Good morning everyone!
A recurring theme in my series is that I've discovered that the strategies I've been using to simply eat less calories turn out to be pretty much the same strategies for eating an overall healthy diet. Which is a good thing, too, because I was in danger of becoming a victim of some silent killers: high cholesterol & triglycerides, high blood pressure, high blood sugars, etc etc.
So, pretty much all I did was try to eat fewer calories, and I ended up losing 40 pounds (in five months) and currently have all the above measures (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and sugars) within normal range.
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In short -- my problem was that I had a voracious appetite, and I wanted to figure out how to eat less. E.g., previously I wrote about eating more, but smaller meals. Among my other discoveries, and today's topic is Fiber.
Now -- I'm no expert, and so I welcome corrections please. What I'm writing here is my limited understanding.
In my last edition -- part 4 the Carb edition -- I discussed eating fewer simple carbs in one sitting, because if you have too many simple carbs, your body will get hungrier sooner, which is the opposite of what I wanted. (Eating fewer simple carbs in a sitting also has numerous health benefits).
Another simple strategy to feeling less hungry -- as well as to stretch out the time it takes your body to convert those carbs to sugar -- is to consume carbs with fiber. Furthermore, fiber makes you feel fuller, and you end up eating less later.
Fiber is a very complex carbohydrate, and is, essentially, indigestible. It is present in all, and only in, plants, in various degrees. Wikipedia notes:
Dietary fiber can be soluble (able to dissolve in water) or insoluble (not able to dissolve in water). Soluble fiber, like all fiber, cannot be digested. But it does change as it passes through the digestive tract, being transformed (fermented) by bacteria there. Soluble fiber also absorbs water to become a gelatinous substance that passes through the body. Insoluble fiber has bulking action but is mostly unchanged by fermentation as it passes through the body.
OK, so, fine: I want to eat more fiber because it will make me less hungry. WebMD writes: "Fiber has been shown to increase satiety, not only by lowering the energy density of foods (that is, how many calories they have per serving) but also by slowing the rate that foods pass through the digestive systems."
So sign me up -- I'll eat more fiber, so I can eat less, and keep my calories down.
And then, lo and behold, it turns out that fiber does so much more!
I'm sorry I didn't leave myself enough time to learn enough to explain exactly why all this is true. But here's the bottom line . . . Fiber is almost like a wonder drug!
In March 2009 "Health benefits of dietary fiber" was published in Nutrition Reviews, Volume 67, Issue 4, 2009. Pages: 188–205.
Here's the opening to the conclusion of that article:
A high level of fiber intake has health-protective effects and disease-reversal benefits. Persons who consume generous amounts of dietary fiber, compared to those who have minimal fiber intake, are at lower risk for developing CHD [Coronary Heart Disease], stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increasing the intake of high-fiber foods or fiber supplements improves serum lipoprotein values, lowers blood pressure, improves blood glucose control for diabetic individuals, aids weight loss, and improves regularity. Emerging research indicates that intake of inulin and certain soluble fibers enhances immune function in humans.
Can you imagine? Fiber does all that? And all I wanted, initially, was to feel less hungry!
The article further notes: "The recommended acceptable intakes of dietary fiber for adults are 28 g/day for women and 36 g/day for men. Recent estimates suggest that the mean intakes of dietary fiber for adults in the United States are less than half of these recommended levels."
UPDATE: (from NC Dem, below, in the comments) - NC Dem informs us that the recommended amounts for fiber should be 14g per 1000 calories. If anyone's interested, I found a source for this figure here, at a Harvard Med School site.
Where to get fiber:
The American Diabetes Association has some good sources, as well as advice:
Good sources of dietary fiber include:
* Fruits and vegetables, especially those with edible skin (for example, apples, corn and beans) and those with edible seeds (for example, berries).
* Whole grains such as:
-- whole wheat pasta
-- whole grain cereals (Look for those with three grams of dietary fiber or more per serving, including those made from whole wheat, wheat bran, and oats.)
-- whole grain breads (To be a good source of fiber, one slice of bread should have at least three grams of fiber. Another good indication: look for breads where the first ingredient is a whole grain. For example, whole wheat or oats.)
* Beans and legumes. Think black beans, kidney beans, pintos, chick peas (garbanzos), white beans, and lentils.
* Nuts -- try different kinds. Peanuts, walnuts and almonds are a good source of fiber and healthy fat, but watch portion sizes, because they also contain a lot of calories in a small amount.
In general, an excellent source of fiber contains five grams or more per serving, while a good source of fiber contains 2.5 - 4.9 grams per serving.
It is best to get your fiber from food rather than taking a supplement. In addition to the fiber, these foods have a wealth of nutrition, containing many important vitamins and minerals. In fact, they may contain nutrients that haven't even been discovered yet!
It is also important that you increase your fiber intake gradually, to prevent stomach irritation, and that you increase your intake of water and other liquids, to prevent constipation.
Bottom line -- all that stuff they said about eating your fruits and vegetables, and whole grains? It turns out they were right!
In fact, about the only thing they got wrong was they underestimated just how beneficial this stuff is!
And so, once again, I'm lead to the same observation: that my strategies for simply trying to eat less calories seems to be forcing me to eat in an overall healthful way.
(Another resource: 6 Foods and Tips for More Fiber)
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