The Fiber of Life – Literally!
"Fiber!" was my grandmother's response when asked about her longevity. As teenagers, we snickered at what we thought was a veiled reference to ‘regularity.’ Now, many years later, I guarantee none of us is laughing because research is proving her right. Fiber is now considered to be an essential nutritional element for a healthy life.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes are the optimal sources of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. And while some authorities recommend 25 grams/day for women and 38 grams/day for men under 50, the AHA's more specific suggestion is 14 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed each day. (1) Keeping track of the daily foods and calories is a fast way to understand one's eating habits. It is recommended that teens may need as many grams as men. (2)
Fiber and PCOS
The good news is that fiber is easy to add to one's diet - especially in the summer when the produce department is brimming with a colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables! By simply focusing on eating whole grains and healthful produce, women with PCOS can help mitigate the conditions that can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Fiber and Weight Loss
Dietary Fiber is one of the best kept secrets in effective weight loss. Fiber is the part of the plant food that your body can't digest or absorb, passing through your stomach and intestine unchanged. It is generally categorized in two forms: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber helps move material through the digestive system. Soluble fiber partially dissolves in the system, forming a gel-like material that absorbs some of the detrimental elements in our intestines and carries them out of the body.(3)
Its weight loss mechanism is simple. High fiber foods take longer to chew, giving the brain time to register sugar levels and initiating the "fullness" feeling so you don't over eat. (2) Plus, your body benefits from all the additional vitamins and nutrients that are packed into the fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
Fiber and Cardiovascular Disease
Research indicates that fiber lowers bad blood cholesterol levels by absorbing and removing some of the fat and cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, insoluble fiber has been associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and slower progression of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals when eaten regularly as a part of a diet low in saturated and transfatty acids.(1) "One Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals found that a high total dietary fiber intake was linked to a 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to a low fiber intake."(3)
Fiber and Diabetes
Diabetes is another serious disease associated with PCOS. Fiber has been shown to help control blood sugar levels, slowing its absorption and helping reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Easy answers to weight loss and improved health are not common; however, the addition of fiber is one of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to get back on track. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber and they're low in calories (1). Making sure that the fridge is filled with snacks such as apples, oranges, apricots, and kiwi's as well as pared celery, carrot sticks, radishes or snap peas is a great start. Keeping bags of cleaned lettuce, spinach and cabbage handy for salads takes the excuses out of preparation, and a freshly brewed pitcher of minty green tea is the perfect summer substitution for sodas.
The warmer seasons can inspire a healthier attitude. Just throw in a daily walk around the neighborhood and you've made lifestyle changes that can increase your energy, change your health, save you money and extend your longevity. What could be better than that?
- Chris Thomas