Fit with Fiber
Fiber is an important component of many complex carbohydrates. It cannot be broken down or absorbed by the body and therefore has no caloric value. Soluble fiber, found in oat bran, seeds, nuts, legumes and some fruits and vegetables, helps to slow digestion and aids in the absorption of nutrients from food. Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains, wheat bran and vegetables, helps food pass through the stomach and intestines adding bulk to the stool. Fiber traps and removes harmful bacteria from the intestines, binding toxic agents that are produced in our bodies.
BENEFITS OF FIBER
Fiber offers many health benefits. Fiber intake on a daily basis promotes regular bowl movements preventing constipation, hemorrhoids and small hernias in the colon (a condition known as diverticulosis).1
A high fiber diet has also been shown to regulate blood sugar levels helping to manage diabetes. Fiber slows the digestion process and absorption of nutrients resulting in a slow and steady release of glucose from the breakdown of other carbohydrates.2 Fiber has shown to be an effective tool in terms of weight loss by slowing down the digestion process causing food to remain in the stomach longer thus providing a feeling of fullness. This can be especially helpful for those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, of which obesity is a major factor.
High fiber diets can reduce levels of blood cholesterol reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Diets high in fiber and soy protein have been shown to lower cholesterol concentrations as effectively as prescription medication.3 One study found that patients taking a fiber supplement had an additional 6% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol compared to those taking the 10mg statin drug alone.4 A study conducted by Harvard University found that men who consumed at least 29 grams of fiber each day had almost a 40% reduction in heart attacks compared to men who ate lower-fiber diets. This same protection has also been seen in studies involving women.5
Fiber has also been linked in the prevention of some cancers, specifically colon cancer and breast cancer. The occurrence of breast cancer has been associated with high levels of estrogen metabolites, estrone converted from estradiol. The study showed that fiber intake, specifically soluble fiber, lowers estrogen concentrations in the blood and urine helping to prevent breast cancer.6 Fiber keeps an optimal pH in intestines preventing microbes from producing cancer substances; therefore preventing colon cancer.1 However, some feel that fiber’s role in preventing colon cancer cannot be determined due to the length of the study. Factors that may cause or prevent polyps or colon cancer may take years to determine.7 Another study showed that doubling fiber intake could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 40%, stressing the need for changes in the diets of the American population.8 Overall, it has been estimated that one-third of cancer deaths could be prevented by a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.4