Dietary Counseling and Consultations

Alternative Perspective

Fiber ~ Your Personal EPA

Published June 15th, 2009 in Alternative Perspective

Fiber ~ Your Personal EPA

By Tammera J. Karr, MSHN, CNC, CNH, CNW  2009©

Consumers in the United States spend roughly $30 billion annually on weight loss, with an estimated $1-2 billion on just weight loss programs.  Research has proved reducing the amount of calories you consume, manage stress and becoming more active is the only way to lose weight and maintain your ideal body weight. However what is not discussed is natures built in environmental protection agent (EPA) fiber.

By definition fiber is the indigestible part of fruits, vegetables, seeds, whole grains and herbs. Fiber and fiber rich foods are natural regulators and an effective clean-up crew removing toxins, buildup, congestion, unneeded fats, and sugar from the body. This in turn reduces inflammation, a primary contributor to chronic illness.  Americas escalating cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity rates are a reflection of a country consuming a high calorie diet devoid of fiber.

Consuming more soluble and insoluble forms of fiber through healthy food choices, you can improve the health of your entire body, from your brain to your bowels. Fiber is not thought of as a nutrient, but it should be especially when you look at 15 ways fiber helps the human digestive system work.

1)      Lose weight and maintain weight

2)      Increase energy

3)      Reduce heart disease

4)      Lower or maintain healthy cholesterol levels

5)      Reduce diabetes risk and regulate blood sugars

6)      Reduce all cancers risks

7)      Maintain bowel regularity

8)      Reduce diverticulitis

9)      Regulate IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

10)   Reduce body odor, improve skin and hair

11)   Improve immune function

12)   Balance brain chemistry

13)   Reduce headaches and allergies

14)   Prevent GURD or stomach nausea associated with slow transit time. (constipation)

15)   Detoxifies the body of hormone disrupting chemicals and environmental toxins.

The average American consumes 4 – 8 grams of fiber a day. The American diabetic Association recommends as much as 40 grams of fiber a day and the RDA for fiber is 20 grams. Now I don’t agree with the RDA on many things but on this it is clear Americans of all ages are not eating enough fiber rich foods.

How do we go about getting more fiber in our diet? Start by eating real foods like berries, cherries, apples, greens….. Then consider adding a natural fiber supplement to your daily program like psyllium seed (you don’t need Metamucil – it’s full of artificial dyes, flavors, chemicals and costs more), acacia fiber, chia seeds, and flax seed (add flax only if you are a female and not estrogen dominate).  When you introduce fiber supplements – start with half the recommended dose for two weeks, giving your gut time to adjust to the increase in fiber. If you develop gas, bloating or cramps increase the amount of water you consume daily or change the type of fiber supplement, before you give up and stop taking added fiber. Other beverages do not have the same effect as water and can actually contribute to the symptoms by acting as diuretics and preventing your digestive system from getting an adequate fluid supply.

Fiber adds bulk to your meals creating a sense of fullness, this naturally reduces your calorie consumption and slows the speed you eat, allowing your digestive system, hormones and brain time to work.  Fiber literally keeps the bowels moving which are a soft muscle and just like every other muscle require exercise to stay healthy. Fiber traps chemicals, fats, water and undigested food particles as it moves through the small and large intestines. That is why fiber is so effective in reducing diarrhea for those with IBS or ulcerative colitis.

How do you know if your bowels are lazy? Take a transit time test. Eat an indicator food that will clearly show in your stool like corn, beets, dark chocolate, sesame seeds, then time how long it takes from the time you eat the food till you see it in the toilet bowl. The ideal time ranges from 12 to 15 hours, and two to three bowel movements daily if well formed and easy are ideal… No straining or sprinting. The following list will give you an idea of how much fiber you can add to your diet with everyday foods and supplements.

  • 1 cup cooked black beans = 19.4 grams
  • 3/4 cup lightly cooked broccoli = 7.0 grams
  • 1/2 cup cooked spinach = 7.0 grams
  • 1 cup red lentils = 6.4 grams
  • 1 med yam cooked = 6.8 grams
  • 3/4 cup Heritage heirloom whole grains organic cereal = 6 grams
  • 1 cup whole grain spaghetti = 5.6 grams
  • 1 tsp psyllium seed = 5 grams
  • 1/4 cup uncooked Quinoa = 5 grams
  • 1 tbsp golden flax seed meal = 5 grams
  • 1 Cliff bars = 5 grams
  • 1/2 cup raspberries = 4.6 grams
  • 1/2 cup raw blackberries = 4.4 grams
  • 1/2 cup cooked greens = 4.0 grams

Don’t forget to check your local farmers markets for the best value, freshness and selection of fiber rich foods.