Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fiber - A Supernutrient

We all know we’re supposed to eat a diet rich in fiber.  Despite this basic knowledge, many people are confused by what fiber is and how to get it.  And because a large percentage of the nation has or is cutting back on carbohydrates, they’re also cutting back on fiber.  As fiber helps rid the body of toxins, among other important functions, this is definitely a health concern.

Wheat bran
Wheat bran - high in fiber. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What Is Fiber?

Dietary fiber is essentially a non-digestible carbohydrate; your body cannot break it down and digest it.  Dietary fiber is divided into two main categories: soluble or insoluble

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and therefore moves through the bowel without any type of breakdown.  Due to this, it promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk.  The result is regular stools and a constant removal of build-up in the intestines. 

Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber does not. Insoluble fiber passes through our intestines largely intact.  It helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels, and also carries toxins out of your body.

So how much soluble and insoluble fiber should you be taking?

Despite the fact that the average American's daily intake of fiber is about 5 to 14 grams per day, adult women should consume 25 grams of fiber a day and men should consume 38 grams a day.

Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber, while oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium are a good source of soluble fiber.

Great Sources of Fiber and How to Get Enough

English: Picture of Val Beans (Dolichos lablab).
Beans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In order to make sure you’re getting enough fiber, it’s important to understand what foods to get it from.  Great sources of fiber include:

* Green leafy vegetables
* Whole grains
* Seeds & Nuts
* Dried beans and peas
* Fruits
* Vegetables
* Psyllium husk

¼ cup of almonds, for example, contains 2.4 grams of fiber and a medium apple contains 4 grams.  So one small snack of almonds and an apple contains about 1/4 of a woman’s daily fiber requirements.  To get a meal that packs a real fiber punch, add beans.  A cup of baked beans contains 16 grams of fiber; that’s more than half of your daily requirement!  And whole grains like buckwheat, bran, bulgur and oats contain a significant amount of fiber.  Leafy greens are good too; a cup of cooked spinach has 7 grams of fiber. 

To make sure you’re consuming your daily fiber requirement, make sure you have at least one serving of whole grains, beans and healthy snacks like raw fruits and veggies and nuts.  (All of these whole foods also have many other healthy nutrients in them as well.) A little fiber with each snack and meal should be enough to keep your body running optimally, reduce your toxic load, and stay healthy.

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