The Power of Water-Absorbent, Hydrophilic Foods
Think about a kitchen sponge—the hard, dry one that sits on the top corner of your sink. Place it under running water and it’s instantly revitalized. Water-absorbent foods—all rich in soluble fiber—will have the same effect on you. When you eat these foods, they dissolve and form a gel in your intestines. This gel improves the way your body processes carbohydrates, and it decreases insulin production by slowing glucose absorption. Translation: When you ingest foods with soluble fiber, it stops nasty cravings by keeping your blood sugar levels steady. Here are 10 of my favorite hydrophilic foods that have been staples in my nutrition practice.
This small black or white seed has the capacity to absorb water up to 12 times its weight! This ability means you maintain hydration and retain electrolytes; when your body is properly hydrated, nutrients from foods you ingest are absorbed more efficiently. Chia seeds also have no discernible flavor, so they can bulk up your favorite snacks and meals (think smoothies, yogurt, dips and spreads, stir-fries, etc.) without affecting their taste. Chia seeds also contain eight times more omega-3s than salmon and 30 percent more antioxidants than blueberries.
Many people shy away from okra because of its slimy consistency, but it’s easy to alleviate the goo factor when you add okra to stews, soup, and stir-fries. Okra is high in vitamins A, B6, and C; folate, calcium; iron; and magnesium. When you add okra to your meals, you won’t be hungry for hours.
This is absolutely my number-one choice for breakfast because of its ability to satiate. (Add chia seeds, and there is no better way to start your day). In addition to soluble fiber, oatmeal has 6 grams of protein per serving, as well as the minerals phosphorus, potassium, selenium, manganese, and some iron. A 15-year study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that oatmeal—thanks to a type of polysaccharide called beta-glucan—lowers cholesterol and decreases the risk of heart disease.
We have all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away; well, so does a pear. Pears actually have more pectin, a hydrophilic fiber, than apples. When you eat the fiber-rich skin along with the flesh, you’re even better off. The skin contains the antioxidant quercetin, which prevents cancer and artery damage.
Barley has a delicious nutty flavor and pastalike texture, which is why it’s one of my favorite grains to add to salads, soups, and side dishes. In the store, you’ll find hulled, pearled, and pot barley—go for pot. It’s between hulled and pearled in terms of how much it’s been processed. And it retains its nutritive punch while being the easiest to work with.
They contain enough hydrophilic fiber to keep you full for hours. And the American Cancer Society includes them as a key dietary recommendation. The cancer protection comes from four specific nutrients called glucosinolates, which are the starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances.
All beans are hydrophilic, but I picked kidney beans because I love them in chili-like soups and they are almost always an option at make-your-own salad bars. Choose beans as protein in salad to replace the usual chicken, turkey, or tuna fish. The portion (1 cup) is hefty and satisfying.
Here is another salad bar favorite and my bean of choice for meals and snacks on the HD diet plan. In addition to their satiating qualities, beans also decrease the risk of coronary disease. In a study of almost 10,000 men and women in the United States, participants who ate beans more than four times a week had a 22 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who ate beans less than once a week.
Whole oranges (not the juice) are chock-full of hydrophilic fiber; specifically, belly-filling pectin. But I now want to make a plea: Do not peel away the thick, white outer layer. It’s called the pith and it contains a lot of the pectin in addition to nearly the same amount of vitamin C as the flesh.