Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fiber Up Your Diet

Fiber is the tough part of plant foods that cannot be digested and absorbed. Although fiber cannot be absorbed into your bloodstream, it is very important to your health. The work is initiated in your digestive tract, but has wide ranging impact on your total health, including bowel health, prevention of constipation, heart health, cholesterol, blood sugar, hunger and satiety, weight management and much more.

Types of Fiber
There are two basic types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water to form a gel, while insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Soluble fiber binds waste in the gut, holding it together as a soft mass, while insoluble fiber helps to stimulate the action of the intestines to push the waste along, into the colon and out.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The recommended intake of fiber is 25 grams daily for women and 35 grams for men. Unfortunately, many people in the US are not getting nearly enough. This is the result of eating large amounts of highly processed foods from which the fiber has been removed. 

Food Sources of Fiber
You need to eat a variety of plant foods to get the recommended intake of fiber. Keep in mind that number of servings, portion sizes, method of preparation, waste (such as peeling fruit), and straining (as in making juice), will determine  the actual amount of fiber that you get each day. As a general rule, you should choose foods as close to their natural state as possible and eat less of those with added sugars or made from refined, white flour products. Here is a short list of moderate to high fiber foods that you can choose from.
  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dried beans or peas
  • Nuts and seeds

Mix It Up
You can mix and match foods to get the fiber you need. Keep in mind that while fruits are naturally high in fiber, fruit juice is not, as the fiber is removed in juicing. So, go for the whole fruit. Also, remember to drink plenty of water. 

Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dried beans, peas, nuts and seeds will help you to get the fiber you need for total health.