Dear Pharmacist: My doctor asked me to get more fiber in my diet. What are some health benefits and what are good ways to incorporate it into my daily life? I’ve always been a meat and potatoes man. — D.C., Palm Beach, Fla.
Answer: Fiber is fabulous! It’s Step 3 in my “Diabetes Without Drugs” book because it helps lower cholesterol.
Technically, fiber is a carbohydrate, and there is the soluble kind, and the insoluble kind. The insoluble sort is not absorbed into the bloodstream during digestion. Isn’t it odd that something which can’t be absorbed during digestion still has beneficial effects? Welcome to the wacky world of health, where strange is the new normal!
As I said, there are two different types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, both of which exist in the same food. It’s a little confusing, but generally speaking, good sources of soluble fiber include bran, oatmeal and fruits and vegetables. These slow down digestion, and that, my friend, slows down the release of blood sugar. This stabilizes your appetite by quelling blood sugar spikes. Fiber may reduce your risk for complications of type 2 diabetes, because your body isn’t forced to pump out truckloads of insulin since it’s not facing roller-coaster high blood sugar swings.
Fiber has been scientifically shown to lower LDL cholesterol, without adversely affecting HDL cholesterol. This gives you an excellent advantage at reducing risk of heart disease. Think of it this way, it helps scrub your arteries clean. That’s not the only area it scrubs clean.
Not to be graphic, but insoluble fiber, also called “cellulose” will scrub your colon clean. It will literally push waste material through the intestine, making it useful for constipation. Be aware that fiber will drive out your medication faster too, so separate administration of fiber from oral medications. If you’re constipated, drink lots of water, consider aloe vera and eat vegetables, soybeans, legumes, apples, oatmeal and, of course, prunes.
I’ve seen my share of people spending hundreds of dollars a month on laxatives. No wonder, most Americans don’t even eat half the daily recommended value of fiber! Women should consume approximately 25 grams per day, and men 35 grams.
Your question about how to incorporate fiber into your life is good, because I am aggravated with all these sugary treats and drinks labeled with “added fiber” to imply that they are nutritious. Don’t be fooled. The fiber I suggest is found naturally in organic fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and beans. Also, peas, broccoli, prunes, apples, oranges, carrots, berries, legumes and potatoes. Not meat, though; sorry.
Switching white bread for whole grain (not whole wheat) will up your fiber intake, and this is fine assuming you’re not gluten sensitiveor on the Paleo or Phase One diet, or sensitive to grains.
Dietary supplements offer a fiber advantage because they’re easy, but be careful you don’t end up a pill-junkie. Pysllium husk supplements are sold at pharmacies and natural health food stores nationwide.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For more information about Suzy Cohen, visit her website at www.suzycohen.com.