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Roughing It

July 18, 2012

I’m showing my age here, but I remember in the early 1980s when oat bran made a big splash in the news as a “heart-healthy” food for its high-fiber content. Research studies began to demonstrate fiber’s benefits for lowering cholesterol, something most of us had never thought about. Suddenly, everyone was talking about fiber – the so-called “roughage” of my childhood – and what a miracle substance it was.

Now, it’s true that sometimes miracle foods turn out to be not so miraculous. But fiber actually stands the test of time. Too few of us get enough daily fiber – Americans average about 11-14 grams a day, but we need upwards of 25 grams for the best health benefits, which are numerous. If you think fiber is only good for keeping you “regular” or maintaining healthy cholesterol numbers, think again.

Fiber is actually a wonderful nutrient for weight loss and maintenance. What is fiber, exactly? It’s the part of plant foods – no, your hot dog doesn’t have any fiber – that our bodies can’t digest, so they stay in your stomach longer. They also take longer to chew, and tend to be “low glycemic,” meaning they release energy into your bloodstream at a much slower rate than refined carbs like white bread and potato chips. All of these factors help keep you feeling full longer and lead to greater satiety. In other words, when you eat high-fiber foods, they tend to stick with you for hours, making it less likely that you’ll go scouting for more food any time soon.

So eat up! Beans and legumes of all sorts, avocados, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and bread, pears and apples (with the skin!), oatmeal, raspberries and blueberries, artichokes, peas, broccoli, and almonds are all rich in fiber – and, fortunately, delicious, too.

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