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Fiber, Dietary

by Pierre S. Aoukar, MD and Hratch L. Karamanoukian, MD
Posted: March 8

Dietary fiber or just plain, fiber, is also affectionately known by many as roughage. Unfortunately in the American diet we consume only between 11 to 13 grams of fiber per day, where we should be consuming at least 25 to 30 grams. Dietary fiber is any variety of complex-carbohydrates that come from plant foods, which our bodies can not digest. Cows and other grazing herbivores are able to digest this fiber because of multiple stomachs and different enzymatic juices. In Humans, fiber because it is not digested, serves the essential role of absorbing or binding water in our gut to facilitate the passage of stool. If we do not consume enough fiber, stool becomes firm, setting the stage for constipation, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, fissures and colon cancer. Furthermore, there are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.

• Insoluble Fiber: Does not dissolve in water and includes cellulose and hemicellulose. Sources include fruits, vegetables, beans, wheat bran, seeds, popcorn, and whole grain products such as breads, cereals, and pasta.

• Soluble Fiber: Dissolves in water and includes gums and pectins. Sources include fruits such as prunes, apples, oranges, pears, peaches, and grapes; vegetables, seeds, oat bran, beans, oatmeal, barley and rye.

With respect to the heart, it is important to get as much fiber as possible in your diet, particularly soluble fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water, but it also binds bile acids, or digestive juices secreted from the liver through the gall bladder. These bile acids are made up of cholesterol. The more soluble fiber you eat, the more bile you excrete in your stool, the less cholesterol you have in your body. Soluble fiber also aids in diabetes by slowing down the absorption of sugar in the gut, thus curbing high blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber binds water, but it also binds dietary cholesterol and fat, both of which are precursors to cholesterol in your blood. A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits is the best source of dietary fiber. In addition to the benefits for you heart, fiber makes you fuller, so eat less and eating a high fiber diet wonderful healthy way to stay fit. We can’t say enough about fiber. It keeps you regular (and happy), keeps you trim, protects your heart and protects your colon from a myriad of diseases, not the least of which is cancer.

Fiber, Dietary, Excerpt from the book: Everything Good For The Heart: The A to Z Guide, Aoukar PS and Karamanoukian HL. Magalhaes Scientific Press


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