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Fiber for Your Whole Body

Once upon a time our diet was made up mostly of whole foods loaded with fiber. While we may have fallen to a wild beast or infection, fiber helped keep our cholesterol and blood sugar levels low, and kept our bowels functioning smoothly.

Now in our frenzied lifestyle, we're more likely to grab fast food, or use prepared foods at home that have only a passing acquaintance with dietary fiber. It's a little known fact: Most of us should double the amount of fiber we eat if we want to reap its benefits.

"None of us eats enough fiber," says William Hart. The average American eats 12 grams of fiber a day; most health organizations recommend 20 to 35 grams.

By following the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, most consumers are advised to get as many as nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables that will contribute plenty of fiber.

Studies have shown that dietary soluble fiber - including foods such as apples, barley, beans and other legumes, fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, oat bran and brown rice -- clearly lower blood cholesterol. High-fiber foods are also digested more slowly, so they don't cause spikes in blood sugar levels like white bread, potatoes and sweets do. Of course, everyone knows that fiber helps keep you regular, but so do laxatives. Fiber, however, has an added plus: High-fiber foods help us feel full, making it easier to control weight.

You get more nutritional "bang for your buck" with high-fiber food, says Hart.

Antioxidant "Superfoods" to Protect Your Cells and Heart

When you're thinking "superfoods," think color, says Beverly Clevidence, PhD, a research leader at the USDA's Diet and Human Performance Laboratory. That means foods that are deep blue, purple, red, green, or orange. The carotenoids and anthocyanins that provide the color for these foods contain health-enhancing nutrients that protect against heart disease and cancer, and also improve our sense of balance, our memory, and other cognitive skills.

Your "superfoods" color chart should include:

  • Deep green -- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli may help prevent colon cancer, while spinach and kale are good sources of calcium. And kale also helps fight against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older Americans.
  • Red -- Red tomatoes, especially when cooked, are beneficial sources of lycopeine, which helps protect against prostate and cervical cancer.
  • Orange/yellow - Squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams promote healthy lungs and help fight off skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Deep blue/purple - Eggplant, plums, blueberries, blackberries (strawberries, raspberries, and cherries come under this category as well) lower your risk of heart disease by helping the liver "sop up" extra cholesterol, as well as improve your mental functioning.

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