This morning, I want to give you the meeting summary from my Weight Watchers meeting on Saturday, March 31, 2012.
Although fiber is an essential component of our diets, most Americans only get half the daily recommendation.
The recommended daily intake of fiber for men is 38g and it is 25g for women.
What is fiber?
A variety of definitions of fiber exist. In an attempt to develop one definition of fiber that everyone can use, the Food and Nutrition Board assembled a panel that came up with the following definitions:
• Dietary fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. This includes plant nonstarch polysaccharides (for example, cellulose, pectin, gums, hemicellulose, and fibers contained in oat and wheat bran), oligosaccharides, lignin, and some resistant starch.
• Functional fiber consists of isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans. This includes nondigestible plant (for example, resistant starch, pectin, and gums), chitin, chitosan, or commercially produced (for example, resistant starch, polydextrose, inulin, and indigestible dextrins) carbohydrates.
• Total fiber is the sum of dietary fiber and functional fiber. It's not important to differentiate between which forms of each of these fibers you are getting in your diet. Your total fiber is what matters.
You may also hear fiber referred to as bulk or roughage. Call it what you want, but always remember that fiber is an essential part of everyone's diet. While fiber does fall under the category of carbohydrates, in comparison, it does not provide the same number of calories, nor is it processed the way that other sources of carbohydrates are.
This difference can be seen among the two categories that fiber is divided into: soluble and insoluble.
• Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Sources of soluble fiber are oats, legumes (beans, peas, and soybeans), apples, bananas, berries, barely, some vegetables, and psylluim.
• Insoluble fiber increases the movement of material through your digestive tract and increases your stool bulk. Sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat foods, bran, nuts, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables.
Fiber is proven to help with weight control, controlling diabetes, preventing heart disease, helping with bowel disorders, and preventing/treating constipation.
There's a reason we made all fruits and most veggies Power Foods – and 0 PointsPlus® values: They're a fabulous tool for weight loss. But if you're like many people, you may find it hard to fit five servings of fruits and vegetables into your menu each day. It's a big adjustment at first, but it's an important part of the Plan, so do what you can to make the change. It's worth it. In addition to all fresh fruits and most vegetables having zero PointsPlus values, fruits and veggies offer the following perks:
• They make you feel fuller
• They're rich sources of disease-fighting antioxidants
• They reduce the risk of heart disease
• They provide folic acid, vitamins and minerals
• They increase energy, fight infection, improve regularity, keep skin healthy, promote normal blood clotting and build bones
Some helpful hints about fiber
1. Increase slowly: The best way to begin is to figure out how much fiber you are currently eating each day. Once you know your number, you can begin to slowly increase how much you are eating until you reach your recommended amount. Increasing too quickly can lead to gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea.
2. Add the fluids: If you do not have enough fluids (preferably water) with your high-fiber diet, you may end with the problem that you are trying to avoid: constipation. Get into the habit of drinking a minimum of 2 cups of a calorie-free beverage between each meal and you will avoid any unwanted problems.
3. Don't go overboard: More is not always better, so try not to eat more fiber than your body can comfortably handle. There is no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) set for fiber, which means that there is no cap on how high you can go before it causes any damage. Pay attention to how your bowel movements are responding to your fiber intake, and speak with your physician if you have any questions.
4. Little here, little there: You don't need to get all of your fiber in one meal. Be creative, and have sources of fiber throughout the day. Here are some ways to do this:
o Add flaxseeds, seeds, or nuts to your salad, soup, cereal, or yogurt.
o Keep frozen blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries in your freezer to add to cereal, dessert, shakes, or yogurt.
o Have cut-up veggies in small baggies available to take with you. Use them with a meal or as a snack.
o Choose cereal with a minimum of 4 grams of fiber in each serving; you can have it as a meal, alone as a snack, or with some yogurt.
o Beans and peas go with everything; put them in your salad, soup, or have them with your meals or snacks. o Go for products with whole wheat flour. It may take a little while to get used to the taste, so be prepared to experiment with different products until you find the one that you like.
o Have veggies with your meals whenever possible. Anything that you add will count. The more variety, the more we eat, so have as many different veggies at one meal as you can.
o Use fruit with, or in between, your meals. Set a minimum number of servings to have each day and be sure to reach it. Always go for the fruit with the skin and/or seeds for the fiber.
5. Be no gas: If you tend to get bloated or gassy from raw veggies and/or beans, take Beano with your meal. It will greatly reduce these side effects and make eating much more pleasurable. Be sure to check the ingredients to see if it's okay for you to take.
There is nothing easy about developing new eating habits. It will take time and practice, so be patient as you learn to incorporate these suggestions into your diet. Use the information in this article to remind you of why these changes are worth the effort. If we are what we eat, it's time we become high-fiber people!