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Bulk Up on Fiber Facts and Whole Foods

Fiber is actually not a nutrient and it doesn’t provide the body with energy or calories

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Fiber is actually not a nutrient and it doesn’t provide the body with energy or calories. It’s also not digestible or absorbable by the body, but its health benefits earn it the designation of “phytonutrient.” Fitness professionals know that the “average American” (which includes many of our clients) likely isn’t taking in enough fiber. But what is fiber? What are its benefits? How much is enough? And how can fiber help clients meet health and weight goals? That’s a lot of questions! Here are some simple answers about this complex carbohydrate.

Fiber in a Nutshell—or an Apple Skin

Fiber is what gives plants their shape and structure, and it’s found only in plant foods, not animal-based ones. The shape and structure of fiber is what gives our body, most importantly our gastrointestinal tract, the bulk that provides many benefits. To reap the many benefits of fiber such as maintaining a healthy weight, satiety, glucose control, cholesterol reduction, cancer prevention, and gut health from prebiotics, boost your intake of plants.

America: Falling Short on Fiber

In 2014, the average American intake of fiber was only 16 grams per day. The recommended intake of fiber is 25­­­–38 g per day. That’s a big disparity! Women should aim for 25 g of fiber per day, and men should target 38 g (or 21 g for women and 30 g for men daily for those over the age of 51).

Consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds will increase fiber intake. The growing trend of increased plant-based intake (as in flexitarian diets—an expansion on the practice of Meatless Mondays) will hopefully increase the intake of fiber in the American population.

Whole Foods: The Best “Package” for Fiber

In spite of its many health benefits, fiber is not a cure-all that many seek from products, but it is a healthy focus when trying to improve overall health. In fact, it is one number I recommend paying attention to on the food label. I typically recommend paying more attention to reading the more important ingredients list, eating intuitively and eating more whole foods versus the numbers. When people focus on eating whole food versus looking at numbers, they are naturally more satisfied.

Over the years as refining and processing foods has become more prevalent, fiber has become less available in prepared products. This is even more of a reason to focus on whole, unprocessed foods. Take the apple-versus-applesauce-versus-apple-juice example:

  • 1 medium apple with the peel contains 4.4 g of fiber; while
  • 1/2 cup of applesauce contains 1.4 g of fiber; and
  • 4 ounces of apple juice contains 0 g fiber!

Juicing—a popular trend—actually eliminates the fiber from the vegetables and fruits because juicers extract the fiber-filled pulp. And it’s not just fruits that contain more fiber when they’re not processed: The same holds true for soybeans versus tofu. A 1/2 cup serving of soybeans contains 5 g of fiber, whereas 1/2 cup of tofu only has 1 g of fiber.

It is recommended to receive your fiber intake from whole foods over fiber supplements or fortified foods. The foods that contain fiber also contain many other nutrients that a supplement may not contain. Research also shows that a fiber supplement may not have the same power of increasing satiety or managing blood sugar and cholesterol as the whole food does. Fiber-fortified foods may also cause more gastrointestinal issues.

There is not a box, powder or cleanse that you can purchase that will do for you what eating whole food can. Save your money on products and put it into real food. It’s the most beneficial way to reap the produce’s full nutrient and phytonutrient benefits.

Two Types of Fiber, Many Rewards

There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are beneficial and provide different perks. All plant foods contain a combination of both insoluble and soluble, but some have a higher amount of one over the other. Take the apple/applesauce/juice example again: The skin of the apple is a source of insoluble fiber, and the inside flesh contains soluble. The juice contains neither. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not. Fiber’s solubility is what determines its benefits.

Insoluble fiber is cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Although insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, it does retain water and helps waste and toxins to move through our system more rapidly. Increasing plant intake usually allows us to feel better and have more energy as it helps the body naturally detoxify. Let your intestines, kidney, liver, and spleen work!

Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as cauliflower, green beans, and the skin of fruits. It helps with colon and breast cancer prevention, regularity and constipation prevention and diverticulosis. The indigestible parts of the plants are also prebiotics for our gut health to feed the probiotics.

Soluble fiber like glucan, psyllium, gum and pectin become gummy substances when water is added—for example, when chia seeds are put in liquid to make chia pudding. This gummy quality allows it to bind to cholesterol, helping the body excrete it. This is also how soluble fiber helps slow the rate at which blood glucose rises—it slows the absorption of the glucose into the bloodstream.

Foods such as oats, beans, apples, carrots and flax are sources of soluble fiber, and they help to promote satiety, a healthy weight, cholesterol reduction and blood glucose control.

Encouraging Clients to Boost Fiber Intake

Many people begin an exercise program for weight loss, then find that they have increased hunger. This is due to increased energy expenditure. One way to help keep hunger in check is increasing fiber intake. Not only does fiber contain zero calories, but the foods that are high fiber are also lower in calories and fat than many other foods.

Caution not to go overboard as there is too much of a good thing. Too much fiber may cause constipation and decrease nutrient absorption. Increase fiber intake gradually and also increase water intake to prevent constipation.

Tip: Fiber is not recommended right before a workout as it may increase gastrointestinal upset. Focus on adequate fiber intake in the meals and snacks post exercise or training.

Easy Ways to Fiber Up

A great place to start with increasing fiber intake is by using the plate method, which includes filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit at each meal. The plate method is a more realistic way to track portions for a healthy weight than measuring cups or counting calories. Another method is to aim for the recommended 5 servings (or more) of vegetables and fruits per day. Tips to add more fiber:

  • Choose whole grains with 3–5 g fiber per serving. Look for whole grain breads, brown rice and oats, and consume the whole intact grain versus milled.
  • Enjoy a vegetable or fruit serving with each meal or snack.
  • Add beans to soups, stews, pastas, omelets, salads and casseroles.
  • Have oatmeal versus dry cereal at breakfast, and toss in some whole fruit chunks or berries.
  • For sandwiches, add bulk (no pun intended) with lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, peppers and other garden favorites. If you’re not a vegetable eater, getting them on your sandwich makes them easier to consume.
  • Prefer a grain at snack time? Try popcorn versus crackers.

A Quick Guide to Fiber Counts

Here’s a reference that will give you and your clients a good idea of how much fiber is in some popular foods.

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Food & Nutrition

Heidi Cannon’s Christmas Chocolate Protein Bark Recipe

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Food & Nutrition

How To Make Better Food Choices

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Current trends and statistics show that people are making healthier decisions at the grocery store. In fact, according to a recent survey by the Grocery Manufacturers of America, “73 percent of primary grocery shoppers reported they were buying more nutritious and healthy foods and beverages than in the past.”

Also, check out: Should You Opt for the Gluten-Free Diet?

A major reason for this shift is a health consciousness in America, with millions of people looking to lose weight and get into shape. However, says nutrition expert Sherry Torkos, “consumers are frustrated with their lack of success with many of the fad diets that simply don’t work. Consumers are also becoming better educated about how to make food choices by using tools such as the glycemic index (GI), which is a ranking of food based on the rate of carbohydrate absorption they trigger.”

Carbohydrates are staples of the American diet. In fact, most Americans get about half of their calories from carbohydrates. However, simple carbohydrates such as potatoes, white bread and pasta are rapidly digested and ratio blood glucose to high levels. Fortunately, there may be a way to lower the GI of carb-rich foods by taking a supplement containing an extract of the white bean.

“The GI of white bread was significantly decreased by the addition of 3,000 milligrams of the Phase 2 brand white bean extract in powder form. At that dose, the GI was reduced by 20.23 points, or 39.07 percent,” says Jay Udani, M.D., medical director, Pacific West Research.

Though consumers have lowered their fat intake, experts agree that excess carbohydrate consumption remains a problem. Fat calories removed from the diet are usually replaced by even more troublesome carbohydrate calories, meaning increased consumption of high-GI foods. This sort of diet is considered a primary factor for “diabesity,” or type 2 diabetes brought on by being obese. Besides diabetes, overweight and obese individuals are at an increased risk for numerous other physical ailments, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

“Consumers should steer towards the low-glycemic index foods, such as whole grains, most fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes because they digest more slowly and don’t cause spikes in blood glucose and insulin levels,” adds Torkos.

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Should You Opt for the Gluten-Free Diet?

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Many people are opting for the gluten-free diet in order to ensure that they are able to lose weight as well as increase the energy levels. While some of the people are allergic to gluten but many people are voluntarily opting for the gluten-free diet. The question which remains is if you’re not allergic to gluten, should you opt for the gluten-free diet.

Also, check out: 3 Things You Should Try Out in Keto Diet

Before you make this decision, it is important for you to take into account the few factors. Only once you are able to take into account these factors, you will be able to decide easily whether you should opt for the gluten-free diet or not.

1 Basic reason:
You need to keep in mind that there are many weight loss programs and diets which you can follow. You should only opt for the gluten-free diet when you’re gluten intolerant. According to some stats, only 1% of the population is gluten intolerant. That is why, if you are opting for the gluten-free diet in order to lose weight, you have to think once again.





2 Most of the foodstuffs consist of gluten:
You need to keep in mind that many foodstuffs which you consume on a regular basis consist of gluten. This includes wheat as well as many other grains as well. Additionally, many condiments and spices also include gluten. Also, energy bars and ice creams also include gluten. Thus, whenever you’re looking at the foodstuffs which you cannot consume when you’re on the gluten-free diet, you will realize that there is quite a long list. This is one of the main problems when you’re opting for the gluten-free diet.

3 Eliminating a lot of unhealthy food:
When you are opting for the gluten-free diet, at the same point in time you will be able to eliminate a lot of unhealthy foodstuffs as well. You need to keep in mind that along with that, you will have to eliminate many normal foodstuffs as well. Only when you’re ready for that, you can look forward to the gluten-free diet.

Thus, instead of just following the trend, you have to find out as much information as you can about the gluten-free diet. Once you are able to do that, you will realize that it is not as easy as it sounds. In many of the cases, you will find that there are other diet plans which you can use in order to lose weight more effectively rather than the gluten-free diet.

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