The Secret to Healthy Weight Loss

There a number of ways to lose weight, some healthy and some not. In order to keep the weight off, it is critical we follow healthy weight loss habits. 

By Lynell Ross, Certified Health and Wellness Coach

Americans don’t seem to understand these benefits though, according to the Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition, the average American's dietary fiber intake is less than half of what it should be. 

80% of Americans eat far less than the recommended amount of fiber we need to keep our heart healthy, reduce type 2 Diabetes, blood pressure and reduce inflammation. According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, (AJM), compared to people who at the most fiber, those who ate the least fiber had much higher rates of obesity, chronic inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome. The dangerous Metabolic syndrome doubles the risk of heart attack and quintuples it for type 2 Diabetes. 

The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome: 

  • A high triglyceride level (or you're on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.

  • A Large waistline or abdominal obesity. 

  • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you're on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called "good" cholesterol because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.

  • High blood pressure (or you're on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup.

  • High fasting blood sugar (or you're on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

 

Dietary fiber is categorized into two different types, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber comes mainly from the insides of fruits and vegetables and can help lower your bad cholesterol. Soluble or viscous fiber is the softer type that dissolves in water. When digested, it helps prevent cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestines. This type of fiber is also thought to help minimize the rise in blood sugar levels after a meal, which is particularly helpful for people with diabetes. When mixed with liquid, soluble fiber forms a gel in your digestive tract that helps to keep you feeling full and slows digestion.

Good sources are of water-soluble fiber is found in oatmeal, oat bran, beans (they have both types of fiber), fruits such as: apples, mangoes, plums, kiwi, pears, blackberries, strawberries, pears, raspberries, peaches, citrus fruits, dried apricots, prunes, and figs, and some vegetables: dried peas, beans, and lentils.

Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water nor does it form a gel. Instead, it passes down through the intestinal tract intact. It helps keep bowel movements regular, and may reduce the risk of colon problems. It may also reduce the risk of hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and obesity (by making us feel full).

Insoluble fiber is found in: Whole-wheat grains and cereals, wheat bran, brown rice, bulgur, seeds, and vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, and tomatoes).


You do not need to measure how much of each type of fiber you get in your diet. Just eat a varied diet and remember all dietary fiber is good for you.

The Benefits of High-Fiber Foods

Not only does fiber help maintain regularity, it can also help stabilize blood sugars, lower bad cholesterol levels, (offering a protective effect on the heart, by lowering LDL "bad" cholesterol without decreasing HDL "good" cholesterol), decrease the risk of certain cancers, and even help with weight loss. Most of us haven't a clue how many grams of fiber we get from our diets in on a typical day. The American Dietetic Association reports that we fall short of the recommended intake of 20 grams to 35 grams of fiber a day.

More Reasons Why Fiber is Good for Us

Eating a higher-fiber diet has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels, improve and prevent constipation, and slow digestion. According to Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetric Eating Plan, fiber can help us eat less -- and lose weight. Fiber has been shown to increase satiety, and helps you reduce your calorie intake. 

When you increase dietary fiber, do it gradually to avoid gastric distress, and drink plenty of fluid (8 cups per day) to avoid constipation. This is crucial. 

Some studies have shown that large amounts of fiber in the diet can help regulate blood glucose and insulin. These may be reasons why people who eat higher-fiber diets tend to weigh less and are less prone to gain weight as they age.

The research findings on fiber's benefits are growing.  Recent studies have shown that:

  • Eating a higher-fiber diet, as part of an overall healthful lifestyle, may play a role in a healthful BMI (body mass index)- healthy weight. One study found that women who ate more whole grains and fiber consistently gained less weight over 12 years than those who ate less fiber and whole grains. Another study found that women with low-fiber, high-fat diets were more overweight than those following high-fiber, low-fat diets

  • A high-fiber diet may reduce your risk of colon cancer. If populations with a low average fiber intake doubled their fiber by making wiser food choices, they could lower their risk of colon cancer by 40%, according to a study involving data collected from 10 European countries. A recent National Cancer Institute study also linked high fiber intakes to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. This was especially true for fiber from grains, cereals, and fruits.

  • Fiber may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Those who ate a diet high in refined carbohydrates and low fiber foods were more likely to increase their risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study. A recent Finnish study showed that as whole grain and cereal fiber intake increased, the risk of type 2 diabetes seemed to decrease. It may not just be all about the fiber, high-fiber foods are also rich in important micronutrients. That's why it's better to eat whole plant foods rather than relying on just a fiber pill. 

  • Fiber and whole grains have been shown to reduce metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that increase the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes: Higher intakes of fiber (from whole-grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds) showed a slower build-up of cholesterol filled plaque of the arteries in postmenopausal women with coronary artery disease. In another study, in men and women aged 40-60 and free of heart disease, fiber appeared to protect against the progression of atherosclerosis. 

How to Get More Fiber in Your Daily Diet

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have fiber, vitamins and minerals that we need. Not only does fiber help to keep us regular, but by eating whole fresh foods we gain a host of other benefits, such as phytonutrients that can help prevent certain cancers.   

Include Beans:  Ounce for ounce beans have a high amount of fiber. Use Kidney Beans, garbanzos, black beans, and navy beans in soups, salads and side dishes. Navy beans have 19 grams of fiber in one cup, in addition to magnesium, and folate. Beans are a powerhouse food. 
Choose Whole Grains, nuts and seeds: Bake your own or choose high quality bread, muffins, cereals, granolas and great side dishes made from whole grain products with all natural ingredients. Try some new grains such as quinoa, bulgur wheat and barley. Switch from white rice to brown rice. Bulgur wheat has 8 grams of fiber which helps reduce your hunger after a meal. Experiment with cooking different types of brown rice such as long grain, medium grain and brown basmati.  Brown rice and quinoa have a nutty flavor that adds so much to your side dishes and salads. Add nuts, seeds and flax meal to baked goods, morning cereals and snacks. 

What Exactly Are Whole Grains? 

You may hear that you should eat more whole grains, but are confused about what are they and how much to eat. Eating at least three or more one-ounce equivalents of whole grains daily can reduce the risk of some diseases, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Most people need approximately 6 ounces of grains per day, or less, and are best served by those servings being whole grains. 

Whole grains are cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked, or flaked kernel, which includes the bran, the germ, and the inner most part of the kernel (the endosperm). Some examples of whole grains include whole wheat, oatmeal, whole-grain cornmeal, brown rice, whole-grain barley, whole rye, and buckwheat and spelt. 

Read labels looking for items that show whole grains listed first on the ingredient list. The ingredient list on a food label shows ingredients in the order of the most abundant by weight. For products such as bread or pasta to be labeled whole grain, the grain can be ground, cracked, or flaked, but it must retain the same proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm. Look for 100% whole grain, reading labels looking for number of grams of fiber.  

A Daily Dose of Whole Grains

Eating at least three one-ounce equivalents of whole grains per day: Examples of a one-ounce equivalent include:

  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal

  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-grain pasta

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or whole-grain barley

  • 1 regular slice of 100% whole-grain bread

  • 1 cup of whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal 

The Anatomy of a Grain of Whole Wheat

The endosperm is the white center and is the only part of the grain used in highly refined cereals and flours. It makes up 83% of the kernel. Manufacturers remove the bran and germ when they make refined white flour.  The endosperm has a small amounts of vitamins, not nearly what the bran and germ have. White bread is stripped of most of the nutrients, so vitamins have to be added back in, but do not contain the fiber and rich nutrients that 100% whole grains have. 


The bran is the outside layer of the grain making up 14% and is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals like magnesium, riboflavin, thiamin, phosphorus, niacin, iron and zinc. Almost all of the fiber within the grain comes from the bran. The Aleurone layer is rich in proteins that build and repair body cells, and phosphorus that helps build bone and nerve tissue. 

The germ is only 3% the part of the grain, which sprouts when planted. It is a concentrated source of Thiamine (Vitamin B 1) essential for appetite, carbohydrate metabolism, growth, normal functioning of the nervous system. Also, part of the germ are Vitamin E, magnesium, riboflavin, thiamin, phosphorus, niacin, iron and zinc. The germ also contains some necessary fat and proteins.


Power Tip: Another concentrated good source of wheat germ is in the cereal aisle of your grocery store in a jar. You can sprinkle it on your cereal, oatmeal, on salads and use it when baking muffins and nut breads.   

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates are found in anything baked with white flour, white bread, rolls, crackers, most baked goods, white rice and sugary cereals. They are made by milling whole grains and removing the bran and germ — the two parts of the grain that contains the most nutrients. Refined carbs produce a state of inflammation in the body, causing increases in cytokines and other pro-inflammatory compounds, which makes arthritis worse. 

Limit foods made with refined grains to reduce arthritis pain and inflammation. Switch to whole-grain options: whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cereal, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice. Add these to your weekly grocery shopping list and try baking your own nut breads and muffins to control the amount of fiber and nutrients you get. 

Cereal Solutions

Cereals provide whole grains and make a nutritious meal or snack. Look for cereals that have 3 grams of fiber or more. Eating both wheat and oats give you different types of fiber-soluble and insoluble, to help you reduce cholesterol and keep your digestive system working smoothly.  Read the nutrition labels and decide for yourself what you like. Cereals with added nuts and seeds are helpful too. Here are some to try:  

  • Bran type                  

  • Fiber cereals, bran cereals 

  • Shredded wheat types 

  • Multi-grain flakes, oat flakes, wheat flakes  

  • Kashi Cereals 

  • Oatmeal – Whole and stone ground are best. (Watch for high sugar in instant oatmeal)


Power Tip: Please be careful and read nutrition labels and the list of ingredients carefully before you buy. Some of the cereals have partially hydrogenated soybean oil, which must be avoided.  Aim for 12 grams or less of sugar, and 3 grams or more of fiber.  


Limit added sugar: One teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams. Daily recommendations are approximately 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.  

 

Look for cereals with less than 12 grams of sugar, which is about 3 teaspoons. One teaspoon of sugar equals 16 calories. You can control the amount of sugar you eat each day by understanding these numbers.   

Quick reference: Fiber in your food

  • Whole grain products provide about 1 to 2 or more grams of fiber per serving

  • Most vegetables contain about 2 to 3 grams per serving 

  • Fruit has about 2 grams of fiber per serving 

  • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils and split peas) provide 6 to 8 grams per serving 


Tips to Increase Fiber in Your Diet 

  • Eat more vegetables and salads with vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds  

  • Eat more fruit with skin (wash thoroughly)

  • Eat 100% whole wheat and whole grain products 

  • Choose breakfast cereals with more than 3 grams of fiber 

  • Sprinkle bran cereal and wheat germ on your favorite cereals

  • Add oat and wheat bran to beans to soups, salads, stews and casseroles

  • Flax meal. Some call it one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. There’s evidence it may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

  • Add vegetables to sandwiches such as: onions, peppers, tomatoes

  • Try new and unfamiliar fruits and vegetables 

  • Make fruit smoothies with different fruits and vegetables

  • Grate zucchini, carrots and finely chopped vegetable to pasta sauces 

  • Add whole wheat, oats, wheat germ and flax meal when baking 

 

Power Tip: When increasing fiber in your diet, be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent cramping, bloating and constipation. Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily, and more in hot weather or when exercising.    

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