Fiber is highly beneficial for health and weight control. Here is a list of its actions:
- It promotes regularity, prevents hemorrhoids and diverticulosis, and appears to reduce the incidence of colon cancer.
- It plays a role in preventing breast cancer and possibly other types of cancer.
- It helps lower LDL cholesterol ('bad cholesterol'), and increase HDL ('good cholesterol'), thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
- By prolonging the intestinal absorption time of nutrients, it helps regulate and stabilize blood sugar levels. This aspect is particularly useful in the management of diabetes, as well as in weight control. (High blood sugar causes increased secretion of the hormone insulin, which promotes the formation and deposition of body-fat. Therefore, any factor that decreases and stabilizes blood sugar levels is beneficial for weight control.)
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Dependent on its solubility in water, we talk of soluble and insoluble (dietary) fiber.
- Both types are non-digestible - i.e., they don't pass from the gut into the
bloodstream, and don't contribute any calories to our organism.
- Both types belong to the 'good carb' group.
- Chemically, both types are complex carbohydrates with long carbon chains.
- Insoluble (dietary) fiber, which occurs mainly in vegetables and the skin of fruit, remains unchanged while it passes from the small intestine into the large intestine (colon). It causes fluids to be retained in the colon (the
so-called 'bulk-forming effect'), which promotes regularity and improves colon health. It also binds other nutrients and prolongs their absorption time from the small intestine - which is beneficial for weight control.
- Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is being modified after it reaches the colon, undergoing
a process called fermentation. This process yields organic acids with short carbon chains (in particular butyric acid), which are absorbed back into the bloodstream and appear to play an important role in improving cholesterol levels (decreasing LDL and increasing HDL). Additionally, these compounds help regulate blood glucose levels, and may also be helpful in regulating immunity. Soluble fiber is found mainly in the pulp of fruit (as opposed to the skin of fruit).
- Fruit skins and root vegetable skins
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
- Green Peas
- Seeds and Nuts
- Cereal Grains, such as barley, wheat, oat, and corn bran
- Fruit, such as citrus fruit (orange, grapefruit, etc), pears, prunes, apples, bananas,
blackberries, nectarines, peaches, plums
- Dried Beans, particularly lima beans, kidney beans, navy beans and pinto beans
- Psyllium husk
- Vegetables such as brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli
- Dried Peas
- Cereal Grains, such as barley, oatmeal, oat bran
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