The Benefits of Fiber in Your Diet

Health Benefits: Mounting evidence on the benefits of adequate dietary fiber have led many health experts to vigorously support an increased consumption of fiber-rich foods. The diet goes together with exercises. One workout that is very popular right now is The Focus T25 workout from Beachbody and the fitness coach Shaun T.

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A long-time favorite of nutrition authorities, fiber, in combination with a healthy balanced diet, appears to reduce the risk of developing various health conditions including:

 

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), a form of heart disease characterized by a buildup of fatty plaque in the coronary arteries which feed the heart with blood and oxygen.   Total blockage of a coronary artery produces a heart attack and is the leading cause of death in America. In a Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals, researchers found that a high total dietary fiber intake was linked to a 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to a low fiber intake. Cereal fiber, the fiber found in grains, seemed particularly beneficial. A related Harvard study of female nurses produced similar findings.

 

  • Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It is characterized by sustained high blood sugar levels which develops when the body can no longer produce enough insulin to lower blood sugar to normal levels or cannot properly use the insulin that it does produce. There several ways to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes which include: maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and not smoking. Recent studies of both males and females both found that a diet high in cereal fiber was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

 

  • Diverticulitis a painful inflammation of the intestine and colon, is estimated to occur in one-third of all those over age 45 and in two-thirds of those over age 85. Recent studies show that eating dietary fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, was associated with about a 40 percent lower risk of diverticular disease.

 

  • Constipation  is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States and is of particular concern to the elderly. The gastrointestinal tract is highly sensitive to dietary fiber, and consumption of fiber seems to relieve and prevent constipation. The fiber in wheat bran and oat bran seems to be more effective than similar amounts of fiber from fruits and vegetables

 

Fiber Basics:  Dietary fiber is a natural carbohydrate that can not be digested by the body. It is found only in plants, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. Fiber is often categorized by how easily it dissolves in water. Soluble fiber partially dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water.

When eaten regularly as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, soluble fiber has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, berries, and apple pulp.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t seem to help lower blood cholesterol. However, it does seem to aid in normal bowel function. Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole grains, whole-wheat breads, wheat cereals, wheat bran, rye, rice, barley, most other grains, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cauliflower and apple skin.

Fiber Recommendations:  While the importance of consuming a fiber-rich diet is clear,  most American simply do not get enough of it to promote health and prevent disease.  Here are some powerful ways you can improve your fiber intake:

 

  • Get Enough. The average American eats only 14-15 grams of dietary fiber a day. The American Heart Association suggests eating a variety of fiber-rich foods with a goal of 20-35 grams of dietary fiber per day for adults. Children over age 2 should consume an amount equal to or greater than their age plus 5 grams per day.

 

  • Slow is best. Experts recommend increasing fiber intake gradually rather than suddenly.

 

  • Drink Up. The intake of beverages should also be increased, as fiber absorbs water. Women generally need to consume 91 ounces of water each day from beverages and foods, while men generally need to consume 125 ounces each day. People typically obtain about 80 percent of their water from beverages (including beverages that contain caffeine) and 20 percent of their water from foods. So for women, that translates into drinking 9 8-oz. glasses of water or other beverages each day and obtaining another 18 ounces of water from foods; for men, that translates into drinking roughly 12 8-oz. glasses of water or other beverages each day, and obtaining another 25 ounces of water from foods.

 

  • Scan for Bran.  Look for “bran”, ‘whole grain”, and “whole wheat” on product packages and ingredient labels. 

 

  • Whole foods (e.g., one medium orange = 3 grams of fiber) in place of drinking a glass of orange juice (<1 gram of fiber).

 

  • Lovely Legumes. Replace typical starchy high-calorie side dishes (pasta and potatoes) with fiber-rich legumes — dried peas, kidney and pinto beans, lentils or black-eyed peas.

 

  • Be Berry Good.  Choose raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries to add to cereals, yogurt, and more.  These berries have twice the fiber than many other fruit selections.  

 

  • Bring On the Brown.  Use brown rice instead of white.  Switch to whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat breads and whole-wheat crackers instead of regular white versions and you’ll double to triple your fiber per serving.

 

  • Savor the Skins.  Eat fruit and vegetables with the skin on.  Eating the skin helps to bump up the fiber, plus it provides texture and a bonus of other nutrients.

 

 

Acknowledgements: Information resources for this article was obtain from The American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association, LifestyleUpdated.com and General Mills.