Benefits of a High-Fiber Diet

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Dietary fiber has health benefits from weight-loss, to lower cholesterol and cancer prevention. What’s the truth about dietary fiber? Dietary fiber is found in all plant foots and consists of the parts of the food that your body cannot digest. Many people refer to dietary fiber as roughage. The fiber passes through your body intact because it cannot be digested. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, whereas insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. 
Insoluble fiber travels through your digestive system relatively unchanged and promotes a healthy digestive system by moving waste through your system. Whole grains, such as wheat, oats, bran, nuts and most vegetables contain insoluble fiber. A diet rich in insoluble fiber can help to regulate bowel movements, which prevents constipation. Eating a diet rich in insoluble dietary fiber can also help prevent hemorrhoids and protect the health of the colon. 
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Dissolved soluble fiber takes on a gel-like consistency in your digestive system. Soluble fiber can help to lower glucose (sugar) levels in the blood and reduce cholesterol. Soluble fiber also helps to lower the blood pressure. Eat oats, beans, apples, carrots, barley and citrus fruits to get natural sources of soluble fiber. The absorption of sugar from the digestive system into the blood is slowed when soluble fiber is included in the diet. 

High-fiber diets may also help you to lose weight and control your weight. When you eat high-fiber foods, you chew longer and eat less. High-fiber foods help you to feel fuller faster, and you stay full longer than eating foods that are low in fiber. Drink plenty of water and enjoy the benefits of a high-fiber diet. 

Diet Damaging Drinks

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You’ve been watching what you eat, cutting down on calories and getting exercise, but for some reason you just aren’t losing weight fast enough. Have you given much thought to the beverages you enjoy every day? When you are trying to limit calories, don’t overlook the calories hiding in your cup or glass. Fancy coffee drinks, alcohol drinks and even fruit smoothies contain hundreds of diet damaging calories that can interfere with achieving your weight loss goals.
Soda is one of the worst drinks for dieters and anyone who is concerned about watching their weight or controlling the sugar in their diet. The average soda contains several hundred calories and is loaded with sugar. The calories in regular soda are empty calories, meaning you consume hundreds of calories but receive little to no nutritional benefit. Switching to diet soda or sugar-free soda can help, but you may not be able to lose weight by switching to diet soda alone. 
Natural fruit juice contains plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs to stay healthy. But, did you know that fruit juice may also contain several hundred calories in just one short glass? Look for fruit juices that are 100 percent juice. Avoid juice drinks or blended fruit-flavored drinks. These types of drinks usually contain 10 percent or less actual fruit juice and contain lots of sugar. Mix  your fruit juice with some cold water to cut down on calories. 
Unless you make your own fruit smoothies, you may be getting little fruit and mostly fruit concentrate, artificial flavors and sugar. Some smoothie shops blend real fruit with sweeteners like ice cream or honey, which can put the calorie count through the roof! Make your own healthy, low-calories, nutrient-rich fruit smoothies at home by blending bananas, strawberries, a splash of 100 percent orange juice or a fresh orange with ice and skim milk. 

Flavored vitamin water is another drink that can sneak in extra calories. Some flavored vitamin water contains sugar. Select flavored water that contains no sugar or make your own flavored water. Refrigerate water until it’s cold. Flavor it naturally with lemon juice or add some sliced strawberries to a glass of cold water for a delicious, refreshing drink. Drink a couple of glasses of water before every meal to help you feel more full to avoid overeating and to stay hydrated. 

Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol

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Have you been diagnosed with high cholesterol or are your concerned about your cholesterol levels? If you have high cholesterol or want to make sure your cholesterol level stays low, you have to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle. Changes in your diet should include cutting down or eliminating trans fats and saturated fats from your diet. Replace fatty foods with more whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. There are some foods that are more beneficial in reducing the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. You should change your diet and get more exercise, even if your doctor has prescribed a cholesterol-lowering drug. 
Whole grains are an excellent addition to any diet, especially a low-fat cholesterol fighting diet. Oats, oat bran and oatmeal contains soluble fiber that works in your digestive system to suppress the absorption of LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also found in fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes. Apples, bananas, pears, prunes, barley and beans are especially good choices for dietary soluble fiber. Add some raisins, banana slices or some blueberries to your morning oatmeal or cold high-fiber cereal for extra flavor and additional antioxidants.
Replace your regular cooking oil with olive oil. Olive oil contains antioxidants that helps to prevent the absorption of LDL cholesterol, but does not affect the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or the good cholesterol. The extra-virgin olive oil is less processed than light olive oil, but both types of olive oil are high in calories. Saute vegetables in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil for extra antioxidants and soluble fiber to help reduce your cholesterol. Mix olive oil with vinegar and spices for a delicious salad dressing. 
Fatty fish, including mackerel, herring, sardines and halibut, contains omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce your cholesterol. Added benefits of eating fatty fish include lowering your blood pressure and preventing blood clots, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Replace red meat with a fatty fish twice each week, or more often if you like fish. Bake or grill fish in place of frying to avoid adding trans fats to your diet. 
Nuts contain polyunsaturated fats, which help keep your cholesterol in check. Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and pistachio nuts are good choices. Add a handful of nuts to your salad instead of croutons or grated cheese to help reduce your cholesterol. Choose plain nuts instead of salted nuts to avoid the extra sodium.  

Worst Foods for Belly Fat

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We all know that excess body fat can be a threat to our health. Excess fat around your waist can be a bigger threat to your health than fat anywhere else on your body. Belly fat has been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Some people have a tendency to put on belly fat due to their genes, but poor eating habits and lifestyle choices often lead to extra fat around the midsection. High-fat foods alone are not to blame for belly fat. Foods high in fat are not helpful, but eating foods high in calories and low in nutrition are more of a threat than high-fat foods alone. The best way to prevent or to get rid of excess belly fat is to reduce the amount of food you eat and eat healthier foods. Eat a nutritious diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and incorporate exercise into your daily routine. 
Alcohol is a major contributor to belly fat. Alcohol has almost as many calories per serving than most high-fat foods. Drinking alcohol can also leave you feeling more hungry than normal. Also, your liver is too busy ridding your body of the alcohol to burn fat calories, so you end up storing calories as fat. This is the reason many people develop what is commonly called “beer belly.” Drink moderately and avoid eating when you drink. 
Foods that contain trans fats, especially hydrogenated oils, add fat to your waistline. Trans fats are found in cookies, crackers, fried foods, margarine, shortening and processed foods. Packaged and convenience foods, such as cake, biscuit and pancake mixes are usually high in trans fats. Condensed canned soup and dried noodle soups are also high in trans fats. Frozen foods, including frozen fish sticks, pizza, pot pies and frozen pies and cakes are high in trans fats, too. Watch out for excess trans fats in baked goods. Donuts, cakes, breads and cookies found at your supermarket bakery are usually prepared using shortening or margarine and processed flour, all of which are high in trans fats. Baked foods that are prepared using whole grain flour and butter are lower in trans fat, 
Fast food is one of the worst options for trans fats. Burgers, French fries and sauces on sandwiches offered by fast food restaurants are high in trans fats and calories. Many people also overeat fast food, which leads to even more calories and fat in your diet. The occasional fast food treat is probably okay, but when eaten frequently, fast food adds to belly fat and overall weight gain. Choose low-calorie or reduced fat options when available. 

Soft drinks can really pack on the belly fat because most contain high-calorie sweeteners. Many soft drink manufacturers have replaced refined sugar with high-fructose corn syrup for sweetness. High-fructose corn syrup is high in calories. Limit the amount of soda in your diet or choose sugar-free sodas. Try drinking some green tea instead of soda. Green tea, when combined with exercise and healthy food choices, can help you reduce belly fat and lose weight. 
Keep your waist trim and avoid the health risks of excess belly fat by eating a diet low in trans-fats, high in fiber and rich in nutrients. Choose brown rice over white rice. Select fresh foods instead of frozen treats. Drink less soda and alcohol. Combine healthy foods with exercise and the belly fat should soon start to melt away.

Don’t Regain Lost Weight

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You’ve worked hard to lose excess weight, but you may be worried about regaining the lost weight. Many people will lose weight only to regain the lost weight or even gain more weight than they lost. It can be discouraging to work so hard only to be back at the starting line after a few months. There are some things you can do to maintain your weight and avoid regaining lost weight. 
Never skip meals. Skipping meals can cause you to feel more hungry at meal time. If you are very hungry at meal time, there is a chance you will overeat. Skipping meals also causes your metabolism to slow down. A slower metabolism means your body will store food as fat. Keep your metabolism humming along by eating a nutritious, high fiber breakfast that includes whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruits or fruit juice. Eating 5 small meals throughout the day is more effective to keep your metabolism burning calories than eating 3 big meals. Choose raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains as snacks between breakfast and lunch and again between lunch and dinner. Granola bars or whole fruits such as peaches, apples or pears can satisfy your hunger and keep your metabolism working. 
Weigh yourself once each week at the same time of day each week. Keep a journal to record your weekly weight. You can use the information to monitor your weight and track trends in weight fluctuations. Start an exercise journal. Write down all your physical activity along with duration and intensity of the exercise. For example, if you walk to work instead of driving or taking the train, write down how long you walked, your pace and the distance walked. Write down the duration and intensity of workouts on exercise equipment, too. Keep a food journal and write down everything you eat every day. After 6 to 8 weeks, compare the information in your weight, exercise and food journal. You should be able to recognize patterns in eating and exercise that correlate with your weight loss or gain.
Continue to eat a variety of healthy foods and get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

How to Get More Fruit In Your Diet

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Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet and may even reduce your risk of getting some types of cancer. Fruits are delicious and packed with nutrients. It’s easy to find ways to incorporate more fruits into your daily diet. Fruits are available fresh, frozen, dried and canned. You can use fruits in salads, sandwiches, drinks and desserts. They are great for snacks, too. When you buy fresh fruits, always wash them thoroughly under running water to remove dirt, bacteria and any trace of pesticides before eating or cooking. Keep your fresh fruits stored separately in the refrigerator away from meats and other foods. 
One of the easiest ways to eat more fruit is to keep a bowl of fresh, washed fruit on a table or on the kitchen counter. You and your children are more likely to reach for a fragrant orange or a tasty banana for a snack if they are readily available. Make a delicious fruit salad using fresh, cut up fruits. Add some orange juice and stir. Fresh fruit salad is delicious and does not need extra sugar for sweetening. Cut oranges, apples, grapes, pears, peaches, nectarines, tangerines, pineapple and melon into cubes and stir together with a cup of orange juice. Eat it right away or refrigerate. 
Bananas, prunes, peaches, apricots, melons and oranges are loaded with potassium, an essential nutrient. Try some sliced bananas or fresh peaches in your cold, whole grain breakfast cereal. The natural sweetness of the fruit reduces the need for additional sweeteners or sugar. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas or raisins liven up a hot bowl of oatmeal, too. You can get more fruit into your diet at lunchtime by adding fruit to low-fat yogurt or eating a whole, fresh apple, orange or pear for dessert. Fruits are available packaged for individual servings that are great for a mid-morning or late afternoon snacks at work. Add apple chunks and grapes to chicken salad for a delicious, crunchy lunch sandwich. Keep a box of raisins or other dried fruit, such as apricots, in your desk at work for a quick, tasty snack. Fresh fruit smoothies are another way to get fresh fruit into your diet. Make your own by blending low-fat milk with fresh fruits and ice. 

Safe Summer Grilling

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Grilling food outdoors during the summer is an American tradition. The savory smell of grilled steaks and vegetables fill neighborhoods all around the country during this time of the year. Unfortunately, many Americans will cook high-fat, high-cholesterol foods like sausages and ground beef. In addition to the unhealthy saturated fat, meat drippings that burn on the coals release chemicals that may contribute to cancer. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when meat is grilled or when fats burn on the grill coals or heating elements. Bacteria is also a potential health concern when grilling outdoors. Handle meats carefully, make lean meat choices and grill more vegetables for a safer, healthier grilling season.
Grilled ground beef patties are a summer fare favorite. Bacteria on meat is normally killed during the cooking process but under-cooked meat can leave live bacteria inside the meat. Bacteria on the outside of ground beef gets mixed up to the inside of the burger patties when they are formed. Cook hamburger patties thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria hiding inside your burger. A 1/2 inch thick burger should be cooked for about 13 to 15 minutes. Meats like chicken, steaks and fish should be cooked thoroughly to kill bacteria inside the meats. The only way to be sure chicken is safely cooked is to use a meat thermometer. The inside temperature of chicken has to reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safely cooked. 
Cook sausages on low heat to avoid charring the outside but leaving the inside under-cooked. Bratwurst and Italian sausages should be cooked over low coals to prevent the skin from burning and splitting. Start with a lean cut of meat and trim all the fat off the meat before grilling to reduce the saturated fats in your diet and to avoid potentially harmful chemicals released when fat drips on the coals.
Try some fruits and vegetables on your summer grill for a tasty healthy alternative to meat. Tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, pineapple, eggplant,  apples, pears, and onions are delicious grilled as a vegetable-fruit mix or as kabobs. Cook vegetables for 10 to 12 minutes over a medium grill. Use marinade for extra flavor.

Nutrition for Older People

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Good nutrition is important at every age, but it is especially important to eat a variety of foods when we become older. Older people may be at risk for age-related diseases, such as stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, arthritis and diabetes. A life-long healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce your risk of age-related disease, but it is never too late to start eating a healthy diet. Older people are at risk of losing muscle mass. Protein is critical to maintain muscle mass and to repair injured muscle tissue. Eggs, fish, poultry and lean beef are good sources of protein. Nuts, soy and low-fat dairy also provide sufficient protein to help maintain muscle mass. Adequate protein and remaining active can help reduce age-related muscle loss. 
Older people who may not be as active as others need fewer calories but still need carbohydrates for energy. The sugar fructose in fruits and lactose in milk and dairy products can help you boost your energy level. By eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, you will provide your body with vitamins, fiber and trace minerals that are necessary for good health and keep your energy levels up. Some aging people are less active so they need fewer calories. Try to stay active throughout your life, but adjust your caloric intake to account for less activity. Your doctor or a dietitian  can help you determine your energy needs and adjust your diet to meet calorie needs. 
Limit the amount of fats in your diet. Replace saturated fats from beef, butter, high-fat dairy, processed foods and margarine with natural oils like corn, soy and olive oils. Many processed foods including cookies, frozen foods, crackers and read-to-serve packaged meals contain hydrogenated fats also called trans fats. These fats can cause plaque buildup in your arteries, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Remain active as long as you can by walking, swimming and stretching your body. Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. 

Diet Don’ts

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Obesity is a serious problem in the United States. Obesity rates are more than 30% of the population of some states and the problem appears to be growing. The increase in obesity rates has many people re-thinking their diet and fitness habits. Some may even take extreme measures to lose weight or to prevent weight gain. Extreme measures to control or lose weight can lead to serious health problems and are not advised. 
Don’t do extreme dieting. Extreme dieting is a common method employed by many people who want to quickly lose weight. Starvation diets, skipping meals, cutting entire food groups from the menu or relying on diet shakes for nutrition can result in malnutrition and loss of muscle mass. Your metabolism will also slow down, which  defeats your weight loss goal. The average person needs at least 1,200 calories every day to stay healthy.  Eat a variety of foods, including dairy, fruits and vegetables to get the nutrition you need and to avoid hunger. Avoid fad diets that limit the variety of foods you can eat or restrict your menu to only a few foods from one or two food categories. 
Don’t count on diet pills or shakes to help you lose weight. Diet products that promise you will lose tens of pounds in just few weeks are unlikely to live up to this claim and may actually harm your health. Most diet pills are a combination of diuretics and caffeine, which cause you to lose water and can result in dehydration. Overuse of diet pills can result in electrolyte imbalance, too. 
Over-the-counter diet pills may not appear to be dangerous , but they can still cause harm. “Most diet pills are nothing more than a quick fix loaded with caffeine and diuretics that can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance,” says Diekman, director of nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. Diet supplements and over-the-counter diet pills do not receive the same level of scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration as prescription drugs, so their safety and effectiveness is not assured. 

Don’t do colon cleanses or detox programs. Colon cleanses can cause you to lose some weight initially due to water loss and the complete emptying of the bowel. Water loss from colon cleanses can cause dehydration. Detoxing your body by drinking only juice or water for days can lead to a lack of nutrients, decreased metabolism and may cause other health problems. It’s best to drink lots of water and eat a high-fiber diet every day. 
Don’t purge. Purging, like vomiting or using laxatives are unsafe and can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening, health problems. When you force yourself to vomit shortly after eating, strong stomach acids can cause erosion in the lining of the mouth and esophagus. Tooth enamel is also damaged by stomach acids. Purging can lead to the severe eating disorder bulimia. 

Are You Undoing Your Diet With Beverages?

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Cutting back on calories and exercising more are essential to losing weight and getting fit. If you are eating less and exercising more but you aren’t losing weight as fast as you think you should be, examine your beverages. Most of us are careful about the foods we eat, but beverages can undo your diet, too. Some beverages can ruin your diet by adding empty calories, which can be stored as fat. It may seem obvious to switch to diet soda or drink sugar-free beverages, but other drinks can be just as diet-destroying as sugary sodas. 
A bottle of fruit juice may contain as many calories as a regular soda. The trade-off is that fruit juice is rich in nutrients that your body needs. Fruit “drinks” and fruit “cocktails” often contain as little as 10% real fruit juice. Select only 100% fruit juices without added sugar. Vegetables juices are as nutritious as fruit juice but contain about half the calories. The trade-off with vegetable juice is, instead of sugar, vegetable juices often contain a lot of sodium. Look for low-sodium or no-added-salt versions of your favorite vegetable juice. Read the label on your favorite juice drink to find a blend that does not contain extra sugar or salt. 
A cool smoothie seems like it would be low in calories and high in nutrition, but this is not always the case. Restaurants may use honey, corn syrup or even ice cream to sweeten a fruit smoothie and send your caloric intake through the roof. Your best option is to blend your own smoothies at home so that you control the ingredients to avoid extra sugar and empty calories. Blend some blueberries, a banana and some strawberries with skim milk for a delicious, low-calorie, high fiber, nutritious beverage. 
Plain coffee contains zero calories and has antioxidants that are beneficial. When you add whipped cream, flavored syrups and sugar you have a diet bomb in a cup. Specialty and fancy coffee drinks can contain almost 600 calories per cup. If you don’t like plain coffee, use low-calorie flavorings and artificial sweeteners to avoid extra calories. Green tea is another zero calorie drink to consider. Water is the best choice to stay hydrated and cut calories. Drink a couple of glasses of water before dinner to help you feel more full to avoid over-eating.