Fiber - The Secret to Staying Slim!
Written by H. K. Jones, RD
Published in March 2007
(HealthCastle.com) Fiber deserves its solid reputation for its regulating abilities, but keeping things going is not fiber's only claim to fame. In fact, more and more research is showing that a high-fiber diet may help prevent diabetes, heart disease, cancer and weight gain. According to new research from the University of Texas in Austin, women who maintain a healthy weight fill up (without filling out) on fiber. If the idea of eating bowl after bowl of bran makes you groan, take heart. Filling up on fiber to maintain a healthy weight is easier than you think.
What is Fiber?
Found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, fiber is the part of plant foods that humans can't digest.
Insoluble fiber is the coarse, chewy part of a plant that does not dissolve in water. It forms a plant's structure and can be found in the outside tissues like fruit skins, stringy vegetables and crunchy whole grains. Insoluble fiber passes through the body largely intact, soaking up water like a sponge and adding bulk and softness to the stool. This not only prevents constipation but also speeds the rate at which food goes through your system. Whole-wheat breads, wheat bran, rye, most other whole grains, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cauliflower and apple skin are all loaded with insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is found inside plant cell walls and dissolves and thickens in water to form a sticky, gel-like substance. It gives oatmeal its gummy texture and cooked beans their mushy centers. As it passes through the digestive system, soluble fiber binds to dietary cholesterol, helping the body to eliminate it. Oats (which have the highest proportion of soluble fiber of any grain), oat bran, beans, peas, rice bran, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp are full of soluble fiber.
How Can You Get Enough Fiber?
Current recommendations suggest that adults (including women who want to maintain their weight) need 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber each day. Here are some easy ways to sneak more fiber into your diet...
- Look for bread, cereal, and crackers that are 100 percent whole grain - meaning NO refined flour. If the label does not say "100%" check the ingredient list for refined culprits like white flour (usually listed as bleached or unbleached enriched wheat flour), semolina or durum flour, and rice flour.
- Include other 100 percent whole grains in your diet, including brown rice, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, barley (including pearled barley), buckwheat, cracked wheat, quinoa and amaranth.
- Eat more beans. They offer loads of soluble fiber, and lots of plant protein. Include them in soups, stews, and salads, and replace bean-based dishes like lentil soup, bean burritos, or rice and beans for those made with meat.
- Fill up on vegetables and fruit. If possible, eat the skins (they contain tons of insoluble fiber), and always eat fiber-filled whole fruits instead of drinking fiber-less fruit juices.