Today's simple-addition-trick-up-my-sleeve is one that takes a bit of forethought, but will bring lots of rewards should you choose to take this on. There were studies conducted by Health Canada in 2012 that looked into whether or not Canadian adults were getting adequate nutrients from the foods they eat, through food intake alone. (Find that report here.) Amongst those nutrients, of particular interest was the fibre intake of the average adult. One of the key findings was a concern that the majority of the population is not meeting an adequate intake of this very important nutrient, which could have a pretty serious impact on the health of the population long-term. How to help you reach those good levels, and why? We'll cover that in today's blog post; let me introduce you to Blitzed Pulse Paste.
WHY THE FUSS?
Fibre is an essential component of foods that should be in our every day regimen, and with good reason. We'll get there in a second. But just what is fibre? It is the part of plant-based foods that our bodies can't digest, the stuff we can't break down like you would carbs, fats or protein. There are two kinds, soluble and insoluble and that refers to whether or not they dissolve in water.
The soluble stuff becomes kind of like a gelatinous mixture when added to water. This stuff is golden! It plays an important role in reducing our blood cholesterol, binding to it and moving it out of our system. Cholesterol shows up in our bodies in order to protect us from inflammatory things on the go; cholesterol is like our body's bandaids. When our blood cholesterol levels are up, it has been shown that our propensity for developing chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, strokes, obesity, diabetes, cancer, dementia and alzheimer's goes up.
Soluble fibre also helps slow down our digestion in order to release any sugars from carbohydrates in our meal in a much more metered fashion, thereby helping us keep our blood sugars level. Keeping your blood sugars level is integral to keeping inflammation down, and thus reducing your blood cholesterol. Consider the soluble fibre a double whammy in helping keep your cholesterol down!
Where to find it: beans and pulses, oats, peas, barley, fruit of apples and pears, citrus, carrots and psyllium fibres. (Lots more. These are just the best sources.)
The insoluble fibre is a bulk builder when it comes to your stool. (I like to call it poo-maker. (I have been called the Poo Whisperer. I'll gladly accept the title.)) This good stuff acts as a broom in your innards, sweeping stuff through and out the poop shoot. It helps promote movements of bulk through your intestines, and so is essential to helping someone struggling with constipation or for someone who struggles to go once a day.
Where to find it: beans and pulses, whole grains (need the outer husk of the kernel to get the insoluble fibre goods), cauliflower, sweet potatoes, celery, and the peel of fruit and veggies like apples and potatoes.
Poop like a champ
Fibre is the superstar that brings you washroom heavyweight titles. It bulks up your stool to make it easier to pass; it hangs on to water to soften your stool so that you can have an easier (and shorter!) time on the throne. If your stool tends to be on the less-solid side of things (sorry for the visual), then fibre can also help you keep it all together, binding it to make it a better toilet experience for you.
Note that the addition of fibre for the benefit of improving your poops only works when done in tandem with adequate water intake. So make sure you are reaching for water or herbal teas often during your day in order to make this fibre work for you and not against you.
Fibre also hangs on to spent hormones and waste products from your own body's inner workings that your body is ushering out. As your body packages that spent metabolic waste and spent hormones, it ushers it out in different ways, mainly re-packaged as bile made by your liver. (Your body is the ultimate reuser/recycler!) That bile is meant to help emulsify fats (break them into smaller globules to make it easier for your enzymes to get at), and provides a big portion of your stool. If that bile/poop stays too long in your gut, those toxins found within end up getting re-absorbed into your body. This then re-circulates those spent hormones and metabolic waste, and your body has to work at filtering them out again. This means double-workload for your liver and your detox pathways in the body.
Where this poses the biggest threat, in my eyes: estrogen. This hormone is only meant to be used once, but when recycled (due to slow motility in the gut, read infrequent poops, also when not bound to the insoluble fibre) it starts to concentrate and can now contribute to inflammation in the body. See, when it hangs out too long in your gut, it gets re-absorbed in to your bloodstream if you aren't moving it out fast enough. From there, it heads to the liver. Your liver starts to slow down because its workload just got doubled, and as you can imagine, that excess estrogen makes the rounds again and again if not moved out properly. Estrogen dominance is a real issue: with an excess of estrogen in the body, you could be at higher risk for hormonally-related acne, added contribution to PMS and menstrual complaints, and reproductive cancers for starters. See, estrogen is a stimulant to build and grow cells, and doesn't discern between normal cells and cancer cells. It is imperative we bulk up our stool and build our bile so as to bind to these fat-based hormones and usher them out the poop shoot, in order to reduce our chances of developing those dangerous hormonally-based cancers.
Fibre also provides important food for the good bugs in your gut! It's why they call it prebiotic. The food that feeds the probiotics. We can't break this stuff down, but the bugs in your gut can. They love this stuff! See, in order to look after your intestines, you need to look after the bugs that reside there. (Hopefully you are already eating fermented foods; this is the best way to go about it. It's a pretty important part of my practice. Get the full low down here.) If they're fed, they'll be happy and multiply, keeping your intestinal health in check and working in tandem with your immune system to promote optimal health. These good bugs also help to build stool and facilitate the passing of said stool. So ferments plus fibre and water? A winning combo.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that by adding some good fibre in to your diet then, you would be working on reducing inflammation and contributing to healthier blood pressure levels. You'd be moving toxins and spent hormones out much more efficiently, pooping like a champ. A happy coincidence: those foods that are high in fibre are also high in other important nutrients like vitamins and minerals we need to keep our engines running clean.
One of my favourite little tricks to add fibre to my family's way of eating is to make this blitzed pulse paste. The gist: you prepare any kind of pulse you have on hand be it lentils, beans or split peas. You blitz the cooked stuff into a paste and pop into an ice cube tray, freezing the lot. Pop those cubes out when they're ready and tuck into a container or freezer bag, and pull one out to add fibre to your meal! Pretty easy.
You can do this with canned beans if you like too, but know that there is an estrogen-mimicker hiding in the lining of those cans, the dreaded BPA. (Look for a blog post on this in the future.) Using canned beans might negatively contribute to your estrogen levels, so best to do this practice with pulses you have prepared from the dried stuff.
Pre-soaking your pulses will make them easier to digest, turning off those enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid that could be negatively contributing to your body's ability to digest them. (Remember the story of the fox? That explains it in greater detail.)
This recipe is for lentils, split peas and beans.
- Measure out 1 cup of your pulses, and rinse under running water. Pick out stones and debris.
- Pop your pulses into a 1L glass jar.
- Top with filtered water until covered by at least 2 inches.
- Add 1-2 tbsp of either apple cider vinegar, juice from a ferment, or lemon juice. (This helps break down nefarious things) Put a lid on it.
- Leave on the counter for 12 hours, adding more water if it gets absorbed.
- For beans and split peas, drain your water and go through the same process again, soaking with filtered water and apple cider vinegar or juice from a ferment or lemon juice for a second 12 hours. Lentils only need 12 hours.
- When your soaking time is up, drain your pulses.
- For lentils, cook on a simmer in 3 cups of filtered water for 30-40 minutes, depending on the type of lentil, until cooked to your liking.
- For beans and split peas, cook on a simmer in 7 cups of filtered water for anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours along with a piece of kombu/kelp seaweed, until cooked to your liking. Check often to see if they're ready. Make sure to add more water if it is starting to dry out.
- Drain your pulses well, add a touch of salt. Allow to cool a bit.
- Add your cooked pulses to a blender or food processor and process until into a good paste, adding water as needed to reach your desired consistency (I like it rather thick).
- Pop this paste into an ice cube tray and tuck in the freezer for 2-3 days.
- Pop the ice cubes out into a container of plastic freezer bag.
- They are ready for use!
I just like to say it: blitzed pulse paste cubes.
How you use them is limited only by your imagination. Throw a few cubes in to your soup as it cooks, your spaghetti sauce, chili, whatever kind of sauce you have going on that could use a little bulking up. Add some to thicken your gravy perhaps (not sure how that would work, but just an idea.) Pan cook with some onions and chili powder for a yummy refried beans kind of side dish! Toss some in your omelette in the morning to set the tone for the day. Opt to not salt them and toss a cube or two in to your smoothie. Add some to your favourite dip, hot or cold. Make a five layer dip with this paste as one of your layers, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and grated cheese for a delicious hot summer night's treat when friends come over to play cards! Defrost a cube to spread on a tortilla as a base for a yummy nutrient-dense wrap.
I often like to toss leftover meat with leftover veggies in a pan and serve on top of salad greens for a quick lunch. Why not throw in a cube of this blitzed pulse paste in at the same time and a cube of pesto to add flavour! Delish.