Health & Safety

July 20, 2012

Fiber plays important role in digestion, cancer prevention

by Airman 1st Class Grace Lee
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When thinking of a balanced diet, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and dairy may come to mind, but what about fiber?

According to Rachel Perkins-Garner, 56th Medical Group registered nurse, fiber, which is also called roughage or bulk, is the plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb, unlike fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

Perkins-Garner said there are two categories of fiber; insoluble (does not dissolve in water) and soluble (dissolves in water).

Sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice and zucchinis; soluble fiber can be found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits and carrots.

“Insoluble fiber helps move material through your digestive system by increasing stool bulk, which can prevent constipation or aid those who experience irregular bowel movements,” Perkins-Garner said. “Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance; it can help lower blood cholesterol and help manage blood sugar levels.”

For Marian Budnik, 56th Medical Group registered nurse, roughage isn’t just important for the end result, it plays a role in the digestion process from start to finish.

“It slows down the eating process and helps contribute to a feeling of being full, which in turn can help prevent overeating,” she said. “It also makes food more satisfying and at the last stage, it is broken down in the colon by bacteria. This process is called fermentation; the simple organic acids produced by this breakdown help nourish the lining of the colon.”

According to the American Heart Association, fiber is beneficial for a person’s diet since it reduces the risk of heart disease, lowers the risk of several forms of cancer, while also improving one’s cholesterol and blood pressure.

The American Heart Association recommends 25 to 38 grams of fiber a day in a well-balanced diet.

Budnik suggests eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

“Try adding your favorites such as beans, peas, barley, lentils, quinoa, bulgar or brown rice,” Budnik said. “Eat oatmeal, bran or whole grain cereal for breakfast and make at least half of your grain servings whole grain.”

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