Vijaya Botla RD, LDRegistered & Licensed Dietitian
The news and web are constantly urging us to consume more fiber. But do you know why its good for you? Well, dietary fiber is found in plant sources such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts/seeds and grains. Eating the recommended amounts of fiber can help:
− Heart disease
There are 2 types of fiber:
1) Soluble - this type of fiber when dissolved in water forms a gel like material that helps to reduce cholesterol and glucose levels. How? Well, our body uses cholesterol to make bile salts in the liver. These salts combine with the food that leaves the stomach and helps to further break down our food.
The bile salts are absorbed in the intestines and reused. Soluble fiber actually binds to the bile salts and eliminates them as part of our waste so our body has to use more cholesterol to make more bile salts thus reducing our cholesterol levels! Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of sugar so our blood sugar levels are more controlled. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, legumes, nuts, apples, citrus fruits and carrots.
2) Insoluble - this type of fiber helps to create bulk so that it can easily move through our digestive system, especially our intestines. This fiber is also fermented in the colon which provides food for the good bacteria in our gut and this healthy environment can possibly help decrease our chances of certain cancers such as colon. Now that we know why fiber is important to us, how much should we consume?
For children 3−18 years old, add “5” to their age in years. So, for children 7 years old, they need at least 7+5=12 grams (g) of fiber/day. For adults, needs vary by age and gender:
How can I increase the amount of fiber in my diet? First, remember to slowly increase your fiber intake so you don’t feel bloated or gassy too quickly. Choose to eat whole grains, lentils, unprocessed flours and brown rice rather than the white varieties of these foods.
− Peas − Corn − Potatoes − Broccoli − Spinach and other leafy greens
− kidney beans − Black-eyed peas − chick peas − dals
− Prunes − Apricots − Plums − Raisins − Oranges − Blueberries and strawberries − Apples (with skin)
*Data obtained from US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) food databases and Mayo Clinic.
*The views expressed in this article are those of the dietitian and may not reflect those of AAPI