09 December, 2008

Health Tip of the Day - Wonders of Fiber

The National Cancer Institute recommends at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Fiber is essential to aid the digestive system in elimination of toxins and waste. It promotes healthy regular bowel movements, moving food quickly through the digestive tract to minimize the time that potential carcinogens are in the intestines. Because of this, fiber has been shown to prevent some forms of cancer.

A study by Harvard researchers, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that heart disease can be slashed by 10 to 30 percent for each 10 grams of fiber you eat a day. Fiber--found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and cereals--has long been shown to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol.

There are 2 kinds of fiber, insoluble and soluble (water soluble). Both are essential for proper elimination.

You can get soluble fiber from all sorts of fruits, oats, barley, legumes, and root crops. Soluble fiber encourages the growth of healthy organims (probiotics) that aid in digestion and improve your immune function.

Insoluble fiber is the "crunchy" kind of fiber. You can get this from whole grains, brans, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables (such as celery and green beans, but especially those leafy greens). They pass from one end of the digestive tract to the other end virtually unchanged. This type of fiber does "a clean sweep" of your digestive tract. It helps to cut down on flatulence as well.

Aside from improving colon function, fiber also has other roles:

☻ Fiber slows down the rate at which proteins move through the digestive tract. It improves protein metabolism. Your body can maximize its protein absorption capabilities, helping you to build more muscle.
☻ When digestion of carbs slows, the body is able to metabolize them more efficiently. Soluble fiber helps carbohydrates to be used for energy production rather than stored as body fat. Slow delivery of carbs into the bloodstream keeps insulin levels from spiking too high: another way that fiber prevents the storage of fat.
☻ Fiber can trap bile acids that might otherwise be absorbed and converted into cholesterol.
☻ Fiber builds immunity. By providing your body with plenty of fiber, you help it remove harmful bacteria, viruses, and allergens that may otherwise enter your body. It also encourages the growth of friendly intestinal flora and fauna (probiotics) which keep those harmful agents under control.

Gradually increase your fiber intake, adding two to three grams per day each week, to avoid intestinal distress. At the same time, increase your water consumption since fiber works more effectively with liquids.

If your current fiber intake is at 10 grams per day, begin taking in 12 grams on Week 1. Increase to 14 grams on Week 2, 16 grams on Week 3... Continue in this manner until your daily intake is at 30 grams or more.

By taking in more fiber, you increase your chances of staying healthy at all times. Moreover, you also get to eat the right kinds of food to energize you.

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