Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Luckily research shows that eating a fiber rich diet can decrease the risks heart disease and other conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity.
As reported by Time Magazine in April this year, every increase of 10 grams of fiber each day was, on average, linked to a 15 percent lower risk of dying over the study period. The report also stated that fiber-rich foods can combat inflammation, a potential trigger for heart attacks, as well as keep levels of LDL cholesterol, which can build up in heart arteries, down. The British Medical Journal reports that men and women who have had heart attacks, who consumed the most fiber (within the top 20% of fiber intake of those in the study) had a 25% lower mortality rate compared to those in the lowest 20% of fiber intake. In addition, The American Journal of Medicine published research showing a significant association between low dietary fiber intake and cardio-metabolic risks including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular inflammation, and obesity.
Basically research shows that a high fiber intake will reduce disease risk and low fiber intake is associated with increased risk. So the question is, how can you get the right amount of fiber in your diet to create optimal health?
There are two types of fiber, insoluble and soluble and both are found in plants. Both types increase satiety and aid in weight loss due to being nutrient dense and low in calories.
Soluble fiber forms a gel with the stomach acid allowing it to bind to fats. This decreases fat absorption and decreases the amount of cholesterol produced to transport the fats through the blood stream. Less cholesterol-bound fat in the blood stream means less plaque-like buildup. Less plaque can reduce the likelihood of atherosclerosis leading to a heart attack or stroke. The studies linking soluble fiber to decreased cholesterol all studied the gel forming and trapping benefits of soluble fiber with saturated fats. Foods high in soluble fiber are oats and other grains, legumes, apples and bananas.
Insoluble fibers acts as pipe cleaners keeping you healthy and decreasing your risk for digestive cancers, constipation, hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and a host of other intestinal ills. Neither soluble nor insoluble fiber is readily absorbed by the intestinal cells, preventing compounds bound to the fiber from being reabsorbed. Foods high in insoluble fiber are grains and bran vegetables and fruit with edible seeds. For insoluble fiber, the more texture the better; corn, celery and dried fruit.
The Diabetes and Cardiovascular associations recommend eating 30-50 grams of fiber per day. That’s equivalent to 5-10 servings. For best nutrient intake rotate your foods and fiber types and increase your fiber intake slowly. Increasing your fiber can affect your medication dosages as well as decrease the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium – if you are taking a fiber supplement be sure to do so separately from your vitamins and medications.
You can add fiber by switching your breads to whole grain varieties, adding legumes to your diet 3-4 times a week and adding whole grains to your recipes. Oatmeal, oat bran, wheat germ or rice bran can be added to hot cereal, yogurt, meatloaf, meatballs and hamburgers. Another trick is to use whole wheat pastry flour when baking. It’s light and fluffy and won’t make your baked goods dense like traditional whole wheat flour.
By adding a little fiber to every meal you can make a big impact on your health. For breakfast try a high fiber whole grain cereal with wheat bran or ground flax seeds, berries, and walnuts. As a mid morning snack grab celery with peanut butter & raisins. Lunch could be a whole grain bread sandwich with hummus as spread, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, and roasted red peppers. A mid afternoon snack could be air popped popcorn. Salmon with mango salsa on brown rice with asparagus spears for dinner and a baked apple with cinnamon for desert will end your day with a nutrient powered punch.
Craving sweets? Try my paleo sweet potato or zucchini brownies for a grain free fiber packed desert alternative.
Dark Chocolate Zucchini (or Sweet Potato) Brownies
|Prep time||10 minutes|
|Cook time||45 minutes|
|Total time||55 minutes|
|Allergy||Milk, Peanuts, Soy, Tree Nuts, Wheat|
|Dietary||Gluten Free, Paleo|
- 3 cups zucchini (freshly grated)
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cups raw honey
- 1/2 cup walnut oil ((could substitute grape seed or melted coconut oil))
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons coconut flour
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
Healthy dark chocolate paleo brownies made with either zucchini or sweet potatoes. I have a lot of zucchini in my garden in the summer so I freeze it grated. In the winter I thaw the frozen grated zucchini and pour out any water that has formed (I don't squeeze the zucchini dry, I just pour out the extra liquid). Great way to use that zucchini!
|Step 1.||Mix together all the wet ingredients (the vegetable, eggs, honey and oil). In a sifter combine the dry ingredients (baking soda, cream of tartar, cocoa powder and coconut flower) and sift the dry ingredients into the wet mixture stirring occasionally.|
|Step 2.||Pour the mixture into a well-greased 9x9 or larger baking pan (the larger dish will back more evenly, but will create flatter brownies - I like to use a 2.2 Qt/2L dish). I use butter to grease the pan and they come out easily from the pan when done. Coconut oil also works.|
|Step 3.||Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes; till the center bounces back when gently depressed.|
|Step 4.||You can serve the brownies once cool or top with your favorite treat: melted honey, melted chocolate chips or a bar or frosting for a real special treat (Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy is made with sugar and palm oil, not high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenate oil).|