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Fiber - What is it and how much do I need?

Everyone knows that fiber is good for you- but do you know why it is important and where to find the best sources?

You know fiber is good for you and probably associate it with that bran muffin you should have chosen over that donut.   But many people are not quite sure what fiber is and why it's so important. Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that cannot be digested (and therefore contains no calories).   Studies indicate that it appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, metabolic syndrome and constipation and may also be useful in preventing cancer and obesity.   According to a Harvard study of over 40,000 men published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, those with a high total dietary fiber intake had a 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who had a low fiber intake. A related study found similar results with women.

Fiber comes from plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes) and in two forms, soluble and insoluble, each of which provides health benefits. Soluble fibers dissolve partially in water, whereas insoluble fibers do not.

Some types of fiber work by bulking up waste and making it move through your system faster.   Other types of fiber are considered "sticky" and may help keep cholesterol levels in check by removing bile acids that digest fat.   They may also regulate blood sugar by coating the lining of your intestines and delaying the emptying of your stomach. This may slow your body's absorption of sugar and reduce the amount of necessary insulin. Other fibers may help with weight loss because they fill up the stomach, making you feel full but adding no extra calories.

The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine recommends daily fiber intake for adults as 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women 50 and younger and 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women 51 and older.

There are plenty of tasty resources out there to increase your fiber intake from apples and oranges to tomatoes and brown rice.

For even more food sources and additional info about fiber, check out this link