Sunday, February 24, 2008

Surprising Benefits of Dietary Fiber

By Jonathan Galland

Fiber is the name given to complex carbohydrates that are resistant to human digestion. Examples of fiber include cellulose and pectin. Fiber comes from plants and the usual sources are vegetables, cereals, bread, nuts, seeds and fruit. Medical researchers have been recommending high fiber diets, yet dietary patterns in North America show no significant increase in fiber consumption from food. This means that the fiber intake of most people is far below recommended levels.

As part of a balanced diet, intake of fiber may help to protect against weight gain, heart disease, and intestinal infection. Fiber from food is more complex than fiber sold in a jar. In creating The Fat Resistance Diet we wanted to put food fiber back into the daily routine. That’s one reason why there are 9-10 servings of fruit and vegetables in our daily meal plans.

Soluble fiber from food sources, for example from apples, produces short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the intestine. SCFAs have a number of positive effects on the body: they nourish the cells of the large intestine, stimulating healing. When absorbed from the intestine, they travel to the liver and can decrease the liver's production of cholesterol, lowering blood cholesterol levels. That’s why eating oat bran, which contains fibers of moderate solubility, can lower cholesterol levels. Within the intestinal canal, SCFAs can inhibit the growth of yeasts and disease-causing bacteria.

Fiber may also increase longevity and protect against the development of parasitic infection. The best sources of mixed fibers are unrefined cereal grains (oats, brown rice, and whole wheat), peas, beans and squash. We are excited about The Fat Resistance Diet recipes containing whole grains or beans, such as Basmati Rice Salad, Mexican Salad or Fifteen Minute Chili. Among fruits, one gets the most fiber per serving from apples and berries, so we put a bunch of our favorite apple and berry recipes into our book, which can help get fiber into your day.

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