By printing and/or reading this article, you agree that you accept all terms and conditions of use, as specified online.
Fiber is not an actual nutrient. But fiber is an important part of overall health. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Insoluble fiber provides bulk in our diets. This is the kind of fiber found in wheat bran, for example. Although studies have produced mixed results regarding a link between insoluble fiber consumption and reduced rates of colon cancer (Read about "Colorectal Cancer"), the American Medical Association (AMA) says that this kind of fiber is still beneficial.
Fiber (or "roughage") moves food through your system more quickly. As a result, insoluble fiber, consumed with sufficient amounts of water, can help people avoid constipation. (Read about "Constipation") The National Institutes of Health say that one theory behind the fiber/cancer connection was that this clears the intestine and colon of potential cancer-causing substances before they can create problems. Another theory was that when people eat more fiber, they also tend to eat less fat and a diet high in fat has been associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Although recent studies found no evidence of a direct fiber/colon cancer link, research goes on. Until the final results are in, many doctors and health organizations continue to emphasize the benefits of consuming a healthy diet that does have adequate amounts of insoluble fiber. (Read about "Dietary Guidelines")
Soluble fiber mixes with liquids to form a kind of gel. Soluble fiber is the kind of fiber found in certain fruits, as well as beans, peas, legumes, and oats. The AMA says some forms of soluble fiber help lower your cholesterol level and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. (Read about "Cholesterol" "Coronary Heart Disease" and "Stroke") You've no doubt seen this claim on a number of food products that contain oats or oat flour. Although soluble fiber can be an important part of a heart-healthy diet, it's important to remember it is only a part of a healthy diet; you can't have a bowl of oatmeal and expect it to lower cholesterol when the rest of your diet is high in fats and saturated fats. (Read about "Low Fat Food Tips")
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says many foods contain both soluble as well as insoluble fiber. How much do we need? Many health experts recommend a diet containing 20-35 grams of dietary fiber a day. This would include a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber. A diet with low fiber intake is the main suspect in what is called diverticular disease. (Read about "Diverticular Disease") That's when pouches form in the walls of the colon. They can sometimes become infected, resulting in diverticulitis. In fact, treatment for diverticular disease usually includes an increase in dietary fiber. But a high-fiber diet can produce excess gas, so it's best to introduce more fiber into your diet gradually. When the amount of fiber is increased, AAFP says it's also essential to increase the amount of water you drink. Too much fiber can remove certain essential nutrients too, so it's generally more advisable to get your fiber from foods rather than supplements. If you experience any digestive pain or problems, consult your doctor right away.
In order to get enough fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals (Read about "Vitamins & Minerals"), a diet should include five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to the American Dietetic Association. Some examples of a serving size include:
Remember, the darker the color of the vegetables, the richer in nutrients they tend to be. Members of the cabbage family - including broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts - are a healthy choice for meals. Soy products and legumes can also be a healthy addition to the diet, providing protein as well as carbohydrates.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, dieticians recommend 6 to 11 servings a day of complex carbohydrates and whole grain products. A serving consists of a slice of bread, for example, or a half-cup of cereal, rice or pasta. Whole grains are preferred over processed ones.
By adding food such as these to your diet, you can help improve your overall nutritional intake, as well as increase the amount of fiber you're getting.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
© Concept Communications Media Group LLC