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By Karen Alexander, Oncology Wellness Specialist


How Much Do You Know About Fiber?

Dietary fiber is an essential part of our diet and plays an important role in our health. The western diet promotes the consumption of refined and processed foods and flours which causes a reduction in fiber intake. According to statistics, most American adults eat an average of 15 grams of fiber per day; way below the daily recommendation. Fiber requirements vary depending on age and gender. See below for more information:

Daily fiber goal: 
Toddlers 1-3 years old: 19 grams 
Kids 4-8 years old: 25 grams
Girls 9-13 years old and teen girls 14-18 years old: 26 grams 
Boys  9-13 years old should get 31 grams and teen boys 14-18 years old: 38 grams
Men under 50 years old: 38 grams 
Women under 50 years old: 25 grams 
Men over 50 years old: 30 grams 
Women over 50 years old: 21 grams

There are two types of fiber: 
1. Soluble fiber
This fiber absorbs water during digestion and forms a thick gel-like substance in the stomach that slows down digestion as well as decreases the absorption of carbohydrates and cholesterol. Soluble fiber is broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, increases stool bulk, and provides some calories. 
2. Insoluble fiber
Does not dissolve in water and passes through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact. Insoluble fiber promotes regular intestinal movements.

Fiber Benefits:
1. Soluble fiber can help to stabilize blood sugar levels (blood glucose)
2. Soluble fiber can help reduce hunger or prolong satiety
3. Soluble fiber can help reduce LDL (bad cholesterol)
4. Insoluble fiber can help prevent and control heart disease
5. Insoluble and soluble fiber can help prevent or manage diverticulitis and hemorrhoids
6. Total fiber intake can help reduce the risk of several types of cancers, including colorectal cancer

Dietary sources of soluble fiber:
Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, as well as some fruits and vegetables. It is also found in psyllium, a common fiber supplement.

Dietary sources of insoluble fiber: 
Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.

Fiber 101
We need to be aware about the food choices that we make and we need to learn to read labels and identify goof sources of fiber. Below some tips for reading nutritional labels:
1. Choose minimal processed foods. They have more fiber than refined or processed foods.
2. Choose whole fruit, instead fruit juices.
3. Choose whole fresh vegetables, instead of canned vegetables.
4. Choose whole grains.
5. Limit refined grains and enriched flours.
6. Read nutritional labels and choose foods with 5% or more of the daily value (recommendation) of fiber per serving.

What is the difference between whole wheat and whole grain?
Whole wheat: Bread made from the entire wheat kernel
Whole grain: Bread made of any whole-grain kernel. Some examples include spelt, oats, rice, and barley
Note: “Wheat" or "multigrain," without the word "whole" attached, means the bread might not be made from the entire kernel.

5 Tips to increase your fiber intake:
1. Start your day with a bowl of whole grain breakfast cereal
2. Buy whole grain pasta
3. Switch from refined to whole grain versions
4. Add beans (such as garbanzo, kidney, or pinto), lentils, or peas to salads, soups, and side dishes.
5. Try unsalted nuts and seeds in place of some unhealthy snacks (E.g. chips)
Remember to increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid intestinal gas, bloating or cramping.

This week's recipe is an adaptation from Minimalist Baker. This granola is high in fiber and it can help you start your day with a good dose of fiber. 

1 1/2 cups raw buckwheat groats
1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats 
3/4 cup chopped raw nuts or seeds (pecans, cashews, and/or walnuts are best, or sub sesame or sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (or shredded coconut)
2 Tbsp chia seeds (or flax seeds)
3 Tbsp coconut sugar (or other dry sweetener of choice)
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut, avocado, or olive oil 
1/3 cup maple syrup 
3 Tbsp nut or seed butter (optional we prefer peanut or almond)
1/3 cup preferred dried fruit 

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (163 C). To a mixing bowl, add the buckwheat groats, oats, nuts, coconut, chia seeds, coconut sugar, sea salt, and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
- In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the oil and maple syrup until melted and combined. Then add the nut butter (optional) and stir again to combine, and pour over the dry ingredients and mix well to coat. 
- Spread the mixture evenly onto a baking sheet (or more baking sheets if making a larger batch) and bake for 25-30 minutes (or until fragrant and deep golden brown), stirring a bit near the halfway point to ensure even baking.
- Add the dried fruit while the granola is still warm. If adding chocolate, wait until it has cooled completely. Place cooled granola in a sealed container that has an air-tight seal, and it should keep for a few weeks. Or store in the freezer up to 1 month or longer.

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