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Time to Focus on Fiber | January 23, 2013

By SeAnne Safaii PhD, RD, and Rachelle Ausman, UI Dietetics Student

January is Fiber Focus Month! Really, we don’t make this stuff up. If eating healthy is at the top of you resolutions lost for 2013, then consider fiber. Most Americans do not get enough. We know we should eat more fiber, but why is it good for our health?

Fiber is a natural nutrient in a variety of foods that is not only inexpensive, but has been proven to aid in weight loss as well as weight maintenance. Fiber is found in the indigestible part of plant food that is known as “roughage” because it does not digest in the body. There are two types of fiber including soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows the digestive system down, which allows a reduction in cholesterol levels and helps control blood sugar levels.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and goes through the digestive system without changing forms. This increases the rate of flow through the body, which is important in moving bulk (food) through the digestive tract. The main benefits of insoluble fiber include promoting regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, maintaining acidity in the intestines and speeding up the elimination of toxic waste in the colon;.

The benefits of these two types of fiber have also been demonstrated in studies to reduce heart disease, reduce cancer, and aid in weight loss. Fiber helps in weight maintenance because it makes you feel full for longer amounts of tie.

Sources of fiber include beans, vegetables, root vegetable skins, fruits, whole grains, oatmeal, corn bran, nuts, and seeds. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the best way to add fiber to your diet includes choosing more whole fruits instead of juice, starting the day off with fruit, checking the nutrient label to see that the first ingredient says whole grain, and eating more beans.

When it comes to intake recommendations, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams for adult men. Also when reading labels, such as o granola bars, the dietary fiber content should say 3 grams or more.

So, if you are looking to add to or start fresh when it comes to your 2013 diet, consider adding more fiber. More nutrient information on fiber can be found at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website at www.eatright.org

Happy Fiber Focus Month!