Up Your Fiber Intake

One of the most striking differences between the caveman’s diet and our own is the amount of fiber our ancestors ate: about 100 grams a day, the amount some people in rural areas of the developing world still get. The average American, on the other hand, consumes only about 15 grams of fiber per day, well below the recommended 25 grams. The cavemen didn’t know it, but all of that fiber had countless health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to helping control (or maybe prevent) diabetes.

There are two types of fiber. Insoluble fiber, such as wheat bran, helps prevent constipation and may protect against colon cancer. It also fills your stomach, helping to quench hunger without calories. Soluble fiber, found in foods such as fruits, oats, barley, and peas, has more to do with lowering cholesterol, Soluble fiber forms a kind of gel in your intestines that helps reduce your body’s absorption of the fat you eat. And if that fat never makes it into your bloodstream, it can’t do its damage by raising your blood cholesterol levels,

Studies find that eating 10 to 30 grams of soluble fiber a day—much more than the average American eats—reduces LDL about 10 percent. (Remember, Americans average 15 grams of fiber, including both soluble and insoluble.)

One analysis of 67 different studies concluded that for every gram of soluble fiber you add to your diet, you can expect an LDL decrease of 2.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). So if you added just 10 grams a day less than a cup of drop 20 points

The best fiber-rich foods? Here are our top 10;

  1. Dried beans, peas, and other legumes. These include baked beans, kidney beans, split peas, dried limas, garbanzos, pinto beans, and black beans.
  2. Oatmeal and bran cereals.
  3. Vegetables. Top contenders are fresh or frozen lima beans and green peas, sweet corn, broceoli, green snap beans, pole beans, broad beans, carrots, and Brussels sprouts.
  4. Dried fruit. Figs, apricots, and dates top the list.
  5. Fresh fruit (with skin). Particularly raspberries, blackberries, strawberries,plums, pears, apples, and cherries
  6. Whole wheat and other whole grain products. These include rye, oats, buckwheat, and stone-ground cornmeal, as well as bread, pastas, pizzas, pancakes, and muffins made with whole grain flours.
  7. Baked potato with skin.
  8. Greens. Some of the best include spinach, beet greens, kale, collards, Swiss chard, and turnip greens,
  9. Nuts. Especially almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, and walnuts.
  10. Bananas.

Sit Down to Cereal

So about now you’re thinking: “Eat 25 grams of fiber? How do they expect me to do that?” Two words: Eat breakfast. Cereal is perhaps the simplest way to get more fiber into your diet, It may also be a way to lower the fat in your diet. One study found that people who ate two bowls a day of high-fiber cereal cut the amount of fat they ate by 10 percent without even trying. The only way to know for sure if your cereal is fiber-filled is to read the label. Look for brands that have 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. And ignore claims like “fortified with 11 vitarnins and minerals,” (The vitamins are usually sprayed on and provide no more benefit than taking a daily multivitamin.) Some cereals that sound fiber-ric h, like Rice Chex, have no more fiber than the milk you pour over it. The ones listed below are loaded with fiber.

Some more breakfast-time tips:

Mix it up. If you think high-fiber cereals taste like the boxes they come in, then mix them with your regular cereal, gradually adding more of the high-fiber cereal and less of the regular stuff.

Go with oats. When researchers at Colorado State University had 36 overweight men eat either an oat or wheat cereal with 14 grams of fiber daily for 12 weeks, those getting the oat cereal had lower levels of the small, very dense LDL cholesterol, and less LDL overall.

Give it a sprinkle. Just 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed sprinkled on your oatmeal boosts its cholesterol-lowering ability like super fuel in a rocket. One study found that 2 tablespoons of ground flax daily cut total cholesterol 9 percent, and LDL IS percent. Flaxseed is a powerful laxative, so be sure to use it in moderation.

Don’t forgo the bowl. Those cereal bars, says Consumer Reports, are generally no more nutritious than oversized cookies. “Most breakfast bars are high in sugar and have very little fiber, basically giving you the equivalent of a sugary cereal without the milk,” the magazine wrote in a January 1998 article.

Move Away from White

Another way to boost fiber and complex carbohydrates, the kind the  Plan recommends, is to shun white—white bread, rice, and pasta—in favor of whole grains. More than 25 studies find that people who regularly eat whole grains reduce their risk of heart disease. In the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 80,000 women for more than 20 years, women who ate at least one serving of whole grain foods daily had about a one-third lower risk of heart disease than women who rarely ate whole grains. It’s not just the soluble fiber in whole grains that provides benefit. Other plant nutrients, including tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E not found in most supplements), are also at work. Yet Americans average just one serving of whole grain foods a day, You won’t be one of them when you follow the  Plan, which calls for seven to eight servings a day. Here’s how to get them:

Brave the brown. In one intriguing study, when a group of men swapped 220 calories of white rice for 220 calories of mostly whole grains, after 16 weeks their levels of homocysteine and oxidized LDL dropped nearly one-third. cutting their risk of heart disease significantly. you’re getting about the same amount of fiber as you’d get in chocolate or beer. Choose whole wheat pasta and triple the amount you get.

Be exotic. For a real fiber bang, explore shelves at. your grocery store that you usually ignore. Those are the ones stocked with such “exotic” grains as amaranth, bulgur, whole wheat couscous, and wheatberries. Most are as simple to fix as rice, vet are packed with fiber and other nutrients. Mix in some steamed carrots and broccoli, toss with olive oil and a bit of Parmesan or feta cheese, maybe throw in a can of tuna or a couple of ounces of diced chicken, and you’ve got dinner.

Bargain on barley. Just a cup of cooked pearled barley (which doesn’t require any soaking) contains nearly 1() grams of fiber. Mix it with a lamb-and-vegetable stew for dinner, sweeten it with raisins, eal it with sliced apples and cinnamon for breakfast, or serve it with chopped vegetables and an olive oil dressing for a lunch salad.

Opt for oats. There’s a reason oat manufacturers are allowed to boast about the grain’s cholesterol-lowering benefits. Oats are to cholesterol what a drought is to a pond. They contain a soluble fiber called beta glucan, which numerous studies find lowers cholesterol levels. In 1997 the FDA concluded that getting at least 3 grams a day of beta glucans from oats (about 1’/2 cups of cooked oatmeal) reduced total cholesterol. Many people will see drops in LDL of 12 to 24 percent, depending on where they start. Choose quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats over instant oatmeal; it would take three packets of most instant oatmeal to get the obligatory 3 grams, and they’re often loaded with sugar. Or try uncooked oatmeal in place of bread crumbs in meatloaf made with ground turkey, use it to make a crispy coating for oven-fried chicken, and mix it into baked goods (remember the oatmeal cookies of your youth?),

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