#315 Fiber Does Your Body Good!

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Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy.


8 Fantastic Fibrous Foods

By Joe Wilkes

How much fiber should we be getting? If you believe the television commercials that run during the nightly news, we're not even coming close to getting what we need. Should we be taking pills or drinks or some other supplements to satisfy our fiber needs? I thought maybe I should be, until I went to the store and saw that a small can of a national brand of fiber costs over $12. $12? For something that is literally going to run right through me? Currently, all my extra disposable income is slated to run through the gas tank of my car, not my body, so I decided to take a look at foods that could beef up my fiber intake.

First off, let's look at what the big deal about fiber is anyway. I used to think of fiber as stringy, ropy stuff, like the threads in celery or cabbage. But fiber has actually become a catchall term for any indigestible material that we consume, not all of which is actually fibrous. Cellulose, the building block of much of the fleshy part of fruits and veggies, is an example of non-fibrous fiber. There is soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and helps stabilize blood sugar by slowing the rate of digestion. There is also insoluble fiber, which, as its name would suggest, does not dissolve in water—although it does attract water in the intestinal tract and, well, without getting too graphic, is responsible for the trains running on time, keeping the mail moving, releasing the payload, etc. Most importantly, more and more studies are linking a high-fiber diet to a decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Grains, Vegetables, and Fruit

For optimal health, nutritionists recommend 30 to 38 grams of fiber every day for men and 21 to 25 grams of fiber every day for women. You can find the fiber content in labeled food as a subcategory under carbohydrates. If you're counting carbs, you can always subtract the amount of fiber from the total number of carbs, because the fiber will only be visiting your body for a little while, unlike the sugars, which, if not burned for fuel, will likely end up stored as fat. Most studies indicate that Americans don't get nearly enough fiber, especially with the proliferation of processed foods filled with white flour, which is made only from the fiber-less endosperm of the grain, with none of the bran and germ parts of the grain that provide the fiber. In fact, if you read labels, it's pretty rare to find any prepared food that has more than a gram or two of fiber. It can make you despair if you think about having to get to the 25 to 38 grams you need every day. So how can you get your daily dose of fiber without eating yourself into a coma? There are some fiber-rich superfoods that can help get you to your daily recommended allowance, without the coma.

  1. Legumes. The humble bean (and also chickpea, lentil, and pea) is chock-full of nutritious fiber. A cup of black beans or lentils contains a whopping 15 grams of fiber—half the daily minimum supply required for a man, and more than half of the minimum required for a woman. Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have 13 grams of fiber. A cup of peas has 9 grams of fiber. The big winner is the cranberry bean with 18 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein. Cranberry beans have a creamy texture and a chestnut-like flavor. And the best news about beans is that they're supercheap! Most dried beans run less than a dollar a pound. That's a lot cheaper than those gritty supplements, and much tastier.

  2. Bran CerealBran. While not as great a source of fiber as beans, they're still pretty fiber-rich, and may not have the unpleasant auditory and olfactory effects associated with excessive bean consumption. A cup of bran flakes has about 7 grams of fiber and a cup of oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber. Substituting whole wheat products for their traditional white-flour counterparts is an easy way of working some fiber into your diet without much hassle. A cup of whole wheat spaghetti has over 6 grams of fiber and whole wheat bread has about 2 grams of fiber per slice.

  3. Prunes. Not just for old people anymore. Grandpa and Grandma knew what they were doing when they were suffering from constipation. A cup of prunes contains 8 grams of fiber, and their hydrated counterpart, plums, are also excellent sources of fiber—prunes/plums contain insoluble fiber in the skin and soluble fiber in the pulp. A two-for-one special!

  4. ArtichokesArtichokes. One medium artichoke contains 6.5 grams of fiber. One cup of artichoke hearts contains 14 grams of fiber and only 90 calories. One of my favorite snacks or appetizers is to get one of those little jars of marinated artichokes (in vinegar, not in oil) and treat myself to eating the whole jar as an afternoon snack or hors d'oeuvre before dinner. Tasty and filling, you'll eat less at dinner, and put a serious dent in your daily fiber tally.

  5. Brussels sprouts. Yes, they look like the alien heads from Mars Attacks!, but these little powerhouses pack almost 7 grams of fiber into a one-cup serving and only about 60 calories. Not everyone is enamored with their slightly chalky taste. I recommend a generous spritz of lemon juice and maybe a dash of soy sauce or Tabasco to enhance the flavor. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is delicious, too.

  6. Asian PearsAsian pear. According to the Micronutrient Center of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the Asian pear is one of their five fiber-rich superfoods (legumes, bran, prunes, and quinoa are the others). One 3-inch diameter fruit contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber, the most of any similarly sized fruit. And because it has a higher water content than its European brethren, it only contains around 100 calories. So you can crunch your way to a cleaner colon.

  7. Quinoa. Relatively new to us in the U.S., quinoa has been a South American staple for over 6,000 years. The edible seeds of the quinoa plant have 10 grams of fiber in a one-cup serving and also 8 grams of protein—in fact, quinoa seeds contain many essential amino acids that are missing from rice, proving to be a good substitute for rice. If you check your local health food store, and even some supermarkets, you can find quinoa plain, and as a main ingredient in many cereals, breads, and salads.

  8. AlmondsNuts. Not just filling, heart-healthy snacks, nuts are great sources of fiber (but highly caloric, so nosh carefully). A quarter-cup of almonds has 4 grams of fiber and about 200 calories. It's another great snack for between meals. Watch out for the salt content in the hickory-smoked varieties. Also, it's a good idea to portion out a serving size beforehand, so you don't absentmindedly munch a thousand or so calories from a big bag.

A high-fiber diet has been found to help prevent many different types of cancer.

And for more health and fitness news stories, tune in to new episodes of BNN every Tuesday and Friday exclusively at TeamBeachbody.com. If you have an interesting story idea, something happening in your community that's getting people involved in fitness or the environment, you could be a guest reporter. Grab a camera and tell us your story—we'll air it on an upcoming episode of BNN for everyone to enjoy. Contact us at bnn@beachbody.com for more information.

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Got something to say? Chat with the author and other readers this Thursday, July 17th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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7 Superfoods with Superpowers!

By Monica Ciociola

We've compiled a list of 7 superfoods with the potential power to make you smarter and slimmer—at the same time! These foods are packed with fat-fighting fiber and brain-boosting antioxidants and nutrients . . . Plus, they taste great, too!


  1. Bananas. Studies suggest that this potassium-packed fruit may assist learning by making you more alert, normalizing your heartbeat, and sending more oxygen to your brain. High in fiber, bananas are also a satisfying snack food.

  2. FishSalmon, sardines, and herring. Fatty fish are full of neuroprotective omega-3 fatty acids that aid communication between nerve cells to improve learning, retention, and memory. Omega-3 fats also help expand blood vessels to improve circulation and blood flow. If you don't get enough omega-3s by eating fish, try meeting your omega-3 needs through a supplement, like Core Omega-3™.

  3. Grapes and blueberries. The antioxidant kings of the fruits and vegetables world, antioxidants have been linked to improvements in short-term memory and motor skills, and even reversals in age-related declines in balance and coordination.

  4. Hot cocoa and green tea. While you're warming your insides with hot cocoa and green tea, you'll also be getting a heavy dose of antioxidants to protect your brain cells and reduce stress. If you're in sunny California, like we are, green tea found in our Slimming Formula supplements may be more palatable.

  5. Rice and VegetablesWhole grains and brown rice. Switching to whole-grain brown rice is a good way to slim down and wise up. Brown rice has a lower glycemic index number than white rice because of its fiber content, thus reducing its "sugar rush" effect. It's also loaded with vitamin B6 and magnesium, which have been linked to improvements in cognitive health.

  6. Almonds and walnuts. Rich in omega-3s, antioxidants, protein, and fiber, these nuts can help you slim down by making you feel satiated longer—as long as you don't overdo it, as they're also high in calories and fat.

  7. CornCorn. Just one cup of corn will provide you with about 25 percent of your daily recommended value of thiamin (vitamin B1), which is essential for brain cell production and cognitive functions. A lack of thiamin has been shown to lead to senility and Alzheimer's disease. Just remember to go easy on the artery-clogging condiments associated with corn.

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Got something to say? Chat with the author and other readers this Thursday, July 17th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Monica CiociolaIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Legume IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

As we discussed in "8 Fantastic Fibrous Foods," legumes are great sources of fiber, but did you know that they're also great sources of iron (about the same as red meat) and B vitamins, and are linked to reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol?

  1. Garbanzo BeansWhat is the most widely consumed legume in the world? The chickpea, also known as the garbanzo in Spanish-speaking countries and ceci in Italy. While most of us are familiar with the pale, light-yellow chickpeas, there are also black, brown, and red varieties, especially in India. The chickpea is incredibly versatile, used to make flour and hummus; and during World War I, Germans even made a coffee substitute from chickpeas, when the real thing became unavailable.

  2. What is the oldest cultivated legume? The lentil is believed to have come from southwestern Asia, around modern-day Syria. There is evidence of cultivation from as early as 6,000 B.C. Lentils come in a rainbow of colors, including green, orange, white, red, yellow, and brown. They are one of the few dried legumes that require no soaking to prepare. The word "lens" comes from the word "lentil" (because the convex shape resembles the seed).

  3. SoybeansWhat legume's protein contains all eight essential amino acids? The soybean. Soybeans also contain genistein, a chemical compound believed to inhibit tumor growth. Soybean oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. The U.S. grows about 40 percent of the world's soybeans. Most soybeans are sold for commercial purposes, such as for animal feed and inedible industrial products. Only about 2 percent is reserved for sale as vegetables.

  4. What two U.S. presidents were also peanut farmers? Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter. Peanuts were brought to Europe, Asia, and Africa by the Portuguese from the New World. In the U.S., they didn't really take off until after the Civil War, but now they are a 4-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Americans consume 700 million pounds per year, often in the form of peanut butter. It takes over 1,000 peanuts to make one 24-ounce jar of peanut butter. Peanuts are extremely healthy (unless you're allergic; if you are allergic, then they can kill you), with high levels of vitamin E and niacin, and contain more cholesterol-lowering resveratrol than grapes.

  5. Black-Eyed PeasWhich legume-themed musical act has won three Grammys? The Black Eyed Peas for "Let's Get It Started" (2005), "Don't Phunk with My Heart" (2006), and "My Humps" (2007). Their namesake vegetable is a type of cowpea. Black-eyed peas are great sources of calcium. In the southern U.S., they are traditionally eaten on New Year's Day for good luck, a tradition handed down from ancient Babylon. A popular marinated black-eyed pea salad is called "Texas caviar."

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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