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The Importance of Fiber

The importance of Fiber

Fiber is an essential part of any diet that has many health benefits.  Unfortunately, Americans in general do not consume enough fiber on a daily basis to see the benefits.  When your mother always yelled at you to eat your vegetables, she was onto something important, and you should still take her advice today.

Many modern diets are rich with foods containing high amounts of fiber.  Many of these foods include beans, legumes, grains, vegetables, fruits, or in a supplement form.  Many of my patients that we educate in our nutritional programs complain about this until I explain to them why they are vital to a healthy lifestyle.  Here are a few nutritional facts that will hopefully motivate you to eat more fruits and vegetables or consume more fiber in a supplement form.

First and foremost, one of the greatest benefits of fiber is to help normalize your blood sugar levels.  The key to losing any amount of weight long term is to control the rate and speed that sugar is processed in the body.  The faster sugar is processed, the faster it will be stored as fat.  The slower the sugar is processed, the more you will have a continual source of blood glucose that your body can use consistently which results in a greater and more efficient usage.  This is why it is important to look at the glycemic index for foods.  The slower the sugars are broken down, the greater the opportunity your body has to use them.  One of the best sources for low glycemic index foods are vegetables and fruits.  Why are they such good sources…..because the fiber in vegetables slows down the digestion giving the body an opportunity to use the sugar.

Nutritional fiber fact number two is that fiber will help improve your cholesterol levels.  Dietary fiber is a collective term for a variety of plant substances that are resistant to digestion.  There are two main groups: soluble and insoluble.  Insoluble fiber will get your bowels on a regular schedule, but the greater benefits are seen in soluble forms.  Soluble fiber such as Psyllium husk, pectin and guar gum have been heavily researched and the studies suggest two key things.  First, soluble fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels by delaying the absorption of glucose in your blood stream. It also improves cholesterol levels by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the blood stream.  The important of these studies are best seen in the field of cardiology and coronary heart disease.  Coronary artery disease is the major cause of death in the United States and in most Western countries.  In addition, blood cholesterol is a major risk factor . Dietary and pharmacologic reductions in total and LDL cholesterol decrease the risk of coronary artery disease and dietary intervention is the first-line approach. By simply increasing your dietary intake of fiber, you can significantly reduce your LDL, total cholesterol and overall risk of coronary heart disease.

Currently, Americans consume approximately 12 to 17 grams of fiber per day;  however, clinical studies have shown that 25-30 grams a day has significant benefits.  Basically, we are not eating enough fiber because we never got into the habit when our mothers tried to teach us proper nutrition during our childhood years.  The caveat is that it is never too late to start increasing your fiber content and get your body to a better state of health.

Dr. Philip O’Brien is a Chiropractic Physician and owner of The OBrien Clinic.  The OBrien Clinic is the Lehigh Valley’s leading source for spinal pain, sports injuries, and optimal health.  For more information, visit our website at www.obrienclinic.com.

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