While most of us know that eating plenty of fiber each day is good for our health, 90% of Americans eat less than 15 grams of fiber each day. Nutritionists recommend 30 grams of fiber each day and this can be difficult to get with out supplementation. Today we will look at how one can get the recommended 30 grams a day. (1) Fiber can benefit your health in several ways for example: help prevent cancer, lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, strengthen the heart, reduce the risk of diabetes, help with weight loss, boost the immune system, and encourage regular bowel movements with individuals experiencing constipation.
First let's look at where dietary fiber comes from. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables and is the part that can not be digested or absorbed. Fiber has zero calories and isn't considered an essential nutrient even though it's recognized as having health benefits. Fiber comes in two classes, insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin's can not dissolve in water. Soluble fiber does dissolve in water. Each of these fibers exhibit different health benefits in the body.
Foods high in soluble fiber are oats, bran, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries, and apples. Oat bran has the highest soluble fiber content of any grain, if you eat the whole oat grain it contains insoluble fiber as well. Foods high in insoluble fiber are whole wheat breads, cereals, and bran, rye, rice, barley, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and apple skins. (2)
You might be wondering how fiber can help fight cancer. Fiber when eaten expands in the stomach leaving little room for more food to be ingested. As your stomach fills up with fiber you will be less likely to ingest fatty foods, high fat diets have been linked to development of cancer in the body. Fiber also speeds up digestion through the stomach and small/large intestines. By limiting the amount of time foods lay in the digestive tract, the chemicals in foods that tend to cause cancer are less likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Fiber also absorbs hormones in the intestinal tract which is good news to woman fighting estrogenic cancers. As we age estrogen balance changes in the body, eating lots of fiber can balance out this estrogen imbalance. Fiber can bind with or soak up excess estrogen which can then be excreted from the body helping the body balance its self out. (3,4)
Fiber such as oatmeal can bind with cholesterol as it moves through the intestinal tract, once the cholesterol is bound up it can not be reabsorbed into the bloodstream and is eliminated from the body. The FDA has reported that cholesterol levels can drop from 1 percent to 2 percent with every gram of soluble fiber a person eats per day. (5) High fiber diets can also help the heart. One study suggested that men who had a diet high in fiber (35 grams per day) suffered 1/3 less heart attaches then the men who had 15 grams of fiber or less. The risk of dying from a heart attach decreased by 17 percent. (6)
Fiber is also good for diabetes. There are two types of diabetes, type I and type II. Fiber can benefit both types. Diabetes is characterized by glucose or sugar building up in the blood with nowhere to go. Every cell in the body uses sugar for energy, but with diabetes, once the sugar hits the bloodstream, there is no insulin to shuttle the sugar into the cells and the cells starve. High sugar levels can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves and the cardiovascular system.
Type I diabetes also known as juvenile diabetes is where the body does not produce any insulin. When people with Type I diabetes eats soluble fiber, this fiber coats the lining of the stomach and slows the foods absorption reducing the need for large amounts of insulin. Fiber can actually help prevent Type II diabetes which is most common in over weight people. Fiber when taken with a meal can help reduce the consumption of foods high in fried fats. Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in soluble fiber and lower in calories than fried foods, these foods usually have more complex carbohydrates which release slower into the bloodstream. (7,8,9)
The number one growing problem in America is obesity. More than 50% of American children are over weight compared to just 30 years ago, less and less are active in sports and more children would rather play a video game or watch television. Fiber can help fight the battle of the bulge. When consuming soluble and insoluble fiber before each meal, the fiber can swell in the stomach and limit the amount of foods laced with calories like ice cream and potato chips.
Our immune system helps protect us from diseases and viruses. White blood cells are the first line of attack against foreign invaders and cancer cells. Studies have shown that high fiber diets can actually stimulate our white blood cells to work better and more effectively fight off disease. (10,11,4)
Fiber is very important for proper digestive tract health. When we eat foods with little or no fiber our intestinal tract becomes lazy and looses its normal shape forming pockets that can collect food and becomes stagnant. If these pockets form bacteria can grow and serious infections can arise which are detrimental to our health. Constipation can be cured with adequate fiber in the diet. Fiber helps keep stool soft and can also help with hemorrhoids. (12,13)
As you can see fiber can dramatically improve our health in many areas, but getting enough fiber can be a problem. Many people have found liquid fibers as nasty and unpleasant to take. Look for a chewable tablet or capsule supplementing this way is the easiest way for one to obtain their needed 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day. Look for tablets or capsules supplying 2 grams per serving and start out with one serving each day for 5 days then increase to two servings per day increasing every 5 days until you reach your desired level of fiber intake per day. Increasing your daily fiber can help prevent constipation, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. All these and other great fiber supplements can be found at your favorite internet vitamin store.
1. American Heart Association. Fiber, Available at: www. americanheart. org/presenter.jhtml?identifier-4574.
2. Grodner M, Anderson SL, DeYoung S. Fiber. In: Foundations and Clinical Applications of Nutrition: A Nursing Approach. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2000: 102-108.
3. Rose DP, Lubin M, Connally JM. Effects of diet supplementation with wheat bran on serum estrogen levels in the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. Nutrition. 1997;13:535-539.
4. Haggans CJ, Travelli EJ, Thomas W, Martini MC, Slavin JL. The effect of flaxseed and wheat bran consumption on urinary estrogen metabolites in premenopausal women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2000;9:719-725.
5. Food and Drug Administration. Importance of Dietary Fiber. Available at: www. cfsan. fda. gov/ dms/qa-nut12.html. Accessed January 22, 2002.
6. Pietinen P, RimmEB, Korhonen P, et al. Intake of dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease in a cohort of Finnish men. Circulation. 1996; 94:2720-7.
7. Toeller M, Buyken AE, Heitkamp G, de Pergola G, Giorgio F, Fuller JH. Fiber intake, serum cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular disease in European individuals with type 1 diabetes. EURODIAB IDDM Complications Study Group. Diabetes Care. 1999:22:B21-B28.
8. Giacco R, Parillo M, Rivellese AA, Lasorella G, Giacco A, D'Episcopo L, Riccardi G. Long-term dietary treatment with increased amounts of fiber-rich low-glycemic index natural foods improves blood glucose control and reduces the number of hypoglycemic events in type 1 diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 2000;23:1461-1466.
9. Kalkwarf HJ, Bell RC, Khoury JC, Gouge AL, Miodovnik M. Dietary fiber intakes and insulin requirements in pregnant women with type 1 diabetes. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001;101:305-310.
10. Felippe CR, Calder PC, Vecchia MG, et al. Fatty acid composition of lymphocytes and macrophages from rats fed fiber-rich diets: a comparison between oat bran and wheat bran enriched diets. Lipids. 1997;32:587-591
11. Miller WC, Eggert KE, Wallace JP, Lindeman AK, Jastremski C. Successful weight loss in a self-taught, self-administered program. Int J Sports Med. 1993;14:401-405.
12. Schaefer DC, Cheskin LJ. Constipation in the elderly. Am J Fam Physician. 1998;58:907-914.
13. Benton JM, O'Hara PA, Chen H, Harper DW, Johnston SF. Changing bowel hygiene practice successfully: a program to reduce laxative use in a chronic care hospital. Geriatr Nurs. 1997;18:12-17.
Visit VitaNet Health Foods at http://vitanetonline.com/ VitaNet sells high quality vitamins and herbs at discount prices and name brands like Source Naturals and Now Foods Vitamins. Please link to this site when using this article.