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Sep 17

Fiber is Your Friend

whole grain breadDoctor’s advice is often viewed as a list of “Do Nots.” Do not eat too much fat or sugar, do not drink too much alcohol and do not use tobacco. Positive advice sometimes goes down much better, and “Do eat more fiber” is a good place to start.  Fiber is your friend in many different ways.

Most people do not realize that fiber is a carbohydrate, and it is a much under-used part of most diets. Popular diet advice often concentrates on low-fat or low-carbohydrate foods, not bothering to mention fiber. Because fiber is a carbohydrate, people following low-carbohydrate diets may avoid foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, peas and other legumes. This is a mistake; unlike simple sugars, fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet.

Fiber is often thought of as a way to prevent or relieve constipation. It is that, but it delivers other health benefits as well. Fats, proteins, sugars and starches are all broken down by digestive processes, but fiber is not. Your body can extract the nutrient value from high-fiber foods, but the fiber itself passes through the stomach and intestines without being digested.

Because it is more filling and satisfying than low-fiber foods, fiber helps to maintain a healthy weight. Dieters sometimes avoid high-fiber foods like beans and legumes because they are perceived to be high in carbohydrates. But these foods take longer to consume and they are less “calorie dense” (they have fewer calories in the same volume of food). A regular-size Snickers Bar contains about 250 calories, while a half cup serving of chickpeas (about the same weight) has only 134.  The carbohydrate content for both these items is about 28 grams, but the chickpeas are far less energy dense.

The soluble fiber found in foods like oats, oat bran and beans, help to reduce cholesterol levels, especially the low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Some studies have shown that high-fiber foods are helpful in reducing blood pressure and inflammation. Soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar, helping to control blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. The fiber found mainly in whole grains, fruit, some vegetables and legumes is well-known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. Besides normalizing bowel movements, fiber may lower your risk of developing bowel diseases.

There are few food groups that have so much to recommend them to a healthy diet. Do not allow the high-carb content of some fiber rich foods to scare you. An average adult man should eat about 40 grams of fiber per day, while a woman needs about 25 grams. It should be easy to satisfy this requirement by eating whole-grain products, beans, peas and other legumes – see our blog article, “Switching to Whole Grains.” Many fruits and vegetables are also good sources, but this does not include processed items like pulp-free juices or canned vegetables.

Refined or processed foods like white flour are lower in fiber because the refining process removes the bran coat from the grain. Whenever possible, switch to whole grain products. Some people may need a fiber supplement if dietary intake is not sufficient, or if they have certain medical conditions. In those cases a fiber supplement like Metamucil may be advisable, but check with your doctor before taking fiber supplements.

Bariatric surgeons frequently see patients who have not eaten a sufficient amount of fiber over long periods. Morbidly obese patients typically do not eat the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains recommended for a healthy diet. This should be corrected as part of a post bariatric surgery treatment plan. A low fiber diet means a lack of dietary bulk; the result may be either constipation or chronic diarrhea.

After weight loss surgery, patients should be followed by a bariatric clinic program or monitored by the staff in a weight loss program. It is an established fact that weight loss surgery procedures like the gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve, followed by appropriate diet and exercise programs produce dramatic and lasting results.

If you have any question about bariatric surgery, laparoscopic surgery, minimally invasive breast surgery or any other area included in general surgery, please contact our office. You may use Contact Dr Birkedal or phone us at (386) 210-9794. Our offices, located in Daytona, New Smyrna and Palm coast are all part of the Florida Hospital Network.

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