I thought I knew a lot about food and nutrition. When it comes to those two subjects, I read everything I can get my hands on.
Yes, I like to eat healthy foods so I'm especially intrigued with comparison studies that show the calorie count and nutritional value of meals.
I'm often surprised when I read things like "Eat This, Not That" and learn that the healthy chicken salad I order in a popular restaurant is actually more than a recommended day's consumption of fat. I like to learn all I can about healthy choices, especially when eating out.
But an interview I did this week taught me there is a whole area of food I never thought about – fillers.
Winston Eveland is a food researcher consumed with finding food fillers that have nutritional and medical benefits.
The Florida resident said he looked around his home state and realized the best food filler was all around him and it was going to waste.
"We all know the benefits of eating oranges but what people don't know is that ground peel has so many benefits," he said.
The more he delves into his research, the more he's convinced citrus peel can be put into just about any food, once the formula is right.
In the kitchen of the Eveland home, equipped with $80,000 of test equipment, Winsor and his wife Martha experiment until they find the perfect blend.
The result, he says, is a food additive that is good as well as good for you.
He and his wife have worked for a decade finding innovative ways to use their citrus peel formula.
Sometimes, they turn orange rind into cheese, or, they invent something equally creative.
"Here, try it," Winsor invites as he offers me a plate of cheese made with ground citrus peel. "If you like hot stuff, we also have some really good cream cheese that we just made," he says as he pulls their homemade jalapeno spread from the refrigerator.
"My wife and I are both big into food stuff. We put the citrus formula in lasagna, drinks, cheese, and lots of things. We haven't had a cold for years and we can cite so many health benefits," he says.
He gave me a paper that lists private label products that already use citrus peel. I was surprised to see hot dogs, meatballs, burgers and bologna on the list.
When I think about it, I'm always more willing to reach for a product that says "rich in fiber." But, I never stopped to wonder about what kind of fiber. And to tell the truth, I never realized food manufacturers use so much filler in their products.
Filler can be a good thing, Winsor says, when the filler is healthy citrus fiber.
"We met with Sara Lee to talk about the benefits of adding our citrus product to their cakes. They now have an army of their top researchers working on it," he says.
Eveland thinks it's "the right product at the right time" for other manufacturers to incorporate it.
"There's such a strong interest in healthy, low-calorie foods right now. Our citrus-based product is loaded with healthy isoflavones good for topical ointments and all kinds of beneficial medical uses," he says.
As he cites research that clearly shows amazing health benefits of the citrus pulp and its role in disease prevention and healing, I'm getting excited to envision eating "healthy" cake and ice cream. Imagine eating cake and ice cream because it's good for you.
Healthy ice cream isn't far fetched, Eveland claims.
Hannaford Foods has agreed to take on two ice cream items, including a healthy fruit bar made from the fiber rich citrus pulp.
Fruit bars are relatively low in calories and if the bars include healthy fiber, I can see myself reaching for some.
When Winsor talks, his blue eyes sparkle with the joy of life as he talks about fascinating food products with healthy fiber.
Making traditional recipes healthier has always been a special interest of his. He says the small firm he heads received a contract from Ivy League colleges interested in offering students healthier food.
He just finished work on a healthier waffle that contains no oil but is loaded with fiber. Ten cases have been made up and are now being tested to make sure they live up to their "healthier" claim. If so, they will be shipped to the colleges.
He thinks fried chicken without all the fat-laden breading is also on the horizon.
As he talked, I kept thinking to myself, "Where can I buy them?" Who doesn't want healthier food without all the bad fat? It's exciting for me to know there are researchers like Winsor who will make that possible.
This isn't the first time Winsor's research has had far reaching potential. Ten years ago, when his PSA hit 17 and doctors warned him about prostate cancer, he refused the biopsy they wanted to do.
Instead, he gathered seaweed and made a product that reduced his PSA to normal levels without surgery. Since then he's shared his product with hundreds of men who have been successful for decades in eliminating their prostate problems.
I spend a lot of time reading labels in the supermarket. Now, thanks to all I learned about fillers and fiber, I'll probably spend more time reading ingredients.
Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the day when I can justify eating more cake and ice cream because it's "healthy."