The missing link

| August 01, 2006

Eating more high-fiber foods is an easy way to improve overall health.

Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Unlike fats, protein and the other kinds of carbs, digestive enzymes cannot break down fiber, so it is eliminated from the body virtually unchanged. Some of the ways fiber is thought to maintain a healthy body:

Promotes weight loss. Fiber makes you feel fuller and displaces the calories of fats and simple carbs, like sugar, by adding more servings of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains to the diet. High-fiber foods also take longer to chew, which reduces the chance of over-eating.

Slows the absorption of sugar and other simple carbs. Fiber reduces the need for insulin, which might also reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome or Type 2 diabetes.

Binds with fat lipids such as cholesterol. Fiber carries them out of the body so that the blood lipid concentrations are lowered, reducing the risk of certain kinds of heart disease.
Attracts water into the digestive tract. Fiber softens stool and prevents constipation. Softer stools allow for decreased straining of rectal muscles, which can also reduce the risk of hemorrhoids.

Speeds up the passage of food through the digestive tract. Fiber can reduce the risk of colon cancer by reducing the time the colon is exposed to cancer-producing substances.
Prevents the formation of small fecal stones, which could obstruct the appendix, increase abdominal pressure and allow for bacterial invasion of the appendix, resulting in appendicitis.

Exercises the muscles of the digestive tract. Fiber can help them retain their health and tone and reduce the risk of diverticular disease.

Fiber is found only in foods of plant origin, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes (beans). High-fiber foods that are minimally processed are said to be “nutrition dense” and “calorie lean.” Overly processed foods tend to have little or no fiber with added fats and sugars, making them “nutrient lean” and “calorie dense,” or just “empty calories.”

Since not all food fibers have the same effects, eat from all the high-fiber food groups. The average American eats about 15 grams of fiber each day. The recommended daily amount of dietary fiber is 25 grams! You need to eat only one apple, a handful of almonds (1 ounce), one slice of whole-grain bread and a serving of broccoli to get your daily amount, so it is not as tough as you would think.

Here are some great high-fiber recipes:

Apple Walnut French Toast
4 slices Nature’s Own Wheat & Fiber Bread
1/2 cup Egg Beaters 99% egg substitute
2 T. 2% milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Topping
1 T. Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter
1/4 cup HoneyTree’s Sugar Free Honey
1 large apple, sliced
2 T. chopped walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon

In a bowl, beat egg, milk, cinnamon and vanilla until frothy. Dip slices of bread to coat both sides. Fry in a hot skillet until brown on both sides. Keep warm and set aside.

Melt butter in hot skillet. Add to melted butter, honey, apple slices and cinnamon; cook until bubbly and apples are softened. Pour over French toast and sprinkle with walnuts. Serve immediately. Serves two.

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