What’s the big deal about fiber?

Nutrition

By pH health care professionals

Inadequate consumption of fiber is reported to be one of the biggest public health concerns  for the majority of the U.S. population. So a good recommendation during this nutrition month of March is to incorporate more fiber into our diets. However, as consumers, we may not be clear why we really should include more fiber in our diets. It is one thing to say that we need  to increase our fiber intake, but the message might be more readily accepted if it was more clearly explained to us what fiber is, what it does and where to find it. With so many misconceptions out there, many people don’t really have a clear understanding about the critical role fiber plays in our bodies.  

So what is fiber?

Fiber is strictly a plant product! This means that if you eat mostly animal foods, you will get less fiber.

Fiber is also a type of carbohydrate (like starch and sugar) that the body generally cannot digest. While most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber is not broken down and passes through the body undigested.    

What are the types of fiber?

Most people sometimes think of fiber as roughage, but that is only one type of fiber – insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is the type of fiber that makes you regular and prevents constipation. It helps food move through your digestive system like a broom. Foods with insoluble fibers include apples, zucchini, wheat and whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.

But there is another type of fiber that dissolves in water swells like a sponge in the stomach giving food a jellylike bulk – soluble fiber. Soluble fiber binds with calories and fat in the stomach and intestines and pulls them out of the body before they can enter the bloodstream. It also fer­ments in the blood and produces sub­stances that may have a variety of positive health effects.

It is the soluble fiber that can help lower blood cholesterol, slow the absorption of car­bohydrates from foods, and help stabilize blood sugar levels. Good sources are oatmeal, oat bran, nuts, seeds, legumes, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, plums, prunes, and berries and chia seeds. 

Whole plant foods generally contain both types of fiber. Eating a variety of fiber-rich foods will provide you with good balance.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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