Why am I writing about fiber you ask? Because it has magical properties, that’s why. This stuff is the essence of eating well without dieting. By diet I mean having to keep track of something so you don’t overdo it and then stopping when you get there whether you wanted to or not. I read something about fiber a week or so ago and started eating more, I even had a bottle of fiber in my batch of food supplements that I bought at Costco several months ago. (Alas, it was probably because all the pretty colors on the bottle mesmerized me not because I am a food genius.) So looking into fiber further I have found several things that started me baking bran muffins and now has me scouring the web for hard to find fiber facts.
So first things first there are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. What this means is two things, although any single place will tell you only one. First, is that if it disolves in water it’s soluble, if not it’s insoluble. Basic chemistry right there. The second is that soluble fiber is fermentable by the bacteria in your intestines (gut flora) which sounds scary but it actually is the reason that fiber has all these magical anti-cancer good for your health qualities.
There are some other interesting properties of fiber that may help you make more sense of things as you experience them from eating more than normal. Insoluble fiber speeds up things through your intestines. Taken to an extreme, of something along the lines of 80 grams a day total fiber (podcast fact linked to below), it becomes difficult to absorb all the nutrients from the food as it cruises by. Nothing to worry about though if you are just getting the recommended values of 25-35 grams a day on the top end. Soluble fiber not only disolves in water but it sort of makes a gel blob that tends to slow things down. So those that worry about the laxative effect may just need to rebalance the soluble and insoluble to get better results. That soluble fiber gel blob absorbs things that then become difficult to get into our system. It binds with fats which is good because it will remove cholesterol from your system as it is eaten before it is absorbed (eat a soluble fiber supplement before steak dinner to feel less guilty.) This is mechanism that allows Cheerios and other oat cereals to make all those health claims about lowering cholesterol (well that and the FDA says it’s ok). If someone counting calories has a little fat exit without counting this can hardly be a bad thing. It is bad when the fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K have more trouble being absorbed, as do some medicines. If you are taking a supplement or medicine that has trouble simply take it an hour before or two hours after a soluble fiber supplement or a meal that has a lot of soluble fiber. There are many other good properties and the bad ones are much less a worry. The gas and bloating one might feel is only temporary if you stick to your new high fiber diet because the gut flora of which there are some 500 types living in your intestines tend to rebalance as to what food is coming down the pipe to feed them. Another thing that might seem scary is that if you look up any specific type of fiber it is always mentioned that it is used as a mild laxative. To that I say whatever, it is food and it is healthy until a person finds a problem with the high fiber food consider it ok to try then see what works.
Here are some links to the best of what I found to read:
Gloria Tsang, RD wrote an article about the soluble vs. insoluble fiber: http://www.healthcastle.com/fiber-solubleinsoluble.shtml
5 minute podcast episode on a high fiber diet, hosted by Gloria (she has a nice website by the way): http://www.healthcastle.com/podcast-006.shtml
fiber is something of a natural method of treating diabetes or prediabetes, here is a quote from the website linked to:
Several clinical studies reviewed by Anderson et al. (2001) reported that using fiber supplements rich in soluble fibers such as guar, pectin, apple fiber and pysllium extract reduce requirenments for insulin. They reported that the fiber supplements lowered blood glucose and cholesterol (especially LDL) levels. http://www.dietaryfiberfood.com/diabetes-mellitus.php
This was a difficult one to find, where you can tell how much soluble fiber there is in a food, keep in mind this stuff will vary on things like growing conditions so none of this is a fixed number. So these two links hve some soluble fiber numbers: http://dietaryfiberfood.com/soluble-fiber.php
and this link is the usda database where everyone gets their info from:
listed by specific nutrient in common foods: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/SR17/wtrank/wt_rank.html
or searchable: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/
The USDA database is a gold mine if you want specific info on foods with high content of a particular food, for example if you want to know what vegetables have high fiber you hit that total fiber link on the release 17 page linked to above and scan through to see that first vegetable on the list is split peas or if that doesn’t count for you as a vegetable then lima beans, or if you want to get out of the legumes alltogether then you will pass raspberries and asian pears, not a vegetable just an option, and finally get to regular peas. This works the same for any nutrient they measure which makes it nice if you want something in particular. This would take forever to figure out if the USDA didn’t just give us this lovely list to glance through. And the searchable database helps too as you may have noticed (yeah right) raw lentils weren’t in the list (only cooked) but a quick search yields a stunning surprise that it would top the list above pearled barley with a number that doubles that of the barley at 61 grams of total dietary fiber in 200 grams (1.04 cups or 1 cup plus two teaspoons). I know this because I made some killer lentil soup with sausage and potato. I was astounded when trying to measure the nutrient counts and found that I had stumbled onto the best soup in the world that had over half of the fiber you should eat in a day in one single bowl that had 240 calories of mind-numbingly-delicious soup. Another recipe I will have to share when I get around to doing the bran muffins recipe on here.
So now I am trying to add soluble fiber to my muffins. It is customary to use wheat bran which is mostly insoluble if not all. The things to consider on my list are using ground flax seed, which is about as fiberous as you migh ever want to get with more soluble and insoluble. I am also considering oat bran, apples, pumpkin, and carrots. As well as some of the types that can be purchased refined where they are isolated from a high content food (this is how something like cornflakes get a high fiber food label, because they add pectin): grapefruit or other citris rind – the white part is about 30% pectin, psyllium husk, and chicory root which is largely made of inulin http://www.naturalnews.com/022356.html. I am a bit worried like the guy that wrote the natural news article that refining a food to get the individual coumpounds out of it may not be the wisest thing to do, but I just don’t know if it is possible to buy psyllium husk or chicory root unprocessed and I am sure of one thing that if my muffins have 1 gram of each of the three that is better than having 3 grams of one type. So I will make another batch or two of muffins over the long weekend and see if I can come up with something I am happy with on all aspects, particularly taste.