Fiberful: The benefits of adding more fiber to your diet

By Kristen Heitman
NACUFS Intern 2013, UC Berkeley

Dietary Fiber is an important part to every person’s diet and health. According to the Journal of Nutrition, less than 3% of Americans meet recommended daily intake for fiber, which is 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. This equals out to 28-35 grams per day. At UC Berkeley, you have the ability to choose from a variety of foods at the Cal Dining facilities, that are high in fiber.

Fiber is a component of plants that cannot be digested by our body. Instead, it flows through our digestive system, aiding the movement of food, providing bulk and offering nutrients to healthy bacteria.

Benefits of increasing fiber intake include curbing hunger, lowering cholesterol and regulating your digestive system. Fiber tends to absorb liquid in the body, so be sure to drink a glass of water when you eat foods rich in fiber. This will make you feel full for a longer period of time.

Good sources of fiber found at Cal Dining:

  • Whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, spelt Kashi Go-Lean Crunch cereal, and Kellog’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Cereal
  • Fruits & vegetables, specifically broccoli, apples, berries, carrots and corn.
  • Beans, such as garbanzo, kidney, black, and pinto
  • Soy products like eddemame and dried soy nuts
Resources Used:



Online Nutritional Resources Archive:

It is pretty common to rely on caffeine to get through midterms and early mornings. But do you know what it is in the coffee that gives you the morning kick? Do you know about caffeine's potentially negative effects? If not, maybe it's about time you know exactly what you're in for when standing in line at Starbucks….

What is caffeine? Caffeine (C8H10N4O2) is the common name for trimethylxanthine, a chemical naturally produced by certain plants, such as the cacao plant, guarana, yerba mate, and tea trees. The caffeine in these plants acts as a natural pesticide, paralyzing and killing invasive insects. The chemical can be purified into a bitter white powder that's often added to colas and other soft drinks for flavor and stimulating effects.

What does caffeine do? Caffeine is an addictive substance. In humans, it stimulates the central nervous system, heart rate, and respiration. It can also have mood altering properties and act as a mild diuretic.

It is thought that caffeine is a stimulant via two mechanisms. Firstly, caffeine will often use the adenosine receptor sites in the brain, inhibiting adenosine function of slowing cellular activity. Secondly, caffeine triggers the release of the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) which can increase heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow, neurotransmitter levels and circulating glucose. The American Heart Association recommends moderation when consuming caffeinated products.

How much caffeine is safe? The impacts of average caffeine intake are short term; the chemical is quickly and completely removed from the brain after ingestion. Continued use of caffeine can lead to addiction; dependence brings a drop in blood pressure and headaches upon withdrawal. Too much ingested caffeine can result in intoxication, which presents symptoms of nervousness, excitement, increased urination, insomnia, flushed face, intestinal complaints and occasionally hallucinations. The lethal toxicity for adults is estimated to be between 13 and 19 grams; caffeine can be highly toxic in much smaller doses to household pets.

How much caffeine are you consuming? The average American consumes about 300 mg of caffeine per day, approximately 75% of which comes from coffee. As little as 200 mg of caffeine, however, is enough to make some people nervous or anxious. Caffeine levels within certain product vary naturally, due to the plant origin and roasting or other processing involved. Caffeine content is not required to be included on product packaging. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the following are some average and typical caffeine amounts of popular food and beverage items to help you assess and monitor your caffeine intake:

Product Quantity Caffeine (mg)
Coffee, Starbucks 16 oz. (grande) 550
  12 oz. (tall) 375
Caffe Latte, Starbucks 8 or 12 oz. (short or tall) 35
Espresso 1 oz. 35
Coffee, Decaf 16 oz. (grande) 10
Green tea 8 oz. 30
Cola 20 oz. 60
  12 oz. 35
Mountain Dew 12 oz. 55
dark / bitter / semisweet
1 oz. 20
Vivarin, Extra-Strength No Doz 1 200
No Doz, regular strength  1 100
Excedrin 2 130

Some Additional Facts:
  • It is only a myth that caffeine helps drunk people achieve sobriety.
  • Caffeine increases the power of aspirin and other pain killers by about 40%. That's why products such as Excedrin and Aanacin include it as an ingredient.
  • Caffeine speeds up reaction time and improves automatic processing skills. However, it can worsen performance on more complicated tasks.
  • The research is unclear, but anecdotal evidence indicates that coffee increases symptoms of PMS and breast lumps.



  • “Nutrition Action,” Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • “What is caffeine and how does it work?,” Helmenstein, Anne Marie

Lycopene, a member of the carotenoid pigment family, is commonly found in the human blood and tissues. The carotenoid family includes at least 600 pigments, most of which provide various plants' bright colors. For example, lycopene gives tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables their red color. The primary purpose of the pigment however is not to make them aesthetically pleasing, but to protect cells from photosensitization and aid in photosynthesis.

Lycopene is found in high concentrations in tomatoes and tomato products such as ketchup, tomato paste, and tomato sauce. Over 80% of the lycopene consumed by Americans is derived from tomato products. Given that lycopene is a pigment, produce of a deeper hue, such as dark red tomatoes, have a greater concentrations of lycopene than yellow and orange tomatoes. Watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit contain lycopene as well.

With many fruits and vegetables, it seems that the fresher the source the better. However, the first step of lycopene absorption is releasing it from the produce. Cooking and heating the produce source (even for a little while) actually releases lycopene from the matrix. Studies show that while an individual can benefit from 30-70mg lycopene per kg of fresh tomatoes, processed tomatoes contribute as much as 300mg of lycopene per kg. So cook your tomatoes!

Additionally, recent studies indicate that lycopene may be a beneficial factor in prostate and general cancer prevention! The first documented relationship between prostate cancer prevention and lycopene was found in the late 1970's when a case-control study reported that people with high lycopene intakes (more than 14 servings per month) had a 30% lower risk of prostate cancer than people with low lycopene intakes (less than 3 servings per month). Moreover, researchers in a study at Harvard found that men who ate the most tomato-based foods (like cooked tomatoes, tomato sauce, and pizza with red sauce) had a 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those who ate the least amount of these foods. In the ongoing Harvard Women's Health study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial has been following 40,000 women. Researchers found that women with the highest plasma levels of lycopene had a 34 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to women with lower plasma levels of lycopene.While these research studies do not provide any definite proof of lycopene's role in cancer and heart disease prevention, there seems to be a strong association. So eat well...and remember your serving of tomatoes and lycopene rich foods!


  • American Journal of Health Systems Pharmacists, August 2004. "Lycopene for prevention and treatment of prostate cancer."
  • European Journal of Nutrition, November 2004. "Protective activity of tomato products on in vivo markers of lipid oxidation."

Like many confusing recommendations that you may have heard, the risks of fish consumption may be on your mind. Warnings of mercury toxicity in a high fish diet may have caused the American public to avoid consumption of fatty fish all together, but the truth is that not all fish contain the same amount of mercury and fish consumption may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and possibly some inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, asthma, lupus, and cystic fibrosis.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are long chain fatty acids. These components of fish oils are synthesized into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) from the omega-3 precursor alpha-linolenic acid and synthesized into arachadonic acid (AA) from the omega-6 precursor linoleic acid. The enzyme d-6-desturase is vital for the conversion of these two pathways and tends to favor the conversion from alpha-linolenic acid to DHA and EPA; however, high intakes of omega-6 PUFAs can shift the conversion from linoleic acid to AA which is unfavorable because that causes low plasma levels of fatty acids (which does not help us in the prevention of CVD and other diseases). With this said, the omega-6: omega-3 ratio should not exceed 3:1.

Diet, obesity, saturated fatty acids (SFA) and omega-6 PUFAs are all key players to the cause of CVD amongst other genetic and acquired factors. Through observational studies, researchers have found that high intakes of fish increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels in the plasma and decreases low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (a favorable effect). Another study observed that people with Type II Diabetes that consume a high-fish diet are successful in lowering their triglycerides (TG), which in turn reduces their risk of CVD.

So which types of fish contain protective measures against CVD? The best fatty fish that provide more DHA and EPA are tuna, mackerel, trout, and salmon. If you are still concerned about possible mercury toxicity, you could be rest assured that these are safe to consume. Try to limit consumption of shark and swordfish as these contain high mercury levels that may be toxic if intake exceeds more than 2 servings of fish a day (serving size is 2-3 oz). Research has shown that a high intake of fish during secondary prevention (known disease such as coronary heart disease or myocardial infarction) is more effective than primary prevention (without unknown disease); however, the importance of raising HDL levels and lowering LDL levels and TG levels, is still critical for optimal health. The American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended that we eat 2 servings of fish/week, which will provide us with approximately 500 mg of EPA + DHA per day. For secondary prevention, the AHA has recommended to consume approximately 1.0 g/day of EPA + DHA to reduce the risk of death from CHD.

Unfortunately when it comes to co morbid diseases, there comes modifiable risk factors (cholesterol, blood pressure, and smoking) as well as predetermined risk factors (age, gender, family history). The key point here is to make the best choices for those risk factors that you can control to optimize your healthy status if CVD runs in the family.

With this more fishy business and engorge yourself with the fruitful benefits of our marine friends.


  • Harris S. Williams, Schacky von C. The Omega-3 Index: a new risk factor for death from coronary heart disease? Preventive Medicine 39. 2004;212-20
  • Horrocks A. Lloyd, Yeo K. Young. Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pharmacological Research. 1999;40:211-25
  • Ruxton C.H.S, Reed, S.C, Simpson M.J.A, Millington K.J. The health benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: a review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Dietet. 2004;17:449-459.

The cocoa bean originated from the rain forests of the American where it has evolved into something we have become familiar with...chocolate! Chocolate comes from the processed cocoa bean and it was historically viewed as something magical and mystical. In the early meso-American cultures, it was used as medication as well as currency. Between the 17th and 20th century, Europeans believed chocolate aided in digestion and made one blissful. Unfortunately, today in the U.S., Americans view chocolate as a "fatty food" that only contains fat and fat calories with little to no benefit to our health. However, what people are not aware of is that chocolate does contain "mystical" benefits because cocoa is a rich source of flavonoids, which help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Flavonoids are antioxidants that inhibit oxidation reactions in our bodies.

Unfortunately, not all chocolate contains the same amount of flavonoids so don't go running towards your nearest campus convenient store and purchase a king size bar of Snickers and hope that it will help you reduce your risk of CVD! It has been found that dark chocolate contains the highest amount of flavonoids because it contains the most cocoa liquor. Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains a whopping 170mg of flavonoids + procyanidins per 100 g, while milk chocolate contains 70mg of flavonoids + procyanidins per 100 g!

This still doesn't mean you should consume tons of dark chocolate in hopes of bettering your health. Chocolate is nevertheless high in fat and energy dense, but if you incorporate it into a healthy balanced diet (filled with a colorful array of fruits and vegetables of course), the magical properties of the cocoa bean will help combat the risk of CVD.

With this in mind, sit back, relax, and enjoy some dark chocolate every now and then!


  • Kris-Etherton M. Penny, Keen L. Carl. Evidence that the antioxidant flavonoids in tea and cocoa are beneficial for cardiovascular health. Current Opinion in Lipidology. 2002;13:41-49.
  • Steinberg M. Francene, Bearden M. Monica, Keen L. Carl. Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: implications for cardiovascular health. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:215-223.

We have all become familiar with the importance of consuming adequate amounts of calcium per day to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, but what does calcium have to do with weight loss?

Recent studies suggest that there is a high correlation between high-calcium intakes and weight loss. Data suggests that calcium may play a role in the body's natural system for burning fat! However, in order to be successful, one must consume a reduced calorie diet and exercise to achieve optimal weight loss effects. To achieve a weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week, one must cut 500 calories per day or 3500 calories per week. This can be done through a healthy diet alone or a healthy diet and exercise. For best results (keeping the weight off permanently), a healthy diet and exercise would be the optimal choice.

So what dairy products are "best" for weight loss results? One cannot simply expect 3 servings of whole milk (3 cups) and a high-fat diet to aide them with the battle of weight loss. A low-fat diet plus a low-fat dairy option that is high in calcium (such as skim/low-fat milk, yogurt, and/or cheese) will be the best technique to be successful in shedding those unwanted pounds. It is recommended to consume 1000mg per day of calcium. Recommendations can easily be met with 3 delicious, cold cups of skim/low-fat milk and/or yogurt and/or 1-1.5 ounces of low-fat/part-skim cheese.

Research also suggests that the best method for consuming the recommended calcium intake is through dietary sources as opposed to dietary supplements. The 24/24 Meal Plan proposes we consume three eight ounce (24 ounces total) glasses of low-fat or fat-free milk in a 24 hour period to make certain we that we consume the recommended intake of 1000mg of calcium per day.

Cheers! And let's all put on some milk mustaches!


  • Teegarden D. Calcium intake reduction in weight or fat mass. Amer Soc for Nutr Sci. 2003 (symposium);249S-251S.