Okay, so this isn’t a very sexy topic but it’s important to know the different components of nutrition if we’re going to have a healthy diet. I’ll make this quick and painless. We hear a lot about how fiber is good for the digestive system and managing our weight. What is this magical substance? Fiber is a carbohydrate that the body can’t be digested. This begs the question, if the body can’t digest it what purpose does it serve in a healthy diet?
Two Types of Fiber
Soluble fiber dissolves in water while insoluble fiber does not. Soluble fiber is believed to help lower glucose (sugar) levels and lower cholesterol. Foods that have soluble fiber include, but aren’t limited to, oatmeal, blueberries, nuts and beans. Insoluble fiber can help move food through the digestive system. Foods that have insoluble fiber include carrots, cucumbers, legumes, and brown rice – among other foods.
Fiber and Disease Prevention
The properties of fiber appears to have an effect on reducing the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Because fiber can’t be digested by the human body it isn’t broken down the same way other carbohydrates are and thus doesn’t add to the calories of a food. When you eat foods high in fiber you feel full sooner and longer without spiking the blood’s sugar level. The body doesn’t need to produce insulin to deal with the fiber. These foods contain other carbohydrates in addition to fiber and that is where the body gets its fuel. Reducing the amount of sugar intake has a direct impact on preventing or reversing type II diabetes, especially for Black women. Looking at data from the Black Women’s Health study of 59,000 US black women it revealed that those with a diet including high amounts of cereal fiber reduced their risk of developing type II diabetes. This is great news as Black women make up a large portion of type II diabetics.
Fiber and the Digestive System
Because fiber is bulky it helps to push food through the digestive system and “clean” it out. It also helps with preventing or treating bouts of constipation. As you increase your fiber intake you should also drink more water since fiber absorbs water. If you have too much fiber without enough water you end up with constipation anyway. Fiber is good for other digestive issues too such irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. Studies have shown that fiber can reduce diverticulitis disease by about 40%.
How Much and When
The average person should consume about 20-35 grams of fiber a day. Having a high fiber breakfast sets the body up for success for the rest of the day. Having a serving of fiber at lunch will also help prevent the slump right after lunch or around 3:00pm. Popcorn makes for a great late afternoon snack of course without the butter (or very little butter). It provides an energy pick-me-up without spiking blood sugar levels. Luckily it isn’t too difficult to build fiber into our diets. Common fruits and vegetables such as apples, bananas, and carrots contain the required amount of fiber. There are plenty of gluten free in the grain, cereal and pasta family as well.
If you aren’t already, start including dietary fiber in your diet immediately. You will benefit from the steady energy and low-sugar options to feel full.
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