High Five to Fiber

Over the centuries, the natural fiber in food has been processed and refined right out of the diet to the point where now the typical adult consumes less than 20 grams of fiber per day. This is about 50% of the recommended amount of dietary fiber for good health, so it is certainly one aspect of healthy eating that needs some attention.

Eat Fiber to Lose Body Fat
If your goal is to lose body fat, increasing your fiber intake can help in three ways:

  • high fiber foods can help control appetite by reducing insulin levels in the blood, a hormone that stimulates appetite

  • the body uses more energy to digest and absorb high fiber foods than refined or low fiber foods - burns more calories

  • high fiber foods are filling but are low in fat (many are fat free)

Defining Fiber
Dietary fiber is found only in plant foods. These are foods that contain cellulose or cellulose derivatives, which cannot be broken down by the body because humans lack the digestive enzymes to digest them. There are two types of fiber, water-soluble and water-insoluble, with unique and separate benefits associated with them.

Health Benefits of Fiber
Water soluble fiber:
found in fruits, vegetables, oat bran, seeds, soybeans, peas. This type of fiber helps to regulate blood lipid levels (cholesterol and blood fats or triglycerides) by binding with bile acids and preventing cholesterol and fat from being reabsorbed by the body. It is also associated with improved glucose tolerance.

Water insoluble fiber: found in whole wheat, wheat bran and other grains, fruit and vegetable skins. This type of fiber helps to prevent constipation, and is associated with preventing diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and reducing risk of colon cancer.

The result of eating fiber is that it stimulates digestion and helps to prevent constipation. The speeding up of digestion is especially important when the diet is otherwise high in animal foods, which contain no fiber and are a source of potentially cancerous substances. Fiber can reduce the time the body is exposed to substances in foods linked to increased risk of cancer (naturally occurring and synthetic) in plant and animal foods that we eat.

Some Good Sources of Fiber:

 Fiber is found only in plant foods that haven't had the fiber removed or destroyed during processing of food. Some good sources include whole wheat breads and whole grain cereals like brown rice, amaranth, oats, barley; fruits and vegetables of all types (especially those with edible skins), seeds, berries, dried fruits, and beans of all types.

Increase Your Fiber: The suggested goal for fiber intake is about 40 grams a day, from various sources. If you're following a healthy diet you're more than likely already increasing your fiber intake by eating the number of servings of whole grains, root vegetables, fruits, beans and vegetables outlined in your plan. Here is a brief list of foods in amounts that provide 4-5 grams of fiber.

1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup cooked figs
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1 cup cooked acorn squash
2 slices whole wheat bread 
1/2 cup cooked pinto beans
2 cups cooked oatmeal

Go Slow! Increasing fiber in your diet too quickly can cause uncomfortable bloating and gas, a by product of the indigestible substances in fiber. Add high fiber foods to your diet over time, in small amounts, to build up a tolerance to these foods. If you aren't used to eating beans, eat small amounts, 2 Tbsp. or so at a meal, and then add more as you become accustomed to them, and drink plenty of water to help digestion.

About The Author's Diets
A Personal Dietitian's Advice

 

Green Lentils with Wine-Glazed Vegetables 
1 1/2 cups green lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced into 1/4 inch cuts
1 celery stalk, diced into 1/4 inch cuts
1 garlic clove, mashed
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2/3 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Directions
: Put lentils into a pan with 3 cups water, 1/4 tsp. salt, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, cooking until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes.
While beans are cooking, heat the 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet. Cook onion, carrot, and celery, stirring until browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for one minute more. Add wine. Bring to a boil and then lower hear, simmer, covered, until the liquid is syrupy and the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in mustard and add the cooked lentils with the broth. Simmer until the sauce is mostly gone, then stir in 1 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Modified from Source: D. Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Broadway Books, 1997.

Nutritional Information for 1 serving (1/4 recipe):
Calories: 140
Carbohydrate: 14 grams
Protein: 3.8 grams
Fat: 6.1 grams
Saturated Fat: 0.8 grams
Fiber: 3.9 grams
Sodium: 140 mg.
Eating Guidelines for one serving: 1 bread, 1 fat

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