Get Fabulously Fit with Fiber
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
Try this wonderfully delicious heart-healthy high-fiber dip recipe, which can also be used as a sandwich spread.
- 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
- Place beans, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor. Blend for a full 1-2 minutes, until a paste is formed.
- Add soymilk and salt. Blend until it’s smooth and creamy.
- 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)