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Consumer Reports notes the health benefits of adding more fiber to the diet

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fiber is often heralded as a miracle worker. Yet your body can't digest the stuff. So how can it be so good for you? Here are four ways:

-- It may hamper the absorption of dietary fat, which can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

-- It slows the absorption of sugar, which might help control Type 2 diabetes.

-- It speeds waste through your gut, which helps keep you regular.

-- It fills you up, which can help you limit how much you eat.

Moreover, fiber-rich foods also contain lots of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Yet most Americans consume only about half the recommended amount. To get more, Consumer Reports suggests these tips.

Look for foods that are labeled as "good sources" of fiber. Products that make this claim should contain about three grams of fiber per serving. (All products named here contain at least that much.)

Choose whole grains. They contain more fiber than refined grains. Look for products that say they are "100 percent whole grain" or "100 percent whole wheat."

Start the day right. You can't beat oatmeal, which has about four grams of fiber per one-cup serving. Or try a high-fiber cereal, such as Kirkland Signature Spiced Pecan Cereal, from Costco, or Kashi GoLean. And look for other fiber-rich breakfast items, such as Cream of Wheat Healthy Grain Instant hot cereal and Thomas' Double Fiber Honey Wheat English Muffins.

Choose fiber-filled snacks. Munch on raw carrots or celery, or try popcorn (with little or no salt). Or look for fiber-rich crackers, such as Kellogg's All-Bran Multi-Grain Crackers and Nabisco's Wheat Thin Fiber Selects.

Drink it up. Toss chunks of apple, banana, carrot or other fruits or vegetables into a blender with a little juice, low-fat yogurt or soy milk. Or try such drinks as Silk Soymilk Plus Fiber and V8's high-fiber variety.

Look for fiber-fortified pastas. Many brands now have whole-grain and high-fiber varieties, including Dreamfields, FiberGourmet and Ronzoni Smart Taste.

Don't forget legumes. Add beans or lentils to soups and salads.

Keep the skin on. When practical, eat fruit with the skin still on, and don't peel vegetables. (But do wash them well and, when possible, buy organic produce to reduce exposure to pesticides.)

Bake it in. Add crushed bran cereal or flax or sesame seeds to cakes, casseroles, cookies, meatloaf and muffins.

Consider a supplement. It's best to get fiber from foods, but a supplement can help if you're suffering from constipation despite making dietary changes. Consumer Reports' Best Buy Drugs report on constipation recommends those that contain psyllium. Metamucil is a well-known brand, but you can also find it in cheaper, generic versions.

Copyright 2009. Consumers Union of United States Inc.

For further guidance, go to ConsumerReportsHealth.org. More-detailed information -- including CR's ratings of prescription drugs, conditions, treatments, doctors, hospitals and healthy-living products -- is available to subscribers to that site.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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