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Psyllium fiber

Fiber

Eating fiber may be one of the easiest and least expensive ways to practice preventive health care.fiber

These days, people seem to be concerned with what kind of and how many carbohydrates, proteins, and fats they ingest. The reason is simple—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats attribute to how we look on the outside.

But as most health-conscious people know, what’s going on in the inside matters more.

And what’s going on in the inside—from our digestive health to measures of whole body health—can often be equated to the amount of fiber in our diets.

Fiber

Fiber is the elongated, threadlike structures in fruits, vegetables, and grains that cannot be digested. It has long been recognized as one of the best food ingredients for maintaining bowel regularity and preventing constipation. And because it acts to normalize bowel movements, it can also be used to treat and manage chronic diarrhea (Murray 1996). Consuming fiber reduces transit time and results in a more thorough evacuation of waste materials. It is thought to improve all aspects of colon function.

There are two types of fiber: water-soluble and insoluble.

Water-soluble fiber

Water-soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found in oat bran, legumes, Psyllium
, nuts, beans, pectins, and various fruits and vegetables. It forms a bulky gel in the intestine that regulates the flow of waste materials through the digestive tract.

Water-soluble fiber may lower cholesterol by preventing the reabsorption of bile acids. Bile acids are made from cholesterol, and after they aid fat digestion, fiber binds with them and escorts them out of the body. The liver then has to pull more cholesterol from the blood. In a meta-analysis of 67 controlled trials, it was found that some water-soluble fibers lower the total cholesterol and the bad cholesterol (LDL) without affecting the good cholesterol (HDL) (Brown 1999). A similar double-blind study found that Psyllium
lowered LDL cholesterol without affecting HDL cholesterol (Anderson 1999).

Water-soluble fiber may also stabilize blood sugar by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood. Plus, it can lower blood sugar levels. Researchers have found that increasing fiber intake results in a decrease in the body’s need for insulin (Nuttall 1993). Psyllium supplementation, in particular, has been shown to improve blood sugar levels in diabetics (Anderson 2000).

Insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber cannot be dissolved in water, meaning that our bodies cannot digest it. This type of fiber includes the undissolvable parts of plant walls and is found in greatest amounts in cereals, brans, and vegetables. The primary function of insoluble fiber is to collect water that increases stool bulk in the large intestine. This promotes bowel movement, and as the bulk works through the intestine, it scours the intestinal walls of waste matter, reducing the risk of colon-related problems.

Fiber in the diet

Most nutritionists recommend consuming 25 to 40 grams of fiber per day. The average American consumes 10 to 15 grams. The average Canadian consumes 4.5 to 11 grams.

A variety of epidemiological (disease and population) studies have found that in populations with high-fiber diets, the incidences of colon cancer, appendicitis, and diverticulosis are very low. Industrialized countries, which largely have diets high in fat and low in fiber, have high incidences of these diseases.

Because fiber is low in calories, it can be added to your diet, providing a greater feeling of satiety without significantly increasing your caloric intake. In addition, fiber’s ability to stabilize blood sugar may also curb the desire to snack. In other words, you may find yourself eating less. This is beneficial in weight-loss programs.

Psyllium

Psyllium, a soluble fiber grown in India, has more than eight times the bulking power of oat bran. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the health claim that foods containing Psyllium
may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. This is due to its cholesterol-lowering effect.

Manufacturers of foods containing Psyllium
may use the claim with certain restrictions. When making the claim, they must state that it is in conjunction with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, that adequate amounts of fluids must be consumed with the food, that there is a potential for choking if fluids are not consumed with the food, and that people with difficulty swallowing should avoid consumption of the food. As well, the food must provide at least seven grams of soluble fiber per day.

A model claim would be: The soluble fiber from Psyllium
seed husk in this product, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of this product supplies X grams of the 7 grams of soluble fiber necessary to have this effect.

Adding fiber to your diet

Once you understand what fiber is and what it does, the next step is changing your diet to make sure you increase your fiber intake.

  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber include apples, oranges, broccoli, cauliflower, berries, pears, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, figs, prunes, carrots, and potatoes.
  • Switch from white bread to whole-grain breads and cereals. Switch from white rice to brown rice.
  • Eat dry bran cereals for breakfast. Be sure to check the label to see how much fiber the cereals contain. Some have less fiber than you would think.
  • Add one-fourth cup of wheat bran to foods, such as cooked cereals, applesauce, and meat loaf.
  • Eat beans each week.
  • Add a fiber supplement to your diet.

Remember, as you increase your fiber intake, increase the amount of water you drink. To experience the benefits of fiber, adequate water is necessary.

Experience and research indicate that fiber is an indispensable part of your diet. Including adequate fiber in your diet can help prevent many of today’s prevalent health care concerns.

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