salad.

The following foods have less insoluble fiber than the above foods. But they still have respectable amounts:

  • Apples, pears, plums, and strawberries
  • Lima, pinto, or green beans
  • Broccoli and brussels sprouts
  • Potatoes (white)
  • Summer squash, tomatoes, and zucchini

Animal foods, fats, and oils contain no fiber. Only plant foods have it.

How Much Is Enough?

It makes good sense to eat more whole grain foods and more fibers. As mentioned earlier, a fiber intake of 30 to 40 grams has been proposed by several experts.

This does not mean that all the grains in your diet must be whole grains, or that every fruit and vegetable you choose must rate high of fiber.

My suggestion is to make about half the grains in your diet whole grains. I am not with those who despise any grain food made from refined grains.

True, refined grain foods contain less of certain minerals than whole grain foods. And they have less fiber, though in some cases (such as brown versus white rice or whole wheat pasta versus white pasta), the differences are small.

But this is not to say that foods made with white flour are worthless. They provide respectable levels of protein, iron, and certain vitamins. And they are low in fat and cholesterol and often low in sodium.

In short, there is something good to be said for both whole grain and refined grain foods. A reasonable balance between the two is a moderate, sensible approach.

Can Fiber Cause Trouble?

There is one reason not to go all out when it comes to fiber. Though it has its good points, fiber has not been given a clean bill of health just yet.

Nutritionists have known for decades that fiber can bind to minerals in food, preventing the body from absorbing them. All forms of fiber have this ability.

( The Next Health Benefits of Fiber )