Fiber 101

So we know we need to consume real, naturally occurring fiber.  As in, naturally in the fruit-, vegetable-, nut-, bean-, or whole grain-fiber, not the “natural” fiber in the random-food-product-fiber, which is “natural” only because the package says so.  I’m only emphasizing this because I want us to think more about eating foods over food products.  If you are eating a FiberOne bar now for your breakfast, don’t feel bad (recall the entry about guilt and that this journey is a process!). But what is fiber anyway?  And what does it mean when the package distinguishes between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber?

In general, fiber is the stuff in plants that the human body cannot digest.  It’s the roughage as some may call it and I like to think of it as the plant species’ primitive bone structure.  Eating more fiber has been associated with lower risks of high cholesterol (and consequently heart disease), various cancers, and type 2 diabetes.  With an estimated 1 out of 3 Americans estimated to suffer from type 2 diabetes by 2050 and heart disease and cancer being the two leading causes of death, can we say fiber anyone?

Specifically, there are two different types of fiber–soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance, has been found to lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.  Meanwhile, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and instead helps waste move throughout our digestive systems and increases the bulk in our stools.  Consequently, this form of fiber is beneficial for preventing colon cancer. See below for foods that are high in each type of fiber.

 

Insoluble fiber:  Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, and many vegetables.

Soluble fiber: Oats, peas, nuts, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, and barley.

Although it is recommended to consume 25% of your total dietary fiber from soluble fibers and the remaining 75% from insoluble fibers (according to the ratios found in nature), soluble or insoluble, the bottom line is to eat more natural fiber!  It’s generally recommended that we consume 25-30 g of total dietary fiber each day.  If you aren’t currently eating a lot of fiber-rich foods, make sure to drink plenty of water (well you should be drinking plenty of water anyway…more on that later!).  And don’t be alarmed if you experience bloating or gas, because your body needs time to adjust to the changes in your diet too!

Here’s to your AM and/or PM BM!  Try and include more fiber-rich, real foods and see how your body responds.

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