Fiber and Antioxidants
Fiber ensures that your bowel movements are regular and your stools are healthy, reducing bloating and flatulence. A fiber-rich diet is also a weight-loss essential because it boosts digestion and increases feelings of fullness after a meal. However, fiber has another very important benefit for women: It helps control levels of estrogen in the body. As “old” estrogen (that is, the estrogen that your body has finished with) enters your gut, fiber helps “bind” it so that it’s excreted out of the body with a bowel movement. Without that binding effect, your body reabsorbs the “old” estrogen into your circulatory system, creating a condition called “estrogen dominance” – an imbalance of too much estrogen. Breast cancer, endometriosis and fibroids are all conditions associated with high estrogen levels.
People with vegetarian diets naturally have a higher intake of vegetables than meat-eaters, with a greater fiber content. In these women, any estrogen that has done its job (so to speak) is excreted from the body, instead of being recirculated. As a result, vegetarians and those women whose diets contain only a little meat excrete 30 percent more “unwanted” estrogen than women who eat a lot of meat.
As with fats and carbohydrates, there are two main categories of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is found inside the structure of vegetables, fruits, oats and beans. It comes in several forms, one of which is beta glucan (found in oats), a binding agent for cholesterol. The beta glucan removes cholesterol, as well as fats and carcinogens, from your food, depositing them in your stools. Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains and nuts, is the kind known as “rough-age” and helps with good bowel movements. It binds with water to bulk out stools, making them easier to eliminate.
Among the most important nutrients in your diet, antioxidants protect your body against damage by free radicals – nasty substances produced by simple bodily functions, such as breathing, as well as by lifestyle factors such as smoking, fried food, pollution, and UV rays from the sun. Free radicals can wreak havoc in your body’s cells, making you more vulnerable to heart disease, weight gain, cancer, and premature aging. Fortunately, you can find a wealth of protective antioxidants in foods that are rich in vitamins A, C, and E (the “ACE” foods) and beta-carotene; the minerals selenium and zinc; and the compound lycopene (most famously found in tomatoes). Excellent sources include orange, yellow, red, and purple fruits and vegetables (for example, mangoes, red grapes, eggplants, carrots, peppers, and pumpkins), leafy greens, berries, sweet potatoes, avocados, nuts, seeds ,and fish.