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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Benefits of Fiber

It may officially be Fall, but that's no excuse to hide unwanted pounds under bulky sweaters and jackets. Now is the perfect time to start gathering the tools you'll need to make it through the temptations of the upcoming holiday season. 

Arguably, the hardest part of any diet is actually starting one. Here is the first tool to keep in your arsenal, not only to get you through the holidays, but also to help you form the good habits you'll need for a healthy life, which is really the ultimate goal to have. It's simple, potent, fail proof, and you've heard about it before: Fiber. By increasing your daily fiber intake, the healthier, and soon, the slimmer, you'll be. 

Let's start with the basics: What is fiber and why is it so important?

Technically, fiber, formerly known as roughage, is a carbohydrate that the body can't digest, and it is found in the outer layers of plants. It is an interesting fact to know that only plants produce fiber. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.  Insoluble fiber is made up of plant cell walls, and has laxative properties. Soluble fiber is made up of polysaccharides, and is the kind of fiber which can improve your health.  Ideally, you should be consuming approximately 25-30 grams of fiber per day.

Fiber is broken down in the colon by bacteria in a process called fermentation. The acids produced provide fuel for the rest of the body, particularly for the liver. 

Here's the best part: the benefits of adding this power player to a healthy diet are far-reaching, and just might surprise you.

Fiber is one of your best defenses against heart disease. 

By incorporating the suggested daily fiber intake into your diet, you'll lower your cholesterol and high blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke by 21%.1

Fiber helps control blood sugar levels.

With Type 2 diabetes being the most common form of diabetes, fiber proves to be a significant ally, along with healthy weight and exercise, to help reduce your risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes. 

Fiber helps you maintain a healthy body weight.

A healthy weight provides many health benefits, and fiber will help you get to your goal weight by filling you up. 

Incorporating more fiber into your diet is actually easier than you may think. The easiest change is switching your enriched breads, pastas, and rice to whole wheat or whole grains. Here's the catch: make sure it says 100% whole wheat/grains on the label. The fiber you're looking for is eradicated in enriched products. You can also add fruit to your diet. Apples, pears, and apricots are all high in fiber. If you're at work, try snacking on some nuts. Not only are they an excellent source of Omega-3, they can provide yet another source of fiber for you, and it's a healthy alternative to the office vending machine. Not big on nuts? Salads are also an easy way to stock up on fiber. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots are all full of fiber.  For a more detailed list on which foods have the most fiber, visit http://www.wehealny.org/healthinfo/dietaryfiber/fibercontentchart.html 

Taking these small steps will guarantee a head start on any diet, and before you know it, you'll see the pounds melting off, and you'll be laying the foundation for a healthy life. 

1. Mellen PB, Walsh TF, Herrington DM. Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2007.

9:11 pm edt 


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