“Do not go gentle into that good night.”
This famous poem was published in 1953 by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, just a year before his untimely death at age 39.
I’ve been thinking recently about how the final line in the poem, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” is an apt description of the last gasp of the big bread, cereal, and grain industry.
Despite the scientific proof that refined carbs are killers, big grain isn’t going to go out gently or quietly.
In fact, the industry is now clinging to a new “landmark” study on fiber that’s been making the rounds “before the truth has [even had] a chance to get its pants on,” in the reportedly famous words of Winston Churchill.
Basically, it claims that fiber is the answer to chronic, deadly diseases like colon cancer, Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. So, on the surface, it seems like a boon for big grain. But, as you might suspect, there are more than a few holes in this conclusion.
So read on, and I’ll reveal the real science on fiber and grains you should be paying attention to. And I’ll share my favorite ways to “go against the grain” so you can get the healthy fiber you need — without putting yourself at risk.
New landmark study highlights the wrong fiber
The new fiber study was commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO).1 WHO’s main mission appears to be spreading big pharma and modern western technology—and mythology—around the world, concentrating on countries whose people can’t afford it, and who don’t really need or want it.
Researchers looked at 243 studies from the past 50 years, involving nearly 5,000 people from around the world. Many of the studies showed that more fiber in the diet is associated with reduced risks of certain cancers, heart disease, and early deaths.
In fact, researchers concluded that dietary fiber appears to have even more health benefits than they previously thought.
The study showed that the average person consumes about 20 grams of fiber a day. But researchers recommend increasing consumption to 25 to 29 grams a day.
Why? Because they found that a higher-fiber diet leads to a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease, a 22 percent reduced risk of stroke, and a 16 percent lower risk of Type II diabetes and colorectal cancer. Plus, eating an extra 15 or more grams of fiber a day could reduce incidences of those diseases by 2 to 19 percent.
Of course, you can imagine how excited this study made the big grain industry. This food monopoly has been zealously attacking low-carb diets for years (despite all of the science showing how healthy these diets are).
So you can be certain the new study will be used by the grain industry and our crony corporatist government to get us back in the bread line once again.
Separating the wheat from the chaff
The problem with this PR push is that the grain industry doesn’t discriminate between whole grains and refined grains. In their opinion, all grains are great. But study after study shows this type of thinking is just flat-out wrong.
As you know, there are two types of grains: whole and refined.
When whole grains are milled, the nutrient-rich bran and germ layers are kept intact. But, refined grains are stripped of these layers, meaning they have very few nutrients—including fiber.
And sadly, over the last 50 years, our food supply has been flooded with packaged, processed bread, desserts, pasta, and other high-carb foods made from the white flour that comes from these useless refined grains.
Whole grains, on the other hand, are good sources of B vitamins and some trace minerals, and have been shown in a variety of studies to help reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. And they contain large amounts of fiber.
But whole grains are also high in carbs, which means they’re simply not as good for your health as low-carb beans, seeds, and more fibrous fruits and vegetables. And there’s another problem…
Too much fiber from whole grains can actually create disease
One thing the WHO study got right is that it put a limit on how much fiber you should consume.
The researchers suggest 25 to 29 grams of fiber a day. Meanwhile, the Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women.
(I prefer to think of fiber consumption in terms of daily servings of food, rather than specific, weighed amounts. Refer to the sidebar on page 3 for the complete breakdown.)
Of course, some so-called nutrition experts say you can’t eat too much fiber. But this simply isn’t true. That’s because there are two types of fiber, and you need balanced amounts of both.
The first kind of fiber, soluble fiber, dissolves in water, so it’s easier for your body to digest. It’s found in beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. Research associates soluble fiber with better control of blood sugar and lower levels of fats in the blood.
The second kind of fiber, insoluble fiber, doesn’t dissolve in water. It’s found in the outer, bran layer of whole grains and in the skin of many fruits and vegetables.
Insoluble fiber helps bulk up your stools, pushing the waste through your intestines in a timely manner. This type of fiber actually acts like little “brooms” on the inside of your colon, removing old and damaged cells, which is thought to reduce the risk of cancer.
But as with most other things in life, this “sweeping” needs to be done in moderation. As I revealed in a study I published 30 years ago, too much scraping and stimulation of the cells in the colon can signal the cells to proliferate, which is a risk factor for colon cancer.
That’s why I recommend you get the bulk, so to speak, of your fiber from foods that contain a healthy balance of both soluble and insoluble fiber—fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds—rather than whole grains.
Fiber alone can’t keep you healthy
Another big reason why fiber is so important in your diet is because it’s a prebiotic that feeds the probiotics in your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, the environment where colonies of healthy bacteria thrive. (Plus, science now shows that your GI microbiome is critical for immune-system and brain-body health, which can help protect against all chronic diseases.)
But it takes more than fiber to keep your GI microbiome—and the rest of your body—healthy. Anyone who understands basic nutrition knows that fruits, vegetables, and other foods that contain a variety of nutrients are clearly associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases.
That’s what makes the grain industry’s claims so infuriating. They’re incorrectly and deviously assigning all of the disease-fighting properties of these foods to fiber alone.
As you know, I exposed the same kind of ignorance back in the mid-1980s, when the National Cancer Institute attempted to ascribe the cancer-fighting benefits of fruits and vegetables solely to their beta-carotene content.
My message was the same then as it is now—we eat food, not nutrients. And it takes a lot more than a single nutrient, whether it’s beta-carotene or fiber, to fight disease and keep us healthy.
But the grain industry doesn’t want us looking their gift horse in the mouth (although the mouths of horses are one of the few places where their grains really do belong). They conclude (incorrectly) that the new “landmark” study on eating fiber means eating more grains.
3 fiber facts the grain industry won’t tell you
The truth is that as much as the grain industry wants to turn this study into an easily digestible, pro-grain manifesto, fiber is complicated. So much so that I’ve been writing about the relationship between fiber, grains, and carbs since my very first issue of Insiders’ Cures back in 2012.
In the past seven years, I’ve seen myths about fiber perpetuated over and over again. Here are the three main takeaways you need to know when it comes to fiber:
Fact #1: Fiber doesn’t necessarily have to come from grains. In fact, it’s easy to get all the fiber you need from a totally grain-free diet.
Loading up on bread, cereal, and pasta (even if it’s whole grain) is one of the unhealthiest things you can do.
Fact #2: Non-grain foods with healthy fiber also have good levels of other nutrients. So those nutrients may very well be responsible for the health benefits of those foods, rather than fiber.
Fact #3: Not all fiber is healthy. Too much of the insoluble fiber that comes from grains can actually cause—rather than prevent—cancer and other diseases.
That’s why I recommend you eat a maximum of two to three servings of whole-grains per day (preferably less). And as I mentioned earlier, get most of your fiber from a low-carb, balanced diet—like the Mediterranean Diet—that contains at least six to eight servings of fruit and vegetables a day; a quarter cup of nuts or seeds per day; two or more servings of beans or legumes per week; and plenty of full-fat dairy, meat, and fish.
When it comes to fiber, we won’t get fooled again. Especially now that the science is on our side (as it always is).
Get your fiber from these grain-free recipes
It couldn’t be more simple, easy, and delicious to get plenty of fiber without consuming a single slice of bread, serving of pasta, bowl of cereal, or any other grain.
Here’s one of my favorite daily menus, which supplies an optimal 32 grams of fiber. Not to mention eight servings of fruits and vegetables, and plenty of healthy fats and protein.
For breakfast, poach an egg in butter and add a quarter cup of mushrooms, a half cup of spinach and a quarter cup of tomatoes, all sautéed in a little butter.
Total amount of fiber: 1 gram
For lunch, make a raw, fresh salad of one sliced apple, a cup of shredded red cabbage, half a cup of shredded carrots, half a cup of sliced red radishes, and sliced, raw fennel to taste. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, and tahini, and sprinkle in a quarter cup of walnuts and a third of a cup of goat cheese.
Total amount of fiber: 12 grams
For dinner, make a hearty lentil stew. Brown a pound of cubed steak with six cloves of garlic, a cup of chopped onion, and a cup of carrots in a little butter and/or olive oil. Add 2 cups of cooked lentils. Pour the stew into two bowls and garnish with parsley, rosemary, and oregano.
Total amount of fiber per serving: 19 grams
What’s your favorite high-fiber recipe? I’m always searching for new ways to get my daily amount. Feel free to share your go-to meals by dropping me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or leaving a comment on my Insiders’ Cures Facebook page.
1“Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.” Lancet. 2019 Feb 2;393(10170):434-445.