Monday, March 4, 2013

How to integrate fiber into your diet

So we’ve seen in a previous post the importance of fibers in digestion, cholesterol management and heart disease. Now, the question is:

How do I make sure I’m getting enough fibers daily?

1.   Drop the white and stick to brown!

-          Instead of using the regular white bread for your sandwiches, you can opt for whole grain.
Whole grain= نخالة، قمحة كاملة، غني بالألياف
-          Brown pasta and rice can also be a good idea
-          Go for breakfast cereals that are labeled as: rich in fibers, whole grains.

2.   Go green!

Almost all vegetables are rich in fibers. The trick is to vary your vegetables in order to get both types of fibers and not to get bored!

-          Add a salad to your lunch and dinner.
-          Choose recipes that contain vegetables. For instance, you can add carrots, pepper or tomatoes to your chicken to make it healthier and more colorful!

3.   Legumes

When you were little, your mom didn’t force you to eat those beans for nothing! She had a point there. Besides their protein and iron content, beans and other legumes are very rich in dietary fibers.

Go for chickpeas, kidney beans, cooked lentils and other beans.
Our Mediterranean diet is very rich in recipes that contain those ingredients. So forget about burgers and pizzas for lunch at least 2 to 3 times per week and opt for peas and rice (بزلة ورز), beans and rice (فاصوليا ورز), lentil soup (عدس بحامض), Moujaddara (مجدرة), etc.

4.   Be exotic

Oh yes! Fruits are indispensable in a high fiber diet! Snack on fruits instead of high fat and high sugar foods.
-          Have at least 2 fruits a day.
-          Go for the real thing instead of the juice because the fibers are found in the pulp.
-          Don’t peal them because the fibers are in the skin.
-          You can also go for dried fruits. Add them to your fiber rich breakfast cereals and tadaaaa!
-          Use berries, figs, raisins and nuts to add more fiber to your yoghurt, oatmeal, cereals and salads

5.   Add flaxseed to your ingredient list

If you read my article in Fit’N’Style magazine, then this is old news for you. In fact, one of flaxseed’s main components is dietary fibers. Flaxseed can be sprinkled as such on salads or any other cooked meal.
The ground seeds are very useful. They can be integrated into all recipes: cookies, muffins, bread loafs, pizza doughs, etc. (pic)

6.   Quinoa

Remember our “Quinoa… My precious” post?
Well, this pseudo-grain is known for its fiber content and just like flaxseed, it can be sprinkled on salads or integrated into any recipe. Plus, you can eat it instead of nuts.

7.   Always check Nutrition Facts labels on the foods you buy and look for products that contain  2 grams or more fiber per serving.

How much fibers should I eat?

The Institute of Medicine recommends that children and adults consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories of food they eat each day.
Without too many complications, women should have around 25g of fibers and men around 35.

Sample menu
Fiber content (g)
1 large whole wheat pita bread (60g)
4 slices of white cheese (60g)
1 cucumber
1 tomato

1 orange
1 cup of salad
1 cup of peas
1 cup of rice

1 apple
1 cup of salad
120g chicken breast
1 baked potato without skin


Around 1500 calories


It is important to increase your fiber intake gradually in order to avoid any bloating, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Also, you should drink lots of water so you can facilitate the digestion.

A healthy diet can provide more fibers than needed with just a little effort! So if you can have at least 3 days that look like this sample menu, you can have it your way for the rest of the week!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Fiber 101

One thing is for sure: if you want to adopt a healthy lifestyle and have good eating habits, then fibers are one of the must-haves in your diet!
However, what exactly are dietary fibers, how many types are there and what are their benefits?

1.    What exactly are dietary fibers?

Fibers are a type of carbohydrates that is not digested by the human organism. Although listed on nutrition labels under “Total carbohydrates”, they provide 0 calories as they are not broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Fibers are divided into two main groups:

-          Soluble fibers: They dissolve in water forming a gel and are easily digested by bacteria in the human colon.
Types: gums, pectins, psyllium and some hemicelluloses.
-          Insoluble fibers: non viscous, less fermentable, these fibers absorb water and speed the movement of material through your digestive system.
Types: cellulose, lignins, resistant starch, hemicellulose.

2.  Benefits and sources of each group of fibers

Whether soluble or insoluble, fibers have many undeniable benefits:

Soluble fibers

-          Barley
-          Oats
-          Oat Bran
-          Rye
-          Fruits (apples, citrus)
-          Legumes (especially green peas and black eyed peas)
-          Seaweed
-          Seeds and husks
-          Vegetables

Lower cholesterol and heart disease risk:

-          Soluble fibers bind with cholesterol containing compounds and carry them out with the feces. And since these compounds are needed in digestion, cholesterol stocks are mobilized in order to synthesize more. This is how the body will be able to get rid of the cholesterol and prevent its elevation in the blood.
-          Diets that are rich in fibers are usually low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. They also provide antioxidants and are usually associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Control blood glucose:

Soluble fibers slow glucose absorption and prevent a rapid elevation of its concentration in the blood often predisposing to diabetes.
For people with established diabetes, a high fiber diet can modulate blood glucose levels and help prevent medical complications.

Soften stools:

Soluble fibers hold moisture in stools making them softer, thus making the process of defecation easier.

Insoluble fibers

-          Brown rice
-          Fruits
-          Legumes
-          Vegetables (cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts)
-          Wheat bran
-          Whole grains

Fight constipation:

Insoluble fibers are more concerned with fighting constipation because they add bulk to stools helping them pass more quickly through the intestines.

3.  Common benefits of both groups of fibers

Soluble and insoluble fibers can have common benefits. In fact they are good for:

-          Maintaining the health of the digestive tract
Both types of fibers can help prevent diseases such as hemorrhoids (swelling of the rectal veins), diverticulosis (infection of diverticula, abnormally bulging pockets in the colon wall) and appendicitis. Studies have also proven they can protect against colon cancer by diluting cancer-causing agents and speeding their removal from the colon. Additionally, when soluble fibers ferment, they form small fat molecules which can activate cancer killing enzymes and reduce inflammation in the colon.
-          Weight management
Fibers can help regulate weight by slowing gastric emptying, making you feel full longer! In consequence, your food consumption will be considerably reduced.

Now that you know what they are, you should start including them in your diet. Learn about that in our next article!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Fit in the stormy weather!

Doesn’t that winter cold weather and heavy rain just pull you back into your bed every single time? Isn’t it amazing to just sit on your couch and watch the storm from your window? And isn’t it annoying to put on your sportswear and go to the gym?

 If your answer was yes to those questions, then this article was written JUST FOR YOU! It’s here to tell you that you don’t need to become obese by the end of the season! You can simply follow these tips in order to maintain a healthy body through indoor physical activity.

1.    Fat burning

Unless you have a treadmill at home or you own a mansion where you can actually jog, there’s no way you can burn the extra fat!


Here are some aerobic or fat burning activities you can do indoors:

-          Dancing: Yes! Just put a 30 minute playlist daily and start shaking! Focus on all parts of your body from the shoulders to the hips and down to the feet. For us girls, belly dancing might be one of the best activity we can do to work out our entire body. And boys, we know you’ve got the right moves to seduce us but you can always learn some more!
-          Jumping rope: Feel like a little kid? Why not! If you don’t, you will see your weight jump much higher than you’d want it to. You can do as many sets as you want. Just try to reach 30 minutes per day.
-          Go up the stairs: Put those running shoes on and start walking up and down the stairs. If you run into your neighbor, just pretend you were doing something on the roof.
-          For once I say thank god for technology! Nintendo’s Wii can help you burn some calories through their sports CDs. Choose tennis, ping pong, etc.
-          Play with your dog: Run around the house with your dog and play with it so you can get both your hearts pumping.

2.  Muscle training

Just like we always say, muscle training can increase your metabolism. In other words, it can increase the number of calories you burn at rest every day.
Here’s what you can do at home:
-          Push-ups: Don’t give up too quickly on push-ups. Even though, they can be very annoying and hard to do but once you get used to them, they become easier to handle. They are very beneficial as they can work muscles of the upper arm (biceps and triceps), abdomen (for those six packs you’re looking for), pectoral muscles (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor) and deltoid muscles (shoulders).
-          Pull-ups: Not so pleasant? Maybe! But if you take a good look at their benefits you will definitely change your mind. Pull-ups can work out your trunk, arms, shoulders, abdominal muscles, pelvic floor, hands and forearms. Now get a hold of a bar and start pulling!

-          Weight lifting: You can buy small weights and do biceps, triceps, etc.
-          Sit-ups: As you may already know it, sit-ups will work out your abs. But beware! They will not burn the fat you have around the belly! They can only strengthen your muscles. So, if you have a beer belly, try to go for aerobic activities first and then start with resistance training. 
-          Squats: They can strengthen your legs, back, thighs and buttocks as well as your entire body. Studies have shown that they are very good for your knees. They can also increase your balance, strength and muscle tone.

-          Lunges: This activity is destined to work out your hips, butt and upper leg muscles. It is very important in order to have a nicer shape. You can challenge yourself a bit more by carrying weights in your hands while doing lunges.

-          Boxing: It is a type of activity that is 70 to 80% anaerobic. It can help you burn some fat but it mainly strengthens your muscles.  

8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise are required in order to benefit from it.

Don’t let the storm be an excuse for those extra kilograms. Close that laptop of yours and start moving!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Iranian chewing gum for motion sickness!

If you are one of those people who get nauseous during car rides, flights and especially boat trips, then this recent invention is perfect for you.
A team of researchers lead by Mohsen Sadatrezaei from the Islamic Azad University School of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Tehran, Iran) has developed a medicated gum that will alleviate motion sickness sooner.

1. What causes motion sickness?

Motion sickness is thought to occur when there is a conflict between what your eyes see and what your inner ears -which help with balance- sense. Your brain receives a jumble of contrasting information, which is thought to bring on the symptoms of motion sickness.

So basically, the latter occurs when your inner ear senses motion but your eyes cannot tell you are moving.

2. Conventional treatment

When you have a mild motion sickness, you can simply change your seat or lie down. You can even gaze at the horizon or listen to some music in order to distract yourself.

In more serious cases, medication is needed. And among the drugs that are used is dimenhydrinate, an anti-histaminic.

3. The anti motion sickness chewing gum
This medicated gum is made of dimenhydrinate. According to the researchers, the main active ingredient is absorbed into the bloodstream through the cheek.

Sadatrezaei stated that the most challenging part was to mask the bitter taste of the active ingredient. And in fact, the team was successful in creating a product that is easy to chew, well absorbed with an acceptable taste.

This formula is yet to be commercialized but looks very promising, not only in the treatment of motion sickness but also in other conditions where other active ingredients might be incorporated into a chewing gum!

So can you imagine having the pleasure to chew on all your medications?


Monday, January 21, 2013

Armed and ready to go!

When your job requires you to be constantly on the road, every diet seems bound to fail. I remember when I started working as a medical representative, I gained weight. YES! I’m a dietitian and I managed to fall into that trap! Fast food and high sugar snacks were a huge part of most of my days simply because they seemed more convenient. Suddenly, the alarm was set and I had to do something about it.
So, let’s see what you should do to stay healthy on the road…

1.       Have a good breakfast before moving!

The key to having a successful day is to start on the right foot. And breakfast is definitely a critical moment. In fact, you should fuel your body with the right elements in order to prevent hunger. Therefore, skipping this meal is out of question no matter how much you’re in a hurry. Wake up 10 minutes earlier so as to prepare your breakfast and pack it for the road.

You should…

Skip the high fat man’ouche as well as the not-so-filling croissant and knefeh.

Go for whole wheat bread because its fibers will fill you up for much longer. Add to it some low fat cheese, labneh or turkey. Put lots of vegetables in your sandwich as they can satisfy you even more. You can also, occasionally, add some olives because after all, your metabolism is the highest in the morning and you can always burn the calories. Breakfast cereals are not such a bad idea. But, of course, try to avoid the sugar coated ones.

So basically, the formula is: Whole wheat bread+ proteins + vegetables + just a little bit of good fats!

2.       Have a proper lunch

The easiest and cheapest lunch is definitely a drive thru at the nearest fast food restaurant. However, it can cost you a lot of extra weight! So if your goal is to stay healthy, you have to create a balance between your pocket and your belly.

Your best option is to eat a home-made meal. How?
Pass by your house for a proper lunch if possible, even if it’s going to take away 30 extra minutes of your time.If you find it too hard, think of someone you know who works close to the area you are in and plan your break in their office. Personally, I always pack my lunch in a cooler when I’m close to downtown so that I can have a decent meal with my friend.

If this is still impossible for you, you can always switch between lunch and dinner: have a healthy sandwich at noon and have your main meal when you get back from work. You can also keep a salad with you in a portable fridge. Now it may seem a bit ridiculous and inconvenient; however, once you try it, you will find it simpler than you think.

What's a healthy sandwich?
It is definitely made of whole wheat bread with chicken breast, steak, tuna in water,crab or even just cheese or turkey. You can flavor it with some mustard and a little ketchup. Avoid the mayonnaise, obviously! And again vegetables, vegetables and lots of vegetables so that the lunch experience becomes more enjoyable and durable!

And if you insist on eating out, which you probably will have to sometimes, you should make wise choices of ingredients. Read our article about eating out for more info.

3.       Arm your car with snacks

So you managed to have a good breakfast and a not-so-bad lunch. However, there are times during the day when you really get hungry and you should be ready for those moments. The most important thing about being constantly on the road is being armed with healthy snacks. This is the only way to keep yourself from stopping by a shop and walking out with a bag of chips, a soda and a chocolate bar.

You can have…
-          Fruits such as apples or bananas or even dried ones
-          Vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, etc.
-          Light cookies
-          Corn flakes
-          Cereal bars
-          Raw nuts, etc.
For more snack ideas, read this!
Even though this seems like such hard work, all it needs is just a little of your time. A few minutes of preparation in the morning or even the day before can save you so many calories and the frustration of weight gain! 

It worked with me, so why don’t you give it a shot?