Facts on fibre

By Jan Ridgely

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It's amazing that something the body does not digest is so good for you! Here are a few facts about fibre and why it's so important to your health. The recipes that follow are loaded with both soluble and insoluble fibre, packed with vitamins and minerals and are very easy to prepare

Fibre is found only in plant foods - no animal or dairy products contain fibre.

There are 2 types of fibre:

1. Soluble fibre. Dissolves in water. This would include things like psyllium, oat bran, pectin, and gums. Found in beans, lentils, citrus fruits and strawberries, to name a few. Soluble fibre has been scientifically proven to reduce cholesterol levels.

2. Insoluble fibre. Does not dissolve in water, but binds it. Swelling causes fullness and speeds elimination. Wheat and oat bran, crunchy vegetables, fruits, other whole grains and legumes are good examples.

Aim for between 25 and 40 grams of fibre per day. Read labels! Cereals vary greatly. Reach for whole grains, brown rice and real fruits and vegetables, with their skins!

White breads and pastas are simple carbohydrates, just like sugar. No nutritional value really and NO fibre. These processed grains muck up digestion, can cause constipation, throw off delicate blood sugar balance and contribute to obesity and cancers.

If you're borderline diabetic or diabetic, an increase in fibre can help you improve your glucose levels. Soluble fibre especially balances blood sugar levels by slowing digestion (not elimination, important difference). fibre slows the sugar release into the bloodstream.

Colon and breast cancer risks are reduced when you have more fibre in your diet. Speeds elimination, very important to not let toxins accumulate, and binds potential carcinogens and eliminates them.

Cleansing action of fibre comes from its ability to bind harmful molecules in the digestive tract, to move the bowels quickly, to improve the bacterial balance in the intestine.

Transition slowly. It takes time for your body to adjust to more fibre. Be sure to drink lots of clean water, at least 8 to 10 glasses a day to keep it moving!


Le Puy Lentils with Spring Vegetables

Serves 4.

Limitless variations! Play with different spices (cumin, coriander, ginger, cayenne, turmeric), different veggie combinations (leeks, potatoes). Lentils are a wonderful source of soluble fiber, require no soaking and are one of the easiest legumes to digest. The Le Puy lentils are smaller with a more peppery taste than regular. But any type will do. This recipe is adapted from Lorna Sass' Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, an excellent resource for using a pressure-cooker.

1 Tbs safflower or canola oil
1 C coarsely chopped onions
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 C diced carrots
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
tsp ground allspice
4 cups water
1 cups dried Le Puy lentils, picked over and rinsed

After cooking add:
4 to 6 cups coarsely chopped fresh quick-cooking greens such as arugula, endive, watercress, chard or spinach
tsp salt, or to taste Freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 Tbs) or balsamic vinegar (1 tsp) (optional)

Garnishes: Fresh chopped parsley, feta cheese or roasted walnuts sprinkled on top.

Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Cook the onions and garlic for about 3 minutes.

Add carrots and spices and cook an additional minute. Add the water and lentils. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer gently until the beans are tender-about 30 or 40 minutes. Stir in the greens and salt. Cook over medium heat until the greens are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice or balsamic vinegar just before serving to sharpen the flavors. Serve in shallow bowl and top with desired garnishes.

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Luscious Beet Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Makes 6 servings.

Beets are incredibly cleansing and are loaded with phytonutrients, those powerful plant pigments that tote antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. This recipe is adapted from Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family.

4 large beets
cup pumpkin seeds, toasted (or walnuts)
1 large fennel bulb (or any green-arugula, dandelion greens, spinach, lettuces)
2 scallions, finely chopped (optional)
lb. Feta cheese (optional)

3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
tsp Dijon mustard
tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh basil

Wash beets and remove tops. Place beets in a large pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until beets are tender (about an hour). Set aside to cool. You can cheat here and buy the beets already cooked. They're sold vacuum packed in both the Migros and Coop. Or, often the fresh market vendors will sell beets already cooked.

Toast pumpkin seeds by placing seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Move the skillet back and forth over the heat with one hand; stir the seeds using a wooden spoon with the other hand. This will toast the seeds evenly and prevent burning. When the seeds begin to pop and give off a nutty aroma, they are ready. Remove seeds from skillet and set aside.

If using greens that require cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. Wash the greens thoroughly by submerging the bunch in a sink full of cold water. Shake off water and chop the bunch into bite-size pieces. Drop greens into boiling and let cook for about 30 seconds, just enough to make the stems tender. Place greens in a colander and run cold water over them to halt cooking.

Place all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Peel beets and cut into small cubes. Squeeze excess water out of the cooked beet greens. Put cubed beets, greens, pumpkin seeds and scallion in a salad bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Crumble feta cheese on top. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


Sesame-Tahini Dressing

Makes 1 cups.

From Becoming Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina, Brenda Davis and Victoria Harrison.

C lemon juice
C Tahini (ground sesame seeds)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tb tamari or soy sauce
tsp pepper, or to taste
C water

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Thickness depends on use. Excellent on steamed greens or other veggies. The tahini adds calcium as well as other minerals.


Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes about cup. Great on salads, but also on baked potatoes, pasta or stir-frys. From Becoming Vegetarian.

C olive oil
C flax oil
3 Tb lemon juice or cider vinegar
1 tsp ginger, minced (optional)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs as you like-basil and oregano or herbs de Provence work well.

Place all ingredients in a blender, or, just whisk until smooth.


Plum Vinegar and Pumpkin Seed Dressing

Serves 4.

Great on salads, noodles, rice and veggies. Keeps about a week in the fridge. From Barbara McNally's newsletter A Real Life.

3 Tb Umboshi plum vinegar (could try 1 Tb miso instead)
C pumpkin seeds

Roast seeds in a pan or in the oven until they swell and pop. Put seeds in a suribachi, or grind them in a spice grinder. Either way, grind the seeds until a paste is formed. Add vinegar or miso and water to desired consistency.


Multi-Purpose Fruit Muffin and Cake Batter

Makes 12 muffins.

The authors note that this would also make a nice cake recipe as well. From Becoming Vegetarian.

2 C whole wheat flour (pastry flour works nicely)
1 C wheat germ or oat bran (or a combination)
2 tsp baking powder
tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
tsp each: allspice and cloves
1 cups grated apple (can also use any combination of bananas, carrots, zucchini or pumpkin)
C vegetable oil
1 C milk (soy or rice)
1 Tb ground flaxseed + 3 Tb water (or 1 egg)
C blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup liquid sweetener (maple syrup or honey)
C raisins (optional)
C walnuts or pecans (optional)

In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, stir together the wet ingredients, including the flax mixture. Add the wet to the dry and stir until just blended. Add the raisins and nuts. Fill greased muffin tins right to the top. Bake at 375 F (190 C) for 15 to 20 minutes. For a cake, use a greased 9" x 13" cake pan and bake in a 350 F (176) oven for 50 to 60 minutes.


Fresh Fruit Kanten

Serves 6-8.

Agar is a clear and tasteless sea-vegetable that is the binding agent used in this recipe instead of animal-based gelatin. It's loaded with calcium and iron, contains soluble fiber, is soothing to the digestive tract and is a powerful detoxer, carrying out harmful radioactive waste. From Christina Pirello (www.christinacooks.com).

3 C apple juice or other fruit juice
3 Tbs agar agar flakes
Pinch sea salt
1-2 C seasonal fruit-cut into bite-sized pieces (avoid pineapple)

Bring juice, salt and agar to a boil over low heat. If you boil too quickly, the agar will simply sink to the bottom of the pan and refuse to dissolve. Simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until agar completely disappears. Arrange fruit in individual dessert cups or on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole. When kanten is ready, pour gently over fruit. It should set up in about 1 hours, but if you would like to speed up the process, allow to stand 30 minutes before refrigerating. Garnish with tofu cream.


Tofu Whip

Serves 4-6.

1 lb extra firm tofu, drained and chunked
C maple syrup
1 Tbs vanilla
1-2 Tbs water

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Variations-add 4 Tbs preserves and 2 tsp citrus peel instead of maple syrup and vanilla.

© Jan Ridgely, MS Nutrition and Peak of Health 2002

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