Get Fabulously Fit with Fiber

Get Fabulously Fit with Fiber

fabulouslyfit

by Monique N. Gilbert

Want to increase your vitality and improve your overall well-being? Then try eating more fiber every day. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), fiber is important for the health of our digestive system as well as for lowering cholesterol. Dietary fiber is a transparent solid carbohydrate that is the main part of the cell walls of plants. It has two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber may help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Insoluble fiber provides the bulk needed for proper functioning of the stomach and intestines. It promotes healthy intestinal action and prevents constipation by moving bodily waste through the digestive tract faster, so harmful substances don’t have as much contact with the intestinal walls. Both the AHA and the National Cancer Institute recommend that we consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. 

Unfortunately, many people are not eating this much fiber. The reason is the conventional animal-based Western diet, which is high in saturated fat and low in fiber. This type of diet is causing serious concerns. Heart disease and stroke have become major health problems in most developed countries, and are rapidly increasing in prevalence in many lesser developed countries. This is mainly due to the global influence of the typical Western diet. 

Recently the AHA and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) confirmed that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people than any other disease. It causes heart attack and angina (chest pain). A blood clot that goes to the heart is considered a heart attack, but if it goes to the brain it is a stroke. The AHA ranks stoke as the third most fatal disease in America, causing paralysis and brain damage. 

Eating a high-fiber diet can significantly lower our risk of heart attack, stroke and colon cancer. A 19-year follow-up study reported in the November 2001 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine indicated that increasing bean and legume intakes may be an important part of a dietary approach to preventing coronary heart disease. Soybeans and legumes are high in protein and soluble fiber. Another study reported in the January 2002 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology also suggests that increasing our consumption of fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, can significantly lower the risk of heart disease. Additionally, results from recent studies at the American Institute of Cancer Research indicate high-fiber protein-rich soy-based products, such as textured soy protein and tempeh, help in preventing and treating colon cancer. 

Soybeans and other legumes are excellent sources of fiber. An average serving of cooked dry beans contains about 10 grams of fiber. Whole soybeans and foods made from them, such as soy flour, textured soy protein (also known as Textured Vegetable Protein) and tempeh, are extremely rich in fiber. However, some soy foods, like tofu and soymilk, contain very little fiber due to the way they are processed. Tofu, for example, leaves most of its fiber behind in processing when the milk is squeezed from the soybean. Reading the Nutrition Facts label to find out the amount of, and the type of, fiber contained in any particular food is always wise. 

Examples of Dietary Fiber: 

  • 1 cup of cooked dry beans = 9-14 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of raisin bran cereal = 8 grams of fiber
  • 1/2 cup of soy tempeh = 7 grams of fiber
  • 1/2 cup of soy flour = 6 grams of fiber
  • 1/2 cup of edamame (whole green soybeans) = 5 grams of fiber
  • 6 Brussels sprouts = 5 grams of fiber
  • 1 medium apple = 4 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of carrot strips = 4 grams of fiber
  • 5 dried plums (prunes) = 3 grams of fiber
  • 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour = 3 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup pineapple juice = 2 grams of fiber
  • 1/2 cup of tofu = 1 gram of fiber

Hummus (Dairy-Free) 

Try this wonderfully delicious heart-healthy high-fiber dip recipe, which can also be used as a sandwich spread. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans or white beans
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Place beans, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor. Blend for a full 1-2 minutes, until a paste is formed.
  2. Add soymilk and salt. Blend until it’s smooth and creamy.
  3. Transfer to a container and refrigerate to chill. Serve as a dip with crackers, pita bread wedges or fresh cut up vegetables; or as a spread with pita bread or tortillas.

Makes 2-2/3 cups (4-6 servings) 

This recipe is from Monique N. Gilbert’s book “Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook” (Universal Publishers, 2001, pp. 86-87) 

Monique Gilbert

Author: Monique Gilbert

Health

Coping With Menopause Naturally – Alternatives to HRT
by Monique N. Gilbert

Many women are searching for an effective natural approach to relieving their menopausal symptoms because of the recent negative findings of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). On May 31, 2002, the National Institutes of Health in the US stopped a major long-term clinical trial of the risks and benefits of combined estrogen and progestin before the trial was completed. Due to the increased risk of breast cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and blood clots, it was determined that HRT’s risks outweigh its benefits.

Article continues below

The first thing to remember is that menopause is not a disease. It is a natural part of a woman’s reproductive life cycle which can be managed with exercise and diet. Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and bone loss are the chief complaints among women going through menopause. Learning to deal with these unpleasant symptoms will help you cope with life’s changes.

Menopause not only causes a decline in hormone levels, but can also leave you feeling moody, irritated, tired and unfocused. This is partly due to the lack of a good night’s sleep caused by night sweats. Regular exercise (at least 3 to 4 times a week) is probable the most important thing you can do to improve your nighttime rest and overall health. (Taking a cool shower before bedtime can also help promote a good night’s sleep.)

Exercising strengthens your muscles and bones, helps circulate your blood (which nourishes the skin and internal organs); improves your mental outlook (about yourself and life in general), and promotes a tranquil night’s sleep. It also increases your levels of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine. Serotonin, a chemical your brain manufactures, produces a calming effect and creates a sense of satisfaction and well-being. Endorphins decrease pain, reduce stress, cause mood stability and a sense of happiness and joy. Dopamine increases your vitality, concentration and alertness.

Weight bearing exercises and strength training is also one of the most effective methods of fighting bone loss and osteoporosis. Resistance placed upon the skeleton during physical activity makes bones stronger and denser while improving posture, balance and muscle tone. The positive effects of exercising keeps you fit, trim, feeling younger and energetic. Taking a daily dose of calcium (1,200 mg to 1,500 mg), magnesium (500 mg to 750 mg) and vitamin D (400 IU) also helps preserve bone density and strength.

The next step to help you through the symptoms of menopause is to increase your intake of phytoestrogen rich foods. Many women experience positive results by eating soy. Soy foods contain isoflavones (natural plant estrogen) that have similar properties to human estrogen, but are much weaker. Isoflavones can bind to the body’s estrogen receptors and help offset the drop in estrogen that occurs at menopause.

Scientists have shown isoflavones function similarly to HRT without producing the risks associated with this controversial treatment. Soy foods offer women a more natural way to treat their menopausal symptoms. Research on soy’s protein and isoflavones indicate that soy can help to relieve hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, and vaginal dryness.

Besides helping regulate estrogen when it is declining, soy can also help with other conditions such as osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. Women have an increased risk for these disorders during and after menopause. Many studies show that soy can prevent these diseases by helping the body absorb and retain calcium, inhibit bone loss, lower LDL (the bad) cholesterol and decrease blood clotting.

The best forms of soy are those with the highest amount of isoflavones and protein; like whole soybeans (edamame), tempeh, textured soy protein (TVP), soynuts, and some soy protein powders. Next would be tofu, soymilk and miso. However, the actual isoflavone content has to be high enough to produce positive effects. Some foods made from soy protein concentrate, like soy hotdogs, have very little isoflavones due to their processing method. Other products, such as soybean oil and soy sauce, contain no isoflavones in them at all.

Researchers recommend consuming at least 25 grams of soy protein and 30-50 milligrams of isoflavones daily (equal to 1-2 servings). This is only a starting point. You can safely consume 2-3 times this amount. The North American Menopause Society suggests 60 to 90 milligrams of isoflavones a day.

Many health experts encourage people to incorporate soy foods into a balanced diet and discourage solely taking soy supplements. Soy foods have various nutrients and compounds that contribute to its health benefits, while soy supplements usually only contain isoflavones. They advise taking soy supplements along with soy foods. This way the benefits of both forms can complement and enhance each other.

Some women have found that taking Black Cohosh and Vitamin E (400 IU to 800 IU daily) can also provide relief from hot flashes, night sweats and other menopausal symptoms. Black Cohosh is a phytoestrogen herb that women have used for centuries to help manage their hormones. Other beneficial herbs include Dong Quai, Evening Primrose Oil and Red Clover.

Since each woman is unique and reacts differently to natural treatments, try them out for yourself. Women who exercise regularly and consume soy daily generally have fewer menopausal symptoms than those who do not. Test these approaches for at least 6 to 8 weeks to see if you get positive results.

To get you started, try this easy and delicious soy recipe from my book “Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook.”

Golden Tofu Strips
5.3 ounces of firm tofu (1/3 of a 16-ounce block)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
Cut tofu into strips 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long. Heat 1/2 tablespoon canola oil. Add tofu strips, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric. Stir to thoroughly coat all sides of tofu. Cook tofu strips about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Serve on top of a salad, stir-fry, or stuffed in a pita with shredded lettuce. (Makes 1-2 servings)

Monique N. Gilbert is a Health Advocate, Recipe Developer, Soy Food Connoisseur and the author of “Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook” (Universal Publishers, $19.95, available at most online booksellers).

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