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The Top Fiber Foods and
Why They Are Important

Many of us may be afraid of fiber because of its reputation for sending those who eat it directly to the bathroom, but fiber has too may benefits to allow us to ignore this powerful disease-preventing food.

As most people are aware, fiber keeps the digestive tract in tune — preventing constipation and maintaining regularity. But many may not know a diet rich in this complex carbohydrate can help fight obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

And if paying attention to your health isn't incentive enough, keep in mind that fiber is the dieter's best friend. Often called roughage, dietary fiber cannot be digested by humans. And since it is not absorbed into the body, fiber has no calories.

Fiber also provides a "full" feeling because of its water-absorbing ability. Foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes also often require more chewing, so a person is unable to eat a large number of calories in a short amount of time.

Insoluble Fiber vs. Soluble Fiber

Fiber can be divided into two categories: insoluble and soluble. Each form functions differently and delivers unique health benefits.

Insoluble fiber: Found in fruits, vegetables, dried beans, wheat bran, seeds, popcorn, brown rice, and whole-grain products such as breads, cereals and pasta. Insoluble fiber is particularly important for cleansing the digestive tract. Insoluble fibers hold on to water, helping move waste through the body and decreasing the time that potentially harmful substances stay in the colon.

Soluble fiber: Found in oats, peas, beans, barley, rye, and certain fruits such as apples, pears, oranges, peaches, grapes, and prunes. Soluble fiber is not only useful for digestion but has also been scientifically proven to reduce blood-cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease. A 1999 study of U.S. women, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that a diet high in fiber, particularly breakfast cereals, can reduce a woman's risk of developing coronary heart disease up to 23 percent.

The American Dietetic Association recommends Americans eat 20-35 grams of fiber each day, including both soluble and insoluble fiber. But the average American eats only 12-17 grams, only a quarter of which is soluble fiber.

To increase your fiber intake, experts recommend eating whole fruits instead of fruit juices and opting for brown or whole wheat rice, bread and pastas instead of white versions. Another helpful suggestion is to substitute legumes for meat two to three times a week in chili, soups, or sauces. Try experimenting with international cuisines, like Indian and Middle Eastern, that use whole grains and legumes.

Don’t Pass the Prunes

There's more to fiber than boring bran flakes and prunes. For those seeking a more appealing way to incorporate both soluble and insoluble fiber into your diet, here are other foods that experts say are excellent fiber sources. Most high fiber foods contain a mix of both types.

Sources of Soluble Fiber (pectins and gums):

  • Legumes such as pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, peas, lentils.
  • Various brans: rice, oat, barley, corn, wheat.
  • Fruits and vegetables including apples, oranges, pears, carrots, peaches, grapes, potatoes, and squash.
  • Corn and popcorn.
  • Seeds and nuts.
  • Whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta.
  • Psyllium seed (used to make Metamucil and similar products).
Sources of Insoluble Fiber (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignins):

  • Wheat bran and whole grain products such as bread, crackers, some breakfast cereals, bran muffins.
  • Whole-wheat flour, brown rice, kidney beans.
  • Skins of many fruits such as strawberries, boysenberries, pears, apples, prunes.
  • Vegetables including green beans, broccoli, peppers, spinach, carrots, tomatoes and artichokes. These may also contain some soluble fiber.
  • Almonds, chunky peanut butter.

Reference Source 104


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