By Debi Hopkins
Most would agree that the modern American diet is shaped more by convenience and marketing gimmicks than by good common sense. One of the most important ingredients missing from our daily diet is enough of the right kinds of dietary fiber, the kind that will allow our digestive systems to function properly.
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Most plants contain a mixture of both.
* Insoluble fiber is the food product in fruits and vegetables that doesn't break down during digestion. This refers to the crunchy fibers that we commonly call roughage, in such foods as whole grain cereals and breads. Because this type of fiber is not absorbed into the blood stream, it contributes minimal calories to the diet.
* The natural gel-forming fibers like pectins and gums, are considered water soluble or soluble fiber. Soluble fibers form gels, like a mucilage, and some of the more common ones available are:
*Guar Gum - is a soluble, gel-forming fiber extracted from the ground endosperm of the seeds of the Indian cluster bean. Its medicinal properties are: demulcent, mucilaginous. Guar gum has been shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, and it helps to slow the release of sugar from the GI tract.
*Flax seed - a rich source of mucilage and omega 3 EFAs that also provide lubrication for the intestinal tract.
*Psyllium Husk - Psyllium a gel forming fiber is in the category of mucilages and is one of the more potent cholesterol lowering agents.
*Citrus Pectin -Pectins are found in all plant cell walls and in the outer skin and rind of fruits and vegetables. Pectin can lower serum lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels by greatly increasing their fecal excretion and preventing their manufacture in the liver. Citrus pectin is fermented by the intestinal flora producing short-chain fatty acids, which have many important functions.
*Kelp - Kelp is a sea vegetable, better known as algae. Sea plants contain ten to twenty times the mineral content of land plants and an abundance of vitamins and other elements. Kelp is a rich source of mucilaginous gels such as algin, which soothe the intestines, lower elevated blood fats and assist in the binding and excretion of heavy metals and other pollutants.
*Brown Rice Bran - Brown rice bran is a storehouse of super nutrients, such as tocotrienols. Recent studies have shown it to have a 6,000 times greater antioxidant activity than Vitamin E.
*Slippery Elm Bark - is highly mucilaginous, and is used internally to relieve irritability and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, and to ease similar problems in the urinary tract. It is effective in diarrhea, bowel, stomach, bladder, kidney problems and inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
Marshmallow root - is one of the best mucilaginous herbs (containing up to 35% mucilage, with homogeneous mucilaginous polysaccharides as high as 12%), and is a favored treatment for diseases of the respiratory organs. Its mucilaginous nature makes it ideal for soothing irritated and inflamed mucosal surfaces. Marshmallow is an extremely effective demulcent and emollient, and is the primary herb of choice for irritations related to the upper respiratory tract. It is also very soothing and healing to any inflamed condition of the bowels.
Soluble fibres have the
capacity to bind water and swell, which slows down the passage of food from the
mouth and stomach and helps to produce a feeling of satiety----you naturally
feel full for a longer period of time between meals.
The benefits of a daily diet high in fiber was discovered in 1971 when researchers in Africa found a surprisingly low incidence of many diseases among people with high fiber diets. Since that time, the link between good health and dietary fiber has been confirmed time and again.
Both the National Cancer Institute and the American Dietetic Association recommend between 25 and 35 grams of dietary fiber a day, for children as well as adults. Most people consume less than half that amount. Foods high! in fiber satisfy hunger readily because they hold a great deal of water. They also tend to be low in fat and simple sugars, so they help prevent obesity, which is increasingly becoming a problem even amongst children, so aiming for the higher recommended level of 35 grams a day is something to consider when planning your families weekly menu.