DIETARY FIBER FOR HEALTH
Fiber consists of the starches, gums, pectins and cellulose-like compounds as well as the starches that are not absorbable, which make up the "tissues" of plants. At first glance, fiber may seem a little boring compared to some of the herbs and hormones popular in the press these days, but its properties truly are remarkable.
We eat far too little fiber. Official agencies all agree that our daily intake of fiber should range from 25 to 35 grams per day for adults. Yet, most of us eat less than 10 grams. Fiber comes in two forms: soluble-found in many fruits and beans, and insoluble--found in the hulls of grains, seeds, skins of fruits and vegetables. Some foods like oats and psyllium contain both types. It is easy to see why most of us do not obtain enough fiber from our diets, which are usually low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
One valuable effect of fiber is mechanical: adequate intake decreases the transit time of food traveling through our digestive tract. Fiber absorbs water, so stools are naturally larger, softer and easier to be moved through. Faster transit time means less contact time for toxins and a reduced risk of colon problems. Stool does not collect in out-of-the-way areas of the bowel, so there is less chance of infection developing. And, with less straining required to pass a softer stool, the probability of developing hemorrhoids is usually reduced.
At the same time, soluble fiber delays stomach emptying. This in turn delays and spreads out the absorption of sugar, resulting in a more normal pattern of insulin secretion as well as better control of blood sugar. Fiber also binds cholesterol and bile in the digestive tract, preventing their reabsorbtion and re-circulation. If less cholesterol is absorbed, its level in the blood goes down. The liver makes bile from cholesterol and if more bile is lost in the gut, the liver will use up cholesterol to replace the bile, again resulting in lower cholesterol levels.
Fiber also binds and reduces the absorption of dietary fat, which can help with weight control. Decreased fat absorption also means decreased absorption of fat soluble toxins and this may help to explain a decreased risk of breast and prostate can-cer with higher fiber intake noted by some researchers. Fiber stimulates the secretion of the hormone cholecystokinin, which alerts the brain that we've had enough to eat. High fiber meals also tend to be bulkier and contain fewer calories.
A diet high in fiber promotes the production of short chain fatty acids, which in turn results in a more acidic colon and a healthy population of "friendly" bacteria. This facilitates detoxification and bolsters our natural defenses against parasites and fungi. If you are not already consuming 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day, take the necessary steps now to do So. This is one of the easiest and most important things you can do to make a dramatic impact on your overall health!
FDA OK's PSYLLIUM HEALTH CLAIM
The labels of products containing soluble fiber from psyllium seed husk can now carry a health claim stating that the food, when consumed as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. However, labels of foods made with certain forms of psyllium must carry an additional statement advising consumption with sufficient liquid. Acting on a petition filed by the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, MI, the FDA authorized the health claim in February as an amendment to an existing regulation published in January 1997. That ruling addresses health-claim labeling for products containing soluble fiber from whole oats. FDA's ruling states that, to carry the health claim, products must provide at least 1.7 grams of soluble fiber from psyllium seed husk per serving. Because products containing dry or incompletely hydrated psyllium may be difficult to swallow, the FDA also ruled that labels on such foods accompany the health claim with a statement that the food should be consumed with adequate amounts of liquid. The statement further advises that individuals with difficulty swallowing should avoid eating the food. Prior to authorizing the amendment, the FDA reviewed several scientific studies showing that a daily intake of 10.2 grams of psyllium seed husk (about 7 grams of soluble fiber), in conjunction with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, consistently resulted in significantly lower serum cholesterol levels. The 1.7 grams amount required for the health claim, multiplied by four eating occasions per day, equals the 7 grams-per-day intake level cited in the studies.
IMPORTANCE OF DIETARY FIBER
SOLUBLE AND INSOLUBLE
Generally speaking, fiber is not digested or absorbed, as it tends to be resistant to digestion by intestinal enzymes. Dietary fiber is categorized as one of two types: "soluble" or "insoluble." It is estimated that 65 to 75% of dietary fiber in our diet is "insoluble." The soluble fibers form a gel-like consistency in water and are found in foods like beans, corn, oats, barley, peas, Brussels sprouts, lentils, carrots, cabbage, okra, apricots, prunes, dates, blackberries, cranberries, seeds, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, psyllium, certain gums and seaweed, to name a few. Insoluble fiber may be found in bran (the outer covering of corn, oats, rice, wheat), whole grains (corn, barley, rice, wheat, oats), cereals, edible skins of fruits and vegetables, celery, brown rice, and some vegetables.
AGENCIES AND ORGANIZATIONS
Current U.S. Government recommendations advocate generous increases in dietary fiber. These come from a variety of agencies working cooperatively. -They include the United States Food and Drug Administration, which is concerned with overall health and safety and the United States Department of Agriculture, which is the creator of the dietary "Food Pyramid." These agencies are supported by the National Academy of Sciences under which operate the Institute of Medicine and its Food and Nutrition Board, which generates the Recommended Daily allowances or Daily Values of nutrients.
Studies suggest that soluble fiber may tend to reduce the stomach emptying time of the foods we eat, which means the food passes through the stomach much faster. The same is true in our intestinal tract. It may reduce blood levels of cholesterol, including LDL's-low density lipoproteins-the "bad" cholesterol in our bloodstream. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, may tend to add bulk to the stool, and expedite passage through the gastro intestinal tract. Fiber can also help you eat less by providing a sense of fullness, thereby possibly helping in weight management by helping you control the quantity of food you eat.
It is also believed that soluble fiber may slow digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, possibly helping to prevent wide swings in blood sugar levels. This could also be a factor in achieving a sense of fullness, especially when you consider that fiber may hamper the absorption of calorie-dense dietary fat, too.
IMPORTANT CLAIMS ALLOWED BY THE FDA
Diets low in fat and rich in fiber-containing grain products may reduce the risk of some types of can-cer. - Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fiber, particularly soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Diets low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables, which may contain fiber or vitamin A (as beta-carotene) and vitamin C, may reduce the risk of some can-cers.
Foods with soluble fiber from whole oats may reduce heart disease risk when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat. - Labels of breakfast cereal and other foods containing soluble fiber from psyllium seed husk are permitted to include claims that they may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
WHILE ON THE SUBJECT -- Looking to add more fiber into your diet? Try Tropicana's Pure Premium Plus Fiber orange juice. Each 8 oz. cup has as much fiber as a whole orange.
FIBER INFO -- An easy way to add fiber to your diet is to start eating fruit that is unpeeled instead of peeled. Wash apples, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums thoroughly before eating.
GET YOUR VITAMINS -- One kiwi supplies more dietary fiber than a bowl of bran flakes. It also has generous amounts of potassium and vitamin C.