November 15, 2011

140 Dietary Fiber [14 November 2011]

Fiber (which my parents called “roughage”) is an essential part of our diet. It helps regulate bowel movements, keeps our blood sugar levels in balance, and helps us achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stools, preventing constipation. It also helps remove toxins from the colon and improves the pH, resulting in a lower risk of colon cancer. Sources of insoluble fiber are wheat bran, flaxseed, whole grains, root vegetable skins, beans and popcorn.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel. It slows emptying of the stomach allowing sugar to be released more slowly and blood sugar levels to stay more even. It also binds with fatty acids causing them to be expelled in the stool. This results in up to 10% of dietary calories to be expelled instead of stored, and also improves cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber also binds with and helps removes toxins. Sources include psyllium hulls, oat bran, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

We need both types of fiber. If you can’t get enough in your diet, there are fiber supplements available. Brenda Watson in her 2007 book “The Fiber35 Diet” recommends flax and other fiber sources rather than psyllium which she says often causes gas, bloating and constipation. A proprietary fiber compound PGX (PolyGlycopleX) made from konjac root works especially well at controlling blood sugar by lowering the glycemic index of foods (Michael Murray & Michael Lyon, “Hunger Free Forever” 2007).

As part of a weight control program, fiber plays several roles. High fiber foods have a low energy-density allowing you to eat more food with fewer calories. Fiber makes you feel full thus controlling your appetite (you can consume far more calories from apple juice than whole apples). Finally, by controlling blood sugar, it reduces carbohydrate cravings, lowers insulin resistance, and promotes burning of calories rather than storage as fat. To improve your health, prevent disease, increase your energy and maintain a healthy weight, simply add more fiber to your diet.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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