Here in America where nearly a third of the adult population is considered obese, the necessity for a healthy lifestyle and a fiber diet is undeniable. However, fad diets are guaranteed to run abound having just entered the new year and the desire to shed unwanted holiday weight. One would think that with each new year, people would settle on a diet or even a few diets that would provide successful weight loss.
A lot of the fad diets stress the importance of fiber. While the addition or subtraction of any one food does not necessarily lead to weight loss in the long-term, the addition of fiber with adequate hydration is definitely an improvement to anybody’s diet. Every extra step taken can put one on the track to a healthier weight despite not being a cure-all by itself.
A large market for fiber supplements exists when a hundred years ago people seemed to be defecating just fine without them. Living in a new world where processed food is challenging to avoid, one must still face the reality that (regardless of how healthy / unhealthy they are) a lot of our foodstuffs today contain very little fiber. However, a large problem with fiber supplements is mis-education about both the types and how to use them properly. While there are several types of fibers that make up plants, the two main kinds that dietitians focus on are soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber is the kind that, as the name suggests, dissolves in water. While it gels and thickens as it absorbs water, it does not ultimately provide much bulking action needed to assist defecation. The issue mainly with soluble fiber is its over-marketing, specifically as a cure for constipation. Soluble fiber is a wonderful, indispensable part of one’s diet, and should not be ignored, as it may help lower cholesterol. However, it is a primary constituent, along with water, of most fruits and vegetables, which are lacking in an average American’s diet.
Another primary constituent of plant matter is the other fiber important to this discussion: Insoluble fiber is the tougher, indigestible fiber in plants that makes up the bulk of one’s stool. So when weight-loss companies press coverage for insoluble fiber, they are trying to speed up the expulsion of food from one’s system. However, this can backfire fairy easily if an insufficient quantity of water of consumed while eating large amounts of insoluble fiber. This is because water is absorbed in the large intestine, ultimately creating drier stool and constipation.
So how does one incorporate both kinds of fiber into his or her diet in hopes of both regularity and an overall boon to health? The solution might sound too simple: Eat food with fiber, drink plenty of water. Most food with high levels of fiber will also have high levels of water in them unless they are relatively dry (like crackers or bread). This means that with adequate water intake throughout the day, the chances of maintaining regularity are more achievable. Relying on solely a fiber supplement to fix constipation, unfortunately does not make up for difficult to digest foods that are lacking in fiber themselves. So enter the new year with hope through the simple knowledge that your average fruit or vegetable is just as good fiber, if not better than the stuff you see on television.
By Paul Bork