Fiber Facts and Myths

Fiber is a very important part of everyone’s eating plan.  But what exactly is fiber?  Fiber is one of the three types of carbohydrates.  The other two are sugar and starch.  Fiber can be found in the roots, stems, and leaves of plants and remains in the digestive process as it passes through your system.  This is what makes it so valuable to your health.

Fiber can be classified in two different ways – soluble and insoluble – and the kind you eat reacts differently in your system.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and it’s rough, hence the name “roughage” is sometimes applied to insoluble fiber.  It goes straight through your system and helps with problems such as constipation by increasing the bulk of your stools. Insoluble fiber has basically no calories.

Soluble fiber does dissolve in water and turns into a jelly-like mass.  This is great for diabetics as it slows down sugar absorption in the blood, helping to prevent spikes in blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber has about 4 calories per gram, the same as the other types of carbohydrates.

One of the ways fiber helps you lose weight is by causing you to have to chew more and slowing down the absorption of nutrients.  By eating slower, you have time to realize you’re full sooner, so you eat less.

So where can you find fiber besides in Oatmeal?  The best sources for soluble fiber are beans, fruits, barley, and oats.  Insoluble fiber can be found in vegetables, nuts, and wheat bran.  It’s even being “hidden” in things such as yogurt, like the Activia series by Dannon, which also adds live bacteria cultures to your stomach, which are very beneficial.

There are conflicts about how much fiber you should include in your diet each day.  Some people say you can’t eat too much, but if you are diabetic, you have to watch your carbohydrate consumption.

There are supplements you can take to get fiber into your diet, but they won’t necessarily have the same cholesterol lowering benefits as a natural food source for fiber, such as oats or nuts.

Because fiber can help prevent many chronic diseases, it’s a good idea to eat as much as you can, keeping in mind any other considerations, such as diabetes.  Remember, if you eat a lot of carbohydrates, you should include more fiber because it helps control the spiking of your blood sugar.

Just remember to eat a varied diet, and include a lot of basic unprocessed food in your eating plan and you should get adequate amounts of fiber in your diet.

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