Fiber Facts & Fallacies
(Part 2 of 2)
Last week I told you about the things fiber has been shown to help with. It can reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and the risk of coronary heart disease. The key is getting more fiber in your diet.
What exactly is fiber?
It's any part of the plant that can't be digested or absorbed and it's only found in plants. Occasionally you'll hear fiber referred to as roughage or bulk.
Fiber is usually separated into two categories. Insoluble fiber for the ones that don't dissolve in water and Soluble fiber for the ones that do.
Insoluble Fiber helps move things along through your digestive system, providing a good laxative action. It also increases the bulk of your stool helping people who have constipation or irregular stool problems.
You can get insoluble fiber in your diet by eating dried peas and beans, nuts, vegetables, wheat bran and whole-wheat flour.
Soluble Fiber slows digestion and absorption of glucose (sugar), keeping blood sugar levels more even. It can also minimally help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Sources of soluble fiber can be found in apples, barley, beans, carrots, citrus fruits, lentils, nuts, oats and oatmeal, peas, psyllium and seeds.
Fiber is also available in supplements. Metamucil, Konsyl, Citrucel and FiberCon are four of the best known.
The downside of supplements is that they lack many of the vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that high-fiber foods have. However, they can help if you're unwilling or unable to take in enough fiber through diet alone.
As you add fiber to your diet, do it slowly. When you first start eating more you may experience bloating, cramping or gas. Those are all normal reactions and over time your body will adjust.
Make sure to drink plenty of fluids as well, because liquids help your body digest the fiber better. Eight 8-oz. glasses of water a day is reasonable.
Do you know how much you should take in every day?
I went to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine to get the following dietary recommendations for daily fiber intake.
Remember those numbers are the minimums, so taking in more, as long as you don't exceed your calories for the day is fine. The problem is, the typical American diet contains less than half of that. So to get more fiber in your diet, try some of these suggestions.
- Go through your kitchen and replace white breads with whole-grain breads. When you're comparing brands, whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or other whole grains should be the first ingredients on the list. While you're at it you should replace any white rice with brown rice, barley, bulgur or whole-wheat pasta.
- Add oatmeal to your list of foods to eat for breakfast and look for cereals that are lower in sugar with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. Bran cereals generally have the most fiber.
- Make pancakes and waffles with whole grain or buckwheat pancake mix. Top them with slices of apple or berries.
- Eat sweet potatoes with the skin on. Do the same thing when you buy fruits and vegetables. Buy them whole and eat them with their skin intact.
- Punch up lower fiber foods by adding 1/3 cup of wheat bran (miller's bran) to them. Burgers, meatloaf, breads and soups can all be bulked up by adding some extra fiber without changing their taste. You can also sprinkle casseroles, salads or vegetables with bran for a crunchy topping.
- Eat more kidney beans and split peas. And if you want a snack, eat whole fruit, air popped popcorn and whole-wheat crackers.
Take a look at your diet. Are you getting enough?
Fiber has started to appear on the supermarket shelf in some unusual places. You can now purchase orange juice or cranberry juice that has 2 to 4 grams of fiber per serving. But where did it come from?
Part 1 2
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