Fiber is a buzz word these days-you hear it everywhere-but do you really know what fiber does and why you may need it? Fiber can be classified into two broad types – soluble and insoluble. Different fibers therefore have different effects on the body and so much has been written about the pros and cons of this dietary food that it is easy to end up being a little confused about it. So, should you or shouldn't you increase the fiber in your diet? Is fiber the miracle food that it is made out to be? With all that's been written about the benefits of fiber, how is it then that we still remain "fiber-foolish?" Here are some myths and facts to clear up the confusion.
Myth 1 – All dietary fiber is the same. False.
Of the two types of fiber, insoluble fiber found in foods such as wheat bran, whole grains and fruit skins is necessary for smooth functioning of the digestive system. The outer fiber layer of most fruits, vegetables and grains tends to get removed during food processes such as boiling, extracting, peeling and milling. It is therefore advisable to eat more unrefined foods to get the proper daily dosage of fiber. Insoluble fiber softens stools and bulks them up making their passage through the intestines easier. Insoluble fiber acts like a sponge, absorbing water and swelling up resulting in greater frequency of bowel movements and lesser instances of constipation and boosts colon health.
Soluble fiber found in oats, peas, lentils, brown rice, apples and broccoli breaks down as it passes though the digestive system. It converts into a gel and slows the digestion of food and also helps lower the effects of blood sugar spikes that may occur when you have consumed a particularly high sugar and low fiber meal.
Myth 2 – Meats such as pork and beef are rich in fiber. False.
Dietary fiber is only derived from plant products such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Substitute beans over meat at least twice a week to increase your fiber intake.
Myth 3 – A fiber-rich diet can cause an increase in weight. False.
In fact, it's just the opposite. Dietary fiber enhances feelings of satiety and is also lower in calories as compared to other foods. Since it takes a longer time to digest, you feel full for longer and this prevents over eating as well.
Myth 4 – Fiber is only necessary if you are constipated. False.
Fiber does promote regularity and relieves constipation but it can also help lower obesity and cholesterol leading to a healthier heart.
Studies have shown that fiber is not a single substance as was once assumed. Rather it is a collection of elements each with a range of functions. This has led to the revelation that fiber is no longer only synonymous with boring bran. You can now increase the fiber content in your diet by including a variety of delicious fresh whole fruits and vegetable and incorporating changes like eating brown rice over white or sprinkling flax seeds over salads to really up your fiber intake in new interesting ways.
There is no need to be fiber-foolish any longer. With a few simple changes in habit, you can get closer to consuming the daily recommended amount of 26 to 35 grams of fiber.