“Think of the children!” may one day be a slogan for a health campaign imploring people to eat more fiber.
Doctors and nutrition experts have been harping on the importance of fiber for years, particularly how most people in industrialized countries eat less than the recommended daily dose of 25 to 38 grams. After all, the nutrient, a diverse group of molecules that includes complex carbohydrates, helps keep you “regular.” Perhaps less well-known, fiber helps maintain a healthy, diverse population of gut microbes.
But eating fiber may not just benefit the microbial balance of the eater—it may also benefit that of the eater’s progeny, according to a new study in Nature.
Fun fact: Mothers pass gut bacteria on to children during childbirth. It’s been shown that C-section babies have much less diverse gut bacteria than those born naturally.
I know it seems unpleasant, but of the two ways we typically transfer them, I promise this is the one you want.
The part that surprises me the most is how much of the changes persist through reversing the diet, and through generations! I always thought that microbes that die off could be re-imported some way, or would hang out just enough to flourish when the old diet returns. At a minimum, I thought that the new generation would get a new crack at building a new microbiome. Apparently not.
That said, this experiment was done in a clean laboratory environment with clean laboratory grade food. In real life mice would be eating dirty food as well as each others excrement on a regular basis. Wouldn’t that yield very different results?
We all could probably eat more fruits and vegetables. But if forced to choose between whole fruit or a glass of juice, which one seems more healthful?
The general advice is to opt for the fruit, since juices are stripped of the fiber – which most us don’t get enough of — in whole fruit. And let’s face it: Most juice contains a lot of sugar, which most of us consume too much of.
So our interest was piqued when we spotted a study suggesting that, when it comes to oranges, juice might actually unlock more carotenoids and flavonoids – both beneficial phytonutrients — than an equivalent amount of fruit.
Fruit juice has also been criticized as a sugary, fiberless drink no better for you than cola. The study shows that orange juice does make certain nutrients more accessible to your body, but not enough to recommend juice over whole fruit. Keep in mind that a home juicer is not going to pasteurize your OJ. It is well known (or not) that pasteurizing sweetens juices quite dramatically. And since this was done is a test tube (in vitro), actual blood sugar spikes to a cohort population was not even tested.
So is orange juice healthy? That depends on whether it helps you meet your goals. If you’re trying to reduce the sugar in your diet (as many of us should), the sugar concerns may outweigh the benefits you get from the extra micronutrients. For those who must maintain a very low fiber (low residue) diet, juicing is a great alternative to otherwise problematic fruits and veggies.
What about blending the whole fruit into smoothies instead of just juicing? In the study, the puree’s nutrients were less bioavailable than the juice.