Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #034 06/23/10 The 4-1-1 on Fiber

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The 4-1-1 on Fiber

By Omar Shamout

When I was very young, my mother implored me to eat my bran flakes or else I wouldn't get enough fiber. I don't know about you, but from the age of 4 on, anything my mother told me to do automatically seemed worth avoiding at all costs. Plus the word "bran" kind of sounds like "bland," so it's like my mind was already telling me I was going to dislike it even before I tried it. But in hindsight, maybe my mother knew what she was talking about. Fiber is essential to maintaining a healthy digestive system, and it also has a positive effect on your heart, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar.

Fruit, Vegetables, Whole Grains, and Legumes

What is fiber?

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. In fact, it's so complex the body can't digest it.

Note that I said whole grains. When it comes to grains, you'll find the fiber in the outer shell, or bran (there's that word again). The problem we face in getting fiber from bread, pasta, rice, or cereal—the processed foods many of us know and love—is that they're often made from refined grains that have been stripped of their bran, which means they contain very little fiber. And just because a product says "wheat" somewhere on the bag or box doesn't mean it has fiber in it. (Technically, Wonder® Bread is made from wheat.) If you want to make sure you're getting your whole grains, and the fiber that comes along with them, you need to verify that the ingredients actually list "whole wheat" or another kind of whole grain. And even then, you should check the fiber listing on the nutrition facts panel to see how much you're getting.

What does fiber do?

CarrotsThere are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber goes through your system "as is" and helps to regulate bowel movements. As insoluble fiber moves through the digestive tract and colon, it carries other things along with it, which bulks up your stool, making it easier for it to pass. If one of your goals is weight loss, consuming more insoluble fiber is helpful, because it helps you eliminate more waste from your body.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, taking on a gel-like consistency in the stomach, helping to slow digestion and lower blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which sugar is released into the blood. Soluble fiber also helps to regulate cholesterol by binding with fatty acids and helping them to be eliminated from your system. Fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary artery (heart) disease and type 2 diabetes. Here's a chart that breaks down how much fiber the USDA recommends adults consume daily to maintain a healthy diet:

  Age 50 and Younger Age 51 and Older
Men 38 g 30 g
Women 25 g 21 g

But I don't like the way fiber-rich foods taste!

We get it, and food manufacturers do too—they realize consumers have gotten increasingly savvy about what goes into their food (and subsequently, into their bodies), and are offering more and more whole-grain versions of many of their popular brands of products. Taste preference, especially for foods made from refined flour, has a great deal to do with what you're used to. Making a commitment to buying whole-grain products requires your taste buds to adapt, but learning to prepare whole-grain foods in a way that's appealing and combining them with other other nutritious foods can result in healthy meals that are also good to eat.

It's important to realize you don't need to change everything about the way you eat overnight. Small changes can add up. If you don't like whole-grain bread, start with adding more apples or beans to your diet. Have fun and experiment. Don't get frustrated because you don't like eating bran muffins and proclaim that fiber isn't worth the trouble. There are always solutions to a problem if you're patient enough to find them. One great resource for gourmet, high-fiber recipes is The High-Fiber Cookbook by Bryanna Clark Grogan.

Supplements, you say?

If you change your diet and you're still not getting all the fiber you need, supplements are a great way to boost your fiber intake. One main drawback of getting your fiber as a supplement is that you can deprive your body of the other vitamins and minerals you'd be consuming along with the fiber you get in natural food form. If a food is high in fiber, it's probably high in many other things that are good for you too, and you end up killing eight essential birds (or vitamins) with one stone (or bowl of lentil soup). Keeping this in mind, let's explore four popular forms of fiber supplements:

  1. AppleApple pectin. Pectin is a compound found primarily in apples, but also in other fruits, including plums and citrus. It's useful in aiding ongoing conditions, like diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive disorders. It's also an antioxidant, and antioxidants have been shown to have a positive effect in reducing the risk of certain cancers, and lowering cholesterol in the bloodstream. As a result, it's recommended especially highly for those who consume a high-fat diet.
  2. Psyllium husk. The dried covering of plant seeds, psyllium husk contains a whopping 71 grams of fiber in only one-third of a cup. Some people are very allergic to psyllium husk, so always consult your doctor before adding this or any other new supplement to your diet. One side effect of psyllium husk powder, and high-fiber diets in general, is that it can give you gas. A lot of gas. The best way to deal with this unfortunate problem is to increase your daily fiber intake slowly. A sudden increase of 20 grams of fiber or more per day can cause discomfort, so allow your body to become comfortable with a new diet, and don't rush into it. Also, popular fiber supplements like Metamucil® merely combine psyllium husk with sugar, so you're better off skipping the sweetness and going for the real thing.
  3. Flaxseed. Flaxseed is a wonderful plant food because not only does it contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but it also has high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to greatly reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and help fight different types of cancers, specifically of the colon, prostate, and breast. Lignans found in flaxseed have also been proven to prevent the incidence and growth rate of tumors in cancers that are sensitive to hormones. One or two tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily is the suggested dose, and it can easily be added to foods like yogurt, cereal, soup, etc. However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to supplement their diet with flaxseed until further studies examining its effect on them are concluded, and again, it's important to consult with your physician about adding any supplements to your diet.
  4. Wheat GermWheat germ. Wheat germ is another good source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, but it's especially valuable for its high quantities of vitamin B, which aids in regulating metabolism and stress levels, and vitamin E, which benefits the skin.

Whether you do it because Beachbody suggested it, or because you think it's about time you finally heeded some of your mother's advice, it's not a bad idea to figure out a way to get the recommended amount of fiber in your diet. It may help you achieve a smaller waistline, while also helping to stave off a myriad of dangerous diseases. That's gotta be worth a bran muffin or two . . . right?

References and Further Reading:

  1. Merck.com, "Coronary Artery Disease," James Wayne Warnica, MD. February, 2008.
  2. Oprah.com, "Fiber Supplement Safety," David L. Katz, MD. May 12, 2009
  3. Mayoclinic.com, "Diabetes Prevention: 5 Steps to Taking Control." http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes-prevention/DA00127.

My digestive system, with the help of the Shakeology Fiber Boost, has taken a 180 degree turn.—David G., Norman, OK

Related Articles
"9 Nutrition Myths Exposed"
"Get Crackin': Things You Should Know About Eggs"
"5 Simple Rules for Eating Sugar"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 28, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

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.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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"How I Stopped Faking It"—Anna Eriksson, Beachbody® Director of Product Development
spacer I'm 45 years old this year, and even though I'm a P90X graduate, I have to cop to the fact that I tend to baby myself for fear of getting hurt. I got to the point where I was working out an hour a day but able to "singsong" my way through my workouts without breaking a sweat. No wonder the results had stopped coming. I needed to stop faking it and find a way to really push myself.

That's one of the things I LOVE about RevAbs®, a built-in system to call me out on my wimpiness after every cardio burst, and it really works.

The other thing I love about RevAbs is working my abs from 6 angles, and knowing those 6 angles makes me feel all smart and connected with my body. I do a move and I know what I'm working! Aha!

But my absolute favorite part of RevAbs is The REVZONE. OMG! It appears, and I feel the pressure to go into the zone. How can I not? The Zone appears in split screen, and somewhere the competitor comes out in me. Am I going in the Zone? Are you talkin' to me? Get outta my way!

RevAbs has yanked me out of my fitness "safe place" and has me REVving it high.

Consult your physician and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program.


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8 Foods to Boost Your Metabolism

By Joe Wilkes

If you spend any time perusing the fashion mags and tabloid rags in the supermarket checkout line, you'll see a wide array of articles claiming to have discovered the latest "miracle food" that'll burn off the pounds while you sit on your butt and eat. Well, sadly, the news isn't quite that good. Without regular exercise, a decent night's sleep, and a thought-out meal plan, your metabolic rate is going to be dragging. However, there are some things you can eat that'll move the needle into the fat-burning zone. And all of these foods are delicious, nutritious, or both, so why not? Here are eight of the best ones.

Salmon, Tomato, Blueberries, Wheat Bread, and Ice Water

  1. Fish. Most of us have read about the benefits of fish oil, which is full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Found in many common oily fish like mackerel, trout, sardines, herring, tuna, and salmon, it can also be taken in capsules (at least 300 mg/day) by those who are averse to seafood. Fish consumption has been found to boost your calorie burn by as much as 400 calories a day. Fish is also full of great, low-fat, muscle-building protein (which requires your body to burn more calories to digest it). And now's a great time to get fishy, as fresh wild-caught salmon is in season.
  2. Leafy GreenDark green leafy vegetables. These include arugula, chard, chicory, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, and spinach. They are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and lots of fiber. While the vitamins are great antioxidants and very healthy for you, the fiber is where the rubber really meets the road as far as your metabolism goes. Your body expends a lot more calories digesting fiber and protein than it does simply digesting carbohydrates. This is called the thermic effect—the amount of calories required to digest food can sometimes be almost as much as the number of calories in the food itself. Dark leafies also contain many B vitamins, which are necessary to produce the enzymes for metabolism. Most other vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories and can boost your burn, but the cream of the crop, nutritionally speaking, are the dark green leafy vegetables. So listen to Popeye and eat your spinach!
  3. Tomatoes. Tomatoes have gotten a lot of good press lately, as they contain high levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been proven to have several anti-carcinogenic properties. And like the dark green leafy vegetables, tomatoes are a good source of fiber. But tomatoes can also work overtime to flush fat, as they contain citric, malic, and oxalic acids, which support your body's kidney functions, helping your body eliminate more waste and fat from your system.
  4. Blueberries and other whole fruits. Whole fruits contain lots of fiber, and many contain so much, they can be said to have "negative calories," meaning your body burns more calories digesting them than it stores. One cup of blueberries only has about 80 calories, but it has 4 whole grams of fiber. Your body will expend much of those 80 calories digesting those 4 grams of fiber. Blueberries also contain lots of antioxidants, and are believed to lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure. Plus they taste great! Try adding them to a high-fiber unsweetened cereal or oatmeal in the morning to get your metabolism up and running at the start of your day.
  5. Whole grains. Well, if you've read this far, you've probably gotten that fiber is key to keeping the metabolic fires burning. Whole grains are one of the best sources of dietary fiber. This is where careful label reading comes in. Lots of items that are purported to contain whole grains only have just enough to make the claim truthful, and may in fact be full of insulin-spiking carbohydrates or sugars, which will take your metabolism in the wrong direction. Check the ingredient list of your breads and cereals carefully and make sure the lion's share of the ingredients is whole grains.
  6. Chile PowderChilies, curries, and other spices. Ever eaten a particularly spicy meal and felt your heart race a bit faster and your forehead start to perspire? The capsaicin found in many hot peppers and other spices can fire up your metabolism while it fires up your mouth. In fact, some studies have shown a 50 percent increase in metabolism for 3 hours after eating capsaicin. So it helps to keep a bottle of hot sauce on hand at mealtimes. You can also use spices to add flavor to recipes instead of salty or fatty ingredients to help kick your metabolism into a higher gear.
  7. Green tea. Researchers have found that green tea consumption can increase calorie-burning by up to four percent. It's believed that green tea accomplishes this by helping to increase metabolic rates, as well as fat oxidation. Studies have also shown that green tea can reduce sugar cravings and help inhibit enzymes that slow digestion, thus raising metabolic rates. Green tea's thermogenetic properties are convincing enough that Beachbody includes it in its ActiVit® Metabolism Formula. In addition to its metabolic properties, green tea is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols, making it one of the most healthful beverage choices around.
  8. Ice water. Almost every nutritionist will recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, but did you know that if you drink ice water instead of room-temperature water, your body will burn an extra nine calories per glass? Drinking room-temperature water can burn about 16 calories per glass—that's 25 calories per glass for ice water. So eight glasses of cold water a day can be responsible for burning 200 calories! Besides, water is necessary for all your bodily processes, including the ones that control your metabolism. If you're underhydrated, your body will underperform. Water also flushes out fat deposits and toxins, which can hamper your energy.

Remember, a good night's sleep and smaller, more evenly spaced meals can be your best metabolic friends. And the best thing to really get your metabolism going is exercise. You can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour with Turbo Jam®. And because stress has been found to produce cortisol, a steroid that inhibits the metabolism, we recommend that you try and relax . . . and have a blueberry. Or a fish!

I feel Shakeology has helped my metabolism, my energy level and provides the vitamins and nutrients my body needs.—Darren D., Gilbert, AZ

Related Articles
"8 Misleading Fitness 'Facts'"
"Is It Time to Eat?"
"Eating for Great Abs"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 28, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

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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Chalene Explains It All

TurboFire®. Turbo Jam®. Turbo Kick®. Are you Turbo-confused? Chalene breaks down how TurboFire is different from the programs that came before it and why it could be the perfect next challenge after P90X® or INSANITY®.

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Recipe: Lean Lasagna

Lean Lasagna

Everybody loves lasagna, but we don't love the fat that comes with that gooey mozzarella cheese. Here's a great recipe that uses nonfat mozzarella for all the flavor without the fat, tofu for protein, and spinach for vitamins, minerals, fiber—and Popeye-approved yumminess!

  • 1 lb. soft tofu, drained and patted dry
  • 1 lb. firm tofu, drained and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 bag spinach
  • 1-lb. package dry lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained
  • 1 cup nonfat mozzarella, shredded
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Food processor

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place tofu in large bowl and crumble. Chop spinach, then combine in bowl with tofu, parsley, salt, and pepper; mix well. In bottom of a 4-quart rectangular baking dish, spread a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of noodles, then a layer of tofu/spinach mixture. Repeat layering process with the remaining sauce, noodles, and filling until all ingredients have been used, ending with noodles covered by sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella over top. Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
287 21 g 9 g 46 g 4 g 1 g

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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