Dietary Fiber…why is it important?
People generally think of increasing their fiber intake when they want to lose weight or alleviate constipation. Actually, adequate intake of dietary fiber is important for other reasons such lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and healthy weight management.
Fiber is plant based and is the portion of the plant that tends to bulk up when eaten (roughage) and is not broken down and digested by the body. The two types of fiber are soluble or insoluble and are simple to discern. Soluble will dissolve in water and insoluble will not.
Soluble fiber can be found in a great number of foods such as citrus fruits, peas, beans, and apples. Soluble fiber is quite beneficial to the body and can help to lower blood glucose and blood pressure.
Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as potatoes, green beans, nuts, and wheat products like bran or flour. Because it does not dissolve in water, it promotes digestive activity therefore leading to more regular bowel habits.
Many foods, such as oatmeal, contain both types of fiber. It is most beneficial when obtained through the diet. Ideally, if you consume a 2,000 calorie a day diet, you should consume 25 grams of fiber. Studies indicate the average American eats about 15 grams of fiber a day.
So what is the take away? There are supplements available, but they do not provide the other nutrients that would accompany the fiber derived in the food product eaten. According to the Mayo Clinic, your “best fiber choices are whole-grain products, fruits, vegetable, beans, peas, legumes, nuts and seeds.”
An apple a day could go a long way toward keeping the doctor away!