Wednesday, February 10, 2010

fiber, beautiful fiber.

I imagine that everyone has their IMPORTANT INGREDIENT when looking at a nutrition label. Some people look for low sugar, some low fat, some high protein. And calories, of course. Well, and ingredients. Anyway, I'm a fiber person. I size up everything else, too, but nothing makes a label glow like a big number on that fiber line (in relation to calories, of course. Because it's mucho annoying to look at super high fibre cereal and see that there are 8 grams of fiber in a 389 calorie serving.).

Unfortunately, some people are just in the dark about this miraculous, indigestible plant part. Here are just a few of the things it does:

Increases chewing time, which results in increased salivary and gastric juice flow. This subsequently decreases dental plaques and decay, satisfies the appetite more quickly and, as a result, reduces calorie intake.

Promotes and prolongs the effect of the hormone CCK (cholecystokinin) to make you feel full longer.

Slows the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar (this allows glucose to be used efficiently by the body).

Eliminates calories we have already eaten (for every gram of fiber you eat you can eliminate 7 calories).

High fiber foods are energy-rich, antioxidant rich, and disease-preventing foods. They increase energy and reduce immune system stress.

Fiber is also cholesterol lowering, helps with diabetic control, decreases the tendency of blood to clot, and regulates digestion.

Most people don't get the recommended 35 grams per day. I personally think that there is no reason that you shouldn't be able to get your 35-- if you're eating your fruits, veg, whole grains, and beans, it adds up really quickly. Eating more isn't a bad idea, either--some of the healthiest cultures eat an average of 80 grams of fiber per day. Don't aim for that tomorrow, though (unless you like the idea of your stomach after 4 cups of beans and 12 apples). Increasing fiber slowly (by a few grams per day this week, a few more next week) helps the digestion adjust.

Beyond all of fiber's great medical studies and weight management effects, I just love the way that fiber-rich foods make me feel. They're usually lighter and rich in water content, and I'm a major digestion person. If my digestion is slow from low fiber, dense food, I feel heavy, sluggish, and grouchy. Regular digestion makes me feel much lighter and energetic, and I also believe that health (or lack of) is hugely related to the state of the digestive system.

Now, how to get all of this fiber? Eat plant food. Easy, easy.

Fruit. Apples, pears, and berries are excellent, while bananas and citrus have a little less fiber. They're all good, though.
Veg. Every single vegetable has fiber, and the low-starch ones have more than potatoes and the like.
Whole grains. They're all good, though rice has less and rye has a lot. The rye bread I buy has 8 g in each 130 calorie slice. 3 g per 100 calories is decent, though I aim for 5.
Nuts and seeds. These are high in fat, so don't go crazy. Studies show, however, that some of the fat in nuts isn't digested (and fewer calories are absorbed). Could fiber be the cause? Anyway, the fat in nuts and seeds is some of the best you can get, so do eat them (and go for the raw ones--heat can change good fats in a bad way).

With all of these delicious foods, there's no need for fiber supplements. There are some tasty, trendy fiber snacks out there, though. I had a brief love affair with fiber one bars, until I realized that eating one can cause minor discomfort and more than three is a recipe for serious digestive distress. Food bars with fiber can be a great snack, but look for whole foods on the label. Our bodies know how do digest these better than chicory extracts and other ingredients that only manufacturers use.

When eating dry, fibrous foods like crackers (I hear the All Bran ones are good), brans, or dried fruit, don't forget to drink a lot of water! Not doing so can slow or block digestion.

What are your favorite fiber foods? Have you found any packaged foods that help you up your fiber intake? I love Puffins and Kashi GoLean cereals, Rebar Seeds 'n Greens bars, Wasa crackers, and Clif Nectar chocolate brownie bars. I've heard that Gnu bars, La Tortilla Factory tortillas, and Vita Muffins are amazing, too. Whole foods are best of course, but as long as we're snacking...

PS: Did it sound like I was saying that 80 grams should be the goal? Because that's a lot. I'd say 35-50 would be awesome.

PPS: Happy V-Day.


Katie said...

Haha. Perfect timing! Yesterday I wanted a snack and I spied some left over ingredients we've had in the pantry since our day of selling granola at farmer's market. So I put 1/2 cup of raw almonds and 1/2 cup of Craisins in a bowl and LOVED it. It really is the best and most satisfying snack I've had in a long, long time. I loved it so much, in fact, that I had the same snack a few hours later. I was extremely sad when I entered the whole thing in to the Menu Planner on MyPyramid and found out that all those almonds set me over on the meat and beans category like nothing else (I ended up with something like 15 out of 6 1/2 ounces) and was way, way over on oils like I had never been before (10 out of 8 tsp instead of my usual 0 out or 8 or 2 out of 8). Still, I wasn't mega over on calories or even on "extras" and I stayed full for a long, long time and drank a lot of water. So I guess after reading your post and see how things went on the Menu Planner last night, I think I would still have that snack again, but perhaps only once in a day. :)

Kathy Haynie said...

Marae - this is so true! (Written as I'm munching on my afternoon snack of homemade trail mix.) I realized the other day that I haven't posted my homemade bran muffin recipe yet - very high in fiber - I'll be sure to post it on Saturday.

Thanks for some great tips and reminders!

alee said...

Word. You always steal my thunder Marae as I was planning to talk about tips to ensure good digestion this week...maybe I will save it for another week :)

Nothing makes me feel better than having my insides love me...way to go fiber!

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