Whole Foods Living
By Terri Fites, MD
You think you eat vegetables, fruits, and plant matter to get your daily dose of vitamin C or folate? Perhaps so, but
since you can get those from vitamins and supplements, why
go to the pain of cooking when you could pop a pill? Goodness, even boxed donuts are fortified with iron and B vitamins,
so vegetables, fruits, and plant matter that nobody really wants
to eat seem senseless anyhow. Right? No way.
Bacteria and Macaroni and Cheese
You can’t have the easy way out! Nice try. The real reason to
eat plant matter is for the trillions of bacteria living within you.
It sounds strange, but our intestines are perfectly designed
to function in sync with billions of bacteria living and giving
inside of us—as long as we feed them properly. Unfortunately,
the processed foods that we rely on, such as most breakfast cereals, macaroni and cheese, most store-bought bread, crackers,
and pizza (and certainly white sugar), do not make it to the
lower part of the intestines where these bacteria live. We are
starving out some exceptionally friendly, essential bacteria that
we need for our health.
The Case of the Missing Fiber
Those essential bacteria need fiber. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” you loftily say. “I’ve heard of fiber. I eat lots of oatmeal and salads.”
No. That won’t cut it. It’s not enough. There’s one type of fiber
that was naturally included in traditional, healthy cultures
which is virtually absent in today’s civilized, processed diet. It’s
called resistant starch. Yes, you’re reading correctly; the fiber
that you need and probably are not getting is a form of starch.
It’s not broken down by the body to be absorbed like other
starch is (and thus you don’t get all those calories), so it makes
its way to where the bacteria live in your colon.
When the bacteria there eat this resistant starch, they make
beneficial, natural substances that bathe the colon cells and
reduce colon cancer. However, the bacteria’s by-products
also work to fight diabetes, boost the functioning of the brain
(perhaps decreasing dementia), soothe the lining of the gastro-
intestinal tract, and support a healthy metabolism. In fact, this
kind of “fiber” is so important food companies are researching
ways to add it to your food!
But there’s no need to wait and get it from a box or modified
plant. Of course not. Real food always wins! Get the benefits
of resistant starch and its power without spending any extra
money on your food bill and without your family giving you
dirty looks. I mean, they eat rice, potatoes, and bananas, don’t
they? Yes! You’re in business. Health is on the way. If you want
to get fancy, green peas, lentils, beans, and plantains can be
added to the mix.
The Value of Leftovers
Wait. This is too good. You
know there has to be a catch.
Well, there is a small one. Resistant starch is a bit fussy and
might go away as a food ripens
or when a food is cooked, at
least when it’s cooked and hot the first time around. It’s related
to some fascinating chemistry. Although Grandma didn’t know
the chemistry, when she served leftovers or made a potato salad, bean salad, or rice salad, she was serving resistant starch.
For potatoes, resistant starch is available in raw potatoes, but
most people don’t like those too well. (Did you know that
despite what people say, eating raw potatoes is not toxic? Green
potatoes are potentially toxic, and cooking does not inactivate
the toxin.) Cooking potatoes changes the resistant starch to
available starch, which is nearly all absorbed so your gut bacteria don’t get any food. However, cooling the cooked potato
in the refrigerator re-forms resistant starch. Eat the potatoes
cold (as in potato salad) or reheating them up at this point still
preserves the resistant starch.
Can I Get
in Pill Form?