When Indigestion is a Good Thing

Recent buzz tells us that fiber keeps us heart-healthy and (ahem), "regular," but just exactly why is fiber so critical?
By Keri Glassman

At one point in the not-so-distant past, many of us were clueless when it came to the importance of fiber. Now, people are generally more privy to its true worth. Old-school thought was that fiber was something to worry about when your senior citizen discount became available—new-school thought is more on target as many of us have gained the knowledge that fiber is a vital component of a healthy diet at all stages and ages.

Because it gets harder as we get older to change our diets, there’s no better time to start consuming it than right now. Recent buzz tells us that fiber keeps us heart-healthy and (ahem), “regular,” but just exactly why is fiber so critical? Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that your body cannot digest. Fiber is classified into two categories: the kind that does not dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and the type that does (soluble fiber). Soluble fiber retains water and turns to a gel-like consistency, slowing the process of digestion as well as the absorption of nutrients. This is why you feel full for a longer period of time after consuming a high-fiber meal versus a fiber-less one. Soluble fiber also helps to lower blood cholesterol and sugar levels. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, helps to speed the passage of foods through the gastrointestinal tract and adds bulk to stool. It is best known for managing body weight, preventing constipation, and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

While I prefer to have you eat food and not numbers, you should know how much fiber you need so you can be aware if you’re getting the right amount. Men need about 30 to 38 grams per day and women need about 21 to 25 grams. If your food has a label, you can check out the amount of fiber listed and add up your daily intake fairly easily. Many of the best places to get fiber, however, come from foods without labels such as fruits and veggies. To give you an idea of the fiber content of some of our favorite produce pals, check out the chart from Harvard on the Alternative Medicine web site: alternativemedicine.com. Search for Harvard Fiber Chart.

You don’t get a choice in your genetic lot in life. If one or both of your parents have heart disease or digestive issues, there is a good chance that you will too. If you start slipping more fiber into your diet now, before these issues manifest themselves, you can prevent or manage it. Fiber is in some delicious whole foods—such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies—so just by implementing simple changes, you can up your fiber intake fairly easily. At the same time, there are tons of ways to get fancy with fiber!

Let’s start with some simple tips and changes:

Craving crunch?

Skip the chips and grab a handful of whole grain crackers, which often have more fiber than those greasy chips. Read those labels carefully though: there are tons of fiber-fakers out there that may boast the benefits of “whole grain” without any fibrous bonus to back them up! Or equally bad, contain fiber with a whole mess of unwanted ingredients as well. A better crunchy option is to go for nuts or seeds, just don’t go too nuts! Stick to the recommended portion size (usually one ounce), as the fat and calories in nuts can add up quickly.

Get a grip on your grains!

A simple switch from “white carbs” to whole grains will increase your daily intake of fiber. Switch from white bread to whole grain bread, white pasta to whole wheat, shoot for brown rice in place of white rice, or make an adventurous leap to quinoa, spelt, or wheat berries.

An apple a day keeps constipation away

Apples are a great source of fiber, as are pears and figs. That’s right, simply adding more produce to your diet is a great way to up your fiber intake. Be sure to stick to whole fruits and veggies as opposed to juices and sauces, which often have most of their fiber removed during processing.

Get popping

Instead of reaching for a candy bar when the snack craving kicks in, opt for some air-popped popcorn, another great source of fiber.

Beans, beans, they’re good for your…

We can all learn a little something from the old, playful rhyme! Beans, peas, and lentils all have an impressive batch of fiber, despite their gaseous side effects.

Consider a supplement

Try adding a supplement such as Konsyl’s Original Formula psyllium fiber into your cooking and eating routine. Sprinkle some on your morning yogurt in place of granola, or sneak it in when making muffins or even cookies!

Sound too difficult? Let us help you! Preparing a fancy fiber-packed meal can be just as easy as your plain ol’ chicken and rice! Here’s a great example:

 

Fiberific Parmesan-Crusted Chicken

PREP: 10 MINUTES | COOK: 30 MINUTES | SERVES: 4

4 chicken breasts (about 4 ounces each)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup Konsyl’s Original Formula psyllium-based fiber supplement

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, onion powder, and an optional pinch of cayenne pepper (if you want to spice things up a bit)

2 eggs

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine parmesan cheese, fiber supplement, and spices in a bowl and mix well. Crack the two eggs into a separate bowl and beat away! Dip each chicken breast into the egg mixture followed by the cheese/spice mixture, making sure each piece is well coated, and place on the baking sheet. Cook chicken for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink on the inside (cooking time may vary based on your oven and how thick your chicken breasts are). Optional: If you like things extra crunchy, place the chicken in your broiler for two minutes to get that coating super crispy!