Fiber Of Your (Well)Being

The carbohydrate that can’t be digested can help you in numerous ways

There’s no need to snicker when grandma tells you how important fiber is. She’s right, and it’s not just because it helps to keep people regular and prevent constipation. Dietary fiber, the non-digestible carbohydrates derived from plants, certainly does help digestion, but several studies have shown that it does much more.

Those who eat a high-fiber diet tend to have:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower risk of hemorrhoids and diverticular disease
  • Lower risk for heart disease

Another factor that fiber can help lower is your weight.

“Soluble fiber dissolves into a gel-like texture that slows down digestion and makes you feel full longer,” explains Karen Turner, DO, of St. Joseph's/Candler Primary Care located on Abercorn Southside.  This, along with the fact that high-fiber foods tend to also be low in calories, may help people to either lose weight or maintain their healthy weight.  The slower absorption of high-fiber foods also prevents the quick spikes in blood sugar levels that increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Insoluble fiber is the other type of fiber. This is the kind that promotes regularity.

“Insoluble fiber does not dissolve at all, and therefore adds bulk to the stool and moves food more quickly through the digestive tract,” says Turner, who is also the medical director for St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Center for WellBeing.

Now that you know all the benefits of fiber, are you getting enough in your diet?

“Men need between 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day and women should have between 20 to 25 grams,” Turner says.

Whole grains are a popular source of fiber, and simple changes such as replacing white rice with brown rice or white bread with whole-wheat can make a difference.  However Dr. Turner notes that even whole-grain foods, such as bran muffins and certain cereals, may contain higher calories and can potentially cause digestive problems such as bloating or cramps.

“Whole fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans are the best sources,” Turner says.

When you're in the grocery store

Make sure some of these excellent fiber sources are on your shopping list:

Soluble fibers
Flax seeds
Plums and prunes
Psyllium seed husks
Sweet potatoes
Insoluble fibers
Brown rice
Green beans
Whole wheat bread

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