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HerbalifeHerbal Life

By  Susan  Bowerman,  M.S.,  R.D.,  C.S.S.D.

More than 100 years ago, someone figured out how to separate the bran from grains of wheat, leaving only the starchy interior to be ground into flour. From this discovery, an amazing new product–white bread– was born. But the introduction of refined flour products certainly contributed to the nation’s slow decline in dietary fibre intake.

It has been estimated that our hunter-gatherer ancestors–who foraged for food for hours every day– ate about 12 pounds of plant foods a day and about 100 grams of fibre. If we did that, we’d spend a good part of our day just eating. But the average American falls far short of meeting the fibre recommendation of 25 to 30 grams a day. In fact, most of us only eat about 15 grams. Fibre is the structural portion of a plant, and so it is found in whole fruits, vegetables, beans and grains (like corn and brown rice); there is no fibre in meats, fish or poultry. Different types of fibres have different effects on the body, and it’s important to get plenty of fibre from a variety of sources.

Water-soluble fibres are found in the highest concentration in apples, oranges, carrots, potatoes, oats, barley and beans. These types of fibre delay the time it takes for food to pass through the system, and so they provide a feeling of fullness. They also slow the absorption of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream and so they help to keep blood-sugar levels more even throughout the day. This type of fibre is also helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels, which is why oats and oat bran have been popular for heart health.

Water-insoluble fibres are found in the highest concentrations in vegetables, wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran and most other whole grains. These fibres speed up the transfer of food through the intestines and also trap water, so they are particularly good in helping to prevent constipation.

The health benefits of a high-fibre diet are numerous. Most people are aware that fibre keeps the intestinal tract functioning smoothly. The fibre not only helps prevent constipation, but also reduces the risk of haemorrhoids. For those wanting to lose weight, a high-fibre diet is a great way to go. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains have fewer calories “per bite” than do foods that have a lot of fat and sugar. Also, the fibres keep food in the stomach longer and absorb water, so they provide the sensation of fullness.

Can you get too much? Adding too much fibre to the diet in a short period of time might lead to abdominal discomfort and gas, so if your diet is usually low in fibre; increase the amount slowly over a few weeks to give your system time to adjust. Also, drink plenty of liquid to allow the fibre to soften and swell. And make sure to eat a variety of fibre sources to reap all the health benefits that high-fibre foods provide.

Tips  for  Increasing  Fibre  Intake

  • Eat whole fruits with  skin more often than  drinking  fruit  juices.
  • Use whole fruit as  a dessert.
  • Eat a variety of whole vegetables–cooked and raw–and eat them freely.
  • Use whole-grain cereals, oatmeal and bran cereals more often than refined cereals, like cream of wheat or corn flakes.
  • Use 100 percent whole-grain breads, waffles, rolls, English muffins and crackers instead of those made with white flour.
  • Try whole-grain  pasta.
  • Use corn  tortillas rather than flour.
  • Use brown rice, wild rice, millet, barley and cracked wheat as alternatives to white  rice.
  • Add beans to  main-dish soups, stews, chilli  or salads.
  • Add wheat bran or oat bran  to meat  loaves or meatballs.
  • For snacks, use whole-grain pretzels, popcorn or low-fat bran muffins as alternatives to cakes, cookies and chips.
  • If you have trouble meeting your fibre intake, you can use fibre supplements. But remember that fibre supplements don’t replace the healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains that you should be consuming.

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