Commentary: Add fiber to your diet

Commentary: Add fiber to your diet
October 11
00:00 2017

By Elisha Covington, Guest Columnist

Fiber is an important part of our health. It is an essential part of digestion and daily elimination. Often times, laxatives are substituted for fiber and this leads to the dependency of laxatives when fiber should be considered. Fiber and elimination go hand-in-hand and it is often taboo to talk about elimination (or lack thereof), but it is a part of life that we all experience. Fiber is the indigestible remains from plant cells that we get from our foods. It is also referred to as roughage. Fiber comes from foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains. It is ideal to get fiber from the foods that you eat first, and to supplement later if needed. Regular fiber consumption prevents constipation and promotes regular bowel movements. It is nearly impossible to eliminate waste from our bodies without the proper amounts of daily fiber. Fiber removes waste matter in the large intestines and then adds pressure to the muscles in the rectum to loosen and to then expel the waste.

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble and both types are important. Soluble fiber dissolves in liquid, whereas insoluble fiber cannot be broken down. I look at soluble fiber as a way of receiving nutrition because our bodies are able to absorb the nutrients because it can dissolve. With insoluble fiber, I refer to it as the cleaners because it cannot be broken down by the body so it sweeps our digestive tract of toxins and waste. Most fibrous foods contain both types of fiber and it is believed that insoluble fiber reduces the risk of colon cancer, along with many other illnesses and diseases.

The Standard American Diet (S.A.D., no pun intended) often lacks the adequate amounts of daily fiber consumption. Today, average Americans only consume about eight grams of fiber per day, and for perspective, 150 years ago, average Americans were consuming 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day. It is recommended that our daily intake should be what we were consuming 150 years ago. When eating large, healthy amounts of fiber while decreasing fat intake, we can prevent cancer and polyps of the colon, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis, to name a few. Because fiber is a carbohydrate, high-carbohydrate foods can be the cause of many intestinal diseases and disorders. This is why it is important to consume a complex and varied diet. When opting to increase fiber intake, many begin eating high-fiber, high-carbohydrate foods like whole wheat breads and crackers, fibrous breakfast cereals, brown rice and potatoes. Although these can be great additions into the diet, they are often over consumed and are more carbohydrates than fiber. These foods also negatively impact blood sugar levels. Instead, opt for low-carbohydrate, high-fibrous foods like raw nuts and seeds that have been soaked or sprouted, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, green leafy vegetables, and celery. These fibers promote a healthy colon and healthy blood sugar levels. Eating fruits with skins that are edible like apples, peaches, kiwi, pears, berries, figs, are high in fiber. Nature intended us to eat many foods whole but we tend to discard the most nutritious parts, like the rind of watermelons and oranges.

Fiber consumption can be easy when we look to nature to show us how. When eating foods, opt for foods that require minimal manipulation. Eating whole fibrous foods, just in the same form as they have grown is the best way to eliminate daily and maintain good health for a lifetime.

Elisha Covington is an avid reader and a mother of a vivacious 6 year old. She’s passionate about how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by their environments.

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