Bulk Up That Diet

Americans tend to have a very narrow view of what a diet is or what it means. It frequently is
used simply in the context of losing weight. "Can't have that, I'm on a diet". "Which diet are
you following"? "How much weight have you lost on diet X (fill in the blank), Y (fill in the
blank) or Z (fill in the blank)"? Well, the word diet has Latin (diaeta) or Greek (diaita) roots
meaning "way of living". So unless your life involves constantly making a concerted effort to
lose weight, you should be concerned with the appropriate diet. That is, the daily diet you
consume that doesn't hasten your appointment with the maker or constantly makes you seek
out that other... diet.

When it comes to food, nutrition and weight, there is no magic. This is one of the few instances
where simple math is correct. One plus one does equal two. Five minus one does equal four. You
can consume pure lard and still lose weight as long as the energy you burn exceeds the energy
you consume. And while deprivation diets can make you shed excess pounds faster than Frosty
in the desert, once you go back to your standard diet that made you put on those excess pounds
in the first place, those excess pounds return with a vengeance. I say vengeance because if all we
do is deprive ourselves of calories, we'll lose some fat tissue (good) along with some lean tissue
(not so good) and water (can be replaced within hours). Then once we're off the deprivation
diet - if we do nothing else other than go back to our usual eating habits - we put that weight
right back on. With a slight difference. Some of the initial weight loss was lean tissue, when it
packs back on its simply fat tissue so even if our weight doesn't exceed previous levels, we're now
"fatter" than before. And fat tissue doesn't burn calories, it simply stores calories. Lean tissue is
the furnace that burns calories and we lost some of it due to the deprivation diet. Add several
cycles of this deprivation diet (on top of simply getting older which usually lowers our basal
metabolic rate) and now you have a middle aged person who may be the same weight as 10
years ago but much "fatter".

So What's a Person to Eat?

As I've mentioned many times before, there are only 3 types of macronutrients that account for
all of our caloric intake: Protein, fat and carbohydrate. When it comes to protein, we want to
look for leaner sources of protein like poultry breasts instead of thighs or pork tenderloin or loin
in place of butt or shoulder. Or how about tenderloin steaks in place of ribeye or strip. Most
supermarkets also sell various mixtures of ground beef from 75% lean all the way up to 93% lean
which would be the preferable mixture. Adding seafood protein also keeps the fat at bay as most
seafood items are low in fat and the fat found in cold water fish tend to carry their fair share of
possibly beneficial fats in the form of omega-3 fatty acids.
When it comes to fat, these also come in all forms from the artery clogging saturated fats to
the healthier Mediterranean monounsaturated fats found in nuts and olive oil to the wide range
of polyunsaturated fats found in walnuts, canola oil and cold water fish. The general rule of
thumb for fats is that if it's solid at room temperature, it's not good for you but if it's liquid
it's a better choice.
Finally for carbohydrates, look for whole grain, not just color. Often bread is labeled as
containing "whole wheat" and since it's colored brown, it's understandable that it could be
mistaken for 100% whole wheat when all it actually contains is 10% whole wheat and colored
with molasses. Along with bread and rice, whole grains are also found in pasta. And they cook a
lot better than the whole wheat pasta of old. For starters, many companies are now using hard
white wheat which gives the finished whole grain pasta an appearance like regular pasta and it
cooks just as nicely. Of course another carbohydrate is that form that we can't digest and simply
passes right through our system. And that carbohydrate is fiber.

Not Always Roughage

I know what you're thinking; isn't fiber simply that bran cereal at the supermarket? Or is it
Metamucil? Well, fiber comes in all shapes and sizes. First of all, they are classified as insoluble
and soluble fiber with the insoluble variety being your wheat bran cereal, most fibrous veggies
(celery, green beans, tomato skin, corn) and are what previously was termed "roughage". The
stuff that keeps you "regular". Then there's soluble fiber which usually are starches that we can't
digest like the raffinoses, stachyoses and verbacoses in beans or the pectin found in many fruits
and vegetables or the mucilaginous gums found in guar gum and gum arabic. Some of these
indigestible starches are partially digested by bacteria in our lower tract like inulin which
produces short chain organic acids that may facilitate the absorption of calcium, iron and
magnesium. Fermentable fibers such as inulin are commonly found in chicory root - that's why
you see chicory listed as an ingredient in many "high fiber" bars, crackers and cereals. These
soluble fibers also potentially bind to bile acids thus reducing our levels of serum cholesterol.
And from a dietary standpoint, dietary fiber have negligible calories so they don't contribute to
the "battle of the bulge" and since they do take up space in the stomach during mealtime,
you're more likely to consume less of those other foodstuffs that make you go on that other

Dietary Recommendations

The American Dietetic Association recommends that adults get 20 to 35gm of dietary fiber
every day (daily recommendations for children are 5gm plus age) though most Americans only
get about one-half of the daily recommendations. Why so little fiber? Well, most processed and
fast foods are devoid of fiber because they are produced to sell. And you sell food products with
taste... which usually means extra fat or salt (when was the last time you heard someone
comment on the exquisite flavor the wheat bran added to those muffins)? And since food
manufacturers concentrate on sales and not health, you have to make that extra effort to get
your daily fiber.
But what about the side effects? You know, those "musical" side effects of fiber. As I
recommend to all of my patients, "start low and go slow". Though we can't digest those starches
or gums, that doesn't mean our intestinal flora can't and boy do they do a good job! And
perchance one of those musical tunes does escape, simply turn to face your offended audience
and state "On behalf of my E Coli, I'd like to apologize for their impudence, this always happen
when they consume inulin".

I previously posted a version of this recipe about 5 years ago in my article "The Many Faces of
Surimi". However back then the focus was on surimi, this round it's on fiber and foods we can
consume as part of our everyday diet:

The Gochiso’s Broccoli, Tomato & Crab Pasta Salad

4 broccoli crowns
8 plum tomatoes,  ripe but firm
8 ounces imitation crab flavored surimi
6 ounces real crab
1 & ½ cups whole grain pasta (available from Barilla and Safeway)

1 to 1 & ½ cups canola oil mayonnaise
2 tbsp brown mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool pasta. Trim broccoli to bite sized
pieces and
steam for 3 to 4 minutes. Cool broccoli then mix with pasta. Chop tomatoes to large bite sized
pieces and mix with broccoli mixture. Cut surimi to bite sized pieces – don’t flake the surimi,
cut it or leave it in chunks and mix with broccoli mixture.
In a separate bowl, mix mayonnaise, mustard, honey, sesame oil, crab and salt/pepper. Pour over
broccoli mixture and toss until it’s evenly coated. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

Serves 18 (1 cup portions)

Per serving:          Calories                      158
                              Fat                                4.7gm
                              Saturated fat               negligible
                              Fiber                             4.3gm
                              Carbohydrate             18gm
                              Protein                        8gm