Chef Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says....

A roughage life...

We know that fiber can help prevent some cancers, reduce your cholesterol, help you avoid problems with heart disease and help diabetics control their blood sugar. Almost every week I read another positive study on how great high fiber foods are for you health. While there's no magical dietary cure eating foods that are higher in fiber is pretty close and is one of the easiest changes that you make in your diet.

Fiber is what your grandma used to call roughage. It's not one particular food but the part of plant foods that your body can't digest. Fibers are technically carbohydrates but your body doesn't have the enzymes to break them down. As a result, they're not absorbed and essentially have no calories.

Most of us need to increase the amount of fiber in our diet. The average American gets only 10 - 15 grams of fiber per day. 25 - 30 grams per day is optimum.

There are two types of fiber - soluble and insoluble:

  • Soluble fiber is often called a "sticky" fiber and is the one that is more effective in lowering cholesterol. It is found in dried beans and grains, such as oat bran, oatmeal and rye. Almost all fruits, such as apples, grapes, peaches, oranges and pears are high in soluble fiber (think sticky fruits). Most vegetables are high in soluble fiber as well.
  • Insoluble fibers are found in whole grain products, such as whole wheat flour, breads and pastas. Cereal grains like rice, wild rice and seeds are high in insoluble fiber.

I was talking with a patient the other day and they asked about simple ways to make those changes. The best part is that it is very easy.

  • For breakfast, whole grain cereals like Shredded Wheat, bran flakes and oatmeal are great choices. Take a few moments to look at the box to compare the amounts of fiber in these cereals with the one you are eating. Look carefully because many cereals will have higher fiber but will sometimes have a lot of sugar as well.
  • If you like toast for breakfast, choose breads with higher fiber. Most bread will have only about two grams but it's easy to find choices with 5 grams or more per slice. Even if the label says "whole wheat" you may find that it doesn't have that much fiber. Check the label. Use the same high fiber breads for your sandwiches at lunch.
  • Simply substituting ingredients in your favorite dinner recipes can help you get more fiber. Use whole wheat pastas, brown rice and wild rice. Replace potatoes with sweet potatoes or yams. Choose recipes that contain beans and other legumes like lentils and split peas.
  • Snacking on fruit is a great choice for getting more fiber. Fruits that are good high fiber choices are.

Here's a few recipes to get you started:

Chickpea Salad

Lemon Pork with Lentils

Roasted Yams

Here are some links to recent research on fiber:

Eating Whole Grains May Help Prevent Age-Related Weight Gain

Sex, Fiber, and Cancer

More on eating an apple a day...

It's never too late to reduce your risk of heart disease

Want to avoid gaining weight? Get more fiber!

Bean there, done that!

Last updated: 09/11/06