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What is Fiber?

Fiber is technically a food component that remains undigested as it is processed through the gastrointestinal tract. Because it readily absorbs water, it helps to form the bulk required to create a good bowel movement. Technically speaking, fiber is a complex carbohydrate consisting fo a polysaccharide and a lignin substance that gives structure to the cell of a plant. It is the portion of plant food, which is not digested. Insoluble fiber has the ability to pass through the intestines intact and virtually unchanged. Unlike fats, carbohydrates and proteins, fiber does not provide the body with nutrients or fuel for energy. It usuall has no caloric value. The word "fiber" applies to a number of substances. Dietary fiber is found only in plant components such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. There are primarily two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble. Some foods contain both types.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber is eventually digested in the large intestine, so its bulking power is limited. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and has been linked to the following actions:

  • helps prevent blood sugar highs and lows
  • lowers blood cholesterol
  • lowers the risk of heart disease
  • helps to control high blood pressure
  • encourages friendly bacteria to grow.
Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber, for the most part, remains undigested and prmotes a faster stool transit time. Insoluble fiber:

  • keeps the bowel clean and operative and helps bind dangerous toxins and hormones for better excretion
  • fosters regularity
  • contributes to better digestion
  • prevents constipation
  • helps to lower the risk of bowel disease
Total Dietary Fiber

Total dietary fiber is a term that refers to the sum of both the soluble and insoluble fiber content of a particular food. We should eat a variety of foods daily so that our diet contains at least 35 grams of fiber each and every day. Many foods contain both types of fiber, but those that are fiber rich are rarely found in modern-day panties. Few families wake up to whole-grain cereal, and rarely does a home have a consistent supply of raw fruits and vegetables and the continual consumption of legumes like split peas, beans, lentils as well as whole grains like millet and barley. Statistics reveal that most of us get 9 grams of fiber per day if we are lucky - a statistic that needs to change if we plan to live a long and healthy life.

General Properties of Fiber

Fiber and water-insoluble fiber like bran, contains sugars that swell up and create viscious gel in the small intestine when they combine with water. Pectins, gums, and mucilages have a high affinity for water so they make excellent laxative and bulking agents. This ability to hold water and form gels increases intestinal transit time and adds weight and substance to the stool.

The preceding article excerpted from:

The Complete Fiber Fact Book" - Rita Elkins, M.H.


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