Move over, vitamin C. New research shows that large amounts of soluble fiber—the kind in avocados, oranges, and figs—can speed up your recovery from bacterial infections. "Soluble fiber changes immune cells from being pro-inflammatory warrior cells to anti-inflammatory peacekeeper cells," says Gregory Freund, M.D., of the University of Illinois. Here's why: Soluble fiber boosts production of the protein interleukin-4, which stimulates the body's infection-fighting T-cells.
Two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, are found in all plant foods—fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Citrus fruits, berries, and flaxseed are good sources of soluble fiber; wheat bran, barley, and other whole grains tend to be high in insoluble fiber.
Both types of fiber are key to a healthy diet. "I recommend people get at least 6 to 8 grams of soluble fiber per day," says James Anderson, M.D., of the National Fiber Council. The FDA endorses a total daily fiber intake of 28 grams for women and 36 grams for men.
It's easy to add fiber to your diet, says dietitian Molly Kimball. "Toss 2 tablespoons of flaxseed into your oatmeal and you double your fiber content from 2 to 4 grams. Or eat a poached pear for dessert for another 3 grams of soluble fiber."
Try These Foods for a Fiber Boost
Artichoke 1 medium = 4.7 grams
Lima beans 1/2 cup = 3.5 grams
Blackberries 1/2 cup = 3.1 grams
Orange 1 medium = 2.6 grams
More Nutrition Tips
Enjoy the Buffet (The Low-Cal Way)
Before gorging on Swedish meatballs at a smorgasbord, ask yourself, "Is this a meal or a snack?" You're better off viewing it as a meal. At the Cornell Food and Brand Lab we invited 122 people to a buffet reception. We told half of them the fare was a snack and the other half it was a meal. Those who viewed the edibles as a snack ate 22 percent fewer calories (416 versus 531). But get this: The "snackers" then went home and ate a full dinner. So when party food looks healthy, make it a meal—you'll eat less for the remainder of the day. —Brian Wansink, Ph.D.
Follow Your Food
Tainted lettuce, dirty spinach—no wonder people want to know where their produce is grown. Now more companies are telling them. Fresh Express tracks about 50 million bags of salad each month via its Leaf Locator. And HarvestMark links to 150 growers, who farm everything from Driscoll's berries to Del Campo tomatoes. Buyers simply enter a food's bar code online for its safety status and farm location. "Tracing services help consumers quickly identify products that may be tainted—helpful in case of recalls," says Ray Gilmer of the United Fresh Produce Association. —Leslie Quander Wooldrige