Fiber Matters

Boost your nutritional IQ with these 10 important facts about fiber.

| March/April 2005

In a recent business meeting, one employee was being especially cantankerous and another remarked that the first obviously needed more fiber in his diet. Everyone laughed and the meeting continued.

The point of this anecdote is that everyone at the meeting knew that fiber in the diet is a good thing, and that its absence can make us cranky. What they might not have known is why, nor the other remarkable benefits that accrue with adequate dietary fiber. They might be especially interested to know that fiber is a vital key to staying slim.

On the theory that we’re more likely to do the stuff that’s good for us if we understand why it’s good for us, here are the top 10 things you should know about fiber, along with some recommendations for tasty, inexpensive ways to boost the amount of fiber in your diet.

What is Fiber?

Fiber refers to the parts of plants that humans can’t digest. Generally classified as either soluble or insoluble fiber, it is found in varying amounts in all vegetables and fruits. The American diet is extremely low in fiber because we traditionally have focused on refined grain products, such as white breads and pastas, and eat few vegetables and fruits. Insufficient fiber in the diet can cause constipation, which is not only uncomfortable, but also extremely unhealthy. Good sources of fiber include whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, bran, vegetables and fruit. Flax seed and psyllium seed are also superb sources of fiber. Fiber supplements are available, but food sources are more often recommended because they provide whole nutrition.

Start Slowly

It’s hard to imagine another simple lifestyle change that could have such far-reaching implications as simply reaching for whole-grain bread and fresh fruit. If you aren’t in the habit of eating fiber-rich foods, start slowly and go for what you find most delicious first. You may not be a bean fan, but you’ve always enjoyed strawberries. Maybe fruit has never appealed to you, but you just can’t get enough carrots. Slow and steady wins the race, and the prize at the end of the road is your health. That’s worth making some changes for, isn’t it?

Top 10 Fiber Facts

1 Fiber helps add volume to your meals without adding calories. It also helps your digestion by assisting the peristaltic process, allowing digested food to move more easily and more quickly through the colon. Fiber helps sweep away harmful toxins.

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