Tuesday, March 9, 2010

High Fiber Foods

What are the benefits of high fiber foods? It depends on the types of fiber that you eat: soluble or insoluble. The primary role of insoluble fiber is to regulate bowel function. Insoluble fiber is nature’s tool for regulating bowel function. Sources include whole wheat breads and cereals, nuts, vegetables, green beans, celery. Soluble fiber forms a gel when it is dissolved in water. It can help to lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. Some foods that contain water-soluble fiber are pears, apples, citric fruits, berries and carrots.

Not one food is exclusively soluble or insoluble fiber. The best way to get an adequate amount of it is to eat a variety of high fiber foods. Try to avoid fiber supplements (they’re not evil, but fresh fruits and whole grains are better). The best benefit of a high-fiber diet is going to come from the food that you eat, not the supplements.

What are the benefits of a high-fiber diet? First of all, a softer, bulkier stool, which is easier to eliminate. It can also solidify loose and watery stools, but you have to have adequate amounts of fluid for that to happen.

High fiber foods also promote digestive health in other ways. It can lower the risk of hemorrhoids. If you’re moving your bowels easily it is much less likely for you to have hemorrhoids. Studies show that in countries where people consume large amounts of fiber there is little digestive disease.

Fiber can also help to lower blood cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Soluble fibers in oats, all bran and beans can help to lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

Water-soluble fibers make you feel full longer and can be valuable in the management of energy and weight. They help to control sugar levels by slowly controlling the absorption of it. They lower the glycemic index of the carbohydrates you consume. It delays the entry of that food into your blood supply. They may also help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

When consuming high fiber foods remember to chew them! It takes a little more effort to get the calories where they need to be. The more you chew your food the more likely you are to feel full. It allows your body to signal when you are full, so overall food intake is lower. As part of any weight reduction strategy, having more high fiber foods in your diet can promote overall fullness and make a meal seem larger.

A high fiber diet is often classified as less energy dense. That means fewer calories for the same amount of food. High fiber foods are also nutrient-dense. They have many nutrients packed into them.

What about the effect of a high fiber diet in the management of colorectal cancer? The results of studies vary. Some show benefits, some show no benefits and some even show greater risk. A lot of this depends on where in the process of cancer the patient is. The best prevention of colorectal cancer is a healthy diet along with regular screenings.

How much fiber do you need? Recommendations vary according to age and calorie intake. For men and women under the age of 50, 38 grams for men and about 25 grams for women are good. If you’re past 50, 30 grams of fiber for men and 21 for women is enough. For most of us, as we age, we can tolerate less calories, so that is the reason of the decrease of fiber.

Some of my Favorite High Fiber Foods:

A cup of raspberries: 8 grams of fiber.

A cup of oatmeal: 4 grams of fiber.

A pear: 5 grams.

A cup of broccoli: 3 grams of fiber.

Eat fruits and vegetables with the peel if possible. Add black beans to salads and other dishes. Use brown rice instead of white rice. The biggest barrier for most people with brown rice is the time it takes to cook it. You can actually use instant brown rice or visit this page to learn how to cook brown rice. Instant brown rice has great fiber content. There are now individual packs of brown rice that you can pop in your microwave for 90 seconds.

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