Dietary Fiber Prevents You from Cancer

In the history of nutrition, there never has been a story quite like that of dietary fiber.

For decades, nutritionists viewed fiber as all but worthless. It did not even qualify as a nutrient, because its absence didn’t cause the deficiency disease that result when diets are inadequate in protein, vitamins, or minerals.

As far as nutritionists could see, fiber served no useful purpose other than to prevent constipation.

But during the past decades, fiber has come into its own. It is now the focus of intense research. It is now known that fiber plays a role in regulation of blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Fiber may even help with weight control.

And, yes, it is likely that fiber can help to prevent cancer. Diet institutions and foundations in almost every country surround the world, such as the Committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer in In the U.S., has advised us to eat whole grain foods every day. These foods are usually a good source of fiber. How about processed grains? Grains that have been refined – such as white flour – contain only little fiber.

The Fiber Fan Club

The Committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer was not the first to recommend more fiber-containing foods. In the 1980, the USDA issued new dietary guidelines. Then, USDA recommends eating “foods with adequate starch and fiber.” This was quite a change for the USDA. For 25 years before, its food guides made no distinction between refined grains and whole grains; both were considered about equal in nutritional value.

And back in 1977, when the National Cancer Institute issued its advice to the public, it advocated eating more fiber, too.

We averagely eat about 20 grams of fiber per day. Several scientists have recommended increasing fiber intake to a level of 30 to 40 grams a day.

Fiber: What It is

Fiber is a general term. It refers to an assortment of substances in food that are not digested in the small intestine. With one exception, all forms of fiber are carbohydrates. They are a type of carbohydrate that human cannot digest.

All of the following are classified as dietary fiber:

1) Cellulose, which is abundant in wheat bran

2) Hemicellulose, another form found in whole grain foods

3) Lignin, found in grains, fruits, and vegetables

4) Pectins, which are common in fruits and vegetables

5) Gums and mucilages, often found in beans, oats, fruits, and vegetables.

The Two Basic Types of Fiber

Actually, you don’t have to know each form of fiber and where it occurs. For the most part, it is only necessary to think of two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

As their label implies, the soluble fibers are those that dissolve in water. Pectins, gums, and mucilages fall into the soluble category.

Insoluble fibers are those that do not dissolve in water. Cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin are insoluble fibers.

Both soluble and insoluble forms of fiber play important roles in preventive medicine. Current research suggests, however, that only the insoluble fibers help to prevent cancer.

The insoluble fibers create bulk in the digestive tract. The more bulk there is, the less room for harmful chemicals that might cause cancer. The soluble fibers do not give bulk, but they do have other virtues. We’ll talk about them later.

The best source of the bulk-producing insoluble fibers is whole grain foods – especially bran.

Studies worldwide link whole grain foods to lower risk of colon cancer. Studies on animals back up these results. In animals, wheat bran has more often than not shown an ability to help protect against colon cancer.

A few studies with humans have also tied vegetables to low rates of colon cancer. The fiber in vegetables has rarely been tested in animals, however, so it is hard to pass judgment on foods other than whole grains.

It is no surprise, then, that the Committee on Diet,Nutrition, and Cancer limited its advice on fiber to whole grain foods.

The Recommendation and How to Meet It

None of the recommendations from the Committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer are as simple as the one for fiber: “Eat………whole grain foods daily”.

In providing fiber, no whole grain food comes close to wheat bran. Half a cup of 100% whole bran cereal has about 3 times as much fiber as a slice of whole wheat bread.

You don’t have to eat bran directly to add it to your diet, though starting the day with a bran cereal is not a bad idea. You can replace a small amount of flour used in baking with bran. Because bran is so rich in fiber, even a small amount counts. As a general rule, try replacing about one-third of the flour in a recipe with an equal amount of bran.

When baking with bran cereal, it is best to let the cereal soften in liquid before baking. Try to combine the cereal with a liquid ingredient in the recipe.

Be Creative with Cereals

Shredded wheat is another excellent source of wheat fiber. Many people find the “spoon-size” shredded wheat more pleasing than the large biscuits. There are dozens of ways to enjoy shredded wheat:

  • Use the spoon-size biscuits with dips.
  • Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin and substitute for some of the flour used in baking.
  • Use spoon-size biscuits with soups and salads instead of croutons. You may want to saute them first in a small amount of butter for about five minutes.
  • Substitute spoon-size shredded wheat for rice when serving a meat or vegetable sauce that is normally-served over rice. The liquid in the sauce will soften the cereal.

Some of the “chex” cereals are also a good source of fiber. Bran Chex has the most fiber of the group. Wheat Chex also provides some fiber; it is made with the whole grain. The corn and rice variaties are made from refined grains. Their fiber content is negligible.

The chex cereals make a good breakfast cereal for those who like crunchy cereal. Shredded wheat tends to soften quickly when milk is added.

Another delicious use of the chex cereals is in party mixes. Mixed with chopped dried fruit and popcorn, this is my choice for a great snack.

Oats are still another versatile whole grain food. Instant oats, quick oats, and old-fashioned oats are all whole grain foods. The difference lies in the way the oats are cut. The instant oats are steamed at the factory. Unlike quick or old-fashioned oats, instant oats contain added sodium

( The Next Health Benefits of Fiber )