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It may not be the first thing most people think about when it comes to looking fit and living healthfully, but dietary fiber can be good for just about every, well, fiber of your being. These facts may provide you with some food for thought on adding more fiber to your diet.

How To Add Fiber To Your Diet

It’s wise to get fiber from the food you eat. To do so, pick foods that are naturally high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and products that have been fortified with added fiber. Read the labels of the foods you buy and try to find those that provide 10 percent or more of the Daily Value for fiber. Eat a variety of different types of dietary fibers to get all of the benefits dietary fibers have to offer.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to find foods that are high in fiber. Lately, the food industry has begun adding dietary fibers to a myriad of foods and beverages that people enjoy every day. Added dietary fibers can now be found in yogurt, cereals, breads, fruit juices, milk, tortillas, baked goods, and nutrition supplement bars and beverages.

However, it’s important to remember that people should try to eat a variety of different types of dietary fibers to get all the benefits that dietary fibers have to offer.

Why To Add Fiber To Your Diet

The health benefits of dietary fiber include:

• Weight management: Scientific studies consistently show that the more fiber in your diet, the lower your risk of obesity.

• Improved digestion: Some dietary fibers can help regulate your digestion and help your intestines defend you from germs.

• Lower cholesterol: Certain dietary fibers reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to lower blood cholesterol.

• Reduced glycemic response: Some dietary fibers can slow down the absorption of glucose and lower the glycemic effect of food.

• Healthy microflora: Some dietary fibers can give a boost to the beneficial bacteria in the intestine (and defeat the bad ones) to help them fight inflammation and possibly even cancer.

• Increased mineral absorption: Certain dietary fibers help the body to better absorb minerals, especially calcium.

• Increased insulin sensitivity: Some dietary fibers have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.

• Increased satiety: Research suggests that some fibers can encourage the body to produce hormones that leave you feeling fuller, longer.

No single fiber or food provides all of these necessary health benefits. So you need to eat a wide variety of fiber-containing foods to improve your well-being.

Where To Learn More

For further information on fiber, visit www.fiberfacts.org.

*Article courtesy of NAPS. Image provided by FreeDigitalPhotos.*

Americans’ snacking is on the rise, with snacks making up about half of all eating occasions, according to a recent report from the Hartman Group. The good news is that snacking can be part of a healthy eating plan, as snacks can provide energy between meals and supply essential nutrients.

Nutrient-dense California avocados, which are only in season from spring to fall, are delicious, good for you and can be an excellent ingredient in just about any snack. The fruit is a naturally nutritious super-food, and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, along with “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, to one’s diet. Additionally, avocados add a creamy and delicious flavor to snacks or mini-meals without adding sodium or cholesterol.

Registered Dietitian Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE, loves incorporating California avocados into meals and snacks for their nutritional benefits. She has partnered with the California Avocado Commission to create some easy snack recipes featuring the fruit.

“Every year, I look forward to California avocado season, because they lend themselves to so many different preparations—especially when it comes to snacks,” says Ferraro.

She’s come up with some easy snack recipes featuring the fruit. Each recipe has less than 100 calories per serving and can be great for on-the-go snacking.

For other recipes that feature fresh California avocados, including additional snacking recipes developed by Katie Ferraro, visit the California Avocado Commission website at CaliforniaAvocado.com.

 

California Avocado Cucumber Cups

Ingredients

1 English cucumber
½ ripe, fresh California avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. diced cilantro
½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. salt

Preparation

1. Chop off ends of cucumber and discard. Cut cucumber into 12 equal-sized round slices (approximately 1” width slices). Using a melon baller, scoop out center of cucumber slices, leaving enough cucumber on the bottom for the base. Set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, mash avocado and add bell pepper, lime juice, cilantro, cumin and salt. Stir to combine.

3. Place avocado mixture in a small, sandwich-sized plastic bag. Snip off one bottom corner of bag and squeeze avocado mixture into hollowed-out cucumber slices.

Serves 2.

 

 

Power Hour Pick-Me-Up Smoothie

Ingredients

¼ ripe, fresh California avocado, seeded, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
½ cup frozen mango cubes
⅓ cup plain, nonfat yogurt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 cup water
1 cup ice cubes

Prepaartion

1. Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth.

2. Serve immediately.

*Article and images courtesy of NAPS.*

Serves 2.

Encourage healthy digestion and a nutritious alternative to all of the sugary treats and eats this holiday season with ProBugs™, Lifeway Food’s kid friendly version of their organic Kefir! In an individual serving size pack, ProBugs is a fantastic way for kids to enjoy a nutritious smoothie-type drink on-the-go!

Available in four kid-pleasing flavors, including Goo-Berry Pie, Orange Creamy Crawler, Strawnana Split & Sublime Slime Lime, ProBugs is rich in “friendly bugs” and “probiotics” that help to increase the level of good bacteria in children’s digestive systems and promote overall healthy digestion. Sold in 4-packs, these are great for tucking into a lunch box for school, or placing within reach inside the refrigerator as a go-to mid-afternoon snack, your little ones will love this good-for-you drink!

Interested in learning more about the benefits of probiotics? Visit the Health & Wellness section on the Lifeway website!

To locate a retailer near you that sells ProBugs™, visit Lifeway.net.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Reading Food Labels: Are Your Kids Getting the Proper Nutrition?

Most parents have a pretty good idea of what is good for their kids and what isn’t. On the “good” list are natural foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and lean meats. Items like chips, candy, and soda, on the other hand, get relegated to the “bad” list. But there are a whole host of food items that land in the nebulous in-between area. Are granola bars good for your kids? What about processed luncheon meats? Is whole grain white bread equivalent to wheat? Natural juices still have a lot of sugar; is that okay? There are plenty of pertinent questions to ask when it comes to the food you provide for your children and sometimes it can be difficult to tell what is good and what isn’t. So here are a few guidelines to follow when reading the labels.

First and foremost, you should address the issue of additives. Since it has been determined that canned or frozen items can retain all the nutrients of fresh, the major detractor to buying these less expensive items is all the extras that are crammed in there. Sodium is an extremely common preservative, but when you start adding up how much your child eats in a day, you may be shocked to find that they’re getting two or three times as much as the recommended amount (or even more). Then there are chemical preservatives and artificial colors and flavors to contend with, not to mention the ingredients on the list that you can’t even decipher (much less figure out what they’re contributing to nutritional value). Your best bet is to go organic to avoid these items whenever possible. You might also look for “natural” products, but there is no guarantee of this claim, while items that bear the USDA Certified Organic label come with authentication.

Next you’ll want to look at the content of fat, sugar, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber listed. Starting with fats, you’ll want to go for fairly low numbers. Although some fat in the diet is necessary and good, certain fats are better than others. Trans fats are out, saturated fats are not very good, and unsaturated fats are considered the best (although they should be consumed in moderation). Sugars should also be avoided when possible (or found in natural sources like fruits), while carbohydrates and protein are our main source of fuel, meaning they can generally be consumed in larger quantities. As for fiber, most people simply don’t get enough. So high-fiber foods like whole grains should be considered part of a healthy diet (they also help to prevent the absorption of some fats, making them twice as good for your kids).

Finally, see if your food items have high levels of vitamins and minerals that kids need to grow and function properly. You may want to consider giving a daily supplemental vitamin, since most kids don’t eat enough food (of any type) to cover the bases. But you can certainly try to give them as many natural sources of vitamins as possible.

About the Author

Sarah Danielson writes for SeaReach Labels where you can find custom security labels and stickers.

Healthy Summer Nutrition Tips from Funky Monkey Snacks

1. Get Your Fill of Water. Hydration is critical, especially in the southern states where the sudden transition from air conditioning to high heat can shock the body. To help avoid muscle cramps and headaches—and to nourish skin—drink plenty of liquids, especially water. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition outlines the following choices along with the maximum recommended daily eight-ounce servings: water (9 for women, 13 for men), unsweetened tea (8), unsweetened coffee (4), diet sodas and calorie-free beverages (4), skim or low-fat milk (2), 100% fruit juices, whole milk, or sports drinks (1), soft drinks or juice drinks (1).

2. Find a Farmer. There isn’t a better time of year to visit local farmers markets where an amazing array of healthy produce awaits. Many vegetables are high in nutrients and fiber—kale, chard, and mustard greens offer Vitamins C and E, which are good for eyes strained by the sun. Potassium-rich potatoes and spinach help avoid muscle cramps as well. Try putting vegetables on the backyard grill along with your main course for a special treat.

3. Up Your Fruit Quotient. The sun can wreak havoc on skin during outdoor activities. To nourish skin, complement your increased water intake with fresh fruit like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, all of which have antioxidants and vitamin C. Bananas are also good sources of potassium; make smoothies or fruit kabobs to add variety. Freeze-dried Funky Monkey™ Snacks are also a good fruit alternative—crunchy, bite-sized 100% real fruit snacks that are nutritionally equivalent to their fresh fruit counterparts and made with bananas, pineapples, apples, papaya, raisins, and açai.

4. Lighter is Better. Eating smaller meals more often is always a good idea, but especially in summer when people tend to miss eating at meal times or are suddenly presented with a picnic or party smorgasbord. Lighter fare is also a good way to get nutrients without excessive calories—make gazpacho or other cold soups, and try BBQ alternatives like turkey or skinless, marinated chicken. Chili is another convenient and fun summertime entrée; make a potful in advance, using nutrient-rich chicken or vegetables, so it’s on hand when no one feels like cooking.

5. Go Fishing. Fish, along with lean meats, beans, chickpeas, and soy products, are all high in protein, making them great not only for muscle development, but also to help hair that is overcome by exposure to sunlight and saltwater. Grill fish for a great summertime meal—and while you’re at it, up your consumption of eggs, another important source of protein.

6. Limit High Calorie Treats. It’s easy to make ice cream a habit during warm weather, but ice cream, not to mention cookies, popsicles, pies and fried desserts, can add fat and calories much faster than increased summertime activity can work off. Newer low-fat versions of ice cream or sorbet are better-tasting than ever; another alternative is to eat a healthy meal and then plan an after-dinner diversion to take everyone’s mind off big desserts.

7. Think About the Kids. Erratic eating can be especially hard on children during the summer—and their demand for treats can ruin anyone’s commitment to good nutrition. Try to maintain a regular meal schedule as much as possible, and keep only healthy snacks in the house, so no one is tempted. Having healthy snacks in the car at all times also helps when kids suddenly start complaining. Funky Monkey Snacks are easy to carry and better for kids than dried fruit or fruit snacks (dried fruit does not preserve all the nutrients of fresh fruit, and fruit snacks often contain added sugars, colors, flavors and preservatives.)

*Image and article courtesy of Funky Monkey Snacks.*