If consuming marinated pork tenderloin could reduce our risk of heart disease we wouldn’t need to discuss the health benefits of oatmeal. Sadly, the most delicious livestock to walk on four legs will never be able to provide the cholesterol leveling, Karate chop of soluble and insoluble fiber that only whole grains can deliver.
Let us reconsider these greatly overlooked and underestimated grains. There are a number of ways to incorporate these implements of nutritional warfare into our diets without completely robbing ourselves of the more decadent culinary pleasures. Arming ourselves with a little nutritional knowledge will open far more doors to culinary possibility than it closes.
Nuts And Bolts Of The Cardiovascular System
The cardiovascular system is composed of arteries, veins, arterioles, venules, capillaries, and the heart.
If we were to set the gross anatomy aside and view this network of highly specialized connective tissue (which is maintained under so many pounds per square inch of fluid pressure) from the perspective of a structural engineer, then we would be witnessing a marvel of plumbing.
It is vital that the plumbing of the cardiovascular system be kept free and clear of build up at all times in order for the oxygen and nutrient rich blood to flow freely throughout the body.Fat and cholesterol are a part of life.
They are not only unavoidable but it’s not a great idea to try and cut them out entirely. Cholesterol acts, not only as a structural component of cell membranes, but constitutes certain hormones required to regulate metabolism and reproduction.
You can however, have too much of a good thing and certain forms of cholesterol like LDL (low density lipoprotein) have a nasty habit of building up along the walls of blood vessels.
When blood flow is restricted in the vessels the increased cardiac output required to supply blood puts a severe strain on the heart and it is never good to put a strain on the heart
The Zen Of Dietary Fiber
Luckily, nature has given us grains that when consumed and broken down by the digestive machinery of the body can help to clear our vital vasculature of residual fatty deposits. What separates whole grains from other sources of carbohydrate and protein rich foods is the fiber they provide.
If we were to use brown rice for an example, then the caramel colored outer protective layer of the rice grain is where much of the fiber would reside. Fiber makes up the structural component of grains.
This component is not as easy to digest which is a good thing because in its semi-digested form it orchestrates a number of helpful metabolic changes. Dietary fiber comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble.
These two work together to maintain regularity, mediate glucose levels and insulin utilization, and influence the activity of beneficial bacteria which improve digestion. Soluble fibers readily absorb water to form a thick gel that slows digestion and inadvertently affects the rate at which lipids and carbohydrates are broken down and nutrients are absorbed.
Soluble fiber is also fermented by intestinal bacteria whose metabolic activity is currently being researched for their influence on blood cholesterol levels. Certain bacteria have been shown in animal trials to break down bile, greatly reducing the reabsorption of cholesterol.
In essence, a balanced diet helps to encourage a beneficial symbiosis with bacteria to regulate our body’s biochemistry. There are a number of fruits and vegetables that offer soluble fiber, but your money’s worth, oatmeal is still the reigning champion.
Substituting a heavier breakfast with a bowl of oatmeal is also a great way to keep the weight down. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools which aids the gastrointestinal musculature during defecation, alleviating and often preventing constipation.
Very common fruits like apples and pears contain a great deal of insoluble fiber in their skins along with a healthy supply of nutrients that your body already needs. Another great advantage to stocking up on common fruits like apples is that these foods come in many varieties that are typically available all year round. So there is always an option to keep things interesting.
Be Honest With Yourself
Successfully incorporating more fiber into the diet means recognizing that you will only see results if you also reduce your intake of fat. There is a tendency to think that eating more good things will cancel out the bad.
Unfortunately, nutrition does not work on an exact scale. Many times it takes even more effort to undo the damage done by a diet high in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Dietary fiber is something that should be incorporated daily.
The effectiveness of soluble and insoluble fiber can only be maintained when they are incorporated harmoniously into the diet, and not serendipitously revisited as a means of damage control.
We all cheat from time to time, but if we have certain goals in mind, like lowering our cholesterol or blood pressure we should be mindful of those “little” guilty pleasures that can significantly set back our progress.
Discipline is not a four letter word but a way of conditioning yourself to be drawn into a healthier lifestyle. One way to achieve this nutritional discipline is to seek out variety. Don’t think about having to cut out the foods that you enjoy but get excited about discovering new ones, healthier ones.
Rediscovering Your Local Market
It can be a very positive experience, going on the hunt for new foods with a heftier nutritional portfolio.
You may find that once you begin to pay closer attention to the nutritional information on the back of labels that you will begin to steer away from some of the nutritionally vacant, calorie dense snacks that you once indulged in. What you should invest in are foods with honest, simple ingredients.
Ideally, you want the label to list real ingredients and not obscure phrases like “all natural flavors.” Tea with lemon juice will offer more vitamin C than lemon flavored tea. Cooking with garlic will carry your taste buds further than garlic infused seasonings.
Use the real ingredients and take out the guess work. Sodium can also appear in many forms especially in processed foods. The less processed the foods are that you buy the more control you will have in monitoring what goes into your body.
Just getting into the habit of watching your sodium intake is a good way of cancelling out junk foods that place sodium in the forefront and are often associated with heaping helpings of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Yes, this will require a little more effort since many of the foods that are good for us require preparation and just a little time. However, the more healthy foods you stock up on the easier it will be to put meals together.
Stock your pantry and frig so that you will not have to scavenge for healthy snack alternatives. The easiest way to enjoy fiber and nutrient rich foods like nuts or fruit is to never let yourself run out. The number one reason why unhealthy eating habits develop in the first place is convenience.
Make the healthy choices more available than the bad. Remember that we are not getting rid of all of the foods we enjoy but exposing ourselves to an even greater variety.
One great way to bring grains into the forefront in your diet is to become more adventurous about international cuisine. Try not to dismiss foods like oats or beans after you have exhausted your palate until you explore the recipes of another culture and the ways in which they incorporate those grains.
If you allow yourself the opportunity to diversify your diet, than your meals can offer you new experiences to look forward to.
Allow yourself to embrace the many the nutritional options that the modern market has to offer. Expand your knowledge about the foods you enjoy and learn when it is time to move on to better options. Once you unlock the door to better nutrition many more doors will open.