Fiber The Misunderstood Nutrient

HB TreatmentsINFORMATION AND SECTIONS IN THIS ARTICLE:

  • What is Fiber?
  • How Fiber Benefits Obesity, Heart Disease, Cancer and Diabetes.
  • Tips on Incorporating Fiber Into Your Daily Diet.
  • There perhaps isn’t a more misunderstood food component than fiber, which may be considered as an essential anti-ageing nutrient. It may reverse or prevent a multitude of diseases that are frequently experienced as we age. Fiber is a dietary workhorse: it keeps toxins from building up in the intestines, thus promoting the proper absorption of important nutrients from food. The supply of cellular nutrients that fiber helps to release are responsible for many of the biological processes essential to life. Because many of us fail to get our optimal daily dose of fiber, here are some insights that will help you to understand the importance of fiber in your diet and make selections of fiber-rich foods.

    A high fiber diet can be an effective anti-ageing tool, improving your digestion, relieving the strain on your liver and gall bladder, and reducing your risk of large bowel cancer, gallstones, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, colitis, hemorrhoids, hernia, and varicose veins -- and fiber tends to soak up fat.

    Many doctors and nutritionists are encouraging people to eat no less than 20-30 grams of fiber a day, and researchers have noted that upward of 35 grams of roughage a day may actually reduce the risk of chronic disease, such as those involving the heart.

    WHAT IS FIBER?

    Fiber is composed of complex carbohydrates, and is found only in plant foods. Fiber is the structural material that gives plant cell walls their integrity. Hence, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts seeds, and legumes are all good sources of fiber. Fiber is also an important part of the human digestive process. It gives volume to the food we ingest, so that our intestines can more easily pass along their contents. Both absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste are eased by fiber, with consequent benefits to your intestines.
    Fiber is categorized as either soluble or insoluble. Sources of soluble fiber include dried beans, oats, barley, apples citrus fruits, and potatoes. Insoluble fiber may be found in whole grains, wheat bran, cereals, seeds, and the skins of many fruits and vegetables. The human body needs both kinds of fiber. While your doctor or nutritionist may recommend a fiber supplement, you should be aware that many of these products contain only a single type of fiber and thus are less preferable than dietary sources.

    There are many different types of fiber, and your body will benefit from absorbing some of each. Broccoli, green beans, and lettuce contain cellulose, which swells to increase the weight of food ingested. A high-cellulose content helps food move more quickly through the intestines, reducing the amount of time that bacteria can breed. It also eases pressure on the colon.
    Cereals, bran and whole grains contain hemicellulose, which increases the bulk of fecal matter, relieving pressure on the colon. Hemicellulose reduces the possibility of gallstones, it lowers cholesterol levels, it generally absorbs and neutralizes many harmful toxins, and, by moving food more quickly through the system, it reduces the amount of time that bacteria and carcinogens may breed within it.

    Pectin is a type of fiber found in apple peel and carrots. It is known to lower cholesterol and generally to act as an antitoxin. Mucilage, found in legumes and seeds, also lowers cholesterol, as well as speeds the process of food through the system. Lignin, found in wheat bran and apples, helps bind the heavy metal trace elements in food, preventing their oxidizing effects, as well as producing other antitoxic effects.

    However, if you’re depending on bran as your major source of fiber, be aware that it can leach calcium, magnesium, and zinc from your system. As with most nutritional elements, it’s a good idea to get fiber from many sources, and to avoid “megadoses” of any one type of food.

    CONDITIONS BENEFITED BY FIBER

    Fiber can benefit a number of medical conditions, including:

  • Obesity:  High-fiber foods are often recommended in dietary plans to help those who have extra weight to shed. Fiber functions in a multitude of beneficial ways. Dietary fiber not only can help to enhance weight loss, but also can act to decrease feelings of hunger often felt in reducing caloric intake. Elevated blood pressure, a common and dangerous side effect of excess pounds, can be combated by a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Roughage provides not only a healthy dose of fiber but potassium as well, which helps even the mildly overweight to lower blood pressure.

  • Heart Disease:  Many types of cardiac conditions may be countered effectively by consuming foods that are high in fiber. A variety of nutritional factors, including total and saturated fat consumption, and fiber intake from fruits and vegetables, impact atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), which can strike as either coronary heart disease (CHD), cerebral vegetables, fruits, whole-grain cereals, and legumes are rich sources of nutrients, photochemical, and antioxidants that play a beneficial role in heart disease. High-fiber foods contain soluble and insoluble fiber, minerals, vitamins, other micronutrients, and phytochemicals. These same foods often act as rich sources of the “good” fats—monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Legumes (beans) deliver oligosaccharides to our bodies. Just recently, the results from the Nurses’ Health Study reported that whole grains can deliver a protective role in CHD. This benefit is suspected as a result of not only the dietary fiber in whole grains, but also vitamins such as folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin E that are richly present. Earlier reports from the Nurses’ Health Study found that women consuming cereal regularly were able to reduce their risk of CHD, mostly as a direct result of the fiber content. The Iowa Women’s Health Study likewise found that postmenopausal women eating whole-grain products such as cereal could reduce their risk of ischemic heart disease, through both the fiber and antioxidant vitamins that these foods contain. Fiber also benefits the lipid profile. A variety of studies demonstrate that soluble fiber can be effective in lowering cholesterol by clinically significant amounts. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study reports that dietary fiber can beneficially impact plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 (PAI-1), an emerging marker of cardiovascular disease.

  • Cancer:  Fiber increases the mobility of the intestinal tract, which many physicians and scientists believe reduces exposure to potential carcinogens ingested from foods. This is relevant to understanding how fiber can reduce your risk of two leading types of cancer: colon and breast. While consumption of large amounts of fat and animal products is suspected to increase the risk for colon cancer, it is believed that diets high in fiber and low in fat may protect against colon cancer. To reduce colon cancer risk, enjoy a diet that is low in fat, alcohol, and preserved food items, while high in fiber and vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene. Beginning at age forty, both men and women should undergo regular colon cancer screenings (digital rectal exam; DRE) and, starting at age fifty, occult blood testing should be administered as well. For women surviving breast cancer, a reduced risk of recurrence of the disease is now linked to increased blood levels of carotenoids. Raise these through a diet that is high in vegetables, which coincidentally raises fiber intake to reduce the time that cancer-causing agents are in contact with the intestines.

    Cancer patients frequently suffer from significant alterations in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism. Animal studies have provided evidence that food relatively low in simple carbohydrates with moderate amounts of high-quality protein, fiber, and fat (especially fats of the omega-3 fatty acid series) are beneficial for those with, or recovering from, cancer. In the near future, nutritional intervention may become a powerful tool for controlling malignant disease and for reducing toxicity associated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

  • Diabetes:  While in both insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients, a high-carbohydrate diet does not offer any advantage in terms of blood glucose and plasma lipid concentrations compared with a high-fat (mainly unsaturated) diet, researchers have found that it is the fiber content that plays a key distinguishing role. In diabetics, adverse metabolic effects of high-carbohydrate diets are neutralized when fiber and carbohydrate are increased simultaneously. A number of studies have demonstrated that a high-carbohydrate/high-fiber diet significantly improves blood glucose control and reduces plasma cholesterol levels in diabetic patients compared with a low-carbohydrate/low-fiber diet. In addition, a high-carbohydrate/high-fiber diet does not increase plasma insulin and triglyceride concentration, despite the higher consumption of carbohydrates. In diabetics, fiber in its soluble form is more beneficial for glucose and fat metabolism purposes. Legumes, vegetables, and fruits are to be encouraged in the diabetic diet. The fiber content, by influencing the accessibility of other nutrients, also promotes proper digestion and absorption. A balanced increase in consumption of fiber-rich foods and unsaturated fat is generally beneficial for diabetics.

    EASY STEPS FOR ADDING MORE FIBER TO YOUR DAILY DIET

    1.Less processing equals more health benefit. Opt for foods that are as close to their unprocessed state as possible:

  • Uncooked vegetables:  After thoroughly washing your veggies, why not eat them au naturale? During any cooking process, fiber can be broken down into its carbohydrate state, reducing its ability to act as roughage. If you choose to cook your vegetables, try a gentle steaming so you retain their crunch.

  • Show a little skin: Enjoy the skin and membranes of foods such as apples, potatoes, and nuts, as they are rich in fiber.
  • Wholeness: Next time you’re grocery shopping, purchase a whole-grain cereal or bread, as these contain grains that retain their nutrient-rich outer husks. Add some variety to your meals by choosing more exotic side dishes such as bulgur, couscous, or kasha.

  • Beans: To your favorite soup, stew, or salad recipe, add a cupful or two of beans. Take a break from meat-based dinners and put bean burritos or a dish of zesty rice and beans on your table.

  • Smart snacks: Sometimes, it’s those “little treats” that can do the most damage. Instead of reaching for a sugar-packed or fat-laden snack food, choose the fiber-rich, sensation-satisfying crunch of fresh fruit, banana or apple chips, or a handful of dry-roasted nuts.
    2.If you are eating two to four servings of fruit, three to five servings of vegetables and six to eleven servings of cereals or grains, you will be achieving the optimal 25-30 grams of daily fiber.

    Through many research studies, fiber is repeatedly demonstrated to be of benefit in conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. By making very small changes in our dietary choices, we can empower ourselves with a potent way to fight the most common degenerative disease of ageing. Make fiber a part of your daily routine, and you’re on your way to looking and feeling younger
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