Fiber: BFF To Your Health

Seems like Fiber is IN lately, but what exactly is fiber?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant products. I know carbohydrates are on the OUTS, but fiber is an important type of carbohydrate that is one of the keys to good health. There are two types based on water solubility. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forms a gel-like material, and is found mainly in oats, apples, citrus, peas, barley, pectin, flaxseed, and beans. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat flour, wheat bran, cellulose, lignin, nuts, and many vegetables.

Did you know that Dietary Fiber can reduce cholesterol? Regular consumption can reduce cholesterol, specifically, LDL or low density lipoprotein cholesterol.  

High levels of LDL can be a big risk factor in Cardiovascular disease, in particular coronary artery disease which is the leading cause of death in both men and women of all racial groups in the United States (Mayo Clin Proc. 2009 April; 84(4): 345–352).  

 

However, it’s important to understand that the effects of fiber on blood cholesterol are not the same. Only soluble fiber can reduce cholesterol.  Insoluble fiber has not been shown to improve LDL-cholesterol. If you say that you eat enough fiber, you should also know which type of this carbohydrate you are eating.

 

Dietary fiber can also have a positive effect on blood sugar level. The consumption of soluble fiber not only decreases LDL cholesterol but also decreases blood sugar levels. Too much sugar in the bloodstream can cause long-term damage to body tissues. For example, it can harm blood vessels that supply blood to vital organs, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems.

Soluble fiber is good for cholesterol and lower blood sugar.

Insoluble fiber is good for regular bowel movements. Yea, I know. Butt someone had to tell you.

Water Soluble (Good for Lowering Cholesterol) 

  1. Oats
  2. Apples
  3. Citrus
  4. Peas
  5. Barley
  6. Flaxseed
  7. Beans

Water Insoluble (Good for Bowel Movement)

  1. Whole Wheat Flour
  2. Wheat Bran
  3. Nuts
  4. Vegetables

 

Does fiber has any side effects? Well, almost everything we consume has side effects and fiber is not too different. Fiber could cause bloating and also may interfere with the absorption of minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium.

Fiber is like a BFF to your health. The recommended daily consumption of 25-30 g daily is called for by the American Heart Association. Don’t forget that about 10 g of the 25-30 g should be soluble and the rest insoluble fiber.

October – Think Popping Popcorn!

Yep, October is also popping popcorn month. Did you know popcorn counts as a whole grain? One serving of whole grains equals three cups of popcorn.

Popcorn is the only type of corn that pops. Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. When harvested, popcorn is dried so that it contains between 13.5-14% moisture, the amount it needs to pop. The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel’s hard outer surface, the hull, which has just the right thickness to allow it to burst open when enough pressure builds inside.

As the kernel heats up, the water expands, creates steam, and cooks the starch inside, turning it into a liquid mass. Pressure builds inside and finally it reaches a point that breaks the hull open. The contents inflate and spill out, cooling immediately and forming the shape we know and love.

Here is a super cool web site all about popcorn: http://www.popcorn.org/. You can watch popcorn popping in super slow motion at the Popcorn Board’s Web site And check out more fun facts, trivia and recipes while you’re there!

October-Think Pasta!

The next October fact is about pasta. October is also Pasta Month. We eat a lot of pasta, and I only buy whole wheat or whole grain varieties to sneak some extra nutrients and fiber into our meal. Todd is not a huge fan of whole grain noodles, and the kids don’t know any better, but since I am the pasta boss, we are sticking with whole grains!

In response to dietary guidance urging Americans to include more whole grains in their diets, manufacturers have introduced nutritionally enhanced pasta varieties such as whole wheat, whole grain and pasta fortified with omega-3 fatty acids and additional fiber. Some varieties of whole grain pasta can provide up to 25% of daily fiber requirements in every one cup portion. There are now more options than ever for consumers to enjoy healthy and economical meals the whole family will love. Enjoy these pasta recipes.

I recently wrote an article for The Greatist on the benefits of choosing whole wheat pasta. Here are some of the highlights.

Whole wheat doesn’t contain a single magical nutrient that fights disease and improves health, but it’s the entire package that’s important. Eating at least three one-ounce equivalents (1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta counts) of whole grains per day can reduce the risk of several chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and digestive issues .

The main difference between white and whole wheat pastas lies in the processing.  Whole wheat contains 3 parts of the grain— the bran (the outer layer and protector of the grain), the germ (the actual seed embryo that sprouts into a new plant), and the endosperm (the largest part of the grain providing the food source and energy for the plant).  During the refining process, the nutrient-rich outer bran shell and inner germ layer are removed from the grain, as the wheat is heated until they fall of, leaving white pasta with just the starchy endosperm.

The bran and germ are home to the vitamins, minerals, appetite-squashing f fiber, protein, and healthy fats, so even though the stripped down white pasta has a longer shelf-life, and therefore  may be cheaper , the process robs the wheat of almost all of its health benefits, leaving a nutritionally weaker noodle.

Although some nutrients, including iron and B vitamins, are added back during manufacturing, making the product “enriched”, these represent only a fraction of what is removed from the grain.

Whole wheat pasta may take time to catch on; so many restaurants don’t yet have a whole wheat noodle option. (And Italian restaurants may never embrace whole wheat pasta), but the pasta aisle at the supermarket is filled with noodles having all sorts of different shapes, sizes, colors, and ingredients.  And from a nutritional standpoint, this is great news for shoppers as another opportunity to add whole grains to the menu.

True whole wheat pasta will list 100 percent durum whole wheat flour as the first or only ingredient. And check the front of package for “100 percent whole-wheat,” or look for products that contain the orange WHOLE-GRAIN stamp.

Getting used to the taste of whole wheat pasta may take a little time, as it often has stronger flavor and a grainy consistency. Cooking time is key with whole wheat pasta, so it doesn’t get too gummy— be sure to follow the directions on the package. But with the right sauce or topping, adding whole wheat pasta is an easy way to enjoy a healthy meal and sneak those whole grains into the diet.

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button