The digestive system is designed to run like a well-tuned engine. Keeping it running smoothly hinges on the right dietary intake, including getting enough fiber-rich food.
Fiber? It’s also known as “roughage.” That's because fibrous foods do some tough, necessary work. They scrub the colon, ease bowel movements and ward off constipation. They help balance blood sugar levels, which also means they can be a barrier against diabetes.
Fibrous foods also may be key to avoiding certain kinds of cancers. And these foods help the body to more efficiently turn food into the fuel needed for everyday activity and for good rest.
Generally, high-fiber edibles have been subjected to little, if any, chemical processing. They include vegetables, beans, whole grains and fruit. The parts of those foods that are not digestible are precisely the parts that help keep the digestive track fine-tuned, de-toxified and humming along.
That’s part of the reason the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) places such heavy emphasis on fiber-rich foods. Meat, fish and dairy used to be at the top of the USDA’s old food pyramid; nevertheless, it also recommended that dieters consume more daily servings of fiber-rich foods than of protein-dense meat, fish and dairy.
The USDA's current "My Plate" food guidelines suggest that veggies and fruits take up half the space on your plate.
Deborah Gordon, MD, a family practice physician in Ashland, OR, told dailyRx News that dieters should place veggies and fruits at the very top of their list of edibles.
"For many people, digestion will only run smoothly on a high-fiber meal plan. And it's always a good idea to get fiber from food rather than supplements," said Dr. Gordon, who practices integrative medicine that promotes use of homeopathy, among other medicinals, and encourages consumption of unprocessed food as part of a first line of defense against disease.
She continued, "Vegetables are the most nutrient dense form of food-based fiber, adding valuable nutrients as well as variety and flavor. If we all turned to fruit rather than cookies when we crave a sweet after a meal, our colons and our waistlines would be grateful. Grains and legumes should be carefully prepared before eating — soaking and rinsing or sprouting — for optimal nutrition and to minimize potential digestive irritation."
When food budgets and other circumstances allow, Dr. Gordon also advises people to eat organic foods grown as close to their homes as possible.
To ensure your kitchen is well-stocked with fibrous foods, spend ample time in the grocer’s produce section. Read labels on frozen, canned, boxed and other packaged foods that spell out the amount of fiber and nutrients in those items. Choose the ones that are high in fiber.
Here’s a shortlist of high-fiber foods and food categories:
- The cornucopia of fruits and vegetables: Eat your produce, rather than drink it. Despite the popularity of fruit and vegetable drinks and of juicing, those liquids have had the fiber squeezed out of them. Also, many of those drinks have added, refined sugars. Aim to eat your fruits and veggies in their natural, high-fiber form.Brown rice: Unlike white rice, brown rice still has its husk. The husk is the fiber.
- Rolled oats, yellow corn grits, bran and other whole-grain cereal: These are exceedingly more fiber-filled and better for you than sugary, processed breakfast cereals.
- Beans and legumes: They pack a double-whammy; they're strong sources of fiber and protein.