Eating fiber may be one of the easiest and least expensive ways to practice preventive health care.
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 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 dissolves in water and is found in oat bran,
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
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 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, 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
Manufacturers of foods containing Psyllium
A model claim would be: The soluble fiber from Psyllium
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.
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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