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Importance of Dietary Fiber

When people talk about dietary fiber, they immediately think of
older people taking large fiber tablets. The truth is, proper
fiber intake can benefit everyone at any age. Fiber intake can
help ease digestion and it can also lower cholesterol, which is a
leading cause of heart disease, making it a highly effective,
multi-purpose treatment for healthy living.

What's interesting about fiber is that it isn't an essential
nutrient in the sense that a body absolutely requires it for
survival or adds something missing from the body. Instead,
dietary fiber is a nutrient that helps act against harmful
processes such as blood sugar variations, high cholesterol, and
digestive discomfort.

Soluble vs. Insoluble

As far as dietary fiber is concerned, there are two types;
soluble and insoluble. These have different effects that are all
essential to a healthy body.

Both types of fiber provide bulk to any meal, lending to a
feeling of fullness. This can reduce appetite and lead to eating
smaller portions that can help weight control as well as provide
the other digestive benefits expected of fibers.

Soluble Fiber prevents constipation by keeping the body's
digestion process regular and steady. It also reduces the time
digestive toxins remain in the system, which promotes a healthier
digestive system as a whole. It helps regulate the pH of the
intestines, helping prevent the development of colon cancer.

Soluble fiber also bonds with water to form a gel that limits the
absorption of glucose, which keeps blood sugar stable and limits
spikes or valleys in your glucose level. This helps reduce the
possibility of metabolic syndrome (a combination of medical
disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular
disease) or the onset of diabetes.

It is soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol, both the total
cholesterol and the low-density lipoprotein, (LDL or "bad"
cholesterol) which leads to heart disease. Cholesterol builds up
in the walls of the arteries, which carry blood from the heart to
the rest of the body. This results in a hardening of the
arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Blood flow is drastically
reduced, blood pressure rises, and oxygen carried to the heart is
reduced. This puts extra strain on the entire system, eventually
leading to heart attacks or outright heart failure. In many ways,
controlling the level of LDL cholesterol in the body is the most
beneficial result of proper soluble fiber intake.

Green vegetables such as peas and various beans, oats, and rye
are good sources of soluble fiber. Good fruits include the inside
of apples and pears, as well as bananas, plums and prunes. Oats,
barley, and rye are good grain sources, and the skins of root
vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots can also be
beneficial. Stringy green vegetables like broccoli and artichokes
shouldn't be neglected either.

Insoluble fiber also helps keep the digestive system's pH in
balance, reducing gastric acid buildup and keeping the digestive
system regular. Irregular bowel function is more than an
inconvenience - it can also lead to dehydration and lower
gastro-intestinal tract injury. Regular body function also helps
reduce physical and emotional stress, further contributing to
overall wellness.

Whole grain foods are an important source of insoluble fiber. It
may be a good idea to switch out your artificially enriched sweet
white bread for organic, whole grain breads made with 100% wheat
and grains. Nuts and seeds are another good source of insoluble
fiber that can be had as a tasty snack instead of a heavy meal.
Just make sure they aren't heavy in salts.

How Much is Enough?

Dietary recommendations for a 2000-calorie daily diet include
twenty to thirty five grams per day. Children have different
needs, however, and it is recommended that they should have a
number of grams equal to their age plus five (so an eight year
old would require 13 grams per day).

The elderly and the ill have their own requirements. Certain
medications such as painkillers can interact in unexpected ways
with fiber, so a doctor should be consulted in these cases.

Making the Commitment

Dietary fiber is an important nutrient. However, as with many
commitments to better health, it doesn't require a complete
dietary change. Instead, the best method is to gradually include
new sources of fiber into your existing diet. Consider trading
white bread for a whole grain loaf and replacing chip or cracker
snacks with high-fiber, low salt nuts. Vegetables and fruits that
are high in fiber can also be blended into smoothies or shakes,
making getting your daily fiber as easy as having a healthy
beverage at the beginning and the end of each day.

Perhaps the best advice is to take a look at what you're already
eating, talk to a dietician, and modify your diet to fit your
personal needs. There are dozens of resources available for
research on nutritional information, from government and
independent sources alike. The results of these changes will
definitely be helpful, leaving you nothing to lose but poor

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