Saturday, March 24, 2018

Popeye Was Right

Like many of you, I've heard how important it is to have fiber in my diet, but I wasn't clear what, exactly, fiber is. When I thought about it at all, I thought it must be something like rope. So I looked it up. Dietary fiber refers to the indigestible portions of food made from plants. It used to be more commonly known as "roughage" back in the days people used cool evocative words instead of inferior replacement words. You can get lots of nice digestible gooey bits and nutrients from plants; the fiber would be in all those sturdifying parts of a plant that keep it from getting floppy.

Basically, rope.

There are many types of fiber. There's your cellulose, as epitomized by celery; there's your mucilage, which is found in oats and also little jars with rubber nipply tops; there's lignin, which is found in beans and fruits, and wants to be coal when it grows up; chitin, located in the exoskeleton of insects and the really crunchy parts of crabs; and many others. Good sources of dietary fiber include beans, dark green vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and burlap. Artichokes are packed with fiber, but a lot of that is the leafy part you throw away after you've toothed the butter off of it. Peas are good also, and okra, which is high in both fiber and snot.

You're not going to get any fiber from an animal, unless you eat the string around the roast beef, or unless it was wearing a little cotton sweater. Nonetheless, people have done just fine with an all- or nearly-all-meat diet, such as my Uncle Irvin, who reportedly never touched a salad or green vegetable in his life, although he happily suffered the potato, which is another vehicle for butter. But he was a Norwegian and as such could count on a minimum of 85 happy years, as long as the butter held out.

It is claimed that the Inuit people traditionally ate virtually nothing but meat, from caribou, fish, whale, and seal, and did just fine. In order to survive, they ate some of the meat raw, to retain the vitamin C, and also ate the skin and hooves and what-have-you, and also got their greens by eating the stomach contents of the caribou. That strikes me as one crappy salad, although it wouldn't surprise me if Norwegians had a recipe for it. It would include butter. I don't know. The whole situation would have me rethinking my location. Maybe I'm over-delicate, but I'd snap a tooth on a hoof.

Generally speaking, however, you need roughage. Roughage is the boat your shit sails out on, and without it, your Cheez Whiz and burger just mill around in the intestine for days, enjoying the ambience. Fiber is nature's scrub brush, and is even said to ward off hemorrhoids. Or maybe just grind them off. Either way.

There are animals that can digest cellulose, but you don't want to be any of them. They all make a point of enslaving colonies of cellulose-digesting microbes; they include horses, cows, goats, koala bears, giraffes, and termites. Ruminants not only engage the microbes to bust up their grasses, but repeatedly throw up in their mouths for a re-chew. And all of these, especially the termite, are gassy as the dickens.

Which is fine in moderation. Flatulence, in fact, is considered a downside of a high fiber diet, but only by people suffering from undue decorum. But you can fix undue decorum with enough fiber.

42 comments:

  1. I'm glad that I diverged from my family's diet. As Polish immigrants, everything was meat, potatoes, and dough. Hardly ever touched a green vegetable, unless you want to include canned peas (I don't.) No wonder they all had colon issues.

    I was fortunate to have been introduced to real food by working in the restaurant industry. I sampled a lot of seafood, greens, and vegetables of every sort, and it left my family's traditional "cuisine" in the dust. I may have the occasional pierogi or kielbasa, but the balance of my cooking is what I learned from chefs... not my mom and grandmom. I think that I'm much healthier for it.

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    1. I shudder to think how long a Norwegian would last if she ate vegetables and salad. Maybe I'll be the one to find out!

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  2. I'm told the key to a high fibre diet is to eat that way all your life, that way your system is accustomed to it and flatulence is minimised. When starting a high fibre diet in adult life, for whatever reason, you just need to put up with the flatulence until your digestive system adjusts. When that happens, you may still fart, but less and without too much 'fragrance'.
    I can't say for sure if all that is true, because I've eaten high fibre foods most of my life so wouldn't know any different.

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    1. I can't say either, because I've been farty all my life.

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  3. Are there any good recipes for burlap?

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    1. Boi it in chicken broth and garlic till tender, then , use the broth to make a cheese sauce.

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  4. Listening to "Star Talk" on NPR the other day and Neil DeGrasse Tyson did say if we could find a way to digest fiber (cellulose) we would solve the world's food shortage problem...just saying.

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    1. People and apes do, of course. And anteaters, strangely enough.

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    2. I heard that episode too - great idea, isn't it?

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  5. There was a butter shortage in Norway about a year or two ago and the country was just about in a panic! Torsk is a wonderful butter delivery device if you have never tried it.
    I was proud of myself for getting the lignin/coal reference. You do get obscure sometimes.

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    1. You read that here! Except for the "butter delivery device." You keep that to yourself, you naughty boy.

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  6. I have a lot of Norwegian heritage. Butter is its'own food group, right? 'Cause I'm counting on that in my healthy eating plan.

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    1. I swear by it. Of course, I swear kind of a lot.

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  7. You are now officially my favourite nutritionist.
    On top of all the other lists you already head, of course. Just keep up the good work, OK?

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  8. Raised on Norwegian type cuisine. Went hippie in my 20s and began eating veggies, nuts and berries. The sulphur content in the methane does abate in time. (Or maybe the nose grows accustomed.)Broccoli equals nature's little brooms.

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    1. It's only been in the last few years that I've found myself going all YUM over vegetables and salads. I don't know WHAT happened. I mean, I'd eat them. But to look at a yam in the store and go Oh baby, oh baby? That's new. That's brand new.

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    2. I recommend hooking a spiralizer up to your KitchenAid mixer. I'm making butternut squash noodles, zucchini twirls, summer squash too. Sautee those suckers for a few minutes with butter and YUM YUM YUM!! Got the vegetable thing going too, Murr, bigtime. Women of a certain age...

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    3. I've been tempted. I didn't know if it was really cool or just a fad.

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  9. I wanted to say something about burlap but the comment thread started by Susannah left me laughing too hard to think!

    Instead I think I'll check out your caribou and Cheez Whiz labels to see what else is there :)

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    1. I just checked, myself. I know I wrote about caribou before. REally early on, say February 2009. We had caribou heart and tongue for Valentine's Day. As one does. Guess I didn't tag it though.

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  10. My brother and my partner have assigned honorary meat status to the potato. I suspect they are not alone. A tomato can sneak in to the exalted category too some days.
    I don't think burlap get the nod though.

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    1. It's tough. You have to wrap it up with string and cook it forever.

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  11. "Roughage"! There you go -- it is a perfectly fine word from the 1950s, one that our mothers would use when talking with other neighborhood mothers about their little Johnny's constipation. ("I know that he would have 'success' in the bathroom if I could just get him to eat more Roughage.") As you said, it is so much more descriptive than today's vague reference to "Fiber".

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  12. Great post, but you made us zoo folks wince. Despite the scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus ("ash-colored pouch bear") koalas are not bears. They are marsupials related to kangaroos and wombats. Australians claim that the misnomer 'koala bear' is used almost exclusively by Americans, who learned it from Teddy Roosevelt, after whom the 'teddy bear' was named. From there the transfer is rather obscure, but apparently someone thought a stuffed koala toy looked like a teddy bear.

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    1. Oh man, I'm sorry. I had to go back to check that I'd done that. I certainly know koalas are not bears. I guess I'm used to hearing "koala bear." BTW, just to save you having to check--ant lions aren't lions, either.

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    2. Next you'll tell me that sea horses aren't really horses.

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    3. As long as Sea Monkeys are still monkeys, all is right in the universe.

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    4. We'll always have sea monkeys.

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  13. And guinea pigs aren't from Guinea and they aren't pigs. But we did learn in a nature documentary many years ago that the Catholic invaders of South America declared the capybara a fish. This declaration, made in view of the capybara's liking to slosh around in swampy terrain, qualified the animal (which was somewhat of a dietary staple for indigenous folks) to be consumed on Fridays, so that the conquered people could both eat, and turn properly Catholic. The capybara looks a little like a guinea pig around the face, but is way bigger and has discernible legs. I doubt guinea pigs can swim.

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    1. This is everything wrong with religion.

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  14. Goodness gracious, what I learn here!

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    1. And you can take every jot and tittle of it to the bank, too.

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  15. Have you ever tasted butter made from cream as soon as it rises from the milk? It's like ice cream. I'm a bit ashamed to say I had butter as a meal the other day. I made the butter, licked the spatula, licked the bowl, then took another taste from the dish to make sure I had salted it well, then another, then another. My heritage is unclear, but I think there's a Norwegian in there somewhere trying to break through to the surface. She and the Jewish grandmother are duking it out.

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    1. There's a restaurant here that offers lots of small plates and you have to pay for the plate of bread AND the plate of butter, and I do every time. In fact I'd be happy with the butter and no bread. You be careful with those inner Norwegians and Jews duking it out. You'll end up with herring, for sure.

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  16. I subscribe totally to Ed's analysis. My unfondest memories include eating lunch while my little brother hollered to my my "come and see if I'm constapliated" That, of course, was in the fifties...:(

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