Eat Your Fiber

fiber foods

Be sure to eat your fiber! It’s a critical dietary admonition for healthy living.  But what exactly is dietary fiber and why is it good for you?

Dietary fiber — also called ‘roughage’ — are coarse substances in grains, fruits and vegetables that aid in digestion and clean intestines, which, when you really stop and think about it, is not proper dinner-table conversation.  So, if your mother says anything about this while dishing out the veggies, it’s best to go ahead and eat them instead of asking, “Why?”

Healthy fiber also comes from long, narrow plant cells with walls thickened by a substance called “lignin,” which help the plant support itself. Ligneous substances when viewed under a microscope appear to have a woody texture. In other words, they are fibrous.

Some fibers are “soluble” and others are not (insoluble).  Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance.  These come from oats, legumes (beans, peas, and soybeans), apples, bananas, berries, barley, some vegetables and psyllium (plantain seeds).  Insoluble fiber is in whole-wheat foods, bran, nuts, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables. Fiber, whether it is soluble or not, is important because it helps keep your intestines clean.

Studies show that high fiber intake can protect you from heart disease by cutting intake of cholesterol, colon cancer, weight gain and Type-2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar and insulin.  Ask your doctor. He or she can further explain this. But it’s best to ask about it in the privacy of his office, and not over lunch.

Anyway, the following is some good advice about consuming more fiber that I found on MedicineNet.com:

  • Increase fiber slowly. First determine how much fiber you are eating daily.  Generally speaking, for men the total should be 38 grams and for women it is 25 grams.  Increasing too quickly can lead to gas, bloating and/or diarrhea.
  • Add fluids.  If you do not have enough fluids (preferably water) with your high-fiber diet, you may end up with the problem that you are trying to avoid: constipation. Get into the habit of drinking a minimum of 2 cups of a calorie-free beverage between each meal.
  • More is not always better, so try not to eat more fiber than your body can comfortably handle.  Pay attention to how your bowel movements are responding to your fiber intake, and ask your physician if you have any questions.
  • You don’t need to get all of your fiber in one meal.  Be creative, and have sources of fiber throughout the day. Add flaxseeds, seeds, or nuts to your salad, soup, cereal, or yogurt.  Keep frozen blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries and add to cereal, dessert, shakes or yogurt.  Have cut-up veggies in small baggies available to take with you for snacks.  Choose cereals with a minimum of 4 grams of fiber in each serving.  Add beans and peas to your meals or snacks.
  • Eat whole-wheat flour instead of the processed stuff.
  • Have veggies with your meals whenever possible. Anything that you add will count. The more variety, the more we eat, so have as many different veggies at one meal as you can.
  • Eat lots of fruit at any time, and remember that the fiber is in the skin and/or seeds.
  • If you tend to get bloated or gassy from raw veggies and/or beans, take Beano with your meal. It will greatly reduce these side effects and make eating much more pleasurable.  But check the ingredients and consult with your doctor to make sure Beano is right for you.

Lisa Burbage

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