by Sue Gilbert, M.S., Nutritionist
Although not a nutrient (it is non-nutritious), fiber has many health benefits, such as helping weight loss and maintenance, lowering the risk of certain cancers, keeping cholesterol in check and helping with regularity.
Fiber is found only in plants, so including plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your diet is how you ensure that you get enough.
Some great sources of fiber for late summer and early fall include blueberries, pears, apples, corn and sweet potatoes.
Turkey-Pear Pockets are an easy and delicious way to serve fresh fiber-rich pears.
Folate, a B vitamin usually appearing as folic acid, is essential for protein metabolism, red blood corpuscle formation and cell division. Adequate amounts of folate are needed by pregnant women to prevent neural-tube defects in babies. Low blood levels of folic acid have also been linked to higher rates of cervical cancer. And yet most women don’t get enough. Even though it’s widely distributed in food, it is easily destroyed during storage and preparation (usually more than 50 percent), which is all the more reason to chose fresh foods and prepare them simply.
Good sources of folate include sweet potatoes, orange juice, beets, leafy greens, soybeans, sunflower seeds, cashews and corn.Spiced Apple Sweet Potatoes contains two folate-rich foods, sweet potatoes and orange juice. It also uses the microwave, one of the best cooking methods for preserving nutrients.
Women, especially pregnant and elderly women, don’t get enough zinc. In a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 8 percent got the recommended daily amounts of this trace mineral, and the rest got only about 60 percent of what they needed. Poor food choices and insufficient calories are the main reasons.
Zinc is crucial for many functions, most importantly cell multiplication, tissue regeneration and sexual maturity. Deficiencies can result in subtle to dramatic symptoms, including loss of appetite, delayed wound healing, low sperm counts, low-birth-weight babies and birth defects. Meat and seafood (especially oysters) are your best sources of zinc. Although some zinc is found in vegetables and grains, the fiber also found there may interfere with its absorption. When fall’s cool winds chase you inside, a lean pot roast stewing on the stove will warm you and help fill your zinc requirement at the same time.
Most of our diets are too low in chromium. Too little of this nutrient can result in an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, especially as we get older, when its supply in our blood becomes depleted. Chromium works with insulin by facilitating the uptake of glucose into cells, so a borderline deficiency may contribute to a buildup of sugar in your blood.
Foods with the most chromium include brewer’s yeast, whole grains, beef, beer (the pot roast recipe above contains beef and beer) and nuts. Don’t leave this fall’s nut harvest to the squirrels. Enjoy them regularly in small amounts. Harvest Bread made in your bread machine includes plenty of whole grains and nuts, both of which will boost your intake of chromium.