There is an abundance of commercials touting the benefits of fiber in your diet. So, what is fiber and why is it important?
It is interesting that fiber is actually an indigestible component of many foods – including fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Unlike most foods that we eat, the body does not digest it. It passes quickly through the digestive tract essentially whole (there is no breakdown of fiber), which is vital for good health. The fiber creates bulk which helps move waste and harmful carcinogens through the digestive tract.
When your diet does not have enough fiber you may suffer with some uncomfortable problems: constipation, sluggishness and irregularity. On the other hand, people who eat lots of fiber typically maintain healthier weights than those who do not; and it lowers the risk of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer.
The reason that foods with lots of fiber help with weight control is because they make you feel full longer. A good example of this is apples (loaded with fiber) – think about how they fill you up, satisfy your hunger and are low in calories. When shopping, keep in mind that fiber-rich foods have less calories per serving than highly processed foods that essentially have very little fiber.
Don’t be misguided into thinking that processed fruit juices are good for you. People often make the mistake of substituting bottled apple juice for soda – thinking they are making a healthier choice. Unfortunately, most pasteurized fruit juices have been stripped of their nutrients and contain a high-sugar content. In other words, they aren’t much healthier than soda, if at all.
Make the smart choice and eat the fruit rather than buying processed juices. The very best beverage is filtered water. The only other beverage I would recommend is freshly made fruit and vegetable juices. These are filled with nutrients and the pulp will fill your up and provide fiber at the same time.
Get rid of overly processed TV dinners and prepackaged foods and start serving high-fiber foods for diner. That single change in your diet will go a long way in helping you maintain a healthy weight. And . . . as I continue to say – choose foods as close to their natural state as possible. For example, eat broccoli raw or lightly steamed until it is bright green and slightly crunchy. Steaming vegetables not only helps retain the nutrients, it also retains the fiber and water content, both of which help you feel full longer.
A healthy habit is to start every meal with a raw fruit plate, veggie plate, mixed salad, or a glass of freshly made vegetable/fruit juice. Take it easy on the salad dressings and/or dip, which can add extra sugar and fat negating the nutritional value of the veggies.
One way to limit the high-fat salad dressings is to serve it on the side and dip the tongs of the fork into the dressing before picking up pieces of salad. This provides a crunching, tasty bite without the excess dressing. When you get used to eating salad this way, you will wonder why it took you so long to discover it. Chances are you will cut your salad dressing serving from two or thee tablespoons to less than one.
You can make delicious dressings from fruit and spices. Try blending mango, tomatoes, onions, basil and garlic. You can create salad magic with your blender and amaze your family and friends with the tasty combinations you create.
Change your mindset and when you need a snack, reach for raw fruits and veggies. It is impossible to over eat these wonderfully crunchy, fiber-filled, nutrient-filled, low-calorie foods. I guarantee that you will feel better than when you devour a plate of cheese and crackers or half a bag of potato chips between meals – and you won’t be eating very many calories to boot.