Total Nutrition Technology
Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fiber is a form of complex carbohydrate found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Fiber is found in the structural part of plant foods only (though it is now being added to many non-plant foods such as yogurt) and performs valuable functions. 

There are two basic types of fiber:

Insoluble Fiber:
Includes cellulose (walls of fruits, vegetable and legumes), hemi cellulose (cereal/grain fibers) and lignin (woody parts of vegetables and seeds). Insoluble fiber works like a sponge absorbing many times its weight in water and swelling up within the intestines. This absorption promotes more efficient elimination by creating a softer, bulkier stool, which may also alleviate digestive disorders. Fiber is also thought to play a role in various diseases such as colon cancer prevention.

Soluble Fiber:
Includes pectin (fruits and vegetables), gums and hemi cellulose. Soluble fiber can help 
produce a softer stool but does less to help the passage of food than insoluble fiber. Instead, soluble fiber works chemically to prevent or decrease the absorption of certain substances into the bloodstream. Soluble fiber appears to lower blood cholesterol levels and slow the entry of glucose into the bloodstream, which is especially important for people with diabetes. 

The recommended amount of fiber is 20 to 35 grams per day. The average individual however, consumes only 12 grams of fiber per day. When increasing dietary fiber,  intake should progress gradually because a sudden increase in fiber can cause digestive distress. One of the potential adverse affects of a diet high in fiber is the tendency for fiber to bind to minerals and prevent mineral absorption in the body. However, the concern of fiber interfering with the absorption of minerals should not concern those eating a wide variety of foods in their diet.

Fiber Choices:

INSTEAD OF:                               CHOOSE: 

White Rice                                    Brown Rice 
Apple Juice                                   Whole Raw Apple 
Hamburger on a Bun                    Chili with Beans 
Salami on Hard Roll                      Bean Taco (Lettuce and tomato)
Chicken Noodle Soup                   Lentil Soup 
Lettuce Salad                                Spinach Salad 
Macaroni Salad                             Three Bean Salad 

Here is a great list of both soluble and insoluble fiber in common foods:

Understanding more about fiber will provide knowledge on how to enhance your health from the most inexpensive and available sources - fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains!

photo credit: Snow Pea, Cannelini Bean, Tomato Salad via photopin (license)

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