There is a wonderful little book by Jeff Leach (science writer, health advocate and anthropologist), called Eat bugs. Not too much. Mainly with plants. It’s a bit of a must read for anyone who feeds children- or themselves!
In a nutshell (but I recommend reading the whole thing):
“fiber is food for bacteria [that live in/on our bodies], and these bacteria play an important role in our health and well-being.” (p.81)
“If people actually knew what fiber was and that it played a critical role in the health of our gut bugs (whom, if well-fed, play an often important role in the etiology of many diseases such as heart disease, many bowel cancers, inflammatory bowel disease and an equally important role in mineral absorption, resistance against food-borne pathogens and obesity… and the list goes on) might we eat just a few more servings?
Consumers are getting the message – albeit slowly – about the health benefits of gut bugs through the marketing efforts of yogurt products such as Dannon Activia that contain probiotics. These products have done wonders for consumer awareness that “not all buts are bad” and some are, indeed, good for you. They promise to deliver billions of live cultures (probiotics) with each sugar-laden cup of goodness. However, not all probiotic products are as effective as they would have you believe. More importantly, why in the hell are we attempting to “replenish” or “fortify” our gut bugs in the first place? Many probiotic yogurt products containt one billion or more organisms. At first glance that seems like an astounding number of gut bugs – so the product must be good! Not so impressive when you consider that a billion probiotic organisms would barely cover an area the size of the “period” at the end of this sentence or that just one gram of your last stool sample contained possibly trillions of organisms. Rather than try to fortify or replenish, simply feed the ones that are already in your system the nutrients (fiber) they need. In the long run, you will not only feel better and be healthier, but you will save a ton of money on quick-fix probiotic yogurts.
The current message to consumer more fiber is simply not working. as a recent survey has shown, it’s not due to the lack of awareness of the importance of eating 5 or more servings a day of fruit and vegetables and getting a few more servings of whole grains. People hear the message – they get it – they just don’t act on the message in a consistent manner.
Despite years of efforts by government, commercial interests, and non-profits to get Americans to consumer more fruits and vegetables, only one in five Americans consumes the minimum of the 5 to 13 servings now recommended. Though adults are eating few fruits and vegetables, the trend is more troubling among kids. French fries were the most commonly consumed vegetable for children ages 12 to 24 months and “fried potatoes” (which includes french fries) make up 46% of the vegetables consumed by kids 2 to 19 years old. On any given day, 45% of children eat no fruit, and 20% eat less than one serving of vegetables. Why do we continue to yawn at the health message to consume more fiber? If we shifted the message to focus on fiber as a diet for our gut bugs rather than a macronutrient for us, might folks eat more?” (pp.82-84)
NB the section on cesarean delivery and breast feeding and their relationship with a health gut flora is particularly worth reading and sharing!
Ref: Jeff Leach (2008) Eat bugs. Not too much. Mainly with plants New Orleans