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Words of Wellness- Filling up with Fiber - June 1, 2013

Words of Wellness: Filling up with Fiber

Most Americans do not get the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber each day and food companies are catching on. Has anyone noticed you can find just about anything ‘now with added fiber’? First let’s cover the basics:

There are two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble, the main difference is that soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble does not. This leads them to being used for different things in our bodies.

Soluble fiber attracts water to form a gel which slows digestion and delays the emptying of your stomach, keeping you satisfied. This also prevents a spike in blood sugars which may be important if you are diabetic. Soluble fiber also interferes with the absorption of dietary cholesterol which may lead to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat cereals, lentils, apples, oranges, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, celery and carrots.

Insoluble fiber can add bulk to the diet and help to prevent constipation. Because they do not dissolve in water, insoluble fibers move through the GI tract intact and speed up the passage of food and waste. Main sources include whole grains and vegetables such as: brown rice, whole grain pasta, zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, dark leafy vegetables, grapes, and fruit and root vegetable skins.

To get more fiber in your diet choose whole fruit instead of juice, add legumes and lentils to soups, stews and salads, and replace refined grains with whole grain products. Eating a vegetarian meal once per week may also help to increase fiber intake and these tend to include lots of fruits, veggies and legumes. When working to increase your fiber intake you must drink more water and gradually increase your intake to avoid any GI discomfort… what a polite way to put it ?

Fiber supplements and the fiber added to foods has both benefits and draw backs. They have not been studied as extensively so it is unknown if they have the same effect as fiber from whole foods. A recent study published by the Academy and Nutrition and Dietetics looked at snack bars and other processed foods with added fiber. Added fibers did not show the same hunger-squashing effects, the participants rated themselves just as hungry come lunch time on the days they had the high-fiber bars versus the lower-fiber breakfasts.  Most of the added fiber in processed foods comes from inulin or chicory root. The added fiber may still help to keep you regular and control cholesterol and it increases fiber for those who do not consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Other than whole foods increasing satiety they also contain a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that you will not find in a breakfast bar or brownie with added fiber.