Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Harvest of Fiber

Chef Art Smith with gift of green tomatoes from my garden.

The menu at newly opened Southern Art in Buckhead may feature selections from the artisanal ham bar and chef Art Smith’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken, but closer inspection reveals a variety of ways to enjoy eating more fruits and vegetables, too.

Gotta show the Buttermilk Fried Chicken!

Art Smith, who has famously cooked for Oprah Winfrey and more privately lost a lot of weight and improved his own health through good nutrition, leads a culinary team serving up fiber rich side dishes such as okra, Brussels sprouts, greens, cream-less creamed corn, grilled green tomato and apple relish, roasted sweet potatoes and beets. Since the restaurant is located in the Intercontinental Hotel, Southern Art serves lunch and breakfast. A high fiber way to start the day is the Art Start which features steel cut oatmeal and fresh berries with scrambled egg whites and yogurt.

 What's the fuss about fiber?
Bet you wear a seatbelt, but are you eating enough fiber to protect your health? One of the most successful recent health campaigns includes a simple phrase that conveys action and consequence- “Click or Ticket.” The power of a persuasive message is what nutrition experts hope will help change eating habits with the slogan “Fruits & Veggies- More Matters.” Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables provides a cornucopia of health benefits from disease prevention to weight control. While a host of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as antioxidants are found in the produce section; fiber is a key component. The sad truth is that most Americans consume only 12 to 14 grams of fiber per day, falling far short of the recommended intake of 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day.

Where’s the Fiber?

Most fiber comes from plant foods, like beans, broccoli and oatmeal. It’s the part of the plant that your body just can’t digest, so it pretty much comes out the way it goes in, making it calorie-free. Fiber in foods helps keep you from suffering crazy highs and lows in blood sugar levels, they help lower cholesterol, prevent constipation and they may even reduce your risk of some types of cancer. While your body can’t digest fiber, the “good” bacteria that are permanent residents in your intestinal tract, feast on all that passes by. The result is a bigger, stronger bacterial force that may help keep your immune system healthy. And in keeping with our theme of a happier body, high-fiber diets slow down digestion, making you feel full longer, and delaying the munchies.

A Tale of Two Fibers

There are actually several kinds of fiber, but the two fiber groups you should make a mental note of are soluble and insoluble

Soluble Fiber: The kind of fiber in oat bran, apples and beans acts kind of like a sponge in the digestive tract and has been shown to grab onto cholesterol and take it down the line. It's also kind of filling so it helps keep your appetite in check.
Guests are greeted with veggies at Southern Art

Insoluble Fiber: The kind of fiber in the strings of celery, apple peels, asparagus, kale or in cereal or rice bran is indigestible so working as “nature’s broom” it works to sweep the intestinal tract clean. Not to risk sounding like a laxative commercial, but this kind of fiber keeps you, ah, regular.

Dishing Up Fiber

Fiber Find Grams of fiber

Lentils (1/2 cup) 8

Raspberries (1 cup) 8

Beans, pinto (1/2 cup) 6

Whole wheat pasta (1 cup) 6

100% Bran (3/4 cup) 5

Dried figs (2) 5

Roasted Soy nuts (1 oz) 5

Almonds (1 oz) 4

Broccoli (1 cup) 4

Brown rice (1 cup) 4

Dried Plums (prunes) (1/4 cup) 4

Peas, green (1/2 cup) 4

Pears (1 medium) 4

Spinach, fresh (1cup) 4

Banana (1) 3

Oatmeal, instant, plain (1 packet) 3

Strawberries (1 cup) 3

Whole wheat bread (1 slice) 3 

Wild rice (1 cup) 3
Southern Art's Ham and Biscuits with Okra!