fiber is a type of carbohydrate found only in
plant foods. It's basically derived from the material
that helps give plants their shape and structure.
Fiber falls into two distinct categoriesinsoluble
fiber and soluble fiber. Most plant
foods contain a combination of both soluble and
insoluble fiber in varying amounts.
Insoluble fiber, which is found in high amounts
in whole grains as well as beans, fruits and vegetables,
is coarse in texture. Soluble fiber, on the other
hand, has a soft and gummy texture and is found
in high amounts in legumes (beans, peas and lentils),
fruits, vegetables, oats and barley.
Soluble and insoluble fiber actually work in different
ways to promote health.
Insoluble fiber acts like a sponge and absorbs
water as it's digested, so it adds bulk and softness
to bowel movements. This not only prevents constipation,
but also speeds the rate at which food passes
through your systemleaving less time for
certain foods to deposit impurities and cancer
promoting compounds on the intestinal wall. This
may be one reason why diets high in fiber are
associated with low rates of bowel and colon cancer.
Recent results from one of the largest studies
ever conducted into the link between diet and
cancerthe EPIC (European Prospective Investigation
of Cancer and Nutrition) Studyinvolving
more than 500,000 people from 10 countries for
nearly five years, found that the people eating
the most fiber had a 40 percent lower risk of
colon cancer than those people eating the least.
fiber works differently from insoluble fiber because
it's broken down by the action of bacteria in
the digestive tract and some of the healthy by-products
of this process are absorbed into the blood stream.
Once in the blood stream these healthy by-products
have been found to bind with bile acids (compounds
originally derived from cholesterol stores in
the liver) and escort them out of the body. This
draws cholesterol from the blood, and in turn
lowers cholesterol levels. In one study of men
with high cholesterol levels, adding half a cup
of cooked dried beans (rich in soluble fiber)
to their normal diet reduced their blood cholesterol
levels by 13 percent in 21 days. Soluble fiber
also slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream,
which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
soluble and insoluble fiber have also been shown
to protect against heart disease and breast cancer.
In a study of over 43,000 U.S. male health professionals
conducted by Harvard University, it was found
that over a six-year period those who ate the
most fiber had a 55 percent lower chance of coronary
death than those who ate the least. And a recent
study of more than 1000 Australian women (half
had been diagnosed with breast cancer, half were
free of the disease) found that those who ate
more than 28 grams of fiber per day had the lowest
risk of the disease, while those who ate less
than 14 grams per day faced the highest risk.
weight loss bonus
Fiber not only promotes good health and keeps
you regular, it can also help control your weight.
Here's why. Firstly, fiber is nature's best appetite
suppressant because it fills the stomach and satisfies
your appetite much earlier than fiber depleted
foods. And fiber isn't only bulky and filling,
it also can't be digested like normal foods (it
basically passes right through you) so it adds
virtually no calories to your diet.
chewiness of high-fiber foods also prolongs eating
time which, in turn, gives your body time to tell
your brain that your stomach is full.
And a high-fiber diet may actually cut the number
of calories you ingest by blocking your body's
ability to digest the fat and protein consumed
along with it. In a recent study by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, researchers set a certain number
of calories for subject groups and altered the
fiber content. Results demonstrated that fewer
calories were absorbed with increased fiber intake.
It was found that people who consumed up to 36
grams of fiber a day absorbed 130 fewer daily
calories. Over a year, that adds up to over 47,000
you getting enough?
importance of fiber as part of a healthy diet
is beyond question. Unfortunately most people
in Western countries like the U.S., the U.K. and
Australia consume very little dietary fiberonly
around 10-15 grams a day. While this is better
than none, it's too little for any appreciable
benefits. Throughout the Mediterranean and Asia
fiber intake is traditionally between 30-40 grams
a day. This is the level to strive for. Luckily
by following a MediterrAsian style of eatingwhich
includes lots of fiber-rich whole grains, fruits,
vegetables, nuts and legumesyou'll naturally
be eating this level of fiber without even having
to think about it.
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