Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fiber Benefits: All This and Weight Loss Too!

By Gail M. Davis

With so much talk now about the many fiber benefits and the importance of fiber to weight loss, it's hard to imagine that just thirty years ago, fiber was completely ignored by the medical community as being beneficial to our health! Fiber is found only in plants and is indigestible, which means it passes through the human digestive system unchanged.

Fiber is considered a carbohydrate and is categorized as either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water and is found in beans, apples, carrots, oats, and peas. It is responsible for lowering blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Insoluble fiber, found in many vegetables, nuts, wheat bran, and whole-wheat flours, is an excellent laxative. It cannot be dissolved in water.

25-35 grams of fiber are recommended each day, but most Americans only get about half of that in their diets. Men typically need more fiber than women.

One interesting fact is that Americans only consume about 10% of the fiber found in typical diets 100 years ago! When you consider the many advancements in wheat processing, that statistic makes more sense.

Wheat bran is the single best source of fiber, although other good sources include whole-grain breads, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Fiber supplements, such as Metamucil and Citrucel, can be useful, but these products provide a restricted type of fiber. Some fiber benefits can only be utilized if eaten naturally.

Take advantage of the many fiber benefits but don't move from a low-fiber diet to a high-fiber diet overnight! It's important to drink plenty of water when adding fiber to your diet. Cramping, bloating, and other gastrointestinal problems can result from adding too much fiber too quickly.

The fiber benefits are plentiful! For one thing, fiber requires you to chew, thus slowing down the eating process. Fiber provides a sense of fullness and makes food more satisfying. Fiber slows down digestion and absorption and enables glucose (sugar) to enter the bloodstream more slowly, causing fewer spikes in blood sugar. Fiber lowers blood cholesterol levels and produces organic acids that provide fuel for the liver. Probably best known for preventing constipation, fiber also offers the benefit of aiding in weight loss.

The benefits of fiber are obvious in a weight loss program. With that sense of fullness and texture, the dieter will feel satisfied longer and have more energy. In addition, fiber allows more "bang for the buck" since foods high in fiber tend to be lower in calories.

With all of these wonderful fiber benefits, why wouldn't you want to make fiber a major part of your diet? Make sure that the next meal you plan includes a healthy portion of high-fiber foods to meet all your daily needs!

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