Focus On Nutrition: Fiber

In this article Dr. Bowen discusses Fiber types and their benefits.
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate, which means that it takes more work for the body to break this type of carbohydrate down into sugar. In contrast, simple sugars such as glucose and fructose are immediate sources of sugar and if they are not used immediately by the system, they are stored as fat. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The foods that contain fiber also have many necessary vitamins and minerals in them. It is best to get your fiber primarily from food sources. Only consider additional fiber from supplements if you aren’t able to get enough from you diet.

Types of Fiber:

Soluble: Absorb water and form gels in the digestive tract. Major sources are pectins, gums, and mucilage. Pectins are mostly found in fruit and veggies like apples, oranges and carrots. Other sources of soluble fiber are beans, oats, rye and barley.

Insoluble: Structural material in plants. Mostly cellulose and hemicellulose. The main source of insoluble fiber is the bran part of grains (example is Psyllium husk). Especially important in diverticulosis.

Benefits of Fiber:

  • Prevention/Treatment of Constipation and Hemorrhoids: Fiber absorbs water thereby increasing the volume and ease of passage of bowel movements. Less constipation translates to less risk of developing hemorrhoids. Diarrhea can also be treated with certain types of fiber.
  • Prevention and Treatment of Diabetes: Adding fiber to the diet helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is important in avoiding diabetes. In addition, some people with diabetes can achieve a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels and may find they can reduce their medication. Fiber slows absorption of glucose and improves insulin sensitivity. Recent studies have shown that night-time fiber improves morning fasting blood sugar levels.
  • Prevention of Heart Disease: Evidence is now growing to support the notion that foods containing soluble fiber can have a positive influence on cholesterol, triglycerides, and other particles in the blood that affect the development of heart disease. Some fruits and vegetables have been shown to have the same cholesterol-lowering effect.
  • Prevention of Cancer The passage of food through the body is speeded up when fiber is eaten. Some experts believe this may prevent harmful substances found in some foods from affecting the colon and may protect against colon cancer. Other types of cancer linked with improper nutrition may be prevented by a fiber-rich diet. These types of cancer include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer.
  • Prevention/Treatment of Diverticular disease. Diverticular disease is a condition in which small pouches, called diverticula, develop in the wall of the colon. In a small percentage of people, these diverticula become inflamed or infected, a condition known as diverticulitis. Diverticular disease can cause pain, diarrhea, constipation, and other problems. Fiber can prevent pockets from forming or help heal existing pockets.
  • Prevention of Gallstones and kidney stones. Rapid digestion leads to a rapid release of glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream. To cope with this, the body has to release large amounts of insulin into the bloodstream, and this can make a person more likely to develop gallstones and kidney stones (in addition to diabetes and high cholesterol).
  • Increases Satiety: Fiber helps you to feel full faster than other foods. Other foods richi in fats and sugar actually delay feeling full. This leads to eating more of the unhealthy foods before you finally feel full. Salad before a meal anyone?
  • Fiber Content of Some Common Foods: the starting daily goal for fiber intake should be 20 grams/day. If you have diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, IBS or other digestive dysfunction, consult your doctor for more information on how much fiber is right for you. You may need less or more than 20 grams.

Food (amt) Avg Fiber
Broccoli (1 Cup) 5.2 g
Artichoke (1 medium) 6.4 g
Quinoa (1 cup cooked) 4.6 g
Buckwheat ( 1 cup cooked) 5.0 g
Apple (1 medium with skin) 5.0 g
Pear ( 1 large) 6.8 g
Pinto Beans (1/2 cup) 4.8 g
Kidney Beans (1/2 cup cooked) 9.7 g

This is just a sample of Fiber content of food. Visit the following websites or the countless others out there to get more Fiber information!

http://www.wehealnewyork.org
http://www.lifelongfitnessalliance.org

Resources for Newsletter:

http://www.ehealthmd.com
Medical Nutrition from Marz~ 2nd Edition, Russell B. Marz, N.D., MAcOM. Omni Press. 2002.

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