29 April 2013

There's what in my bagel?

On Saturday I needed picnic fixin's for a hike, so we headed to the supermarket. We found some bananas, picked out a small tub of hummus, and wandered toward the bakery racks to find rolls. Since we couldn't fit a whole baguette into the cooler we were carrying, and the supermarket's little sandwich rolls were all white flour, we looked at the mass-produced, pre-packaged options in the bread aisle. And a lot of them had cellulose in them.

I was taken aback. Isn't cellulose wood fiber? As in, the raw material they use to make rayon fabric? Isn't it the main component of cotton, as in cotton balls and Q-Tips, denim jeans and t-shirts? Why would I ever want to consume cellulose? I am not a termite! I am a human being!

Cellulose is the new thing, I understand, for texturizing ice cream and upping the amount of fiber in processed foods. I guess it's gotten to be cheaper than bran or oat fiber, or the psyllium seed husk they put in Metamucil. You find it in white-flour products that want to boast a high fiber content. We found it in some otherwise suitable-looking bagels, as well as some pre-sliced flatbreads, but not in some whole-wheat rolls.

Fiber is important, for reasons I'd rather let other people explain. But is it really so hard to add a couple of pieces of fruit to your daily diet that you decide to resort to eating sawdust instead? An adult should get some 25 to 35 grams of fiber every day. An orange gives you 3 grams; an apple gives you about 5. Add a couple of carrots for another 3 grams. Now you've had 11 grams of fiber over 5 pieces of fresh produce, and you're well on your way to those 25 grams as well as gettng your "5 to 9 for better health" or whatever the current guideline is. And all without eating wood.

Our next idea was to try for crackers. We found a million varieties of American crackers, but they all had funky ingredients, didn't have much whole grain, or seemed more like junk food chips than a grain product. In the end, we gave up and found some imported crispbread to dip into the hummus.

And a timely link that was going around my circle of friends today, a collection of portraits of households with their weekly grocery haul: "What the world eats." Which photo looks like what's in your grocery cart?

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