Friday, August 3, 2012

Fuel-up Fridays: Why Fiber?

My now octogenarian grandmother was the one to impart my first bit of wisdom on the subject of fiber and the wonder it does for the body: "I eat prunes every day.  They keep ya regular."

Apart from the admittedly stunning imagery, the woman is right.  Fiber is best explained as a class of carbohydrates that your body cannot easily break down.  It comes from cellulose in the plant walls of veggies and legumes; hemicellulose in the seed walls of whole grains; pectins found in apples, strawberries and citrus fruits; and the resistant starches of bananas and whole potatoes.  The best way to describe fiber's allure is that it acts as a work-out for your digestive system.  It ups the resistance to your bowels' strength training routine, shouting in the proverbial ears of your intestines like a starched-up drill sergeant: "Work that peristalsis!  Keep it movin', ya maggots, we're burnin' daylight here!"

And just like actual exercise keeps our cholesterol levels down, fiber reduces the body's ability to absorb cholesterol from the diet.  Similarly, just like during actual exercise you can only do so many burpees before slowing down a bit to pant and curse your Booty Boot Camp instructor, the workout that fiber puts your digestive system through slows down its ability to process other carbohydrates, keeping blood sugar levels from spiking and keeping your feeling full and satiated hours after a meal.

And if you really want to get down to brass tacks here, the more fiber your body takes in, the better the digestive system becomes at doing its job - namely, digesting things.  Like that dude from high school after two rounds of P90X, it's faster, stronger, more efficient, and damn good-looking.  That means it's got the pull and the power to help your body complete Mission: Bowl-to-Bowl every day.

So while you may not feel like getting off the couch for some cardio at the moment, the least you can do is put your GI tract through the work-out it deserves.  Here are some fabulously fiber-full recipes to try.

Nutty Cinna-Toast with Blueberries and Nectarine
Serves 1

Two slices lite bread
2 tbsp peanut butter, almond butter, or nut butter of choice
1 nectarine, sliced
1/3 cup blueberries
2 tsp cinnamon
sweetener of choice, to taste

Toast the slices of light bread, and then spread 1 tbsp of nut butter on each slice.  Then, sprinkle cinnamon and sweetener on each slice.  Place blueberries and nectarine slices in an artsy-fartsy (pun intended) fashion and enjoy each spicy, sweet and succulent fiber-full bite!

Nutrition facts: 363 calories, 33 net carbs (total carb-fiber), 13 g fiber (50% of recommended daily intake for women; 34% for men), 14 g protein

Triple-C Power Punch: Chickpea, Chard and Cauliflower Bowl
Serves 4
Adapted from Jacquelyn Scoggin's recipe here

1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized bits
2 cups chickpeas (canned or pre-cooked)
1 bunch white or rainbow chard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tsp olive oil
A pinch of salt
4 tbsp of favorite dressing

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.  Toss the cauliflower and chickpeas in 2 tsp of the olive oil and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes (a sure sign is when the cauliflower becomes golden brown on its edges).  Slice the chard into thin strips and begin to fry the finely chopped garlic in a pan, using the last tsp of olive oil, for 1 minute.  Then, add in the greens and add just a pinch of salt.  Continue to sauté until the chard has wilted and turned a rich color.  

When the baking is done, place them all in a bowl and garnish with a tbsp of your favorite dressing.  Mine is always Newman's Own Creamy Caesar!

Nutrition facts per serving: 304 calories, 23 g net carbs, 10 g fiber (40% of recommended intake for women; 26% for men), 12 g protein

Black Bean Burger in Paradise
Serves 3
Adapted from Vegangela's recipe here 

3 black bean burger patties (I recommend Morningstar's Spicy Chipotle version)
1 tbsp olive oil for frying the patties
1/2 red onion, diced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup wasabi peas
6 cups spinach
Dried cilantro, to taste

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Nutrition facts: 550 calories, 36 g net carbs, 15 g fiber (60% of recommended daily intake for women; 40% for men), 15 g protein

First, combine the garlic, lime juice, and 1/4 cup olive oil in a mixing bowl and whisk together.  This will be the dressing for the veggies.  Add the onion, tomatoes, red pepper, avocado, mango and wasabi peas into the bowl and mix together.  As the veggies (+1 fruit) get a chance to marinate in the bowl, fry up the black bean burgers in the remaining tbsp of olive oil.  While the patties grill, sprinkle dried cilantro into the salad to your own taste.

Add two cups of spinach into an individual bowl, and spoon the paradise salad onto the bed of spinach.  Lastly, cut up one black bean burger length-wise and add this to the top of your bowl.  Enjoy!

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