When it comes to eating healthy and enjoying a healthier lifestyle, it is hard to overstate the importance of fibre in the diet. Even though fibre is most associated with grains, rice and breads, it is important to remember that fruits and vegetables also contain significant amounts of dietary fibre. In fact, the need for fibre is just one more reason to eat your fruits and vegetables every day.
In order to understand why dietary fiber is so important, it is a good idea to know what fibre is and what role it plays in digestion. Simply put, dietary fibre is the portion of food that the human body cannot digest. Fibre is found in foods of plant origin only; there is no fibre in meat and dairy products. Fibre plays an important role in the digestion of food, and in the elimination of waste products as they travel through the body.
Good sources of dietary fibre include grains, cereals, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. As we said before, meats and dairy products do not contain any dietary fibre, so it is important to eat some plant based foods ever day to get the fibre you need.
Not all fibre is the same, and fibre comes in two forms – soluble and insoluble. All plant materials contain both types of fibre, but some sources contain more of one than the other. Eating a variety of foods rich in fibre every day will ensure you get adequate levels of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Insoluble fibre is important in keeping people regular, and it has shown promise as well in the prevention of some types of colon and rectal cancers. Insoluble fibre is mainly found in wheat brain, some types of vegetables and in whole grain products. Some vegetables rich in insoluble fibre include carrots, peas and broccoli. The skins of fruits are also rich in insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre, on the other hand, has shown promise in reducing levels of cholesterol in the blood, and at reducing the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream. Soluble fibre is abundant in dried peas, lentils, beans, barley, oat bran, and in many fruits and vegetables.
Many people are unsure just how much dietary fibre they need every day, but most dietitians recommend that women consume between 21 and 25 grams of dietary fibre per day. For men, the recommendation is 30 to 38 grams of fibre each day. Though this is still on the low side according to many experts.
Of course, that is easier said that done, and it is important to know which foods are high in fibre in order to boost your daily fibre consumption. In the case of packaged foods like breads and crackers, the fibre content will be listed as part of the nutritional label. In the case of fruits and vegetables, there are charts which show the fibre content of an average size piece. Some supermarkets and shops may post this information, and it is also widely available on the internet.
When increasing dietary fibre, it is best to make the increase gradual. A sudden jump in dietary fibre can lead to bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort. In addition, it is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, in order for fibre to have the best effect. When choosing breads and cereals, it is best to go with healthier whole grains. In general, the less processing, the healthier the foods.
Eating the skins of fruits and vegetables is a great way to increase dietary fibre. Many people like to make fruit shakes and smoothies that use the skins of their favorite fruits. This makes a delicious and nutritious way to increase fiber consumption. In addition, keeping a variety of fiber rich foods, such as apples, nuts, seeds and bran muffins, around for snacks is a great idea. You can find an easy to follow site with recipes at www.incrediblesmoothies.com
And finally, eating a wide variety of foods will ensure that you get plenty of fibre, as well as the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that make a balanced diet so important. My book The Nutrition Diet and Recipe book also advocates more fruit and vegetables in your diet and the book is available for free download at www.obooko.com (under heading Health and Self Improvement).
A diet is whatever we eat on a regular basis and not just a short term weightloss programme. Though most of us change our diets regularly for just that reason with little permanent success.
We are what we eat. How we look, our size and shape, our health are all down to our eating habits. So if we want to change in any way we need to change our diet rather than go on a diet. The change has to be permanent and the right diet has to be chosen.
So what is the perfect diet or the best diet for you? There are so many to choose from and many claim to be the diet to end all diets. What though is a healthy diet that works and is easy to follow. There are probably hundreds of diets and a lot of them will be worth following. So what do they have in common. What common denominator links them because there is a link.
As well as what we eat our diet is also influenced by our lifestyles, the way we were brought up and our genetic make up. Today there is also more food choices and more confusion as the food companies and supermarket chains push their products even claiming they have healthy choices. Yet many of these choices are not really as healthy as they appear. Food processing has affected our health and wellbeing in ways still being uncovered, while giving us cheap, quick fix foods.
Despite all this there are plenty of choices for a healthy diet to suit most lifestyles and tastes. My own nutrition based diet is just one. See my book (FREE) – The Nutrition Diet and Recipe Book which is available for free download at www.oobooko.com under the heading Health and Self Improvement.
Whatever the diet healthy diets have one thing in common. Whether vegetarian or a meat eater, a diet is only as good as the content. There are different types of diet and different diets within those types and brief details of some follow.
The most common diet is the Omnivor – a meat and vegetable diet (the diet I was brought up on in my younger days). Meat, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables. Then there are vegetarian diets which come in many forms. The most common are not strict and include eggs and dairy in their vegetarian diets. Vegans are more strict and only eat fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Raw food diets are another healthy way to eat and not just for vegetarians. In fact we should all eat more raw foods whatever our diet. Raw foods provide more nutrition and fibre.
Then there are regional diets such as the Mediterranean diet. But what is the Mediterranean diet? Supposedly more fruit and vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, etc. Also olive oil and red wine!! The Mediterranean diet varies though from country to country. Italy is different from Spain and different again from Portugal. Italy has more bread and pasta, Spain more meat and fish and Portugal is based on meat and potatoes. All though have lots of olive oil. Perhaps that is where the benefits come from.
Asian foods are also healthy with plenty of rice and vegetables and little meat in most traditional recipes. There are more but one thing none of these diets have in their original form is processed foods. As well as depleting nutrients, food processing also uses various additives including flavouring, colourings and preservatives. Processing also includes bleaching and other chemical processes. Sugar, vegetable oils, salt and mono sodium glutamate (MSG) are also widespread. At the end of the day processed foods are bad for your health.
There are fuller details about the food processing and the different types of processed foods and additives at a informative food site at http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/processed-foods.html . A sample from there – “Processed foods are foods that have been compromised by the addition of hormones, additives, preservatives, unnatural genetic material or other chemical or heat treatments that alter or destroy the natural healthy enzymes, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. The main goal of food processing is to lengthen the shelf life of foods so that larger amounts can be sold over time.
It is not the case that all junk food is evil or is to be avoided at all costs. In some cases, food processing is beneficial in that it helps neutralize the natural toxins in food before they are consumed. Sometimes you just want to eat something because you like the taste, and eating a little processed food now and then won’t have a great effect on your overall health. The human body is pretty resilient. However, a continuous diet of only junk food will certainly have an effect on your well being and your long term risk of disease. Foods such as pastured, grass fed meats, eggs and poultry, fresh organic vegetables and fruit, wild caught seafood, tropical oils, clean, raw diary products and properly prepared nuts and grains support the growth and maintenance of your muscles and organs. Stick with these types of foods for the majority of your meals, and you’ll go a long way toward avoiding the health problems associated with non-nutritive, processed junk foods.”
The common denominator for any diet whether meat eating or vegetarian or regional is therefore a wide and varied nutritious diet based on real food, including plenty of fruit and vegetables (organic or home grown if possible) including raw food. Whether you have meat, eggs or dairy is a personal choice but if you do it should also be organic, free range etc or at least know the source of your meat. A lot of large commercial farms use hormones, antibiotics and feedstuff that is not always natural to the animal. This may also affect the person who eats the meat.
It is not time consuming or difficult to have a healthy nutritious meal. Take a salad, baked potato and a tin of tuna or sardines. For example make the salad with lettuce, cucumber and tomato then chop the white of a leak and grate some carrot to sprinkle on the lettuce. Put a nob of butter on the potato and sprinkle some chopped chives or parsley. Easy and quick. Healthy and raw too!
So whatever diet you fancy whether meat and two veg, Italian, Mediterranean or whatever all you have to remember is fresh wholesome nutritious foods and cut out the processed foods, ready meals and junk. After a while you won’t want to eat any other way.
Fibre is essential for healthy digestion. There are two types of fibre, soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre includes oats, fruit, beans, peas. Insoluble fibre includes vegetable greens, peels, nuts, seeds and beans. Of course many of us peel our fruit or vegetables and throw away the peel because of the possible dangers of toxins, pesticides etc. A problem for anyone looking for healthy food. In many instances the peel or just under it are the healthiest part for vitamins and minerals.
Fibre is an important part of the diet and in most cases we don’t get enough.The main purpose of fibre is elimination. Not just of undigestible foods but toxins, and waste including our internal waste such as dead cells and of ingested waste from dust, fumes and the environment in general. The fibre acts like a sponge absorbing waste and passing through the digestive system to elimination. If we don’t get enough fibre in our diet the toxins and waste accumulate in the body leading to disease and illness.
Getting enough fibre can benefit health in a variety of ways including the heart and reduction of cholesterol. It also helps reduce the risks of cancer, diabetes and digestive and stomach problems.
Getting enough fibre can be a problem in any diet. Foods vary in the amount of quality fibre and the absorption of water they take. You can get more fibre by eating more raw foods. Add extras to a salad. I have lettuce and add rocket and chives and perhaps cucumber and grated carrot plus some red cabbage or sliced leek. Variety is the key and plenty of fruit and vegetables as recommended in my book The Nutrition Diet and Recipe Book, which available free from www.obooko.com as a free download under the section Health and Self Improvement.
How much fibre to eat - the recommendation is at least 35 gms and up to 50 gms a day if possible. But if you find your diet has little fibre don’t increase to the limit straight away but build up slowly. Many people average 10 gms or less. Protein lacks fibre so you can’t count that in your search for more fibre. Eating wholegrains, oats, fruit, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and fruit and vegetables daily will help achieve your goals. With the added bonus that after eating all that you will be full and won’t want to eat junk food anyway.
An example of how it is not always easy to eat enough nutrient rich foods to gain the benefits required is reflected in fibre. To get say 30 gms of fibre (a minimum) you would have to eat 5 slices of wholemeal bread, 3 carrots, and a large head of broccoli. Alternatively you could have porridge for breakfast and have just 15 grams of oats. Flaxseed is also a good source of extra fibre. Two tablespoons of flaxseed gives approx 6 gm of fibre. The flaxseed needs grinding in a coffee or seed grinder first.
Don’t be put off by the need to find enough fibre. The benefits are there plus the added benefits gained from the healthy nutritious foods that contain fibre.
Lately it would seem that fats and carbohydrates have both had a bad press. First it was fat that was the culprit in all dietary ills, and low fat diets were all the rage. Then the two switched places, with carbohydrates being the bad guys and fat reigning supreme.
As with most extremes, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There is no such thing as a bad food, only bad dietary choices. While some foods are naturally better for you than others, there is no reason that all foods cannot be enjoyed in moderation. After all, the most successful diet is not one that you can follow for a day, a week or even a year. On the contrary, the only successful diet and nutrition program is one that you will be able to follow for a lifetime.
Both fats and carbohydrates play an important role in nutrition, and both are important to a healthy diet. It would be impossible and unwise to eliminate all fat from the diet, since fat is important for the production of energy, and for carrying valuable fat soluble vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K, throughout the body. In addition, fat plays a vital role in regulating various bodily functions. Vitamins D and K are have now been promoted as two of the most important and underrated vitamins for health and wellbeing.
Even though some fat is essential to a healthy body, too much fat can be harmful. Excessive levels of dietary fats have been implicated in heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol levels and even some cancers. Most nutritionists recommend limiting daily fat intake to less than 20% of calories, although taking that level lower than 10% is not recommended.
Of course not all fats are created equal, and some fats are more harmful than others. Saturated fats and trans fats are generally understood to be more harmful in the diet than polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These lighter fats, like canola oil and olive oil, should form the basis of cooking a healthier diet. Though again there are other arguments in favour of saturated fats. Animal fats can be nutritious and healthy but in todays world they may not be so healthy with drugs, hormones and other chemicals used in a lot of modern animal farming. You need to know the source of your food and buy organic meat.
Keeping saturated fats and trans fats to a minimum is important to a healthy diet. Trans fats, which are solid at room temperature, are most often found in highly processed foods like cookies, cakes and other baked goods. In addition, trans fats are often found in fried foods and in salty snacks like potato chips. While these foods are fine in moderation, it is best to avoid large quantities of such snacks since transfats are the most dangerous type of fat.
One additional word here about good fats – yes there are such things, and one of the most powerful of these are the so called omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are most often found in oily fish, and they have shown great promise in preventing and even reversing heart disease and high cholesterol levels.
When limiting your daily intake of fat and cholesterol, it is good to have an understanding of nutritional labels. These labels can be a huge help to those who take the time to read and understand them. Not only do nutritional labels provide valuable information on calories, fat content and sodium, but they provide valuable information about the most important vitamins and minerals as well.
Like fats, carbohydrates are found in a variety of different foods, some healthier than other. In addition to cereals and breads, carbohydrates are also present in fruits and vegetables and in milk and other dairy products. Carbohydrates and fats are both important to a healthy, varied diet. Low carbohydrate diets are now considered more healthy but again they should be part of a varied healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
As with many products, less is often more when it comes to choosing foods rich in carbohydrates. For instance, less refined whole grain bread is generally more nutritious than white bread which has gone through a greater amount of refining. That is because the refining process tends to reduce nutrient content over time.
Of course, there are some elements in the diet that should be limited. Two of these elements are sugar and salt. Most people consume too much salt and sugar, and this has led to epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other ills. Most salt is hidden in processed and junk foods so avoiding those foods helps lower salt levels. Limiting sugar and salt, while choosing good fats and unrefined carbohydrates, is a great way to maximize the nutritional value of the foods you eat.
As usual everything in moderation and also don’t forget the other part of any diet – exercise!!
The five a day rule is one of the most important rules to healthy eating. The five a day rule refers to the government’s recommendation that everyone eat at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. At first blush, five a day seems like a reasonable goal, but most people fail to eat sufficient amounts of these important foods.
It is important to remember the many advantages of fruits and vegetables when applying the five a day rule to your own diet. For one thing, fruits and vegetables taste great, contain fewer calories than many other foods and are full of many important vitamins and minerals. In addition, fruits and vegetables are colorful and beautiful, making them great garnishes and salad toppings.
In addition, fruits and vegetables are easy to prepare, even for the busiest individual. In most cases, fresh fruits require no preparation at all, other than a quick wash and perhaps peeling.
The five a day recommendation equates to roughly two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables every day, based on the average 2,000 calorie diet. This is not a difficult goal to reach, but it is important to keep the five a day goal in mind when grocery shopping, cooking and planning meals.
One great way to get started toward a five a day lifestyle is with a delicious serving of 100% fruit juice every morning. Apple juice, grapefruit juice and orange juice are all excellent choices for both taste and nutrition.
Fruits and vegetables can also be used as garnishes for other foods. Who doesn’t enjoy a sliced strawberry or banana with their morning cereal? And fruits and vegetables make great snacks as well. Whether you keep a couple of apples at your desk or a selection of carrot and celery sticks in the fridge, having fruits and vegetables readily at hand is a big part of the battle.
Of course variety is extremely important when making any change to your diet, and many dietary changes fail due to boredom. Constantly trying new varieties of fruits and vegetables is a great way to keep yourself interested in your new healthier way of eating. If you’ve never had kiwi fruit or asparagus, for instance, why not give it a try?
Combining attractive colors, shapes and sizes of fruits is another way to provide attractive and interesting meals for yourself and your family. Combining white grapes, red peppers and pineapple chunks can provide a delicious and attractive salad.
It is important to provide constant variety when implementing the five a day plan, particularly if you are cooking for a family. Try making some interesting new dishes, such as veggie pizza, made with fresh vegetables and whole wheat pizza crust, a fresh vegetable wrap, vegetable stir fry or pasta with fresh vegetables.
For those who think they are too busy to incorporate five servings of fruits and vegetables a day into their diet, there is help available. The many ready to eat, prepackaged salad kits on the market make it easier than ever to create a healthy salad on the go. Just keep a bottle of your favorite low fat or nonfat salad dressing on hand and you can enjoy a healthy salad anywhere and anytime.
Even fast food restaurants have made it easier than every to eat healthy, with every major chain now offering at least a few healthy menu items. In addition, most supermarkets sell fresh salads where you can create your own healthy lunch even if you’re pressed for time.
When creating your five a day healthy lifestyle, remember that fruits and vegetables make great snacks. An apple, orange or banana provides both great taste and excellent nutrition. In addition, the natural sugars contained in fruits do not provide the sugar high/sugar crash scenario all parents are familiar with.
Topping meals and salads with additional fruits and vegetables is a great way to enhance your new five a day lifestyle. Strips of green and red peppers, broccoli florets, sliced carrots and cucumbers are all great additions to pasta and potato salads. And of course carrots, spinach, apple slices, orange slices, nectarines, pineapples and raisins are all great additions to any salad.
In addition, adding fresh fruits to foods you already eat is a great way to make such foods part of your new lifestyle. Adding berries, bananas or oranges to cereal and yogurt is a great way to make sure you meet your five a day goal every day. Even better make it 7 a day. In fact try to aim for 50-70% of your diet coming from raw fruit and vegetables to gain the full benefit of the vitamins and minerals and important enzymes and other nutrients in raw foods.
One of the most frequently cited reasons that diets and attempts at healthy eating fail is boredom. Many people simply do not know how to keep a healthy diet interesting day after day, and it can be quite a challenge. Yet there is a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats and other healthy foods at the local shops and supermarket. It is definitely possible to create exciting, nutritious meals that will keep boredom at bay.
The key to the success in any plan for healthy eating is to eat what you like, but to exercise moderation when it comes to the less healthy foods. Everything in moderation as the saying goes. Improving your level of health and fitness does not mean forgoing that piece of chocolate for instance. It does mean, however, limiting yourself to one or two squares and then putting it away for another day. A healthy diet contains all types of foods, including carbohydrates, proteins, and even fats. The key is choosing foods that provide the best combination of taste and nutrition. After all, if your diet consists of foods you hate, you will not stick with it.
There are five major food groups – grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and dairy, and meat and legumes. When choosing foods from these groups, it is important to eat a wide variety of foods from every food group. Doing so will not only give you a great deal of variety and keep boredom from setting in, but it will provide the best nutritional balance as well. In addition the widely known micronutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, etc. all foods contain a variety of macronutrients, like fats, proteins, fiber and water. Though present in extremely tiny amounts, the micronutrients are vitally important to good health. That is why a healthy, varied diet is so important.
In addition, when choosing foods from within the various food groups, some choices are naturally better and healthier than others. For instance, choosing skim or 2% milk instead of full fat whole milk is a good way to cut down on both fat and calories if you need to lose weight. And choosing poultry or lean meat is a great way to get the protein you need every day without extra fat, cholesterol and calories.
Likewise cereals and breads that carry the whole grain label are healthier than those that do not. Even in the world of fruits and vegetables some choices are better than others. For instance, peaches packed in heavy syrup add unnecessary sugar to the diet, while those packed in water or juice provide only good nutrition, though it is even better if you eat the fresh peach.
There has been a trend lately to add vitamin fortification to food, and this can sometimes be a good way to maximize nutrition. It is important to remember, however, that proper nutrition comes from a healthy diet, not from vitamin supplements. It is fine to buy calcium fortified cereal, but the bulk of your calcium intake should still come from milk, dairy products and green leafy vegetables.
Knowing the five major food groups and how much of each to eat every day is only part of the picture. The other part is choosing the best foods from within those food groups. That means things like choosing the best quality meat and organic if possible. Choosing the freshest fruits and vegetables, and again organic if possible.
Even with fruits and vegetables, some choices are better than others. Some fruits, such as avocados, for instance, are packed with fat and calories. It is important to check the nutritional qualities of the fruits and vegetables you buy, and not simply assume that all fruits and vegetables are equally healthy.
One way to maximize nutrition while minimizing cost is to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are usually quite a bit cheaper than those that must be shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles, and they are generally much fresher too. They also contain a better supply of nutrients since they have not been stored for long periods and have probably ripened more fully before picking.
So variety is the spice of life and variety is the key to good nutrition. You can find out more about a nutrition diet and my suggestions on adding variety to your meals in my book The Nutrition Diet and Recipe Book which is available for FREE download at www.obooko.com (under the heading Health and Self Improvement).