Before I get started on the nuts and bolts of fiber, I wanted to say thank you for being so patient with me over the past couple of weeks. My life has been a bit chaotic lately. Between school, my son’s accident, and caring for him, I haven’t had a lot of time to properly write my blog and give it the attention it deserves. So, thank you for your patience.
My son still can’t put weight on his foot for 2 1/2 more weeks, but he is stronger and can now do many things on his own. However due to the extent of his injuries-having broken 3 bones, he can’t go back to school, which doesn’t end for 3 more weeks. So we have teachers coming to the house to teach him, plus, he has physical therapy 3 days a week. So that keeps me very busy. But, we’re hanging in there. 🙂
As far as school goes, I handed in my final assignment, for my current course and got the graded paper back this morning. My oral exam is still to come. But that is wrapping up as well. So, things are slowly getting back to normal.
ANYWAY… onto our main topic…FIBER!
WHAT IS FIBER?
By definition, fiber is: “Polysaccharide found in plants that is not digested or absorbed in the human small intestine.” (1)
Ok, if you look at that and think “OK, that’s nice, but what does that mean?” We touched on polysaccharides in my article on CARBOHYDRATES: THE BASICS
A polysaccharide is a complex carbohydrate, or a type of sugar with more than 10 individual sugar molecules (monosaccharides) bonded together. There are three types of polysaccharides:
- Glycogen-this is the storage form of sugar in the body, primarily found in the liver and muscles.
- Starch- found in wheat, corn, squash, oats, grains, potatoes, yams, etc.
- Dietary fiber– found in plants, not digested or absorbed by the body. Instead it is partially broken down by friendly gut bacteria and helps to “clean” the digestive tract.
Today we will be focusing on just one of the three, FIBER. There are two main types of fiber:
- Dietary fiber-This is fiber found naturally in plants. (1)
- Functional fiber– Fiber that is added to food, for the beneficial health benefits. (1)
You will often see the term “TOTAL FIBER” . This refers to the combination of dietary fiber, found naturally in the food, and functional fiber, or fiber that has been added to a food.
When discussing dietary fiber, there are 2 types, and yes, you need both kinds:
- Soluble fiber – This fiber dissolves in water-This type of fiber feeds the friendly bacteria in your large intestines. It is broken down and fermented by these friendly bugs. In general, beans, psyllium, vegetables, and flax are healthy sources of soluble fiber. (8)
- binds with fatty acids
- delays digestion of carbohydrates.
- feeds healthy, good bacteria
- Insoluble fiber – This type does not dissolve in water. Think of this type of fiber as a broom. It “sweeps” the digestive system/colon clean and keeps it healthy. In general, beans, lentils, bran, whole grains, and flax are good sources of insoluble fiber. (8)
- Cleans the digestive system
- Controls the acidity/pH of the digestive system
WHY DO WE NEED FIBER?
Fiber is a very important part of any healthy diet and required for a healthy digestive system, and by extension, a healthy body. So, just what does fiber do for us? Here are the highlights (2, 3 4 )
- Healthy gut and happy friendly bacteria– this helps with the absorption of nutrients, improves the health of the immune system and prevents the growth of bad bacteria.
- Helps blood sugar control-Soluble fiber slows the digestion of carbohydrates, and thereby the absorption of sugar.
- Healthy heart and lower blood pressure – A high fiber diet has been shown to lower cholesterol, leading to lower blood pressure and a healthier heart
- Weight loss– High fiber foods help the body feel full longer, leading to fewer calorie consumption and higher weight loss.
- Lower risk for cancer– The insoluble fiber sweeps the digestive system clean, lowering the risk for colon and rectal cancer.
- Relieves constipation – Of all digestive system complaints, constipation is number one on the list. Theoretically, you should be having 2 to 3 bowel movements a day, however, at least 1 every day. If you aren’t having at least one everyday, EAT MORE FIBER AND DRINK MORE WATER!
- Healthy bones– high fiber diets have been shown to increase the absorption of the bone minerals such as calcium.
- Healthy skin – fiber moves fungus and yeast out of the body, which prevents it from leaching out of the skin, making your skin nice and healthy.
- Prevents intestinal disorders – Disorders such as diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and irritable bowel syndrome, can be healed or prevented with a high fiber diet.
HOW MUCH FIBER DO YOU NEED?
On average, Americans get approximately
13 to 15 grams of fiber a day (5)
women need 25 grams per day
men, between 35 and 40 grams per day. (6)
WHAT ARE THE BEST
FOOD SOURCES OF FIBER? (7)
Here are the top 15 best
- Split peas – 16.3 grams/ cup cooked
- Figs – 14.6 grams/ cup – dried
- Lima beans – 13.2 grams/ cup cooked
- Black beans – 12.2 grams/ cup cooked
- Avocado – 10.5 grams/ cup sliced
- Lentils – 10.4 grams/ cup cooked
- Artichoke – 10.3 grams/ medium artichoke
- Asian pear – 9.9 grams/ medium pear with skin
- Acorn squash – 9 grams/ cup baked
- Peas – 8.6 grams/ cup cooked
- Okra – 8.2/ cup
- Raspberries – 8 grams/ cup
- Chickpeas – 8 grams/cup cooked
- Brussel sprouts – 7.6 grams/ cup
- Coconut – 7.2 grams/cup
- McGuire, Michelle; Beerman, Kathy A.. Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food (Page 125). Cengage Textbook. Kindle Edition.