Extra! Extra! Eat More Soluble Fiber !

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Fiber has been discussed for years as a health lifestyle must have. Eating more fiber is an excellent way to establish a healthy weight and acts as a preventative measure for several chronic diseases.  As mentioned in Good Health is Money Save and Money Earned, one of the best ways to ensure financial security and stay off the cliff of financial ruin is to stay healthy. A critical step in achieving this healthy lifestyle goal and reap all the financial benefits of being healthy and strong is Fiber.  One may ask, when starting this fiber quest, “What is fiber? How much is recommended? and What foods contain this magical fiber you speak of?”

What is fiber?

To begin with, fiber is a carbohydrate that our bodies are unable to break down into sugar molecules and therefore are unable to be digested.  This lack of digestion helps in creating satiation, a feeling of fullness, after eating. This in turn reduces the amount of food one eats creating a calorie deficit which is needed for weight loss.  This also helps in preventing overeating which is essential for maintaining a healthy weight once a healthy weight has been achieved. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar levels, reduces the risk of developing all cancers, aids in preventing cardiovascular disease, and also helps maintain and regulate your bowels. Yay for fiber!!  There are also two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fibers. This article will discuss soluble fiber in more detail down below. A later article will be posted and will discuss insoluble fiber.

How much fiber is recommended?

Odds are, you aren’t getting enough fiber in your daily diet.  The average American takes in 15 grams of fiber a day. That’s about half of the daily recommended amount for both men and women according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Women age 19-30 were recommended to have an intake of 28 grams and men age 14-18 were recommended to have an intake of 30.8 grams.  The guidelines didn’t specify any older age groups among the genders. As shown, we definitely need to eat more fiber for a healthy lifestyle.

Soluble Fiber:

Soluble fiber slows the digestion of food by attracting water and creating a gel in the digestive system.  Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol and exports the cholesterol out of the body, lowering the overall level of cholesterol which is good for cardiovascular health.  Since soluble fiber is not digested it does not contribute to sugar level spikes which helps in preventing Type 2 Diabetes and helps to maintain sugar levels in all diabetics, both Type 1 and Type 2. Soluble fiber also keeps you feeling full which is excellent for weight loss and maintenance.  It’s attraction to water also bulks up your stool as it passes through the body which keeps your bowels healthy.

Foods high in soluble fiber:

  • Oatmeal and oat bran
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Barley
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Apples
  • Citrus
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Vegetables

Suggestions for incorporating soluble fiber:

There are several ways to begin introducing soluble fibers into your diet. Substituting beans for meat in soups and chilis is one way to incorporate soluble fiber.  The change doesn’t need to be dramatic and can be a gradual introduction. For example instead of cutting the meat out of the soup initially, first start by substituting half of the meat with beans.  I personally will use half turkey and half black beans to my chili. I still get the meaty flavor but I have introduced soluble fiber which equals great flavor and great health benefits. Another substitute is chips with apple slices or even a non sliced apple.  They compliment most sandwiches and they are easy to transport. If the apple is sliced it will brown but if left whole the apple will stay fresh and crunchy throughout most situations life may throw at you. Substituting three days a week with a quick overnight oat recipe instead of the bacon and eggs will also help increase the soluble fiber intake and leave you feeling full for the day.

These simple changes can create large changes in the quality of life you are living and help in creating healthy habits which will last throughout your life.  An added benefit is that eating more soluble fiber doesn’t feel like you’re depriving yourself since it is filling and delicious. Work yourself into change slowly if that’s what works best for you.  A small change once a week is a first step in the right direction and can be the catalyst for further healthy changes.

The first step toward change is awareness, the second step is acceptance ~ Nathaniel Branden

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Healthy Hydration

Previously I wrote about the money saved by being healthy. One of the cheapest and best ways to improve overall health is to be properly hydrated.  Adequate fluid intake is obtained from consumption of both liquids and from food, particularly water dense foods which include fruits and vegetables.  Water is the main source of hydration which is readily available, cheap, and easily accessible to the population. There are water fountains, bottles of water, and most homes have running water.  Water helps to maintain your body’s temperature, lubricate the joints throughout your body, rids wastes from the body through the excretion of urine, bowels, and perspiration, and adds cushioning to organs and vital tissues of the body.  Other benefits may include weight loss through decreasing caloric intake. Water also increases exercise performance by delaying muscle fatigue during working out.

There are some out there who don’t like the taste of water or live in areas where the water is just horrific.  Don’t give up, there is hope. There are several ways to create great tasting water with little effort and low cost.  If you purchase water from the store, I recommend purchasing the largest size available. These tend to be less expensive per ounce and if your local store has a water fill up station, then you really save on money as the price for filtered water is quite reasonable for a gallon or five gallon.  The water where we currently live is awful so we purchase drinking water. Water refills are .25¢ for per gallon. If it weren’t for the horrendous taste of the water I would use the tap water. For those that don’t like the taste of water in general there are ways to spruce up your water with quick and easy ingredients.  

  • Lemon or lime wedge
    • If you are cooking with a lemon or lime, lightly score the rind and places in the water,  it will add lemon or lime flavor without using the juice.
  • Sprig of Rosemary or Lavender if you are cooking a dish that requires the herb.
    • The herb is readily available and just place it in the cup allowing the flavors to infuse the water.
  • Cucumber
    • Cucumbers ends can be used or even the skin that is left over from a salad.
  • Berries   
    • Muddle berries that aren’t going into your dish of choice.  This releases the flavors and adds sweetness to the water.

Ingredients can be added from a variety of different sources and I would encourage you to get creative.  Who knows what may happen and what new flavors you can create with what’s on hand. You also cut down on any excess food waste which may have been produced from cooking so win for waste reduction, win for taste, and a win for the budget.

So, how much water should you drink to be properly hydrated?  The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine recommends healthy women consume 2.7 liters (11.4 cups) and healthy men consume 3.7 liters (15.6 cups) of water a day.  Keep in mind that these are just averages and other factors may influence how much water you may need to consume. These can include age, physical activity levels, climate and altitude, sickness, women who breastfeed, and any number of influences not mentioned.  It is also important to note that it is possible to drink too much water may become life threatening just as dehydration can become life threatening. So stay balanced when it comes to water. A good measure is to drink when you are thirsty and to listen to your body.

A hydrated body is a healthy body and a healthy body is a body that doesn’t miss out on work and doesn’t have to visit the doctor.  So, stay hydrated, your body and your wallet will thank you.

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