Health and Nutrition

Fiber: An Essential Part of Your Diet

Gregg Carroll - Thursday, March 07, 2013

Have you heard a lot about fiber, but don't understand what it is and why it's important? Or wonder which type of fiber is best for you? If you think you are confused by fiber, you are not alone.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is exclusive to the plant kingdom. Dietary fiber cannot be digested by our body's digestion system, possesses no nutritive value, and provides no calories, yet it is necessary for maintaining our digestive and general health. There are two main types of dietary fiber that are of significance to human health. Soluble fiber that dissolves in water and insoluble fiber that does not dissolve or absorb water. Most plants are rich sources of both types of fibers which vary in benefit to human health.

Soluble fiber, also called pectin, dissolves partially in water and forms a gel which traps food components inside the stomach and delays the process of digestion. This process aids in slowing down the release of sugar in food into the blood stream and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Most fruits, vegetables and other plant foods such as nuts, seeds and grains are good sources of soluble fiber. The soluble fiber in oats is responsible for the thickening of oatmeal as it cools. Some of the best sources for soluble fiber include chia seeds, legumes, lentils, quinoa, barley and oats.

 

How Does Soluble Fiber Help?

• Soluble fibers can bind with fats and hinder their absorption. It has been shown that soluble fiber plays a significant role in decreasing high cholesterol levels.

• They help stabilize blood sugar levels by delaying the process of food digestion and the release of sugars into the bloodstream.

 

Insoluble fiber, otherwise known as cellulose, does not dissolve in water, but instead soaks up water and becomes bulky, like a puffed up sponge. This "puffing" nature of insoluble fiber adds bulk to the food was eat and imparts a feeling of fullness in the stomach. As with soluble fiber, you can find insoluble fiber in most fruits and vegetables. Good sources include oats, whole grains, lentils, most nuts like chestnuts, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and seeds such as flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds. Other sources of insoluble fiber include the transparent layer over beans, and the string-like layers in a celery stalk.

 

How Does Insoluble Fiber Help?

• Promotes regular bowel movements by increasing food bulk.

• Helps maintain body weight by promoting the feeling of fullness.

• Maintains optimal pH levels in the intestines and decreases the risk of colon cancer.

• Aids in removal of waste in the lower intestine.

 

Major Benefits Associated with Fiber Consumption

• Lowers high blood cholesterol.

• Stabilizes blood sugar levels.

• Aids in weight loss and healthy weight management.

• Protects heart health.

• Promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

• Lowers the risk of many degenerative health conditions including cancer.

• Promotes regular bowel movements.

• Binds with harmful toxins and removes them from the body.

 

Fiber as Part of Our Daily Meal

While trying into increase your fiber intake it is not necessary to choose between soluble and insoluble fiber. Most plant foods naturally contain a good combination of both. Soluble and insoluble fibers are typically present in the same foods, although they may be in different parts of a whole food. For instance, apple peels are a good source of insoluble fiber, while the fleshy part is rich in soluble fiber.

According to the Institute of Medicine, adults and children should consume 14 grams per day of fiber for every 1000 calories consumed. You can obtain a good amount of dietary fiber if you include a similar menu below into your day's meal:

Breakfast: 11 grams

Oats topped with blueberries = 6 grams

(½ cup of LRF oats – 3 grams fiber, ½ cup blueberries – 3 grams)

 

Mid-morning:

Apple (small) = 5 grams

 

Lunch: 7.5 grams

Black bean salad = 7.5 grams

(½ cup cooked LRF black bean)

 

Dinner: 8 grams

Lentil and brown rice soup with vegetables = 8 grams (approximate)

(¼ cup Love Raw Foods™ Red Lentils = 4 grams, ¼ cup brown rice = 0.5 grams, vegetables (carrot, beans, peas etc = 3 to 4 grams)

 

Total Dietary Fiber: 11 + 7.5 + 8 grams = 26.5 grams

Food Quantity Fiber Content
Almonds 1 ounce 3.5 grams
Amaranth 100 g (cooked) 2.1 grams
Barley 100 g (cooked) 3.8 grams
Brazil nuts 1 ounce 2.1 grams
Buckwheat 100 g 10 grams
Coconut 1 cup shredded 7.2 grams
Flax seed 1 tablespoon 2.8 grams
Macadamia 1 ounce 2.4 grams
Oats 100 g 10.6 grams
Quinoa 100 g (cooked) 2.8 grams
Sesame seeds 1 tablespoon 1.1 grams
Spelt 100 g (cooked) 3.9 grams
Walnuts 1 ounce 1.9 milligrams

Source: USDA Food and Nutrition Center

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