What's So Great About Fiber?

What's so great about fiber and why is it getting top billing on package labels these days? Have you noticed
manufacturers are adding extra fiber to foods and even sweeteners now? A little inulin (fruit fiber) here and a little fiber there, and--ta-da!--it can be labeled "High in Fiber!"

So, what is it with fiber? It is truly a little magic for health?

Fiber is actually a carbohydrate that's found only in plants. It's the part of the fruit, veggie or bean that our human body can't digest, so we can't absorb calories or nutrients from fiber. It kind of just passes out of our system, shall we say.

There are two types of fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves into a gel like substance. It's been shown to help reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood glucose. You can find soluble fiber in oats, peas, beans, carrots, barley, the inside of most fruits (apples, grapes, etc.) and psyllium. I'm sure you've noticed the big red hearts on the outside of the oat cereal packages and the message that it may lower cholesterol that follows!

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve, but tends to create bulk and push things through the digestive system faster (a good thing.) Think bran, vegetables, whole wheat, nuts and seeds.

Both types of fiber help prevent constipation, as long as plenty of water is being consumed with the higher fiber.

A diet higher in fiber has been found to help reduce the incidence of heart disease. It actually decreases blood cholesterol and brings down low density lipoproteins (LDL.) Nice!

There is much evidence that eating foods higher in fiber stabilize blood glucose, which is so very important to managing diabetes.

Higher fiber foods tend to give people a greater feeling of fullness and keep you full longer, which gives you a higher satiety (there's a fun word for you!) level. This can really help with weight management.

The average American is slinking by on just 15 grams of fiber a day. Not too cool at all. Recommendations are that women consume at least 25 grams and men 35 grams each day. Most of us have some plant eating to do!

Fiber is found in cereals, breads, vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Keys to finding best sources:
  • Eat the whole fruits, not the fruit juices
  • Choose whole grain breads and cereals. Look for the word "whole" as the first ingredient: whole wheat, whole rolled oats, etc.
Add fiber slowly, one new source each week. Adding too much too fast will make you very uncomfortable (one way or the other!) And, be sure to drink plenty of water as you eat more fiber. If you don't, all that fiber could make you a bit blocked up. Ugh.

And what do I think of all these manufacturers adding all the fiber to yogurt, ice cream, and now even artificial sweetners? I don't think it will hurt us, but I am really concerned we are getting the wrong message about these foods. A sweetener with added fiber is NOT a health food. Eating a banana with your yogurt would give you so much more nutrition than relying on yogurt spiked with fiber. We need to reach for the whole food--that's were we'll get all the naturally present fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, macronutrients...the whole sheebang.

That's the right way to continue our quest toward become that healthy, svelte, buff, lean wonderful YOU!

Tomorrow's breakfast? 1 cup oatmeal, 1 sliced banana, 1 Tbsp. walnuts, 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.....yum!!!!!

Fiber: A Fabulous Thing, Naturally!