Pregnancy Articles

Figuring Out Fiber - Part 1

Grandma Wasn't Whistling Dixie

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Grandma was right when she told you to "eat your beans and cornbread." These foods are excellent sources of fiber. The only trouble is that fiber has long had the bad rap of tasting like cardboard. But you can learn to love fiber- not only for its benefits, but also for the easy, tasty ways you can incorporate it into your nutrition program.

What can fiber do for you?

Bulking up on fiber has many health benefits:

Weight Management
Fiber-rich foods may help you keep a trim body. Since they take longer to chew, you may eat more slowly, becoming aware sooner that you are full. Fiber also helps you feel full and slows the emptying of your stomach, which means that you fill up before you overeat. Fiber itself cannot be fattening because it isn't digested!

Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Diverticulosis
Fiber absorbs water, helps the stool to pass through the digestive system more quickly and easily, and helps prevent constipation. As a result, you're less likely to strain with bowel movements and therefore to develop hemorrhoids -- helping you avoid two common pregnancy discomforts at the same time! Fiber is standard therapy for the treatment of diverticular disease, a painful condition that occurs when the tiny sacs in the intestinal wall become weak and infected. A high- fiber diet helps to keep these sacs from becoming inflamed.
Heart Disease
Studies have shown that people who consume a high-fiber diet are less likely to develop heart disease. Certain types of fiber may help lower LDL-cholesterol, the bad stuff. Fiber also helps bile acids that are made of cholesterol pass through the intestines as waste. Therefore the body absorbs less dietary cholesterol.

High Blood Pressure
Fiber-rich foods are also a good source of potassium and magnesium, two minerals needed to help regulate blood pressure.

Diabetes
Water-soluble fiber helps regulate blood sugar by delaying the emptying time of the stomach. It slows sugar absorption after a meal, thus reducing the amount of insulin needed.

Cancer
Following a high-fiber diet regularly may help prevent certain cancers, such as colon and rectal. Fiber absorbs excess bile acids that are associated with cancer and speeds up the time needed for waste to pass through the digestive system. This allows less time for harmful substances to come in contact with the intestinal wall. Fiber forms a bulkier stool, which helps to dilute the concentration of harmful substances.

What is fiber? Fiber is found only in plant foods, such as dried beans and peas, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It's a type of carbohydrate that gives plants their structure. Because it's not digested or absorbed into your body when you eat it, you ingest no calories. There are two types of fiber, both beneficial in different ways:

Soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol levels, as well as delaying the absorption of glucose and helping with diabetes control. Sources include oats, seeds, beans, barley, peas, lentils, apples, citrus fruit, carrots, plums, and squash.

Insoluble fiber keeps the digestive system running smoothly, minimizing constipation, hemorrhoids, and other digestive problems. It may help prevent certain types of cancer. Sources include bran, whole grain products, the skins of fruits and vegetables, and leafy greens.

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About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. She teaches prenatal classes and counsels individuals, helping women eat right and stay fit before, during and after their pregnancies.
Becky Hand

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