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Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber

Lindsay and I are talking about fiber today.  Fiber may not sound very exciting, but it’s helpful in losing weight, lowering cholesterol, preventing heart disease and diabetes, and more.  It’s not too hard to get more fiber in your diet, just eat more fruits and vegetables, but if you want to know more specifics read on, and I’ll tell you all about the different types and benefits of fiber.  

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is found in all plants, in different types, and varying amounts.  Dietary fiber is the naturally occurring supportive structure in plants that our body cannot digest.  It can be broken into two main groups:  soluble and insoluble fiber (these can be broken down further but I am just sticking to these categories today).  It is recommended that women get 25 g of fiber a day and men get 38 g.  Americans are getting far less than this due to low fruit and vegetable intake, and low intake of whole grains.  In fact, we only average about half of the fiber recommended.  

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber is fiber that is soluble in water.  It is found in foods that get gummy or gel like when soaked, like oats, beans, lentils, bananas, berries, oranges, etc.  These types of fiber can be digested by bacteria in our gut. Soluble fiber has a couple of major health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and helping prevent diabetes.  It is thought, that soluble fiber stops cholesterol and dietary fats  from being absorbed.  Because saturated fat is used to manufacture cholesterol in the body, reducing levels of saturated fats absorbed would help lower cholesterol levels.  It is also thought that soluble fiber causes bile in the stomach from being reabsorbed and instead the bile is excreted.  This would force the body to manufacture more bile, which is also made from cholesterol.  Because more cholesterol is being used in the body, blood levels of cholesterol would drop.  Soluble fiber also keeps us from absorbing carbohydrates fully, and because of this may help control blood glucose levels and lower the risk of diabetes.

Good Sources of Soluble Fiber:

  • Oats
  • Beans, Lentils, Peas
  • Apples, Pears, Bananas, Berries, Oranges
  • Flax seeds, Chia Seeds
  • Cucumbers, Carrots, Celery, Sweet Potatoes

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber is fiber that is not soluble in water.  It cannot be digested by gut bacteria, and is found in vegetables and grains.  These fibers help promote regularity by having a laxative effect, and stop constipation from happening.  

Good Sources of Insoluble Fiber:

  • Whole grains (Rice, Wheat, Corn, Barley, etc.)
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Celery, Squash, Cabbage and Greens, Onions, Tomatoes, Root vegetable skins (like sweet potatoes)
  • Raisins, Grapes, Dates, Cherries

Other Benefits of Fiber

  • May reduce the risk of colon cancer – this is controversial because some studies have been inconclusive
  • Helps keep the intestines healthy and prevents contipation, hemmohroids, and diverticulosis
  • Helps with weight loss by keeping us full of non-caloric substances.  In addition soluble fiber absorbs water, also keeping us full.  Because these foods are filling, people who eat more fiber tend to take in less high fat and high calorie foods.  Soluble fiber also delays the emptying of the stomach allowing you to feel full longer.

Lindsay’s Recipes

Lindsay has put together some great recipes that include both soluble and insoluble fiber. 

Snow Peas

This is a really simple recipe Lindsay made, just snow peas and a little oil and salt, but check out the nutrition label.  These little guys are super nutritious!  A cup has 18% of your fiber for the day, plus they have 128% of your vitamin C.  ALLERGEN INFO:  This recipe is free of the 8 major allergens.  

 Peas

 NutritionLabel - Snow Peas

Kale and White Bean Soup

I love kale soup, but have never tried kale and white bean soup, so this is the perfect opportunity to try Lindsay’s recipe.  My nutrition label assumes you’ve used low sodium vegetable broth.  ALLERGEN INFO:  This recipe is free of the 8 major allergens if you skip the cheese.

Soup

 Nutrition Label - Soup

Brownie

This is the recipe I’m most looking forward to trying!  Look at how delicious it looks!  I, like Lindsay, have been a little hesitant to try a black bean brownie before, but she said they turned out great and they are so much better for you than any regular brownie, 25% of your fiber in one brownie!  And look at all of the other great things, 15% of magnesium.  I assumed you would use flax seed in place of egg for this nutrition label.  ALLERGEN INFO:  This recipe is free of the 8 major allergens if you use flax seed in place of egg.

Brownie

 Brownie Label

Lentil and Broccoli Salad

I love lentils and am always looking for new ways to try them, so I’m excited to try this recipe from Lindsay.  Check out how much Vitamin C is in this recipe thanks to the broccoli – 227%!  Plus with the lentils and broccoli combined you’ll be getting soluble fiber and insoluble fiber – 32% worth.  ALLERGEN INFO:  This recipe is free of the 8 major allergens if you use flax seed in place of egg.

It is also featured on Cybele Pascal’s allergy friendly blog.  To find many more allergy friendly recipes see her great site.  P.S. She also has a great allergy friendly cookbook!

Broccoli and lentil salad

 NutritionLabel - Lentils and Broccoli

 I’m wondering if anyone is noticing a theme with our recipes.  It seems every week no matter what we end up talking about, we emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds as good sources for vitamins, nutrients, to keeps us full, and give us energy, and help prevent major chronic diseases!  I hope you’re finding our series educational and inspiring!

Please Note:  The nutrition information in these recipes are estimates only.  Actual nutrition information will vary depending on exactly how large your chicken strips are, how much oil you use, etc.  Also, please verify all allergen information yourself!!  I am also not condoning taking fiber supplements, supplements usually don’t have the same effects as a well balanced diet and can even cause you harm in certain cases!

References

Thompson, Janice L., Melinda M. Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. (2008). The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc.

http://www.webmd.com/diet/fiber-health-benefits-11/insoluble-soluble-fiber

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