Thursday, July 17, 2008

In the last fifty years or more there has been a gradual decrease in fiber from the American diet. Experts are warning that a critical fiber deficiency is eminent. The scarcity of fiber is now being studied very closely in it's relationship to heart disease, diverticulitis and intestinal disease. It has become one of the most discussed nutrients for improving health and preventing disease. Presently, there are two health claims approved by the FDA that appear on food labels promoting the high fiber foods as a preventative of certain types of cancer as well as heart disease.
Every meal of the day has seen a decrease in fiber due to the quick and easy pre-packaged foods in abundance today. For decades now the processing of fruits and grains had already been contributing to this fiber deficiency. More recently this disappearance of fiber from the diet has been accelerated through the food industries efforts to replace a nutritional meal with pre-packaged foods and snacks. Refining foods removes most of the fiber content. A prime example is white flour which makes up so many of the foods today. It has approximately 75% less fiber than whole grain flour. Brown rice has four times the fiber of white rice and whole grain pasta has triple the fiber of white pasta.
Studies show that Americans only eat about half the required daily intake per day. Experts say that eating high fiber foods could have a huge impact on prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease , irritable bowel syndrome, breast cancer, gallstones and the treatment of obesity. Research clearly shows that a long term, low fiber diet of less than 20 grams of fiber per day is associated with colon cancer and obesity.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by the body and therefore contains almost no calories. Animal products do not contain fiber. The only sources of fiber are from plant foods such as whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans, vegetables and fruits.
There are two types of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble
Soluble fiber - This type of fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel material in the stomach which slows the rate at which food passes from it. In fact, it slows down the movement of food through the whole digestive tract. This slowing effect has been found beneficial in regulating blood sugar in diabetics. Studies have also shown that it is effective in lowering blood cholesterol. Another benefit of the slowing effect of soluble fiber is that you will feel full longer and be much less likely to overeat.
Insoluble Fiber - This type of fiber is referred to as a bulking agent. It promotes bowel elimination and regularity because it absorbs water and softens the stool. It may help in the prevention of colon cancer and it is helpful in preventing diverticulosis and hemorrhoids.
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of fiber because they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fruit and vegetable juices are not a substitute for eating raw fruit and vegetables since most of the fiber has been removed. It is best to eat the the edible peels and seeds as well. (Organic fruits and vegetables to not contain unhealthy wax coating preservatives).
It is important to note that fiber doesn't work without adequate amounts of liquid. Fiber supplements are fine as long as you drink plenty of water with them. Otherwise they can have the opposite effect of their designed purpose which is constipation, gas and bloating. Many high fiber foods have some of the liquid needed for them to be effective, but it is still important to drink lots of water on any high fiber diet.

How to Increase Fiber Intake
It is important to increase your fiber intake gradually so the body can effectively make the adjustment. This will avoid gas, bloating and diarrhea. The best way to do this is to add about 5 grams per week until you reach the recommended daily intake.
High Fiber Foods and Weight Management
Many high fiber foods are low in calories. Fiber naturally binds to water creating no calorie bulk and a feeling of fullness and satisfaction after eating. High fiber foods tend to be difficult to swallow if they aren't chewed adequately. This slows down the eating process and gives the stomach more time to signal the brain that it is full. This usually is about a twenty minute process.
Recommended Daily Intake of Fiber
Males 14-50 years old should get about 38 grams of fiber per day. Females 14-18 should get about 36 grams per day. Women 18-50 should get 25 grams per day. Men over 50 should get about 30 grams per day and women over 50 should get about 21 grams per day. Children 1-3 should get about 19 grams per day, 4-8, 25 grams per day. Girls 9-13, 26 grams per day and boys 9-13, 31 grams per day.
A low fiber diet is an invitation for disaster. Research shows that many diseases are related to a low fiber diet. It also shows that consuming high fiber foods is essential in the treatment and prevention of many serious illnesses. Making a gradual change to a high fiber diet will greatly contribute to maintaining a long and healthy life

High Fiber Foods in the News
HEART SMARTâ?¢: Persevere to get kids to eat veggies (Detroit Free Press)
If you've been encouraging your kids to eat vegetables -- great! Although their nutrient content varies, vegetables provide vitamin A and C as well as potassium, folate, magnesium and selenium -- all nutrients that promote good health. Vegetables also supply dietary fiber, are low in fat and sodium, and are cholesterol-free. 26 hours ago
Ask the dietitian: Eat to good health with summer berries (The Des Moines Register)
Berries are filled with a combination of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants that naturally keep you healthy. Berries also add bright color and a burst of juicy sweetness to foods. Top cereal or salads; stir into muffins; layer with yogurt; or blend into fruit smoothies. 22 hours ago

No comments: