Monday, April 21, 2014

Fiber Fundamentals

Happy Monday Y’all! Hope you had a wonderful Easter and enjoyed your weekend J I want to talk about fiber. I know we have all heard the term and see it listed on packages such as “good source of fiber” or “high in fiber” but what does it really mean? What distinguishes the two types? How much should you be consuming? How do you know if you are getting enough?
Fiber is a carbohydrate that the body cannot break down; therefore it passes through our bodies undigested. Dietary fiber is the type of fiber that you eat, intact in plants including plant polysaccharides such as cellulose, pectin, and fibers in oat and wheat bran. Functional fiber is non-digestible carbohydrates including commercially produced Polydexterose and resistant starches. Total fiber is the sum of dietary and functional fiber and the number that we are concerned with when looking at our fiber intake. 
To help distinguish the differences in fiber, there are two categories that fiber is divided into: Soluble and Insoluble.

Soluble fiber is dissolvable in water, hence the name. It forms a gel-like substance and helps lower blood glucose as well as blood cholesterol levels. Foods include oatmeal, beans, lentils, apples and psylluim.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but it assists in moving food through your digestive track, keeping you regular by increasing the number of stools passed per day and bulking up your stool (TMI I know). 
Foods include wheat, brown rice, legumes, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables.

But why is fiber so important besides aiding in digestion and keeping things “moving smoothly”?

Scientific studies have shown that fiber appears to reduce the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes, aid in weight control, and prevent bowel disorders. Because fiber helps lower blood cholesterol levels, the risk of heart disease is more than likely going to reduce. In fact, a Harvard study examined over 40,000 male professionals, concluding that a diet high in fiber was associated to a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease. Harvard Some research has demonstrated that soluble fiber binds with bile and dietary cholesterol, thus reducing the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed in the intestines. Now we are not talking a jar of Metamucil a day here! It has been shown that an average of 5-10 g of soluble fiber per day can decrease LDL (remember the bad cholesterol) by about 5%.

Diets high in fiber have also been shown to lower the risk of type-2 diabetes. In one study examining overweight and obese men and women, ingestion of a high-fiber diet helped lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity in as little as two-week’s time. The modifications included increasing participants’ intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables as well as swapping processed foods for unprocessed. As you can see, by making small adjustments to your diet, you could be making a big impact on your health!
So how much fiber should you be consuming? 

According to the American Dietetic Association in 2008, adult women should consume 25 g per day and 38 g per day for adult men. Children should consume age plus 5 g per day. You can use an app such as My Fitness Pal or calculate each food item individually to see how much you are currently eating. If you find that you are not eating enough, there are several ways to add more in but increasing fiber in the diet should be done slowly. If it is added to quickly, you may experience gas and bloating.

Ways to increase your fiber intake include: adding nuts and seeds to yours salads or yogurts, cut up and pack fresh vegetables as snacks, try and eat vegetables with every meal… the more the merrier! Choose cereals that have at least 5 g of fiber in each serving and choose whole grain products over white! There are also a lot of over the counter fiber supplements that you can take if needed, but remember it’s always a good idea to check with a health professional first.

Now for a high fiber recipe… I found a cherry crisp of my Aunt’s but I am not the biggest fan of cherries so I used raspberries, which have 8 g fiber per 1 cup raw!


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