From improving heart health and digestion to promoting fullness, fiber is well known for its health benefits. Dietary fiber is classified as soluble and insoluble, but as researchers continue to take a closer look at why fiber keeps us healthy, we are learning that there may be more to the role than its solubility.
The viscosity of fiber (thickness as it moves through the small and large intestines) and how a fiber ferments also play a role when carbohydrates are digested. Resistant starch is a low-viscous type of dietary fiber found in carbohydrate-rich foods. As the name suggests, it resists digestion in the small intestines and ferments in the large intestines. As it ferments, it promotes beneficial gut bacteria.
What are the benefits of resistant starch?
Some studies have shown that resistant starch may help weight loss because it can increase fullness that leads to reduced food intake. There is also evidence that resistant starch reduces insulin resistance and improves blood glucose control.
What foods contain resistant starch?
Resistant starch comes in several forms. Some cannot be digested, such as parts of grains, seeds, and legumes. Others resist digestion like the starch in legumes and under-ripe bananas. In other foods, the resistant starch forms after the food has been cooked and then cooled, such as in potatoes, rice, and pasta.
How much do I need to eat?
There is no current recommendation for intake of resistant starch, but research shows it may be a beneficial part of a balanced eating plan. Incorporate foods that contain resistant starch as you aim to get the recommended amount of 25 to 30 grams of total fiber per day. Legumes, like beans and peas, and healthier versions of potato salad and pasta salad provide easy ways to eat more.
The Paleo diet refers to an eating plan that mimics what was likely eaten during the Paleolithic era, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers.
The diet is made up of foods that could be hunted or gathered such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The belief behind this style of eating is that foods like grains, legumes, and dairy are associated with the onset of chronic disease. Therefore, these foods are eliminated from the eating plan. Because it does not allow processed or pre-made foods, the Paleo diet limits sugar and sodium intake.
Not all Paleo diets are exactly the same. Many people eat variations of the diet, stick to it only during the week, or incorporate free days where they may eat anything they want. Others follow the guidelines strictly.
Even critics of the diet recognize that there are benefits with the reduction of sugar and sodium and with the increase in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats from fish, nuts, and seeds. But many health professionals are still concerned that excess meat increases saturated fat intake, and that the diet limits nutrient-rich foods. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, research still links the fiber from whole grains with a decreased risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and dairy may play a role in weight loss.
According to the Mayo Clinic, limited short-term clinical research conducted with small groups has shown that a Paleo diet may have moderate benefits when compared to eating plans that include whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy. There is evidence of increased weight loss, improved glucose tolerance, better blood pressure control, and better appetite control.
Larger, long-term studies are still needed. It’s possible that similar health benefits can be achieved with exercise and a balanced healthy diet, eliminating the need for such severe food restriction. Critics also argue that the basis of the diet may be oversimplified, leading to more confusion about healthy eating. Some archaeological research suggests that grains may have been present in the diets of our ancestors before the onset of farming. If this is true, it complicates the justification for eliminating them that is associated with the Paleo diet.
As always, when exploring new eating plans, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you find the best eating style that will give you the nutrients you need based on your health history and long-term fitness goals.
Milk allergies, lactose intolerance, and nutritional choice prevent many people from eating and drinking dairy products. You can get all the nutrients you need without consuming dairy, but it’s important to pay attention to the nutrients you may lose when cutting dairy from your diet. Identify alternative foods and drinks that will help supply these nutrients without adding unwanted ingredients.
Low in added sugars
Dairy contains the natural sugar lactose, but unless it’s flavored, it does not have added sugars (sugar added during processing). Alternative milks such as almond, soy, rice, and coconut milks are popular substitutes for cow’s milk. It’s important to check food labels closely to ensure that these milks aren’t loaded with sugar. Flavored milks can indicate added sugar, but some varieties such as unsweetened vanilla are available.
One cup of skim milk contains 8 grams of protein. While soy milk has nearly as much with 6 grams of protein per cup, a cup of almond milk has much less with only 1 gram of protein. If you relied on dairy for protein, it may be important to increase your protein intake from other sources. Nuts, seeds, beans and poultry all serve as sources for lean protein.
Dairy has long been associated with supplying valuable calcium, but there are other foods that also supply this mineral. Aim to add more foods to your eating plan that are natural sources of calcium. A cup of cow’s milk provides about 300 milligrams and one cup of yogurt contains about 400 milligrams. Alternatively, one cup of cooked collard greens contains about 266 milligrams and a half cup of almonds contains about 122 milligrams.
Promotes digestive health
Most yogurts are known for containing live and active cultures that are used during fermentation. These cultures are associated with gut health and improved digestion. Fortunately, this health benefit is not limited to dairy yogurts. Soy yogurts and other lactose-free yogurts can also contain live and active cultures. The food label should indicate whether or not these cultures are present.
Warmer weather means a new season of fresh vegetables is just around the corner. When nutritious vegetables are at their peak, they offer delicious flavors that make healthy eating much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, many growing seasons are short, so add some of these spring vegetables to your shopping cart while you can.
Kohlrabi is often referred to as a German turnip, but is has a much milder flavor than the turnips you might be familiar with in the United States. Kohlrabi is related to broccoli and cabbage which means that it contains the same cancer-fighting glucosinolates that are associated with cruciferous vegetables. The bulb of the kohlrabi can be green or purple. While it can be roasted, kohlrabi is delicious raw. Shred it and add it to slaws and salads, or cut it into sticks or slices to use as a vegetable dipper.
Leeks are related to garlic and onions, and they look like larger versions of spring onions. Leeks contain polyphenols that protect against disease, and they supply vitamin K and manganese. This vegetable can be used in any recipe that uses garlic and onions. Add it to a quiche or to potato soup. Both the greens and the bulb are edible, but there is evidence that the health-promoting flavonoid, kaempferol, is more concentrated in the lower leaves and bulb.
Mustard greens are loaded with vitamin K, and contain vitamins A and C, copper manganese, and calcium. Another member of the cruciferous family, they also contain disease-fighting glucosinolates. Research shows that steamed mustard greens may also help to lower cholesterol. Add chopped mustard greens to your stir fry or stir them into a pot of soup.
Research shows that the components of parsley may help to ward off the effects of carcinogens, which are linked to cancers. The flavonoids in parsley act as antioxidants to protect against cell damage. Parsley contains vitamins A, C, K, and folate, as well as iron. Stir chopped fresh parsley into dressings, marinades, salsas, and salads.
Endive is a lettuce-like vegetable that grows in small heads that can either be yellow or red. Endive provides vitamins B, C, K, and folate. It also supplies potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and selenium. Endive’s small firm leaves can be used to scoop healthy dips like hummus, or you can top them with healthy fillings for an easy-to-serve appetizer. Try these Tuna and Chickpea Endive Bites.
At first glance, brunch menus may seem lighter and healthier than foods shared during winter holidays, but pastries, high-fat meats, and heavily-dressed salads can add unnecessary calories and unhealthy fat to your meal. By making a few simple changes, you can stay on track and enjoy a healthy brunch.
Work in more spring fruits and vegetables.
Spring means more fresh fruits and vegetables are available so don’t pass up the opportunity to fill the table with healthy options. Radishes, asparagus, spring peas, spinach, arugula, raspberries, and strawberries are just a few of the healthy foods that you can work into soups, salads, and fresh salsas. Center your dessert options around fresh fruits by serving yogurt parfaits or incorporating them into frozen yogurt and frozen pops.
Keep heavy food portions small.
On special occasions, it’s okay to enjoy higher calorie foods like cheese, sausage, or bacon in moderation. You can help to keep servings under control by using limited amounts for flavor and keeping portions small. Use half the amount of cheese or meat in baked casseroles and omelets. Instead of sausage patties, serve smaller sausage balls. Fill plates with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and use meats and cheeses as a small side to complement healthier foods.
Modify your baked goods.
Serve biscuits and scones made with whole grain flours. Add oatmeal to pancake and muffin batters. Whole grain flours and oats will add fiber to make these foods more filling. Substitute mashed fruits and apple sauce to reduce the need for excess oil and sugar.
Find substitutes for alcoholic drinks.
Alcoholic drinks can drastically increase your calorie intake. Find appealing substitutes to ensure you pass them up without feeling deprived. Make alcohol-free Bloody Mary’s and create spritzers with fresh fruit juices and sparkling water.
Having a plan in place will help things run smoothly and reduce the chance that overlooked details will force you to grab an unhealthy option. The spring brunch menu plan below will help you outline your shopping list and estimate the time needed to prepare your meal. The recipes can easily be doubled for larger crowds. Sit down to a portion of each of these foods and you will only consume 449 calories and 4.2 grams of saturated fat along with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.