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Fiber, the Lost Nutrient

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Did you know that a whopping 97% of Americans aren’t getting the minimum recommended daily amount of fiber!? Fiber doesn’t exist in meat, eggs, or dairy, and is almost non-existent in processed, packaged foods. In order to get fiber, we have to eat plants – specifically vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. But why should we eat fiber?

A high-fiber diet is associated increased lifespan! In observational studies, fiber is associated with protection against heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. Another benefit of consuming fiber – it tends to increase our intake of plant foods high in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. It can regulate bowel movements, encourage a healthy gut microbiome,  lower cholesterol, help manage blood sugars, and reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.  Our culture today is protein-obsessed, but high-protein diets have not been found to be associated with these positive health outcomes. We really should be fiber-obsessed! To learn more, listen to Dr. Michael Gregor’s short video on fiber and protein.

The recommended daily intakes of fiber for adult men and women (Institute of Medicine):

Men: 30-38 grams

Women: 21-25 grams

Making soups and stews with a variety legumes is of my favorite ways to get fiber. The below recipe is an easy to make, oil-free minestrone soup. If you are new to the fiber game, slow and steady wins the race. Eating a lot of fiber too quickly can cause bloating and gas, but don’t worry this WILL go away as your gut flora adjusts. Another tip for reducing bean-bloat is to buy your beans dry, soak them for 24 hours, and pressure cook before adding to soup. This also helps to remove lectins, which are substances present in many foods that may increase permeability of the gut lining. Soaking and pressure cooking can remove most of the lectins in beans.

Plant-Based Minestrone Soup (GF, V)

Time: 35 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 6-8

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  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1-28oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1-15oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-15oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 large handfuls of fresh baby kale
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2-3 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 cup orzo pasta (sub quinoa, or brown rice to make gluten free, but cook these separately before adding and reduce to 1/2 cup dry grain)

In a large pot or cast iron dutch oven, saute diced onion in about 1 inch of vegetable stock. cover until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes and baby kale, cover for 2 minutes until kale beings to wilt. Using a ladle, scoop kale and about 1/2 of the tomato chunks into a blender, and blend until smooth. Add the mixture back into the pot. Now add the kidney beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans, and about 4 cups of veggie stock. Stir, then add salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of small pasta or farro. Stir, cover, and simmer on low for another 10 minutes, stirring intermittently so pasta doesn’t stick.

Serve with your favorite crusty bread!

With gratitude,
Christina

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