When if comes to fiber, the benefits are numerous, but the simple fact is that most of the people in your class are probably not getting enough of it, although they will most likely think that they are getting enough.
Nine time out of ten, I”™ll perform a nutritional analysis on an individual who tells me they”™re “eating their fiber”, and this consists of a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, a small salad with lunch, and some roasted veggies with dinner. With all the benefits that fiber gives, there”™s no excuse not be eating more of it. Unfortunately, it”™s a rare person that has time to actually count how many grams of fiber they”™re getting, so general recommendations make a lot more sense.
Not that your class participants have to stock their refrigerator with wood chips, dump a gallon-size ziplock bag of flax seed on their morning cereal, or stroll around chewing on a crumpled wad of paper, but proper fiber intake *is* important - and offers free health benefits that shouldn't be ignored. If they can decrease how much they spend on health care, increase the benefit of their exercise routine, and feel more energy and less stress, then they should take that extra step to hunt down some fiber! In case you want some pointers on how your class can get more fiber, at the end of this article, I'll explain how I get mine — but first, you”™ll need to explain the benefits to your class. Here is what you can tell them: the 5 rock solid reasons to eat fiber.
1) Your Heart - increased fiber intake means decreased cardiovascular problems. A Harvard study found that for every 10 grams of fiber eaten daily, heart attack risk drops by 14 percent, and the chance of dying from other cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes, decreases by 27 percent. To give you an idea of what 10 grams of fiber actually is, think 1 apple and 1 banana. While it is recommended that we consume over 20 grams of fiber per day, the typical Western diet usually offers about 15 grams. In comparison, countries with a lower rate of heart disease actually can average over 100 grams of fiber per day (not recommended unless you really enjoy your bathroom)!
2) Your Blood Pressure - Hypertension is a big problem, especially with the amount of stress most individuals experience in a hectic daily routine. Soluble fiber, which is the type of fiber that partially dissolves in water and forms a gel in your digestive tract, slows the rate of digestion and absorption. Since food is digested more slowly, the pancreatic release of insulin occurs more slowly. If you read my article on the health risks of sugar, you learned that sugar results in an enormous and quick release of insulin, which can increase blood sugar! In slowing this process, fiber assists in controlling blood pressure. More specifically, fiber lowers the systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure exerted as your heart beats. Since high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, adequate consumption of fiber can help your heart live longer and healthier!
3) Your Waistline - Soluble fiber also binds to "bile acids" and removes them from the small intestine. Since bile acids aid in fat digestion, this means that your body is less likely to absorb and use fat, and more likely to simply pass it through. Since bile acids also transport cholesterol, reduced bile acids in the small intestine results in lower cholesterol! Since soluble fiber also regulates blood sugar levels and controls insulin levels, it assists in maintaining a high metabolism and a greater utilization of fatty acids as a fuel. Insoluble fiber, which does not dissovle in water (i.e. roughage), increases the bulk in your gut. As a result, digested food sits for a shorter period of time in the intestine, and less starches and sugars are absorbed into the body. You also feel fuller faster! But while increased fiber intake can greatly assist in weight control, be warned that too much fiber intake will result in inadequate nutrient absorption - which can decrease energy levels and lower the metabolism. So hold back on munching down that giant bag of spinach, and space your fiber out evenly throughout the day.
4) Your Colon - Let's face it: many of the foods that we consume contain carcinogens and toxins, whether from processing chemicals, pesticides, or cooking. These potential cancer causing agents, especially when consumed in high concentrations, can remain in contact with the colon wall for long periods of time. A high fiber diet will not only reduce colonic pressure by reducing constipation, but will also produce a large and bulky stool that passes through the bowel more quickly. That means less exposure to toxins, lower risk of pressure related health problems like diverticulitis, and decreased risk of colon cancer
5) Your Diabetes Risk - I've already explained how a high-fiber diet reduces that absorption of glucose into the blood, thus slowing the insulin response and stabilizing the blood sugar levels. This reduces stress on the pancreas, and lowers the risk of developing insulin resistance, which is one of the chronic problems that can arise with "roller-coaster" blood sugar levels. This decreases your chance of developing diabetes, which can occur when the body becomes resistant to insulin due to constantly fluctuating levels. As a bonus, whole grains (a big source of fiber) contain magnesium, which can also control the body's glucose and insulin response.
So how do should your class ensure that they”™re taking advantage of these health benefits by consuming sufficient fiber?
Here's my strategy: 1) a bowl of oatmeal or quinoa in the morning, consumed with sliced fruit, like apples or strawberries; 2) a fresh piece of fruit as a mid-morning snack; 3) a large salad for lunch or in the afternoon, usually with 3-4 different types of vegetables or fruits, like carrots, alfalfa sprouts, diced cucumbers, tomatoes or pears; and 4) one handful of whole, raw almonds in the afternoon as a snack; 5) one large serving of vegetables with dinner, such as sauteed asparagus, a handful of mini carrots, or a bowl of steamed broccoli.
Once every two to three days, I”™ll literally eat an entire bag of spinach while watching TV, or mow down a head of cabbage while I”™m reading a magazine. I once witness a vegan Ironman triathlete eat eight salads the night before a race. This may seem like a lot, especially for a sensitive GI tract, but once the body gets used to the increased fiber, which takes about a week, the gas and bloating goes away.
Use concrete examples like this, and it will open your class participants”™ eyes about how much fiber they really need.
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