Thursday Thoughts: Fiber

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

If you are new to my blog, or haven't been reading on Thursdays, this is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic.  Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses.  Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting.  In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something. 


This week I am talking about Fiber.  Yes, Fiber!  So, what could be so exciting about fiber and why does anyone care...fiber is actually essential to healthy GI function and foods that provide fiber are also packed with good nutrients, and this is why I have chosen to write on fiber today.


1) Most Americans do not eat enough fiber.  I do not even need to put any stats up here for that because the numbers don't matter.  Not enough is not enough, no matter which way you look at it.  My next question then is "why not?".  Ok, why not?  First of all, fiber comes from things like fruits and vegetables and whole grains.  Some people get enough of these foods, but most people do not.  They may get some, but not enough to actually get in enough fiber.  Many Americans have diets rich in refined grains, where the fiber is no longer present in the grain.  In other words, without whole grains, fruits and vegetables, you will have a tough time getting in enough fiber.  Wait, I completely forgot about nuts.  Basically, if it grew in some way and is from plant form, not an animal, it is going to have fiber.  Oh, by the way, the amount needed each day is around 25-35 grams, and the typical amount for intake is about half that amount.


2) Taking a junk food and keeping some of the grains whole does not make a food healthy.  I will not name brands, but cookies made from whole grains, or cakes, are no more healthy than the original product and should still be consumed in moderation.  It is a start because people are not willing to give up these foods, but it sends the wrong message to people looking for healthy fiber choices.  At first I was on board with getting whole grains to people any way we can, but this has been over a year now, and people need to make a shift away from "junk" foods and towards the natural forms of fiber.  When I say natural, I mean it in the real sense of the word, as in fruits, veggies, nuts and whole grains in the way that they came from the land.  Adding whole grains to "junk" foods may have increased fiber by 1 gram in a serving of cookies, but it did nothing else for the nutrients that are missing in that food...which are of course present in fruits, veggies and whole grains.


3) A low carb diet will cut out fiber, because fiber is in the carbohydrate family.  Not only does this cut out fiber, but it cuts out all the other nutrients present in these carbohydrate rich foods.  It is not OK to just use a fiber supplement in place because you do not want to get these foods in your diet.  Not being able to eat these foods for fiber is a completely different issue.  Fiber supplements are not the same as your body actually digesting food and processing this and extracting nutrients for use in the body.  It just isn't the same.  Eliminating whole food groups with out a valid reason leaves room for nutritional deficiencies, including fiber, which can upset GI health and normal bowel function.


4) If you do not get enough fiber now, please do not increase this to your full needs in one day.  You will get cramping, bloating and all kinds of GI distress because your body is not used to this and can't really tolerate that huge increase.  Instead, start slow, maybe increasing by a few grams a day.  Also, you need adequate water when getting all that fiber.  Remember that fiber is an undigestible part of the plant.  Too much right away, without enough water can lead to constipation.  Fiber will help to keep you feeling full for a longer time so you may have a reduction in appetite.  That is why it is important to load up on foods with lots of nutrients so that you are not missing out on anything that the body really needs.


5) Brown is better...WRONG!  This is a great place to start, but if your seemingly health brown bread does not contain whole grains, you are missing out on the fiber.  Just because something is made from wheat does not mean it is whole wheat.  A 7 grain blend sounds healthy, but if those grains are not whole, you are missing out on fiber and other nutrients.  Now this is in reference to bread, but you should check food labels for fiber content and ingredient lists for whole grains to avoid being tricked into something that turns out to not be as healthy as you thought.  Also, corn is a listed as a whole grain, and yes, it is grown, but in my opinion since it is frequently categorized as a vegetable, I am not sure when this became a whole grain.  Either way, you will see this listed as a whole grain, and if you have ever eaten corn before, you will know this does have fiber, but my suggestion is to not rely on whole grain corn for all your fiber needs.  I say this because it may limit your intake of other nutrients available in other whole grains, and in reality, that is not demonstrating moderation and variety in the diet.  You really need to get your fiber from a variety of these foods-whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts.


Like I said, fiber is essential to a healthy diet and a healthy GI tract.  Fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and whole grains, which are all grown from the earth, also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals which in turn support overall good health.  Make sure to choose these foods for your fiber and keep "junk" foods to a minimum, and yes, if you want to enjoy a cookie here or there, it may not be the worst thing to choose one with whole grains, just don't rely on these foods to meet your fiber needs.


QUESTION:  What are your thoughts on fiber?

12 comments:

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

Another great Thursday post! I agree, adding fiber to a bunch of highly processed foods should not be the (only) way to get people to eat more fiber.

I try to get my fiber through vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. I tracked my fiber intake a while back, and I know I'm getting enough. But there was time when I ate too many processed foods and not enough whole grains and veggies, and my intake was too low. I still ate fruits and vegetables, but it really wasn't enough...

Simply Life said...

Great post! I love the way high-fiber foods really fill me up!

sophia said...

Question: if you're on a low-carb diet, is it easy to get constipation? One of my friends are having such issues...and I try to tell her it's because she doesn't have enough starch content...and she's convinced it's dairy.

Gina; The Candid RD said...

Great post Melinda. I agree with you on all of these, especially 2 and 3. I am getting so annoyed with all of these junk foods disguised as health foods. I am also sick of people taking fiber supplements for their daily intake of fiber. It's just so sad to me. The food companies are ruining the healthy concept of whole grains. UGH, and they are getting away with it!

Judy said...

Great post. When I modify dessert recipes to incorporate some whole grains and reduce fat and sugar, I always say, they're still not healthful. Healthful dessert is an oxymoron. What I do is make them slightly less harmful. Desserts should be eaten with moderation. Adding lots of fiber to sugar does not make sugar good for you.

Jessie said...

Love this week's Thursday Thoughts! Fiber has always been a huge issue with me because so many people I know don't get enough of it. They think that by eating "brown" bread or eating 19 Grain bread is going to cut it - um, no! I agree that we definitely need to move more toward whole, real foods and away from the junk food (poser foods) that incorporate a tiny amount of whole grains but pretend their healthy. I could go on all day about whole grains in particular. Anyway, this is such a rich topic, so thanks for bringing it to our attention!

Cher said...

Thanks for putting this post out. It's a great reminder on what is... and isn't...

Bo said...

Wow...I always assumed all multi-grain breads were healthy...I'll have to check to be sure the kind I buy is whole grain...I often eat these low carb...high fiber tortillas...like 10 grams fiber in each one...they are not whole grain...are they still a healthy choice?

Bo said...

Thanks for the answer and explaination! I appreciate that...Thank you.

Emily said...

I agree...fiber is super important! I also think that industry pumps alot of fiber in the form of chicory root or other things into processed food products, so like you said...these aren't as great as eating whole foods. I think we as RDs have to be diligent in reminding people that food quality matters, too. Thanks for the post!

Chow and Chatter said...

we all need more love your point on the junk food and fiber so true

Mer said...

I <3 Fiber

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