Easter is basically a high sugar, high fat, low fiber celebration. And while self-restraint and holding back may sound like the only option, it isn’t necessarily the best one. There’s a better way to get through such hefty holidays.
Fiber: A few fun facts.
• The benefits of a high-fiber diet are not only in the “prevention” category but also in the “solution” category. Eating lots of fiber can help prevent serious and debilitating diseases like diverticulitis, high cholesterol, many types of cancers (most notably colon), obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
• Fiber’s job is to move foods through the digestive tract, meanwhile increasing the sense of fullness and scouring out cholesterol and other waste, reducing blood sugar swings and overall inflammation. Recent studies have drawn a direct link between belly fat and fiber intake: when fiber goes down, belly fat goes up and vice versa.
• There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. You need both because they do different things.
• Soluble fiber dissolves, so it can be broken down by our digestive enzymes. It’s in things like fruit, oats, beans, sweet potatoes, chia and psyllium. Soluble fiber helps fight heart disease because its jelly-like consistency allows it to capture cholesterol on its way through our blood system.
• Insoluble fiber cannot be broken down in our bodies, so it is the one that bulks up the bowel and moves waste through. It is found in whole grains (like bran), nuts and seeds, wheat, corn and the skins of some vegetables (like tomatoes) and the strings in celery.
3 ways to make friends with fiber:
1. Find a high-fiber cereal that tastes good and have it as a snack throughout the day. A handful can go a long way toward filling your gut, which turns off the “feed me!” signal coming from the belly.
2. Bring a little chia into your day. These seeds contain both kinds of fiber and one tablespoon delivers four grams, which is a whopping amount. If you find bran fiber harsh or explosive, chia is your solution.
3. If you haven’t already switched to whole grains, what are you waiting for? There are lots of whole-grain products on the shelves. Go half and half for a while to smooth the transition: a sandwich with one white slice and one dark slice of bread looks beautiful and tastes great! A handful of whole-grain pasta can go into the pot first and be cooked for a minute or two extra and then you can add the white stuff. (Some of the new white pastas on the market are made with a fiber called inulin, which may or may not have the benefits of the whole-food sources; the jury is still out.)
So go ahead and celebrate! Chomp off a few chocolate bunny ears, dip a little matzo in honey but be sure to add fiber before, during and after you spend that family time.
About the Author
Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com