Eat Fiber, Stay Fit for Life

Written by Paul Wolf

It may reduce your risk of heart attack by as much as 15 percent, it can significantly lower your cholesterol, possibly help you to lose weight and may even save you thousands of dollars a year ? dietary fiber is some fabulous eating.

Study after study sings the praises of a diet high in fiber. The latest such report comes from the University of Kentucky, whose researchers say that the cholesterol-lowering properties of the product Metamucil, a psyllium fiber supplement, may be as effective as cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Funded by Procter & Gamble, the 250-patient study compared the cholesterol levels of those taking Metamucil with those taking a placebo for a period of six months. The Metamucil-consuming study participants witnessed a 5 percent cholesterol drop compared with the placebo group.

Those participants who adopted a high-fiber, healthy diet and exercise routine also reduced their risk of heart attack by 10 to 15 percent.

Researchers further found evidence showing that some people can save about $2,500 per year in office visits, monitoring and testing associated with high cholesterol.

But if you're one of those people who wouldn't drink a Metamucil cocktail if your life depended on it and there was $2,500 in it for you, don't fret. Previous studies already have shown the cholesterol-lowering value of other types of soluble fiber, including fruits, veggies, legumes and oat bran. Grains like wheat and rice contain mainly insoluble fiber, which presents benefits as well.

Want to get more fiber in your diet the old-fashioned way ? by eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains?

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Eat Fiber and Stay Fit for Life

1. Frequent the produce section.
Park your cart and plan to stay a while. All the best fibrous stuff is here: fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, dried fruit and roasted nuts, corn on the cob (usually classified as a grain) and tubers like potatoes and yams.

2. Reduce your reliance on processed foods.
Read the labels on packaged products. Avoid cereals made with milled flours in favor of high-fiber cereals. And be sure you aren't getting more white flour, enriched flour, sugar or corn syrup than whole-grain flour, wheat bran or oat bran.

3. Switch to whole-grain breads and pastas.
If you fill up on processed starch, you will have less room for salads, beans (a fiber powerhouse), vegetables and whole grains. If you don't want to cut back on bread and pasta, switch to whole grain or multigrain bread and whole-wheat pasta whenever possible.

4. Make fiber convenient.
Having trouble picturing yourself slicing carrots and celery at work? Do it ahead of time. Make a mental note to stash a piece of fruit or two in your briefcase or purse.

Packaged figs and prunes are loaded with fiber and are easy to eat on the go. Because they store well without refrigeration, they'll be good even after you return to work from a long weekend.

5. Make snacks an opportunity for fiber.
While they are relatively high in fat, peanuts are a fibrous treat. If fat grams scare you, opt for fresh popcorn, which has an amazing five to seven grams of fiber per serving. Finally, if your snacking sensibilities lean toward the sweet rather than the savory, you haven't lived until you've tried frozen whole cherries.

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