Fiber Fiber Fiber – Eat lots of it.

This is a direct quote from my graduate supervisor, Dr. Lorraine Chalifour at McGill University. She did a presentation on colon cancer, and that was basically the take-away.  I have never forgotten it. Though perhaps a delicate subject to start the New Year, this is an easy addition to your diet and has gratifying results. The mucosa of your intestinal tract absorbs nutrients in the upper part and water in the lower part. It can also absorb toxins if they exist in your food, so its best to keep things moving along so they don’t contact the mucosa for too long a period of time. Ways to do this include exercise, adequate hydration and fiber.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that we do not digest. It exists in soluble (pectins and gums – think oatmeal when it solidifies in your pan) and insoluble forms (think roughage from vegetables). Soluble fiber provides food for your gut bacteria and keeps them happy – this is a good thing. It does give you a few calories. Insoluble fiber scrubs through, collects material, and bile salts (made from cholesterol, so adequate fiber manages cholesterol levels)  and passes out without much change. You don’t obtain calories from insoluble fiber. What you do gain from both forms is satiety, a feeling of fullness that you don’t get from other types of carbohydrates. Adding more fiber to your meals will boost your feeling that you got enough to eat without providing you with any extra calories.

How to do this? Your most nutritious bet is to add more green leafy vegetables to everything. Spinach to smoothies, kale to soups. Spaghetti sauce over broccoli or julienned collard greens instead of pasta. Roasted Brussels sprouts to a pan of vegetables. Don’t take the skin off your veggies and applicable fruits:  potatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, apples.  Most of the fiber is the skin and just under it, so buy those organic and scrub them well. And eat lots of berries – they are packed with fiber and antioxidants and delicious. Other possibilities: Psyllium power (*sugar-free is available at Trader Joes and Hannafords) mixed into water – drink it quick, or you’ll get a first hand experience of soluble fiber in your glass. All-bran style cereal to your yogurt and berries (careful of the sugar content of that processed stuff though). Even whole grain has many carbohydrate calories that will boost blood sugar and insulin response, it’s better than white grain products, but not as good as vegetables. get the biggest nutrition bang for your intake buck.