Many factors contribute to hormonal balance but one of them has the power to reduce insulin, inflammation and toxic estrogen and even help you live longer—and it’s likely lurking in your kitchen right now. According to a recent study by National Institutes of Health, participants who consumed an adequate amount of fiber in their daily diet had significant reductions in the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases, with the greatest benefit seen among those who consumed the largest amount of fiber. In fact, researchers of this 390,000-wide study found that a high-fiber diet reduced the risk of death from any cause over the nine-year period the data was collected. Despite this, on average North Americans only take in 16 grams of total fiber a day, while Europeans consume 22 grams. With recommendations for daily fiber intake being 25-35 grams per day for women and 35-40 grams for men, it appears we are falling drastically short.
Fiber: Variety is Key
There are two types of fiber—soluble and insoluble—and your body needs both of them for optimal health, digestion and elimination. Soluble fiber is fantastic for lowering LDL cholesterol, and stabilizing blood sugars and insulin. It keeps the bowels moving and can help prevent constipation. Good sources include fruits (especially apples, pears and oranges), vegetables (broccoli, sweet potatoes, cabbage, potatoes and carrots), oat bran, barley, seed husks, flaxseed, psyllium, dried beans, lentils, peas, soy milk and other soy products.
Insoluble fiber helps to bulk up our stools, keep the bowels moving and speeds up transit time of food through the digestive tract. It’s an essential part of a detox program because fiber binds to excess estrogen in the digestive tract, which is then excreted by the body. Insoluble fiber can also affect the composition of intestinal bacteria. Good sources include wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran, the skins of fruits and vegetables (apples, pears, berries, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and carrots), nuts (especially almonds), seeds (particularly sunflower seeds), soybeans, dried beans and whole-grain foods. You would be surprised how hard it is to reach your daily intake goal without a fiber supplement.
So with all this talk about fiber being good, why is constipation so bad? If things are not “moving along” properly at least once (optimally, two to three times) per day it is tough to feel healthy, let alone slim. Obvious negative issues associated with constipation include feeling bloated, pain in the abdomen, occasional cramping and abdominal distension.
Not only is constipation unpleasant, it is not without repercussions on other aspects of your health. Simply stated, the longer waste remains in your large intestine, the longer undesirable by-products of digestion and elimination will be permitted to reabsorb into your system. This can result in headaches, fatigue, increased menstrual pain and cramping, acne and other signs of toxicity. Chronic constipation can increase the risk of certain types of cancers; breast and colon cancer rates have been found to be higher in women with a history of chronic constipation. I encourage you to do something today if this is a pattern of constipation or if you have experienced an acute response to reducing grains in your diet.
Many supplements and foods have beneficial effects on the process of digestion as well as on other aspects of your health, making them a great choice when you need a little extra “push” and easy ways to add fiber to your diet. Your best bet however, is to concentrate on increasing your fiber intake first. Many of the best, high fiber, low-glycemic grain selections are listed in my chart on the next page. Aim to consume one to two servings per day, in addition to your fruits and vegetable.