Your Bodys Broom

Your ancestors probably consumed more fiber than you do!

Before the days of advanced milling technology, gristmills ground wheat, corn, and other grains into meal or flour. Using the power of a moving river, grain was milled between two coarse stones. Then it was sifted to remove the inedible chaff, or husk, leaving all the edible parts of the grain. The bran and the germ that contain fiber and many essential nutrients remained. Whole grains were the only grains people knew. In some parts of the world, that's still true today; in fact, some people still pound their grain by hand to make flour.

As technology improved, the bran and the germ were separated and removed, leaving refined white flour. With this new process came new status. White bread with its softer texture and high-class appeal became more desirable than coarser, darker bread. But it was more expensive and only available to those who could afford it. For the same reasons, white rice became more desirable than brown rice. Simply put, refined was "in"!

With this switch to refined grains, however, people became short-changed on many nutrients—including fiber—without knowing it. In the 1940s, recognizing the health consequences, manufacturers began enriching many grain products. Now, some nutrients lost during processing—thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron—are added back. In some, fiber is added back, too. Since the late 1990s, enriched grain products have also been fortified with folic acid.

Only within the past thirty-five or so years have health experts recognized that fiber offers more than bulk to food. It's loaded with health benefits. Today whole-grain products, along with other fiber-rich foods—vegetables, fruits, and legumes—are "in" again. And today's experts advise: make at least half your grains whole!

Just what is fiber? How does it promote your health?

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