Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Fibre Factor

Is the magic bullet missing from your diet?

Have you ever tried to clean a greasy pot with a tissue thin porous cloth? Notice how the cloth itself gets all greasy and in a jiffy it’s not cleaning anything? To clean it effectively you need something to scour and scrub with. You see, whenever you’re eating anything cooked in oil, any meats, and especially things like eggs, hamburgers, pizza and fries, you’re greasing the entire length of your intestines. If you went down there to check it would be a slippery sewer not unlike the greasy pot you’re averse to washing in the sink. So what to do?

It’s remarkable to what extent fiber has been removed from our diets. We even seem to have been programmed to remove it when it is there. People habitually peel their apples before eating them, some people remove the crusts of bread and toast, or even peel tomatoes and mushrooms. Don’t do that.

Did you know our innards more closely resemble those of cows and sheep than they do lions? Somewhere along the line I guess we got crazy with hunger, hanging around in the jungle, and we started killing and eating animals bigger than termites. That’s on the scale of cows and sheep starting to eat small lizards they come across, or chasing after chickens, stomping them to death, and sprinkling wings and thighs over their long grassy salads (as we do). It’s actually disquieting, monstrous even, when you think about it.

Yes, when you’re conscious of what an animal is designed to eat, you do get a queasy sense imagining that diet changing radically. A sheep that eats chickens isn’t probably the sort of sheep you’d like to eat, is it? Well, are you aware that cows have been fed pellets that are the offal of slaughtered cows? The pellets are made of ground horn, and hoof, and scraps of meat and skin? Cows are being turned into carnivorous cannibals, and chickens into egg-popping maniacs in cacophonic factories with pretentious lighting+. We fill our bodies with the meat (and the stress hormones) of both these creatures, and we’re already pushing our digestives systems to the limit. No wonder people are developing cancers at the rate they are.

What we need to do is re-introduce fibre into our diets. Start at the very beginning, with breakfast. Wheat Bran is an excellence source of the stuff, and some cereals* pack 29% fiber into a 100g serving. Even so, as soon as you splash your milk over the stuff, you’re already mitigating the effects of the fibre. Milk is really a form of mucous secreted by mammals for young mammals. It’s got all sorts of material (like protein and bacteria) to help young mammals grow bones and muscles. When you add milk try to use skim milk, or soy milk, but the important thing here is that you’re at least taking in something with fibre, instead of greasing your innards with bacon fat, greasy eggs and coffee stains.

After trying a Wheat Bran breakfast, you’ll notice a lot happening later in the morning. Once you’ve had a bowel movement or two your stomach will feel softer, and looser and less stiff, and if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, the roundness of your tummy is likely to flatten before long.

While Wheat Bran isn’t particularly tasty, it’s an incredibly good source of fiber. If you really can’t stand eating it every day, add a few sprinkles to your cornflakes. Meanwhile, make sure you’re getting fiber everywhere else. Eat potatoes with their skins on, same goes for apples and other fruits (with the exception of the obvious ones like prickly pears, bananas and oranges).

Prawns, in their husks, are excellent scrubbing brushes once swallowed.

It’s important to bear in mind that our innards do, in the end, resemble that of a vegetarian animal. They’re long and convoluted. Food is meant to spend some time stewing and digesting. The digestive tract of carnivores are short and straight. That’s because meat, when it digests, releases a lot of gas, and a lot of toxic stuff. If you don’t believe me, compare the whiff of dog and cat excrement to horse and cow. There’s a huge difference. And if you’re habitually releasing noxious clouds that would make your cat wince, it probably means you’re erring on the side of too much meat.

Like most people, I love meat. Barbecues and biltong** especially. If we’re going to eat this stuff, we have to make sure we sort of make up for it by eating as best we can ordinarily. The average meal ought to be 75% vegetables, with 25% or less meat. At the moment, in many western countries, but especially here in South Africa, it’s the opposite; meals are based around the meat component. You’ll have a big slab of meat with some vegetables inserted in the little bit of plate space around it. Wrong, it has to be the other way round.

Our bodies aren’t built like carnivores. When we eat so much protein in our food it tends to vegetate in our stomachs, draining us of energy (instead of giving us more), and besides making us tired, it basically causes all sorts of blockages in our internal systems. One of the best ways for overweight people to lose weight without doing any exercise is simply to switch to a meal with more fiber and less meat. Try it, the results will surprise you, and you’ll be far healthier and more comfortable in your own body for doing so.

+Egg farms simulate night as much shorter and day far longer, than it really is. Imagine what that does to you.
*Like Bokomo’s Fiber Plus
**Cured, spiced meat

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