Make Healthy Food Choices: Fiber - Carbohydrates - Salt - Sugar

Back Pain and Obesity

Fiber and Carbohydrates
Some weight management plans advocate eliminating or seriously limiting carbohydrate consumption. However, this may not be ideal because healthy sources of carbohydrates contain fiber the body needs.

Healthy HeartIt is recommended that adults consume 25 grams of fiber per day. Adequate dietary fiber is ideal for preventing obesity as well as other diet-related disease and for maintaining body weight. An estimated amount consumed by most Americans is 15 grams per day.

The best sources of carbohydrate that help to fulfill fiber requirements come from whole grains, fruits and vegetables; fresh unprocessed foods. The closer the food is to its natural state the better. For example, the fiber in oatmeal draws water into the intestines and helps maintain regularity, which decreases the time potential carcinogens spend in the digestive track. Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins that help to neutralize free-radicals. To increase daily fiber intake, consider these suggestions:

  • Eat whole grain breads, cereals, pastas, couscous
  • Eat raw fruits and vegetables
  • Mix bran into cereals, casseroles, muffins, even salad
  • Incorporate beans (eg, garbanzo, kidney) into soup and salad

Sodium - Salt
Sodium is a mineral that is found naturally in foods and is the major part of table salt. Some sodium is needed (500 milligrams = ¼ teaspoon per day) for the body water balance. However, too much salt causes thirst, fluid gain, and contributes to high blood pressure.

Salt is hidden in fast foods, prepackaged frozen food products, beverages, candy bars, canned vegetables and soups - virtually hundreds of food items. Try to cut back on convenience foods, rinse canned vegetables, choose Swiss Lorraine or string cheese (these have the least amount of sodium), reduce salt used in cooking (taste first!), purchase a cook book on using herbs to season food, and order 'fresh' food when dining out.

If sugar was an 'essential' nutrient, a supplement manufacturer would have made it available decades ago! Sugar is sometimes called a 'simple carbohydrate' and is found in many forms including sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar, honey), maltose (malt sugar), and lactose (milk sugar). Similar to sodium, sugar is hidden in many prepared foods for purchase. If your sweet-tooth grabs you, try fresh fruit to stave off the craving.

One way to avoid excessive sugar consumption is to learn to read food labels. Try baking your own sweets with half the sugar, substitute 'conserves' for fruit preserves, add your own fresh fruit to plain yogurt, and avoid temptation - don't buy cookies, cakes and other sugar-laden treats for guests.

Portion Control
Since the mid-1950's portions of food/beverages served in restaurants and similar establishments has just kept getting larger. If you are accustomed to eating many meals away from home, learning what a normal portion of a particular food is may seem shocking.

For example, in 1957 the average fast food burger weighed about 1 ounce - today burgers weight 6 ounces or more. The 8 fluid ounces of soda served in 1957 has grown to the 32-64 fluid ounce size. Even movie theatre popcorn servings has grown to as much as 16 cups opposed to a 3 cup serving in 1957 (9).

No wonder obesity is becoming a global epidemic. Some people unknowingly are eating more food than they need.

Updated on: 02/28/17
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