Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Fab Fiber

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Let's face it, fiber isn't exactly the most interesting part of your diet. Rarely do we talk about it, and even more rarely do we take it into account when planning our meals. Generally speaking, the only people who tend to pay attention to fiber are the people who are in greater need of a diet rich in it. And, again, those people don't exactly like to talk about that, either. As a result, fiber sort of remains the unspoken and oft misunderstood part of our diet. But, make no mistake, it is an extremely important part. Here's why.

More or less, fiber is the mostly carbohydrate constituent of plants that the human body can't digest. There are two primary types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. The latter passes from one end of the digestive tract to the other virtually unchanged. Cereals, vegetables, grains, and seeds are usually comprised of more insoluble fiber than soluble fiber. As for the former, soluble fiber differs from its counterpart by encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria in the body, ultimately assisting with the digestive process. More commonly found in fruits, oats, barley, beans and peas, soluble fiber dissolves in water and consists of pectin, gums and mucilage (hmm...that word seems somewhat familiar).

There are many health benefits to be gained from eating an adequate amount of fiber in your diet. Some of them include:

Cholesterol Reduction. By trapping bile acids that would otherwise be absorbed and converted into cholesterol, fiber can help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.

Improved Protein Absorption. Eating foods high in fiber while eating foods high in protein will slow down the breakdown of that protein, thereby allowing for greater absorption.

Better Colon Function. This one you are likely aware of already. I'll leave it at that.

Prevents Body-Fat Storage. Soluble fiber helps the body use carbs for glycogen synthesis and energy production, rather than storing them as fats. Also, just as fiber slows down the body's processing of proteins, fiber can slow down how fast your body metabolizes carbs. For you, this means that your insulin levels will not spike as a result of eating a high-carb food, which is yet another way to help prevent body fat storage.

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