Discover new ways to get soluble and insoluble fiber into your diet
We have internet influencers pitching fibers benefits, magazines, and newspapers proclaiming fiber to be the cure-all for a variety of physical problems. Study after study indicate that fiber may prevent colon and breast cancer, gastrointestinal problems, gallstones and ulcers. What is it exactly that makes fiber important? First off it is found in complex or “good carbs”- whole grains, legumes, fruits and veggies. All these foods contain non-digestible plant material called “roughage” or “bulk”. The rule of thumb is where you find fiber; you will typically find vitamins and minerals.
Most Fibers are considered polysaccharides (many sugars or chains of sugars) but these units of sugar are bonded together with a super glue human digestive enzyme which cannot be broken down by the body. This is why it generally passes through the body without contributing any energy (calories). It should be thought of as the structural indigestible part of plant (leaves, stems, and seeds) which can not be absorbed by the digestive tract.
Fiber falls into two categories, soluble and insoluble. Food selections high in fiber offer a lot of volume for less calorie density; making you feel fuller. Yet scientists feel they have fallen upon a third source of fiber call “resistant starch”, found naturally in foods such as navy beans, green beans, whole-grain breads, and may contribute to colon health, aid in lowering cholesterol and weight. (For more information read Resistant Starch).
The definition dietary fiber refers to a substance that can not be broken down by the human digestive enzymes yet vulnerable to enzymes of bacteria that live in the digestive tracts. The amount of fiber affected by the bacteria enzymes depends on the type of fiber and bacteria residing in the digestive tract.
A high-fiber diet is a critical component for good nutrient and digestive health. This life changing nutrient can be found in many foods purchased in a typical grocery store and it isn’t cost prohibited yet it does require time and planning whether you’re eating out or at home.
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Forms a gel-like substance with high water content, slowing down digestion while delaying the absorption rate of sugar in foods being eaten, which slows down the assimilation of sugar in the intestines, and affecting insulin levels (the glycemic index) of a food. Soluble fiber also helps control blood cholesterol levels. Sources of soluble fiber can be found in fruit pectin, beans, legumes, oat bran, psyllium and seeds.
Functions of Soluble Fiber
. Bind with fatty acids
. Prolong stomach emptying time so that sugar is released and absorbed more slowly
Benefits of Soluble Fiber
. Lower total cholesterol and low density lipid (LDL) the bad cholesterol
. Regulate blood sugar levels
. Slows food absorption
. Holds moisture in stools
Food Sources of Soluble Fiber
. Oat/Oat bran
. Dried beans and peas
. Flax seed
. Fruits i.e. oranges and apples
Part of cell walls, like cellulose found in whole wheat, wheat bran, nuts, fruits and vegetable skin. For instance, the insoluble fiber found in wheat bran holds water in the colon, increasing fecal bulk which makes the stool easier to pass. This in turn helps in preventing constipation, diverticulosis, and hemorrhoids.
Function of Insoluble Fiber
. Move bulk through the intestines
. Control and balance the pH (acidity) in the intestines
Benefits of Insoluble Fiber
. Promote regular bowel movement and prevent constipation
. Remove toxic waste through colon
. Help prevent colon cancer by maintaining a balanced pH in the intestines to prevent microbes
from producing cancerous substances
. Reduces risks of diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, and appendicitis
Food Sources of Insoluble Fiber
. Vegetables such as green beans and dark green leafy vegetables
. Fruit skins and root vegetable skins
. Whole grains
. Seeds & nuts
Other fiber rich foods come from cereals especially the all bran variety, grains like bulgur, barley, brown rice, legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chick-peas, and vegetables. Then of course you can eat vegetables like broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, corn, spinach, potatoes and finally fruits such as pears, kiwi, apples, prunes and bananas.
Many people eat fiber to hasten the time it takes for food to pass through their body. Unfortunately, transit time varies for each person and averages two to four days. This variation in absorption is determined by each person’s level of stress, exercise, and diet. For highly active and athletic individuals, exercise itself is a powerful bowel stimulant.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. Researchers suggest that individuals with lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other medical issues should tale a little more than the average recommended amount of fiber.
Adults under 50: men – 38 grams; women – 25 grams
Adults over 50: men – 30 grams women – 21 grams
Despite the benefits of fiber, you can’t just sprinkle it on your food three times a day nor take a supplement. To receive the value of fiber, you will have to eat a variety of fiber rich foods to ensure that you get a mix of insoluble and soluble fiber. More fiber is not necessarily better; flaxseed for instance contains compounds that may interfere with the uptake of vitamins and mineral absorption and when consumed in large quantities flaxseed can cause deficiency, disease, digestive distress, asthma and allergy. Too much fiber in the diet can limit the total amount of food consumed, creating nutrition and energy (caloric) deficiencies.
In addition, fiber can be lost during food processing and preparation. To reach the target intake of 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day, you should try to consume a variety of foods that have not been processed because different types of fibers provide a variety of health benefits.
Your daily fiber intake could be achieved through a combination of fiber supplementation and high fiber foods. Do not ingest fiber supplements unless part of a regiment prescribed by your doctor. One problem is that
fiber in pill form don’t work the same as fiber gotten from whole food. The pure physical properties have been manipulated to the point that it requires consuming several pills a day for a low fiber content which can get very expensive. Consuming high fiber supplements will not provide you the nutrients and minerals that generally accompany fiber when eaten in food products.
One serving size of fiber varies – 1 medium size piece of fruit, 1 slice of bread; 1/2c of cooked beans, rice, pasta, vegetables, or berries; ½ muffin; 1c of raw leafy greens; 1/4c of nuts; 1 ounce of crackers; 1 or 2 ounces of dry cereal (28g = 1oz).
Start reading the “Nutrient Facts Panel” and purchase food products and produce with dietary fiber 5 grams or more. Food products to look for:
- Thomas’ Light Multi-grain muffins without high fructose corn syrup and 8 grams of dietary fiber and only 100 calories per serving size 1 muffin.
- La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Whole Grain Soft Wrap made with extra virgin olive oil and 12 grams of dietary fiber and 100 calories per serving size 1 wrap.
- Flat-out flatbread Light Original 9 grams of dietary fiber.
- Consume five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, along with three servings of whole grains.
- Avocado (medium size 11g)
- Choose a high fiber cereal (5g of fiber or more per serving), slow cooking rolled oats – 1 cup – 4g.
- Vegetables – Artichoke – medium 10g
- 1 cup of broccoli – 9g.
- Buy 100% whole grain products
- Berries – one cup of raspberries – 15g, one cup of blackberries – 8g.
- Lentils – ½ cup – 8g, ½ cup of barley – 3g.
- Snack on popcorn and whole-grain pretzels
- Eat whole fruit instead of juice – pears – 4.5g, apple – 4g.
. Eat the skin of potatoes and other vegetables and fruits
- Beans – ½ cup of black beans – 7g.
- Snack on small amounts of dried fruit such as apricots and dried plums which are a concentrated source of fiber and highly caloric
- Search out products that contain high fiber content like Thomas’ Multi-grain low fat muffins with 9 grams of dietary fiber
- Kellogg’s Fiber Plus/Antioxidants Chewy Bars with 35% of your daily fiber
- Fiber One Chewy Bars with 35% of your daily fiber
Getting Your Quota of Daily Total Fiber
I get the question, “How do I know if I am getting enough fiber in my diet and how much soluble verses insoluble fiber should I be consuming”. All you need to do is focus on eating the right foods; a variety of fiber-rich foods and don’t worry yourself with each type. Cause no one really even counts total calories much less keep track of how many grams of fiber they’re getting on a daily bases. Just eat a complex, balanced diet from a variety of food sources.
With all this great rhetoric add fiber gradually to your diet to allow your digestive system to adjust while consuming more water, otherwise the fiber could actually make you constipated and gas-producing, which at times may make you revisit whether fiber is really worth the health benefits.
When preparing fiber rich foods, rinse all canned foods and cook in fresh water. This will help the breakdown of sugar that causes the gas in the first place. And if all else fails, purchase Beano, which is a bottled enzyme that breaks down sugar in fiber rich foods substantially eliminating gas.
Fiber Grocery List
This grocery list can serve as a general guide when food shopping. For more specific calorie and fiber content of information go to a great site called Diet Bites, http://www.dietbites.com.
Dried or frozen beans, peas, Green snap beans, pole beans and other legumes
100 % Bran cereal
Dried or fresh fruit, topped by figs, apricots and dates
All berries as in raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, loganberries, and strawberries
Sweet corn, whether on the cob or cut off in kernels
Whole-wheat and other whole-grain cereal products.
Rye, oats, buckwheat and stone-ground cornmeal. Bread, pastas,
pizzas, pancakes and muffins made with whole-grain flours.
Fresh vegetables like broccoli.
Baked potato with the skin. No steak fries.
Plums, pears, and apples which are high in pectin.
Leafy colorful greens, including spinach, beet greens, kale, collards, Swiss chard and turnip greens.
Nuts especially almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, and walnuts (remember nuts are high in fat, eat sparingly).
Fruits like cherries, bananas and coconut also referred to as a resistant starch. Avocados called fatty fruits.
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