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Other Fiber Facts

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Here are some more interesting (and important) things I have learned about fiber.

Do you have to get fiber from food? Is taking a fiber supplement enough? Supplements provide only a very restricted type of fiber. Eating a diet of high-fiber foods usually incorporates various kinds of fiber, and that’s healthier. Fruits, vegetables, and oats have plenty of soluble fiber. Whole grains, bran, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables are full of insoluble fiber. Both soluble and insoluble fiber add bulk and softness to the stool. Insoluble fiber remains pretty much unchanged by the time it reaches the intestines, whereas soluble fiber acquires a soft, jelly-like texture. Both make stools easier to pass.

 Some fiber-depleted foods

Corn flakes, crispy rice cereal, White bread, Croissants, Cheese crackers, Fruit juice, Cakes, biscuits, sweets, Puddings, Jam

Fiber-intact alternatives

Shredded wheat, puffed wheat, Whole-grain bread, Whole-grain muffins, Wheat crackers, Fresh fruit, stewed fruit, Dried fruit, nuts, raw carrots, celery, Fresh-fruit salad, Nut butters (cashew, almond, etc.)

Here’s some advice on incorporating more fiber in your diet:

  • It’s best to start slowly, especially if you tend to become constipated. Introduce high-fiber foods gradually, over two to four weeks. Don’t start a high-fiber diet overnight!
  • Eat a wide variety of plant foods (foods that come from plants, as opposed to meats or dairy products). Different fibers do different jobs in the body.
  • Choose foods whose fiber content has not been depleted through processing.
  • Read food labels to learn how much fiber is contained in the various foods you eat.
  • Drink plenty of water – at least eight glasses a day

Here is a summary of the actions of dietary fiber at different levels of the digestive system:

Mouth   Makes work, slows ingestion, cleans teeth

Stomach   Dilutes contents, distends, prolongs retention of food

Small intestine   Dilutes contents, distends, slows absorption

Right colon   Dilutes, distends, feeds bacteria and so acidifies contents

Left colon   Nourishes the colon, speeds up passage, lowers pressures

Rectum, anus   Softens and enlarges stool, prevents trauma to the body, reduces strain of defecation

Fiber, which is found in all plant-based foods, is composed of a group of compounds that makes up the framework of plants. Although fiber cannot be digested, it is an essential nutrient for good health. The health benefits of a diet rich in fiber include lower cholesterol and a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Also referred to as roughage, fiber is made up of many compounds, mostly carbohydrates. It can be found in a variety of foods, including wheat, potatoes, and certain fruits and vegetables.

A diet high in fiber may also promote weight control and reduce the risk of developing obesity; foods high in fiber are often lower in fat and fill you up faster.

How Much Fiber Is Necessary?

According to the American Dietetic Association, the daily goal for fiber intake is between 20 and 35 grams. However, the average intake in the United States is only 12 to 15 grams. In contrast, people in China consume as much as 77 grams of fiber per day. Children also need fiber, although in different amounts than adults.  For children up to age 18, the recommended daily dose in grams is determined by adding five to a child’s age.  For example, a seven-year-old child would need 12 grams of fiber a day.

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