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high fiber

Fabulous Fiber
By Dr. Winston Craig

            Consumer interest in high fiber foods has increased substantially over the past few years. Companies are creating many foods that claim a high fiber content. Polydextrose is used for sweetening donuts, cellulose is added to your bread, or carob bean gum to thicken your pudding or sour cream. These are all dietary fibers, but not exactly the optimal way to get fiber into your diet. The fiber that occurs naturally in food is healthier than foods that are fortified with isolated fiber components.

             How much fiber do we need? It depends upon our age and gender. Approximately 20-35 gm a day is recommended for optimal health, with less for small children. One-half cup of beans typically provides 4-8 grams while a serving of whole grain breads, cereals or muffins may have 2-7 grams of fiber. Fruits and vegetables typically supply 3-5 grams per serving, while an ounce of nuts has 3 grams. And the fiber provides more health benefits than just alleviating constipation.

Protection Against Chronic Diseases

             A Dutch study recently found that for every additional 10 grams of daily fiber intake, there was a decline of 9 percent in all causes of death in the participants. The greatest benefit of the extra 10 grams of fiber was a 17 percent drop in risk of death from heart disease.

               What is fiber? Fiber is the part of plants that the body does not digest and absorb. It has a free passage through the small intestines. Yet, it is essential for good health. Getting plenty of fiber helps prevent hemorrhoids, since fiber will help form softer and bulkier stools. Fiber-rich foods, such as popcorn and nuts, actually protect against diverticular disease. A healthy fiber intake is also believed to provide protection from colon cancer.

water solublefiber          There are different types of fiber. The water-insoluble fiber found in wheat, rice, nuts, and some legumes and vegetables helps stimulate peristalsis and assist with bowel regularity. The water-soluble fiber found in fruits, peas and beans, flax, carrots and squash, oatmeal and barley have gelling properties that slow down starch digestion and glucose absorption. This translates into lessened insulin needs. Diabetics who ate a diet high in soluble fiber were shown to have a 30% decrease in blood glucose levels. A high fiber meal can also reduce insulin levels in those with insulin resistance.

          Foods that are rich in soluble fiber help lower blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. An analysis of two dozen clinical trials revealed that those who increased their fiber intake for two months experienced significant reductions in blood pressure.

Weight Management

             Foods rich in fiber help manage your weight. They require significant chewing and increase satiety since you feel full sooner with foods rich in fiber. Fiber-rich foods are usually lower in fat and calories, and provide a higher food volume to calorie ratio. This usually means people eat less and hence weigh less when their meals are rich in fiber.

Winston J. Craig, PhD
Andrews University
Books by Dr. Winston Craig