Fiber-ific!

by Amie on March 30, 2009

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We’ve all heard, “Eat more Fiber”…for crying out loud…it’s in every health magazine article, mentioned in numerous commercials,the topic of convo at lunch, and advertised on thousands of food products we encounter every single day. So, what is all of this fuss about fiber?

Let me start by saying that FIBER is FABULOUS. I myself, eat about 30 grams of fiber per day and sometimes more!  “How?”, you ask…Simple…here’s the down low on fiber and why you should include more into your day.

There is only one way to get fiber- through plant foods such as vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits, which are quality carbohydrates loaded with fiber!  These plant foods deliver minerals, vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals along with carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, veggies, and fruits.  Now, don’t get scared about the word carbohydrate because you cannot judge these foods without knowing its fiber content.

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Fiber is the edible part of plants or carbohydrates that humans can not digest.  Now, although this fiber is not absorbed, it does wonders for our bodies.  First off, fiber slows down the absorption of other nutrients eaten at the same meal, including carbohydrates.    This slowing process may help prevent spikes and dips in our blood sugar levels, which reduces our risk of Type 2 Diabetes.  Moreover, fibers found in beans, oats, and some fruits can help lower our blood cholesterol.  And the best part is that fiber helps people stay full and satisfied.  Who knew?

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However, most Americans do not know this.  Therefore, they spend their day eatingprocessed and refined “white” grains- bagels, buns, muffins, pizza, bread, white rice…I could go on forever.  A quick tip for your knowledge: the “whiter” the grain-based food, the lower the fiber. 

To increase your fiber intake, be sure to switch to whole grains at every meal and snack in such items as: pasta, tortilla wraps, chips, pretzels, bread, crackers, buns, rolls, and pizza.  The whole wheat/ whole grain variety of these products are available in most food stores.  Moreover, it is important to include beans and bean products as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables.  There are countless beans, veggies, and fruits-  experiment and taste a new fruit and veggie each day to see what your taste buds enjoy! The best part is you’ll know you’re doing your body good by giving it some much needed fiber.  In addition, these forms of fiber are unprocessed/ minimally processed whole foods, which contain natural sugar such as the fructose in fruit.

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There are two types of fiber; insoluble and soluble. 

Soluble fiber binds with cholesterol in the intestines and prevents it from being absorbed; which may cholesterol levels.  Moreover, this type of fiber is also thought to help minimize the rise in blood sugar levels after a meal (helpful for people with diabetes).

Good Sources of Soluble  Fiber (Dissolves in Water) include:

  • Oatmeal / Oat Bran
  • Citrus fruits, Strawberries, Apples, Pears, Mangoes, Plums, Blackberries, Raspberries, Peaches, Dried Apricots, Prunes, and Figs
  • Peas, Lentils, Beans
  • Rice Bran
  • Barley

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Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools, helps treat diarrhea and constipation and may reduce the risk of colon problems.  This fiber has been known to help people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). 

Some sources of Insoluble Fiber (Does not Dissolve in Water) are:

  • Vegetables such as Cabbage, Beets, Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Celery and Carrots
  • Whole Wheat Breads, Cereals, and Wheat Bran
  • Whole Grains, such as Barley
  • Skins of Many Fruits and Vegetables

Now when looking at the nutrition facts, be sure to check the ingredient list to make sure the whole grain is the first or second ingredient on the list.  Surprisingly, products that claim, “100% wheat” or “multigrain” are NOT usually whole grain.

According to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, the daily needs of men and women for fiber differ and change as they age:

Age 50 and Younger:    Women: 25 Grams     Men: 38 Grams

Age 51 and Older:           Women: 21 Grams      Men: 30 Grams

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As for how to get those fiber numbers into your diet, here are a few easy tips that will get you loving fiber in no time!  Please note, however, to avoid stomach upset, increase your fiber by only a few grams each week over the course of several weeks.

  • Start your day off with a nutritious high-fiber breakfast such as a bowl of oatmeal or oat bran.  Be sure to top it off with fiber-rich foods such as blackberries and bananas instead of sugary syrup.
  • Enjoy a whole wheat sandwich spread with fiber-rich hummus instead of mayonnaise and filled with fiber-rich vegetables.
  • When reading labels, be sure to look for “rich in”/”high in” or “excellent source of” fiber–but be aware, you want the product to provide you with 5 grams of fiber per serving!
  • Snack time? Nosh on a homemade trail mix of seeds, nuts and dried fruit or reach for a fresh, crisp apple (be sure to keep the skin on)
  • Juicing is a great way to get your daily veggies, however, REMEMBER…when juicing, all the fiber is stripped from the veggies and fruits.

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How do you incorporate fiber into your day? What have you changed/added to your diet to “up” the fiber intake?

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