superfoods – are they really super?
Can a high fiber diet prevent colon cancer? We hear many claims of how some “superfoods” can help you lose weight, help prevent diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, among many others. Fact or Fiction?
Despite all these claims by the media and producers of these “superfoods”, there is no scientific evidence or legal definition of what constitutes a superfood, although the Oxford English Dictionary describes a superfood as:
“. . . a nutrient-rich food considered (my italics) to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Oxford English Dictionary/oed
Note the word considered instead of will. Some dictionary definitions don’t mention health benefits, only the nutrients, antioxidants, etc, these supposedly superfoods contain.
The Collins English Dictionary defines superfoods as:
“. . . a food that contains many vitamins and other substances that are considered to be very good for your health.” Collins Dictionary/English
Note again the word “considered to be” and not “are very good”.
superfoods: fiber and your diet
Can you exist on a diet composed entirely of these so-called superfoods? Yes, you can, but, personally, I wouldn’t try it!
The majority of these superfoods are plant based, and a diet based mainly on fruit and vegetables, containing very little fish and meat, will be high in fiber, probably far higher than the recommended daily intake for men and women.
The recommended daily intake for men and women under fifty is 25 grams daily for women and 38 grams daily for men. The recommended daily intake for men and women over fifty is 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men.
Despite what you may read about a diet high in fiber preventing colon cancer, a diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of contracting the disease, but there is no medical or scientific evidence to back up these claims that such a diet will prevent it.
A decision to start on a “superfood only” diet, without giving it some thought, can cause any number of digestive problems shortly after finishing a meal, due to the sudden increase in dietary fiber.
You may feel bloated or experience belching, gas, acid reflux (heartburn), or stomach cramps, to mention a few. You may also find your bowel movement has become more frequent than usual. This is probably due to the sudden, rather than a gradual, increase in the carbohydrates that you are consuming through your superfood diet.
Fiber is a form of carbohydrates found in most plants, and, unlike simple starchy carbs such as refined sugar and starch, unrefined complex starchy carbs, found in whole grains and legumes; and complex fibrous carbs, found in most vegetables; are, by and large, indigestible by humans and gradually passed into the colon, where they are passed out through normal bodily functions.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Let’s take a look at soluble first.
- Soluble Fiber
- Grains: Oats, Barley Rye, etc
- Fruit: Bananas, Apples
- Beans and Pulses: Baked Beans, Chick Peas, etc
- Root Vegetables: Carrots, Potatoes.
- Insoluble Fiber
Also known as partially fermentable fiber, unlike soluble, it doesn’t dissolve in water but absorbs it so it becomes like a sponge.
This sponge-like substance slowly moves through the intestines and is excellent in helping to avoid constipation and helps prevent other digestive disorders like diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Good sources of insoluble fiber are:
- High Fiber Breakfast Cereals
- Wholemeal Breads
- Pasta, Brown Rice, Other Wholegrains
- Potatoes with Skins
- Nuts, Seeds.
As fiber absorbs water, you may also need to increase your intake of fluids to avoid dehydration, due to your body using water to try to get rid of the excess fiber.
There is often the misconception that the discomforts mentioned above after consuming a meal are due to excess stomach acid. In many cases it is quite the reverse, particularly in vegetarians and vegans.
Due to a fruit, plant, and plant extracts only diet high in fiber and lacking in protein, low stomach acid is often the problem.
In the following article we will look at low stomach acid and how it affects your digestion and health.