Michael Pollan on fiber and how gut bacteria affect our health

Michael Pollan. May 15, 2013. Some of My Best Friends are Germs. New York Times.

In this article, Pollan explores the new science of how our gut flora influence our health.  A lot is unknown at this point, but it does appear that the more diverse the variety of microbes you have, the better it is for your health.

“Fiber is not a single nutrient, which is why fiber supplements are no magic bullet. There are hundreds of different polysaccharides — complex carbohydrates, including fiber — in plants, and different microbes like to chomp on different ones,” according to microbiologist Sonneberg.

This is a good reason to put as many kinds of grains as you can into your Whole Grain Mix, to make a multi-grain flour to bake with or mill your own flour with, seeds in your Super Seed Mix, and a variety of lentil, nut, bean, corn, and grain flours when you bake chips and crackers.

The processed food industry boosts fiber content with just one kind of fiber, inulin, which probably only a few kinds of microbes would be interested in.

If you want to increase your gut biodiversity, you need to eat a wide variety of whole grains, fruit, and vegetables, because they not only have hundreds of kinds of fiber, but different kinds of fiber as well:

  • Resistant starch: bananas, oats, beans
  • Soluble fiber: onions, root vegetables, nuts
  • Insoluble fiber: whole grains, avocados

Pollan writes “With our diet of swiftly absorbed sugars and fats, we’re eating for one [kind of microbe] and depriving the trillion of the food they like best: complex carbohydrates and fermentable plant fibers.

Pollan encourages all of us to take control of our lives and eat a wide variety of food so that Big Pharma and Big Food don’t make a fortune selling microbiota pills, allowing the mega Big Food junk-processed diet of most Americans to continue, since so many would think popping one of these pills solved their problems.

He concludes with how you might shop for food with your microbiome in mind. “Al dente pasta, for example, feeds the bugs better than soft pasta does; steel-cut oats better than rolled; raw or lightly cooked vegetables offer the bugs more to chomp on than overcooked, etc. This is at once a very old and a very new way of thinking about food: it suggests that all calories are not created equal and that the structure of a food and how it is prepared may matter as much as its nutrient composition.”

About Alice

I've milled and baked with whole grains for many years, because whole grains are delicious, and white flour is missing the nutrition that protects you from cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and many other diseases. Plus it's a good emergency food.
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