You probably don’t think it’s very exciting. Most likely you’ve never even thought of it as a superfood. But the fact is, if you’re not getting enough of this powerful nutrient in your diet you’re asking for trouble.
Wondering what this mystery super nutrient is? I’m talking about fiber.
Yes, really. A stack of studies have revealed that fiber works wonders in the body. In fact, fiber can do far more for your health than many other foods that have been given the title “superfood.”
- Regulate blood sugar and reduces the risk of diabetes
- Lower the risk of breast and colon cancer
- Protect against gastrointestinal problems like reflux, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis
- Help lower cholesterol levels
- Slash your risk of stroke
- Support healthy blood pressure
- Encourage weight loss
Slashes your risk of dying by 31%
That’s a pretty impressive list. But that’s not even all fiber can do for you. The long-term Iowa Women’s Health Study found that women who ate four or more weekly servings of fiber-rich whole grains had 31 percent less risk of dying from inflammatory conditions other than heart disease.1
Found exclusively in plant foods, fiber is either soluble or insoluble. Soluble aids vital nutrient absorption by slowing digestion, and insoluble adds bulk to the stool, helping waste—and toxins—pass more quickly from the intestines. But to get these benefits, I recommend getting at least 30 grams of fiber every day.
Below you can see the fiber make-up of some foods.
|Cereal grains – ½ cup cooked|
|Barley – 1g Soluble | 4g Insoluble|
|Oatmeal – 1g Soluble | 2g Insoluble|
|Oatbran – 1g Soluble | 3g Insoluble|
|Psyllium seeds ground (1 Tbsp) – 5g Soluble | 6g Insoluble|
|Fruit (1 medium fruit)|
|Apple – 1g Soluble | 4g Insoluble|
|Banana – 1g Soluble | 3g Insoluble|
|Blackberries (½ cup) – 1g Soluble | 4g Insoluble|
|Citrus Fruit (orange, grapefruit) – 2g Soluble | 2-3g Insoluble|
|Nectarine – 1g Soluble | 2g Insoluble|
|Peach – 1g Soluble | 2g Insoluble|
|Pear – 2g Soluble | 4g Insoluble|
|Plum – 1g Soluble | 1.5g Insoluble|
|Prunes (¼ cup) – 1.5g Soluble | 3g Insoluble|
Soluble fiber significantly improves cholesterol
While both types are important, soluble fiber in particular has been shown to benefit healthy cholesterol. One study found that taking 6 grams daily of a specific type of oat fiber (oat beta glucan) reduced total and LDL cholesterol after just 6 weeks.2
Other research shows that a low saturated-fat diet supplemented with another source of soluble fiber, psyllium, also raised HDL (healthy) cholesterol.3
The 7 types of fiber
But here’s something you may not know—fiber doesn’t end with soluble and insoluble. There are actually seven types of fiber, each with its own function.
Brans, gums and mucilages:
These types of fibers help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels. They also help remove toxins from yourbody.
You’ll find these types of fiber in oatmeal, oat and rice bran, sesame seeds and dried beans. Psyllium supplements also provide the same benefits with the convenience of a capsule or powder.
This fiber is found in the skins of fruits and vegetables like apples, beets, broccoli, carrots, celery and pears. It’s also present in whole grains.
Cellulose is an indigestible fiber. It helps keep you “regular” or have regular bowel movements. Cellulose is quite helpful if you suffer from hemorrhoids. It also removes cancer-causing substances from the colon.
This fiber is another complex carbohydrate the body can’t digest. As it moves through the digestive system, hemicellulose absorbs water—helping to promote weight control and alleviate constipation.
You can find it in apples, bananas, beans, corn, green leafy vegetables, pears and whole-grain cereals.
You’ll find this fiber most abundantly in flaxseeds but it’s also found in apricots, broccoli, cabbage, kale, sesame seeds, tofu and whole grains.
Lignans support healthy cholesterol levels. Because it’s also a phytoestrogen, it may help ease the symptoms of menopause.
Pectin is probably the type of fiber you’re familiar with. But, beyond its ability to thicken jams and jellies, pectin also helps control blood sugar by slowing the absorption of food after you eat.
Find this soluble fiber star in apples, grapefruit, oranges and other fruits, as well as vegetables and legumes. Or in the nutritional supplement called modified citrus pectin, or MCP, a form of pectin that has been molecularly altered to improve its bioavailability. Its potential benefits include removal of heavy metals from the body and cancer prevention.
The smartest way to take advantage of all of these beneficial fibers is by eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as beans, legumes and whole grains. It’s also smart to take a fiber supplement daily that contains one or more of these specialized fibers. Just make sure that you take your supplement with plenty of water.
It’s also a good idea to take it separately from your other supplements or medicines so that the fiber doesn’t interfere with their absorption.
1. Jacobs DR Jr. Whole-grain consumption is associated with a reduced risk of noncardiovascular, noncancer death attributed to inflammatory diseases in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007;85:1606-1614.
2. Queenan KM. Concentrated oat beta-glucan, a fermentable fiber, lowers serum cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic adults in a randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal. 2007;6:6.
3. Giacosa A. The right fiber for the right disease: an update on the psyllium seed husk and the metabolic syndrome. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2010;44 Suppl 1:S58-60.
Dr. David J. Blyweiss began his medical career as a clinical pharmacist in South Florida prior to earning his medical degree from St. George's University School of Medicine in 1982.
His dual background allowed him to appreciate the relevance of conventional pharmaceutical/surgical based treatments in acute medical conditions, and recognize where these approaches fell short in treating the majority of patients who suffered from the chronic degenerative diseases of "western civilization origin."
Over the last twenty years, with the nutritional medical knowledge base expanding in the fields of nutrigenomics, protemics, and other related "orthomolecular" disciplines directed towards patients' biochemical individuality, Dr. Blyweiss became an early adherent and experienced practitioner of what would become known as "functional medicine." This knowledge allows him to effectively manage and alleviate the symptoms related to the most "difficult-to-treat" conditions by addressing the underlying causes, allowing the body to heal itself.
Dr. Blyweiss was one of the initial researchers doing the early work on chlorhexidine (Phisohex) while earning his first post graduate degree at Temple University School of Pharmacy. During medical school he worked with the WHO (World Health Organization) in vaccinating children in the islands of the Carribbean. He has traveled much of the world, most recently to Belize, Central America, Gabon, Africa, and Zagreb, Croatia working closely with teams of specialists to identify new plant life and natural products for possible human benefit as well as researchers and their stem cell transplantation teams. He has consulted for and created state-of-the-art nutritional supplements for multiple nutritional companies since 1999. He is currently in private practice in South Florida where he resides with his family.
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