Dietary fiber is the term for several materials that make up the parts of plants your body can't digest. Fiber is classified as soluble or insoluble.
The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of food fiber sources. Fiber is important for the health of the digestive system and for lowering cholesterol. Foods containing fiber often are good sources of other essential nutrients. Depending on how they're prepared, these foods can also be low in trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain, high-fiber foods, beans and legumes are good sources of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.
Dietary fiber intake among adults in the United States averages about 15 grams. The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you need. So we can see how most of us may be falling a bit short.
When eaten regularly as part of a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, soluble fiber has been associated with increased diet quality and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Soluble or viscous fibers modestly reduce LDL cholesterol beyond levels achieved by a diet low in saturated and trans fatty acids and cholesterol alone. Oats have the highest proportion of soluble fiber of any grain. Foods high in soluble fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp.
Insoluble fiber has been associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and slower progression of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals. Dietary fiber may promote satiety by slowing gastric emptying, leading to an overall decrease in calorie intake. Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole-wheat breads, wheat cereals, wheat bran, rye, rice, barley, most other grains, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cauliflower and apple skin.
The proper intake of fiber may help with weight loss. In a recent study of more than 1700 overweight and obese men and women, those with the highest fiber intake had the greatest weight loss over a two year period. One of the reasons that fiber may have an impact on body weight is its ability to slow the movement of food through the intestines. The gel-like substance that soluble fibers form when they dissolve in water causes things to swell and move slower in the intestines. This increase in time that foods stay in the intestines has been shown to reduce hunger feelings and overall food intake. It has also been shown to decrease the number of calories that are actually absorbed from the ingested food. One study showed an increase in the number of calories that were excreted in the stools when high-fiber psyllium gum-based crackers were given in comparison to low-fiber crackers. Whenever fewer calories are taken in, or more are excreted, weight loss will generally occur.
Not only can a diet rich in fiber help with weight control but together with ample water intake it may help relieve symptoms of constipation which over extended periods of time can affect our overall health. Many types of fiber within the intestine bind to water and keep the water within the intestine. The fiber adds bulk (volume) to the stool and the water softens the stool.
The best way of adding fiber to the diet is increasing the quantity of fruits and vegetables that are eaten. This means a minimum of five servings of fruits or vegetables every day. For many people, however, the amount of fruits and vegetables that are necessary may be inconveniently large or may not provide adequate relief from constipation. In this case, fiber supplements can be useful. I recommend Food -N- Fiber by URI International. Food n’ Fiber provides a unique profile of nutrients that are specifically characteristic to nuts, sprouted grains & seeds. This superior blend has extraordinary whole food value and is a rich source of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytonutrients, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and protein. Food n’ Fiber provides a highly usable, nutrient dense, vegetarian source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber without additives in a live whole food state. Here is a link to try a risk free sample http://uriinternational.com/wholefood/wholefood_fiber.asp
Because of concern about obstruction, persons with narrowings (strictures) or adhesions (scar tissue from previous surgery) of their intestines should not use fiber unless it has been discussed with their physician. Some fiber laxatives contain sugar, and diabetic patients may need to select sugar-free products.
The fiber should be started at a low dose and increased every 1 to 2 weeks until either the desired effect on the stool is achieved or troublesome flatulence interferes. (Fiber does not work overnight.) If flatulence occurs, the dose of fiber can be reduced for a few weeks and the higher dose can then be tried again. (It generally is said that the amount of gas that is produced by fiber decreases when the fiber is ingested for a prolonged period of time; however, this has never been studied.) If flatulence remains a problem and prevents the dose of fiber from being raised to a level that affects the stool satisfactorily, it is time to move on to a different source of fiber.
Grace and Peace,