Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Getting the nutrients you need: Fiber
Fiber is a carbohydrate found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, but it’s a unique type of carb that your body can’t digest. You eat it and it passes out of your body unchanged. Because of the way fiber works (or doesn’t work) in your body, it keeps your digestive system healthy and also helps regulate blood cholesterol and sugar levels. Those contributions are noteworthy for a substance that, technically, isn’t even a nutrient.

Fiber also has other benefits. It can help you shed excess pounds. And as soon as you lose weight, fiber can help you maintain the loss. It’s sounding better and better all the time, isn’t it? High-fiber foods can help you stick to a low-calorie diet and make that diet work for you. Do you want to know how?

    Read the following list:
  • High-fiber foods are bulky so you feel satisfied after you eat them.
  • High-fiber foods take longer to digest than other foods, so they stay in your stomach longer, helping to prevent hunger from striking too soon again.
  • High-fiber foods are naturally lowfat, and fat contains more calories than carbohydrates and protein.

Nutrition experts recommend that adults get at least 25 grams of fiber each day. In Table 3-2, you see how some foods stack up in terms of their fiber content. In Chapter 7, you can find a full-day’s menu that emphasizes fiber at each meal. In Chapter 12, you can find a list of high-fiber foods commonly eaten for breakfast.

Table 3-2 Fiber Amounts in Common Foods
Food (1/2 cup cooked) Fiber (grams)
Beans (such as kidney, black, pinto) 7 to 10
Barley 5
Bulgur 5
Lentils 5
Pear, medium 4
Broccoli 3
Winter squash 3
Brown rice 2
Strawberries (1/2 cup raw) 2

If you plan to increase the amount of fiber in your diet, do it slowly! Adding too much, too soon, can wreak havoc on your digestive system in the form of gas, cramping, or diarrhea. Your best bet is to add a gram or two of fiber at a time, every few days over a period of several weeks, and be sure to drink plenty of extra water as you go along. Fiber soaks up liquids like a sponge in your stomach, and if you don’t have enough extra water to help move it along, your plumbing will jam up.

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