Fiber Cops and Sugar Robbers

Think of fiber as the police, helping rein in sugar’s unhealthy ways.
@alphafoodie’s fiber and fruit snacks

By Tapp Francke

In nature, sugar always comes in a fibrous package. Whole fruits, whole grains, vegetables and beans all contain both sugar and fiber. When the sugar and the fiber work together, all is right in your body. The sugar, in the form of glucose, is an essential nutrient. Not only does it give us quick energy, but glucose is needed by every cell in your body for proper functioning. The fiber’s role is to slow the rate of sugar’s absorption, thereby giving us a sustained release of energy. Like Batman and Robin, sugar and fiber are a perfect duo.

The problem occurs when sugar is consumed without fiber. When sugar enters your bloodstream without the fiber to slow the rate of absorption, the pancreas, which is the organ that regulates blood sugar levels, is forced to produce extra insulin to bring the sugar levels down. This fluctuation in blood sugar levels creates stress in the body, and can lead to diabetes and heart disease. It also interrupts the absorption of calcium and magnesium, which are both essential minerals for bone strength and proper nerve function.

Fiber is in the hard shell of grains and beans and the meat of fruits and vegetables. Fiber is an annoyance to food manufacturers. It is perishable so it has a shorter shelf life, and it makes things take longer to cook. How could we microwave our dinner in three minutes if we have to cook that pesky fiber? So food manufacturers strip the fiber away from the food in order to make it more convenient for consumers. Bread lasts longer when made with refined flours, processed foods can sit on the shelf for months or years and rice can cook in only a minute. Juice is easier to drink than actually eating an apple, so just drink your fruit. Nice, right?

The problem with all of this convenience is that it is causing mayhem in our bodies. Sugar without fiber is like the Tasmanian devil, twirling and whirling and generally creating chaos. When fiber is not there to tame the devil, insulin levels shoot up and we go on a sugar-fueled roller coaster ride. Without the fiber to slow the rate of absorption of the sugar, we get a huge rush of sugar followed by the inevitable crash.

The solution? Always eat your sugar along with some fiber. The best way is to stick to whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. When I bake, I also ensure that I keep the dynamic duo together. My chocolate cake is made with ground almond flour, stone ground millet, spinach and avocado. The frosting is made with fiber-rich coconut milk. The cookies are made with stone-ground garbanzo beans and almonds.

Remember, if you make sure to eat fiber in combination with sugar, you can have a happy mouth and a healthy body.