Showing posts with label having enough fiber. Show all posts
Showing posts with label having enough fiber. Show all posts

Friday, April 4, 2014

What's the Big Deal About Fiber?

A common problem associated with not having enough fiber in your diet is chronic constipation.  But did you know that ongoing constipation can lead to numerous health problems, including hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and even colon cancer? Other than avoiding health risks, having a diet high in fiber has health at least four key health benefits.  


What is fiber?


Dietary fiber is the a substance found in the outer layers of grains or plants and which is not digested in the intestines. Fiber is also the substances in foods such as fruits, oats, barley, and legumes that are made of carbohydrates and dissolve in water.  These two sources of dietary fiber are known as soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
  • Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, which slows your digestion. You can get soluble fiber from foods such as oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. You can also get soluble fiber from psyllium, a common fiber supplement.
  • Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains. It adds bulk to the stool and appears to help food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines.
Both types have important health benefits.

Vegetarian chickpea salad


Four key benefits of fiber

  1. Fiber lowers heart disease risks.  According to one 2013 study, adding fiber to your diet can lower your risk for heart disease. The study looked at both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, and how they affected coronary heart disease – plaque buildup in the heart's arteries that could lead to a heart attack – and cardiovascular disease – heart and blood vessel conditions such as heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Researchers found those who consumed more fiber reduced their risks from either type of heart disease.  Although the recommended amount of dietary fiber is still 20 to 35 grams per day, the researchers concluded that even adding as little as seven grams of fiber to a daily diet boosts heart health.  You can get that much fiber from eating a pear or a large bowl of oatmeal.
  2. Fiber reduces type 2 diabetes. Soluble fiber can also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In people who have diabetes (type 1 and 2), soluble fiber can help to control blood glucose levels.
  3. Fiber relieves digestive problems. Insoluble fiber in your diet can help with such digestive tract problems as fecal incontinence, constipation, chronic diarrhea, and hemorrhoids.
  4. Fiber eases bowl movements. More than any other benefit, fiber is known for its ability to bulk stools while making them softer and therefore easier to pass.


How to get fiber in your diet


Some of the highest fiber foods include legumes (peas, beans, etc.), bran cereals, figs, apricots, dates, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, corn, broccoli, plums, pears, apples, raisins, prunes, spinach, beet greens, kale, almonds, Brazil nuts, and peanuts.
You may be surprised at what foods do or do not contain much fiber.  Take out the mystery by studying the Fiber Chart offered online by Mount Sinai Health Systems. The chart allows you to see the fiber count of hundreds of common foods and compare their fiber content. 


High fiber recipes


Thanks to the Internet, finding delicious high-fiber recipes is super easy. Here are four particularly bountiful collections to get you started.

1. AllRecipes.com

At AllRecipes.com, you'll find more than 2,000 recipes classified as high-fiber. Good ones to try first:

2. Mayo Clinic

Though the high-fiber recipe collection at Mayo Clinic is not nearly as robust as AllRecipes’, the Mayo Clinic recipe collection is a good place to start if you've got constipation issues, as these recipes are particularly high in fiber. Some good examples:

3. Betty Crocker

You no doubt have a Betty Crocker cookbook in your home – an American staple for generations. On their website, you can filter for just high-fiber recipes. Some tasty samples to get you started:

4. Food Network

The Food Network has created a dedicated fiber rich recipes section, with  600-plus recipes. Some of the more tantalizing fiber recipes include:


Dietary fiber risks


If you are getting your fiber from natural food sources, there are few risks and a host of benefits. Use the chart linked above to make sure you are getting the recommended minimum of 25-30 grams daily.
There are two risks worth noting. First, drink plenty of water, especially when consuming insoluble fiber. Fiber without sufficient water intake can cause severe constipation. Second, be cautious with taking supplements, drugs, or laxatives to ease constipation. Even those labeled as "natural" have the risk of dependency. Continued use can fatigue the colon to the point that your body relies on the laxative to achieve bowel movements at all.

Ric Moxley 
Contributing Writer