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Do You Eat Enough Fiber?

Popular protein diets fare especially badly


The recent diet fad popularized by Dr. Robert C. Atkins advises weight-weary consumers to indulge in meat. Eat the burger but shun the bun, and the pounds melt away. At least a few selected testimonials claim that's what happened.

Unfortunately, even if the Atkins diet works for some, it could have long-term health consequences because a high-protein diet lacks the fiber needed to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Fiber absorbs water and moves food through the gut quickly so that cancer-forming compounds spend little time in contact with cells lining the intestine. Some research suggests a high fiber diet also lowers the risk of breast cancer.

In the United States and United Kingdom, for example, the average daily diet has about 20 grams of fiber, but the ideal should be closer to 35 grams. A feature from The Times of London explains that it's easy to achieve that goal by choosing the right foods. Try to avoid fiber supplements, if possible. Wheat bran, for example, contains phytic acid that can keep the body from absorbing zinc, an essential nutrient.

The American Dietetic Association explains the health benefits of dietary fiber and has detailed recommendations on incorporating high fiber foods into every day meals.

MSNBC describes the controversy over the Atkins plan, which some dieters swear by, even though many nutritionist swear at it.

-- Jeff Johnston

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