Fiber Gets You Going

Fiber-we’ve heard it’s good for us, but what exactly does that mean? What do people with diabetes need to do to make sure they’re getting the right type of fiber in the right amounts? Don’t worry-help is on the way.

It’s crucial to know how and what to eat, and researchers recommend a fiber-rich diet for good health. Fiber increases regularity, decreases the risk of colon cancer, and aids in weight loss by keeping the stomach feeling full and satisfied.

Scientists classify fibers according to their solubility in water. Water soluble fiber makes food travel more slowly through the stomach and intestines, and may help delay glucose absorption into the blood. It’s found in fruits, oats, barley, and legumes.

Water insoluble fibers increase fecal weight. This helps to keep the stool moving through the intestines, thus controlling constipation. These fibers, which are the easiest to eat, are found in vegetables, wheat, wheat germ, and cereals.

For those who wish to lose weight, the bulk of the soluble fiber can make a person feel fuller after the meal, helping to diminish the appetite.

Most Americans eat only 10-13 grams of fiber a day. The current fiber recommendation for people with diabetes is approximately 25-35 grams of fiber per day. Unfortunately, because we tend to eat refined foods, this reccomendation can be hard to obtain.

Tips for Increasing Fiber and Bulk

  • Choose fresh vegetables, especially green, yellow, and orange vegetables such as green beans, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
  • High fiber legumes, dried beans and peas (such as pinto, split peas, lima beans, and black beans) are economical, low in fat, high in nutrients, and fiber rich.
  • Fresh fruits, especially those eaten with the skin such as apples, grapes, and berries (strawberries and blueberries) are higher in fiber than canned products. Pick whole-grain products, bran and shredded wheat cereals, wheat germ, rye and pumpernickel breads. Avoid refined white bread products.

How to Begin

How do you get started? Increase fiber intake slowly over the next few weeks to let your system adapt to the change. Starting too quickly can cause gas, stomach or GI upset and may obstruct the gastrointestinal tract. Read the “Nutrition Facts” on food products where fiber content is listed. Drink fluids throughout the day to help soften the stool.

Knowing what to eat is the first step toward a healthy diet. Beginning to take in whole grain foods gradually is the second step toward this end. Using these guidelines will help you and other people with diabetes live hearty, healthy lives.

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