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The importance of fiber in your diet

Why fiber?

The fiber content of food is labeled as "dietary fiber". It cannot be absorbed by the body and provides no calories. The benefits of eating plenty of dietary fiber are the prevention of constipation, the regulation of blood sugar and possible protection against heart disease, high cholesterol and certain forms of cancer. The National National Cancer Institute advised a daily fiber intake for adults of 20-35 grams.

The average American consumes only 7-8 grams a day. The National Academy of Sciences suggests that we need 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories eaten, regardless of age.

A diet high in fiber can benefit any individual, especially older people that are more prone to heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, colon cancer and obesity. Now I understand!

Two types of fiber:

There are two basic types of dietary fiber - soluble and insoluble. Your diet should include both. Each type of fiber has distinct beneficial functions.

Soluble Fiber:

Soluble fiber comes in the rinds, skins and/or cores of many fruits. Under-ripe fruit contains more pectin than ripe fruit. Pectin is used as a thickening agent and stabilizer in candies, syrups and frozen desserts, jams, jellies and preserves. Sources of soluble fiber include apples, barley, dried beans, beets, carrots, cranberries, red currants, gooseberries, grapefruit, concord grapes, oats, oranges, peaches, pears, sour plums, prunes, rye and sesame seeds.

Insoluble Fiber:

The insoluble fiber cellulose, found in apples, beets, broccoli, pears and whole grains, helps to nourish blood vessels and cleanse the intestinal tract. Hemicellulose helps to move waste through the body. It is found in apples, beets, cabbage, corn, peas and whole grains. Lignin, the smallest amount digestible of the different types of fiber, is an effective antioxidant and is found in carrots, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, whole grains and many other foods. By softening stools, insoluble fiber may assist to avoid hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.

Sources of insoluble fiber are Brazil nuts, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables with skins, peanuts, popcorn, brown rice and wheat bran. A diet that is high in insoluble fiber and low in fat may help with weight control. Insoluble fiber assists in the management of diabetes by slowing the rate at which your body absorbs glucose.

Which types of fiber do not help?

Manufacturers are now adding a host of isolated fibers like inulin, maltodextrin and polydestrose- to foods. Their ads and labels imply that those fibers are equal to fiber found in whole grains. Those claims are not backed up by hard science so do not count on much help from foods containing these fibers.

Note of caution:

Always consult your doctor or health provided prior to starting any new diet. High fiber diets may harm an individual with irritable bowls or abdominal cramping.


So, whole grain breads and cereals are good, just not enough. We must eat fruits and vegetables and even the "green" un-ripened fruits the stores sell are good for us. What a concept!

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