Sunday, May 11

High Fiber Goodness

A high fiber diet is good for many aspects of your health, including the cardiovascular system and diabetes prevention. Bottom line, though, it's good for your colonic health--in other words, anything poop-related, both short term and long term. These problems run in my family, all the way down to colon cancer. Since I'm starting to get far more short term troubles than one should really have at the tender age of almost thirty, it's time to start taking this stuff seriously. I'm very glad that this diet will make my bum happier, and benefit my health in all kinds of ways that I don't even think about.

I had only a vague idea about what foods were high fiber, and in the past few days I've done some reading to be more informed. I wanted to know how to get the biggest bang for my buck, which food groups which were highest in fiber, and in each food group which individual foods were highest in fiber. I've found that on the web, information sometimes conflicts, but a clear overall picture has emerged. Here are the websites I've referred to. And here's the list I'm using for myself, in order of fibrousness:

    - High fiber cold cereals deserve to be in a class of their own. They have the highest fiber content of all other foods, which is a little odd really, and makes me think that I should check their ingredient lists.

    - Beans, lentils, and other legumes (dried or canned--excluding fresh). Either dried or canned has the same benefit as far as fiber is concerned. Fresh legumes, such as peas and green beans, go in the "vegetable" category. Different websites had conflicting information about which specific legumes were highest of all. In any case, it hardly matters; they're all extremely high. Legumes seem to be the regular food group which is highest in fiber, by a wide margin. Lentils have the advantage of being very easy to cook. If you don't already have favorites, then try different kinds of lentils, as they have variations in taste and texture. Along with legumes for full meals, bean dips make great snacks.

    - Whole grains. For the biggest proportion of fiber, use wheat or oat bran. Otherwise, all whole grains are high in fiber. Again, information about specific grains didn't seem to be consistent from one website to another. The easiest thing is to use a diversity of whole grains. Legumes and whole grains together provide all the essential amino acids you need, so as far as protein is concerned there is no need for animal products. Boiled whole grains such as the brown rice, red rice, black rice, wild rice, and quinoa are the easiest to use while cooking. If you buy your bread, it's quite easy to replace bread made with refined flour with %100 whole grain flour, and many special baked goods that require the lightness of refined flour can still be made with a large portion of whole grain flour. It's possible to find both whole grain pasta, and pasta made with a mix of whole and refined grains. Breakfasts can be switched over to oatmeal with nuts and berries, whole grain toast with yummy toppings, or a whole grain cold cereal. Popcorn is a whole grain that is reasonably high in fiber and makes a great snack.

    - Avocados are in a class of their own as well. They're very high in fiber, utterly delicious, easy to eat with just a spoon and a little salt, and they happen to go extremely well with beans and lentils. They're also high in healthy fat and probably have other benefits as well.

    - Spices. These aren't an ideal source of fiber, since we use relatively small amounts of them in our food. But they do have a great deal of fiber in them. And most spices have other medicinal and dietary benefits as well. And of course, they make your food all the more delicious. So feel free to go crazy with the spices.

    - Nuts and seeds. Flaxseeds, almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and all other nuts and seeds. These are also high in protein, high in beneficial fat, and filling. Flaxseeds are high in omega 3 essential fatty acids, and sesame seeds are extremely high in calcium. It seems that nut butters are also reasonably high in fiber. Dried coconut is also high in fiber, and I'll toss it into the nut category because it goes so well with nuts.

    - Berries and dried fruit. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries all have quite high proportions of fiber. They're also full of vitamins and nutrients. Dried fruit also has a substantial amount of fiber, especially figs, apricots, and prunes.

    - Vegetables. As you can see, vegetables aren't actually the highest source of fiber of them all. Still they're reasonably high in fiber, very nutritious in other ways, and usually they're utterly delicious. Again, I didn't find that much consistency among my different sources. But from what I gather, peas are impressively full of fiber, and of course they're very easy to cook. Frozen or fresh peas can be easily added to whole rice for extra taste, nutrition, variety, and visual appeal. Brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage (is that a brassica too or am I getting confused?) are high in fiber. So is winter squash, baked potatoes if you eat the skin, sweet potatoes, and yams. While leafy greens and lettuce are often recommended for fiber, other sources said that they didn't actually have much. Either way, we know for sure that they're nutritious and yummy in other ways. In general tougher, more substantial greens probably have more fiber than the light greens; so for instance romaine lettuce apparently has more fiber than most lettuce, and kale probably has the most of them all.

    - Fresh fruit (excluding berries), especially pears, apples, bananas, oranges, and papayas. Often a lot of the fiber actually resides in the fruit's skin or other material such as the dividing inner skins within an orange. (What are those called, again?) Again, fresh fruit such as apples is often described as a primary source for fiber. All my sources seemed to agree that, when it came to the numbers, it is one of the milder sources. Still, fruit are a decent source of fiber, and like vegetables they're nutritious and yummy in many other ways. It's much better to eat a whole fruit than to drink fruit juice, as far as fiber and blood sugar are concerned, although sometimes a good quality fruit juice is an easy way to get a lot of nutrients all at once.

So there we go. Wish me luck!

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