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Are you trying to follow a healthier lifestyle? If you’re looking for ways to boost your efforts, fiber can play an important role in helping you achieve that goal.
Chances are you’ve heard before that consuming the recommended amount of dietary fiber is important for good health. Understanding the “why” behind that advice may strengthen your resolve to follow the recommendation.
Dietary fiber, also known as bulk or roughage, includes the parts of plant food that pass through your digestive system without being broken down and absorbed. As it passes unchanged through your stomach, small intestine and colon, fiber works hard to keep you healthy. It can help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health problems and may help you lose weight.
The National Fiber Council does a good job of explaining how fiber works.
In the stomach and small intestine, fiber acts to cause a sense of fullness, trap cholesterol and fats and slow absorption of sugars. This benefits health by regulating weight, lowering cholesterol and improving blood glucose (sugar) levels.
In the large intestine (colon), fiber acts to cause fermentation, promote growth of healthy bacteria and absorb water, adding “bulk” to stool. This benefits health by enhancing the immune system to fight infection and chronic disease, promoting regularity and elimination and minimizing constipation.
How fiber-savvy are you?
Take this quiz (provided in part by the University of Rochester Medical Center) to test your knowledge:The average American adult consumes only 15 grams of fiber per day, far short of the amounts recommended by The Institute of Medicine – 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. To boost your daily fiber intake, eat more plant foods – vegetables, beans, fruit, whole grains, and nuts – and avoid eating processed foods.
The average American adult consumes only 15 grams of fiber per day, far short of the amounts recommended by The Institute of Medicine – 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. To boost your daily fiber intake, eat more plant foods – vegetables, beans, fruit, whole grains, and nuts – and avoid eating processed foods.
How fiber-savvy are you? Take this quiz (provided in part by the University of Rochester Medical Center) to test your knowledge:
1. A steak not only tastes great, it’s an excellent source of fiber.
2. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Which is more important to eat?
C. Both are important
3. Which of the following foods has the least amount of fiber?
A. One ounce of shelled pumpkin seeds
B. One cup of iceberg lettuce
C. One-half cup of tomato sauce
4. Switching from a low-fiber to a high-fiber diet is easy. You can make the change in just a few days.
5. A typical American younger than age 50 should eat how many grams of fiber per day?
A. 25 to 38
B. 15 to 20
C. 45 to 60
6. A high-fiber diet can lower your:
A. Cholesterol level
B. Blood pressure
C. Chances of developing headaches
7. Which of these veggies is the champion of fiber content?
8. Raspberries contain more fiber per serving than kidney beans.
1. The correct answer is False. Many people make the mistake of thinking meat is a good source of fiber. Fiber comes from plants and is found in most foods with complex carbohydrates. This includes many fruits and vegetables, as well as whole-grain cereals and breads.
2. The correct answer is C. Both are important.
You need both, and luckily many high-fiber foods have both. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It is found in cereals, whole-grain products and some vegetables. It helps push food through your digestive tract and keeps your digestive system healthy. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with water. It is found in oats, peas, beans, certain fruits, and psyllium (a grain). It can lower blood cholesterol levels.
3. The correct answer is B. One cup of iceberg lettuce. Don’t be fooled by iceberg lettuce because it is crunchy. It has less than 1 gram of fiber. Tomato sauce contains 2.6 grams, a surprising amount. Pumpkin seeds contain a whopping 10 grams of fiber.
4. The correct answer is False. Add high-fiber foods to your diet slowly. Adding them overnight can cause bloating, gas, discomfort, or more serious problems. And if you are adding lots of bran and other fibers, drink plenty of fluids. If you don’t, the bran can absorb most of the water in your intestines and cause a blockage.
5. The correct answer is A. 25 to 38. The Institute of Medicine says women should have 25 grams a day and men should have 38 grams a day.
6. The correct answer is A. Cholesterol level. The American Heart Association says soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol. To make the most of the fiber in your diet, your meal plan should also be low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
7. The correct answer is B. Beans. Beans are fiber-rich, even better than peas (2.4 grams per half cup) and carrots (2 grams per half cup cooked). In half-cup portions, here is a rundown of the grams of fiber in various types of beans: kidney, 6.9; navy, 6.5; pintos, 5.9; lentils, 5.2; lima, 4.3; and split peas, 3.1.
8. The correct answer is True. Raspberries pack a surprising 8 grams of fiber per one cup serving, while kidney beans weigh in at 6.9 grams per serving.
If you’re planning to add more fiber to your daily diet, be sure to increase your fiber intake gradually over a period of a few weeks in order to avoid gas, bloating and other digestive problems.
Contact your health care provider immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
• Blood in your stool
• Persistent nausea or vomiting
• Unexplained weight loss or weakness