There’s a type of carbohydrate that boosts your workout results, fat-burning power, mood and motivation. It’s ﬁbre – and you probably haven’t been getting enough. Until now.
Clockwise in from bottom: ½ cup SPLIT PEAS 8g, ½ AVOCADO 7g, 28g RASPBERRIES 7g, ½ cup COLLARD GREENS 4g, 1 cup PEARLED BARLEY 6g, 1 whole SWEET POTATO 6g, 3 cups POPCORN 3.5g, 1 cup BROCCOLI 5g, 28g ALMONDS 3.5g, 1 cup PEAS 9g, 1 cup BLACK BEANS 15g
New research shows that ﬁbre, which helps food pass through one’s system, is critical for active women as it helps them to work out harder and longer.
Fibre’s fuddy-duddy image is getting a makeover – and a well-deserved one. For starters, new research shows that ﬁbre is critical for active women as it helps them to work out harder and longer. A type of carbohydrate, it helps food pass through your system, which is where its potency lies. “Fibre slows down the digestion and absorption of food, so you get steady energy that lasts,” says Sarah Romotsky, director of health and wellness of the International Food Information Council Foundation in Washington, D.C. One way it may ensure stamina is by boosting the population of a type of gut bacteria that improves the way your body handles sugar, research published in the journal Cell Metabolism shows. A better workout isn’t the only beneﬁt from the rough stuff. Check out the three other important ways your body uses ﬁbre to stay healthy, slim, and strong.
TORCH MORE FAT AND CALORIES
Fibre revs up your metabolism. Women who substitute high-ﬁbre grains for reﬁned ones have a higher resting metabolic rate, which means they burn more calories throughout the day, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
This effect is probably due to the increased energy your body has when it gets enough ﬁbre, along with a steady blood sugar level, says study author Susan B. Roberts, a senior scientist at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and the founder of the iDiet weight-loss programme.
Fibre is especially beneﬁcial for keeping your weight healthy as it produces short-chain fatty acids when it’s broken down by your gut bacteria, says Wendy Dahl, an associate professor in food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida. These fatty acids help induce feelings of fullness and keep your appetite in check.
One kind of ﬁbre called resistant starch may actually increase the body’s ability to burn fat, including belly fat, says Michael Keenan, a food science professor at Louisiana State University.
It triggers a mechanism that prompts your body to use fat instead of carbs for fuel. Eaten daily, foods with this starch – like beans, whole grains and cooked and cooled potatoes, pasta, and rice (the cooling process makes them develop resistant starch) – can have a big impact.
KEEP YOUR BODY BALANCED
If you’re packing in a lot of post-workout protein to help build and maintain muscle, ﬁbre can be an important counterbalance, Wendy says. Consume too much protein, and some of it may not be digested and will instead be broken down by gut bacteria, which creates inﬂammation-causing compounds, she explains.
But when you eat enough ﬁbre, it acts as a deterrent. The bacteria break it down instead, which prevents this harmful process. For best results, make sure that at least some of your daily protein comes from plant sources, like beans and peas, that contain plenty of ﬁbre, Wendy says.
Fibre boosts the population of good gut bugs in the digestive tract, which research has linked to a bolstered immune system and even a better mood, Wendy says. Your bones beneﬁt, too. Certain types of ﬁbre, like chicory root, make it easier for the body to absorb magnesium and calcium, which are critical for a strong frame.
A ﬁbre-rich diet can even help ward off knee problems. In a Boston University School of Medicine study, people who ate the most ﬁbre were less likely than those who consumed less ﬁbre to experience worsening knee pain or develop painful osteoarthritis later, probably thanks to ﬁbre’s anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁts.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
Aim for at least 25g of ﬁbre every day; most of us get only about 16g. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts (see the opposite page for some of the tastiest high-ﬁbre foods), and you’ll end up with the right mix of different types of ﬁbre, Sarah says. And as you up your ﬁbre intake, drink more water to prevent stomach upset, she says. Your new goal: nine glasses a day.
Some packaged foods contain “functional ﬁbre,” like psyllium and inulin. While it’s okay to eat this type to help ﬁll the gaps, eating whole foods gives you the beneﬁt of other nutrients as well.
PHOTO TED CAVANAUGH